Saturday, November 10, 2012

Universal Tribulation

One of my hobby-horses (see here, here, here, and here) is the apparent belief among our rulers that allowing mass immigration, from countries where corruption is endemic and a State job is an opportunity for self-enrichment, will have no effect on the culture of the UK.

That was always unlikely - and even more unlikely with a relatively generous welfare state and a default assumption of honesty in claimants. True in 1948 but not true now. The benefits system is open to looting on a grand scale, especially by those with access to forged ID - which means not many Brits but an awful lot of Londoners.

Another hobby-horse is that the law-abiding are penalised for the sins of the lawless. Some hapless electrician with a Stanley knife in his pocket is pulled in because of youths being stabbed on London streets, children can no longer (as I did in youth on a classmate's farm) use an air-rifle unsupervised, I can't buy sodium chlorate weedkiller any more because someone might use it to blow things up.

Which brings me, by a roundabout route, to Ian Duncan Smith's Universal Credit, slated for implementation next year, and replacing Child Tax Credit, Working Families Tax Credit (which people with an income of over 50K could get - thank you Gordon Brown for this last-ditch attempt to encourage welfare dependency) and a number of other benefits.

"When implemented, Universal Credit will drastically affect the low-paid self-employed as well as anyone who makes a tax loss. It is proposed that Universal Credits, like the current Working Tax Credits, will be "limited to those who exceed the 'floor of assumed income'" based on the National Minimum Wage."

What this means is that a host of small businesses - often the "single mum selling her handmade stationery" type, which might make no profit or small profits, will be assumed for benefit purposes to be doing a 40 hour week for £6 an hour - whether they are or not. If you recall, the number of self-employed has mushroomed during this recession .

“A rise in self-employment may, in itself, be a good thing, however previous analysis from the CIPD found that the recent rise was less a sign of a resurgent enterprise culture, and more evidence of a growing army of part-time ‘odd jobbers’ desperate to avoid unemployment.”

Alas, come next summer this is going to go into reverse as large numbers of self-employed close their business down and sign on again. So why is this entrepreneur-friendly (well, wealthy entrepreneurs, anyway) administration stamping on what could be the next Laura Ashley or Party Planners ?

"I think it will cut out a lot of fraud, i am a housing benefit processor and the amount of self employed taxi drivers working 40 hours a week and declare £50 a week earnings is beyond a joke, however i do feel for the genuine people who are struggling, who will be hit by this i think it is unfair. if your not earning this money then your claim should not be based on this amount."

My HMRC spies (aka the DWP website) are quite open about it. Reducing fraud, along with "making work pay" (but not low paid self employed work) is what it's all about. The good guys (and gals) are suffering for the sins of the bad guys.

"Universal Credit will make it much easier to catch fraudsters as it will calculate benefit levels using real-time information linked to the PAYE system. By picking up financial irregularities, such as earnings whilst claiming unemployment benefits, it will remove the main opportunities for fraud and error in the system."

Well, it might, if there weren't 83 million National Insurance numbers in the UK for a working population of 30-million odd. Fraudsters are very resourceful people.

So while I have small sympathy for this self-employed, low income person :

"I am a seriously talented artist but no-one wants to buy art at the moment"

You can't but feel for this couple :

"I am employed 25 hours i have asked my boss to increase my hours but there are no available hours?? we have 2 children under 16,
when my husband lost his job 4yrs ago down to the company going into liquidation etc,etc, he was forced into claiming benefits because after months of looking for work nothing was available, he signed on for jsa but didnt receive any money because of what i earn…. a job was going at a local bus firm term time only, which he applied and got and is still currently there… NOW this is the confusing bit…….. my husband is classed as Self-employed ?? He works for the local company and gets a weekly wage… BUT because the company dont deduct tax and insurance from this wage he is classed as Sub-Contracred-Self employed ... because his work is Term-time this means he only works for approximatly 38 weeks of the year, thus leaving our household with only my income for the other 14 weeks, we do rely on tax credit as a safety net during these 14 weeks, we have both and still are looking for more full-time work but its easier said than done and with 2 small dependant it is difficult….. so how is universal credits going to help my situation if we dont meet there criteria???"
I think the answer is - "it isn't going to help" - and that's a great pity.


Anonymous said...

Can I ask a stupid question?

This will have no effect on the self employed (but not earning) who are not claiming any benefits - right?

Martin said...

Laban, it's not intended to help. If you go back to the Crossman Diaries, you will see Crossman's horror at finding out of the mentality within the DHSS that actively impeded claimants from obtaining everything they were entitled to, solely on the basis of cost. The mentality hasn't changed.

Anonymous said...

Anon - correct (as I understand it).


Jim said...

Its a general principle of government regulations that 80% of the people who are affected by them are the marginal offenders who happen to fall the wrong side of the line, sometimes inadvertently. These are the people who when confronted usually admit everything, on the grounds that they haven't really done much wrong, and assume the system will take that into account.

It doesn't.

Whereas the people the legislation/rules are aimed at catching are by definition the sort who will lie and cheat and happily trample all over the rules, and are therefore hard to catch and prosecute.

The State bureaucracy charged with enforcement of all this will have but one aim - to ensure their own survival, by the appearance of 'doing something'. Ergo it makes much more sense (for them) to come down hard on the marginal cases committed by the by and large honest people, and ignore the blatant disregard of the minority, thus creating the illusion that they are catching those breaking the rules.

Add into the mix that certain sections of society have a free pass to behave particularly poorly before anyone will take any action, and you have the perfect storm. The blatant offenders are ignored or given slaps on the wrist, the minor/accidental offenders are made examples of.

The whole system is rotten to the core, and until the entire State apparatus collapses in on itself (as it undoubtedly will eventually, all civilisations fall in the end) nothing can be done. Its just a shame that so many innocents will suffer as a result.

Mark said...

Welcome back Laban.

Universal Credit is likely to be a can of worms. 'Housing Benefit' in the form it has existed under one name or another for 40 years will no longer exist, and the element in UC that is notionally meant to cover rent will (with very few exceptions)always be paid to the claimant, and not the claimants landlord (as is usual at present when the landlord is a 'social landlord'). Under the UC regime it is going to be much harder for landlords to insist on 'direct payments' of the housing element. This will have two effects - an increase in rent arrears in both the 'social housing' sector, and the bottom end of the private sector, and a consequent increase in the number of disgruntled rentiers- most of whom are presumably Tory voters.

Martin- the civil servants who tried to penny pinch after Crossman introduced supplementary benefit in 1966 actually failed miserably. The guiding principle of Supp Benn (as every 'claimants union' in the land soon found out)was that it was payable to anyone over the age of 16 who could demonstrate his/her current 'resources' were insufficient to meet their 'requirements'. Consequently, within a few years, it was being paid to strikers, students out of term time (I claimed it myself back in '76)and claimants who had 'polygamous partners'. In fact, there were so many of the latter by the late 70s a bespoke rate, specific to 'polygamous partners' was written into the regulations.

Anonymous said...

Mark - I didn't realise that HB's going to be paid to the claimant again. That'll be fun.

On the other hand, paying it to the landlord meant that a class of villain/landlord soon appeared for whom the more anti-social the tenant, the better - as they could buy up the neighbours now unsellable houses for a pittance and move more nightmare tenants in. Happened quite a lot in the North.


Martin said...


While your recounting of historic deficiencies in the administration of supplementary benefit certainly chimes with others I have read, that passage in Crossman helped me understand the manner in which a claim for DLA I made in 2010 had bene handled.

Agrodut Mandal said...

A dub was most certainly mixed as I've heard it on various sound tapes. I don't think it ever was released officially though but rather a dub plate. Check the brilliant Coxsone versus Moa Anbessa (1979) with Ranking Dread handling the microphone for the dub version being played.
Agrodut Mandal
Thesis Writing

Anonymous said...

I am 17 and suffer from a what some call, 'mild' disability and i am really worried that I wont be able to fend for myself when the new welfare reforms come into force abd I dont seem to be able to find any information on how the changes my effect me.
for a number of reasons, I am hoping to leave my father house as soon as I am able but it looks like I wont be able to secure housing benefit to help with accomodation once the new changes are in place as I am young I wont be able to get housing benefit once youth allowance comes in can anyone suggest any more detailed information around help with housing costs for young people?