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9/19/2014 9:17:45 AM

Scotland votes to stay in the United Kingdom

BBC News article on the Scottish referendum (link opens in a new window)

 

Scotland has voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. However, the Scottish Government will have new powers over tax, spending and welfare.

Welfare

BBC News outlines the proposed changes to welfare in Scotland, which has a political aspect, as follows:

"Labour is proposing that control over a number of welfare benefits be given to the Scottish Parliament.

"These would include control over Housing Benefit - enabling Scotland to get rid of the spare room subsidy or "bedroom tax", a policy favoured by the Scottish National Party.

"It has also proposed devolving the Attendance Allowance - paid to disabled people over the age of 65. Scotland would also control the Work Programme, used to help people find jobs.

"The Conservatives agree on devolving Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance, but the Liberal Democrats believe both should still be controlled by Westminster."

Timetable

  • A command paper would be published by the present UK government setting out all the proposals by the end of October.
  • A white paper would be drawn up by the end of November, after a period of consultation, setting out the proposed powers.
  • A draft new "Scotland Act" law would be published by Burns Night (25 January) 2015 ready for the House of Commons to vote on.
  • However, with a UK general election due in May 2015, the legislation would not be passed until the new parliament began.

England, Scotland and Wales

David Cameron has also promised voters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that they will have a greater say in the way they are governed.

Sources: BBC News article: Scotland votes 'No': The changes to tax and benefits in Scotland (link opens in a new window) and BBC News article: Scotland votes 'No': What happens now? (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

Digital services

Date of publication: 19 September 2014

9/18/2014 9:43:01 AM

PIP delays 'unacceptable': Minister for Disabled People

Turn2us Personal Independence Payment information


The delays facing some Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants are "unacceptable", the Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper, has admitted. Data released this week by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that of the 529,400 cases registered for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) between April 2013 and the end of July this year, just over 206,000 (less than half) had been cleared by being awarded, declined or withdrawn.

Wait is too long

The figures do not reveal how long individuals had been waiting within that 16-month period, but Mark Harper accepted that for some it had been too long.

In an article, published in The Guardian, he said: "Unlike the old system, PIP includes a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most.

"Today's figures show just that, with nearly 23% of people getting the highest level of support, compared with 16% under Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

"We accept that the delays faced by some people are unacceptable and we are committed to putting that right.

"Between May and July we have doubled the number of claims processed and we are working hard to continue to make further improvements.

"By the end of the year we expect that no-one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 16 weeks."

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) awards

According to the statistics, PIP has been awarded to 51% of new claimants since April 2013.

Since October 2013, it has been granted in 72% of reassessments of people previously claiming Disability Living Allowance.

Read the Turn2us Personal Independence Payment information

Read the Department for Work and Pensions Personal Independence Payment statistics April 2013 - March 2014 (link opens in a new window)

Source: The Guardian article: Delays to welfare payments for disabled people 'unacceptable' admits minister (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

Mental health

Scotland

Victims of crime

Wales

Date of publication: 18 September 2014

9/17/2014 9:23:09 AM

Local Welfare Provision in England: Government to review decision to abolish

Turn2us Local Welfare Assistance information


 

The Government is to reconsider its controversial decision to scrap a £180m-a-year welfare hardship fund used to provide emergency support for some of England's poorest people.

This follows ministers' unexpected announcement earlier this year that they would abolish local welfare assistance funding in April 2015, just two years after it was introduced as a replacement for Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants from the Social Fund.

Judicial review and consent order

Following a judicial review, the Government has signed a consent order (a legal document setting out what has been agreed between parties in a legal case) stating it will review the commitment to scrap local welfare funding rather than contest a judicial review of the decision.

The Order requires the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Treasury to:

1. Complete the on-going review of local welfare provision

2. Conduct an “appropriate” consultation

3. Consider the impact on equality and discrimination

4. Make a new decision on funding for local welfare provision for 2015/16.

The above steps must be completed by the time of the provisional local finance settlement (i.e. December 2014).

Campaign and judicial review

The campaign to save local welfare funds had won support across the political divide. Campaigners including Islington Council and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) helped to lodge a judicial review of the decision in July on behalf of Christopher Jump, a disabled Cheshire resident. They argued that cutting the fund could "seriously harm local authorities' efforts to support residents in genuine need".

They also said the Government had failed to:

  • conduct an equality impact assessment of its decision,
  • consult local authorities properly
  • keep to its own promise to formally assess the scheme before making a decision about its future.

Decision to stop funding taken several months before review was set up

During a 2012 parliamentary debate, ministers agreed that they would review local welfare in order to "help inform future funding levels". However, the decision to stop funding was taken several months before the review was set up.

In papers submitted to the court, CPAG said several councils had warned that without central government funding they would no longer be able to keep their local welfare scheme going after 2015. At least two councils, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, have already ended theirs.

Child Poverty Action Group Chief Executive's comments

Alison Garnham, CPAG's chief executive, said: "We welcome that the Government has recognised the importance of local welfare assistance schemes and has committed to undertake a thorough review and consultation before deciding how the schemes will be funded in future."

Government spokesman's comments

A government spokesman said: "We must be very clear that this was never about abolishing support. This government is giving councils more control because they understand best their local area's needs.

"This is in contrast to the old centralised grant system that was poorly targeted. Councils can now choose how best to support local welfare needs – because what is right for Croydon will not be for Cumbria."

What is local welfare assistance (also known as local welfare provision)

More than 150 English councils currently receive an annual grant to provide crisis support for residents in serious hardship, including women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, pregnant mothers, disabled people and families suffering poor health or financial crisis as a result of flooding or natural disasters. It replaced Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants previously provided by the Social Fund in April 2012.

There are national schemes in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland still has Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants although a new Discretionary Support Scheme is likely to be introduced when the Welfare Reform Bill for Northern Ireland is passed.

For more information, see the Turn2us Local Welfare Assistance information

Source: The Guardian article: Local welfare funds: government to reconsider scrapping of £180m grant (link opens in a new window) and Child Poverty Action Group article: Saving the safety net - Judicial review against funding cut for Local Welfare Assistance Schemes – CPAG intervention (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

Poverty and pregnancy

Welfare reform

Date of publication: 17 September 2014

9/16/2014 9:42:02 AM

Turn2us joins organisations calling for publication of income statistics

New Policy Institute press release: Government urged to release official income statistics ahead of general election (link opens in a new window)


 

Turn2us has partnered with research institute the New Policy Institute (NPI) along with charities and universities to call on the Department of Work and Pensions to publish official household statistics before the next election.
Traditionally, the Households Below Average Incomes (HBAI) publication is released every March and is a crucial indication of how welfare and tax changes are impacting on households and what steps is being taken to deal with these changes - such as seeking employment.

Why the HBAI is important

Over the last five years, publication of the HBAI has been increasingly delayed, slipping from March to June last year. What’s hugely important about this year’s publication is that it will highlight the impact of the landmark welfare changes which started in April last year, including the spare room subsidy (the so-called ‘bedroom tax’), council tax support and the changes to income tax personal allowance. In addition, with much talk about an improving economy, this publication will help to identify what effect this is having on households.

Turn2us were joined in signing the letter, addressed to Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith, by Trust for London; Toynbee Hall, the University of Bristol and the Young Foundation.

Turn2us on previous statistics

Commenting on the previous HBAI publication last year, Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us, said:

“We are particularly concerned that there has been a significant rise in the number of children living in absolute poverty,  especially as the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts that it is likely to continue rising over the next five years. It is unacceptable that increasing numbers of families have to go without basic life essentials. Research by the End Child Poverty Campaign has shown that the public believe tackling child poverty should be a priority with action needing to be taken urgently.

“Sadly, as the full impact of the recent welfare cuts start to be felt and with household costs continuing to rise, the picture looks set to get worse. In these economic times, it is more important than ever that people in financial need can access support through welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help. We would urge them to check their eligibility on the Turn2us website to find out what help is available.”

NPI comments on the call for publication

Commenting on the letter, NPI Director Dr Peter Kenway said:

“The April 2013 changes were very controversial but by the general election they can start to be judged on their longer term effects. The signatories to this letter, a mix of researchers and respected charities, are urging Mr Duncan Smith to publish the household income statistics by March so that what is sure to be an impassioned debate is also an informed one”.

To view the letter, see the New Policy Institute press release: Government urged to release official income statistics ahead of general election (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

Charitable funds

Energy bills

Payday loans

Poverty

Social care

Wales

Date of publication: 16 September 2014

9/12/2014 12:26:26 PM

Tell the Government what you want to see in the Autumn Statement

9/12/2014 10:11:01 AM

Energy firms to give refunds to millions of customers

Turn2us Energy costs information


An estimated three million households are being told to reclaim money they are owed by the big six energy suppliers - British Gas, EDF, SSE, Scottish Power, E.ON and npower.

Money to be handed back after Ofgem warning

The firms have launched a campaign to hand the money back, after being told to do so by the regulator, Ofgem.

On average, customers are owed around £50 each. Typically that money got left behind when they switched supplier or moved home and didn't leave a forwarding address.

Over the last six years, the large energy firms have accumulated £153m, which remains to be claimed by customers. Ofgem warned the companies that unless they make good progress with refunds, they will face enforcement action.

If the money is unclaimed after two years, it will be used to help vulnerable customers.

However, customers have no limit on when they need to claim by. Any valid claim will always be refunded, however old it may be.

Anyone who thinks they may be owed money is advised to visit the My Energy Credit website (link opens in a new window)

Are you struggling with energy bills? Turn2us resources can help.

If you are struggling with energy costs, Turn2us resources can help you find any support that might be available to you through benefits and grants, depending on your needs, circumstances and background.

Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search

Use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

The following information may also be useful:

Read the Turn2us grants for energy efficiency information section

Read the Turn2us help with energy costs information section

Read the Turn2us fuel poverty information section

Source: BBC News article: Energy firms to refund three million households (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

Benefits

Dementia

Domestic violence

Fuel poverty

Date of publication: 12 September 2014

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9/11/2014 9:17:59 AM

Carers at breaking point - Carers UK research

Turn2us Carers information


 

Carers across the UK are being pushed to the brink – suffering exhaustion, physical and mental breakdown as they struggle to care for older or disabled loved ones.

Carers UK’s 'Carers at breaking point' research – based on a survey of over 5,000 carers (84% were caring for 35 hours or more) – shows:

  • Six in 10 caring for an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one have reached breaking point
  • A quarter needing medical treatment as a result
  • 63% suffered depression and 79% reported anxiety.

Crisis care

The report also reveals:

  • For 1 in 9 carers who had suffered a breakdown, the person cared for had to be rushed to hospital or needed emergency social care while the carer recovered.
  • 46% in crisis had fallen ill but had no choice but to carry on caring – unable to access additional help from social care services or the NHS.

Carers UK's Chief Executive's comments

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive, Carers UK said:

"For millions of families, caring for older or disabled loves ones means a daily battle with exhaustion, stress and anxiety. Carers reported exhaustion, suffering physical injury and collapsing from stress and anxiety as they struggled to care for ageing parents with conditions like dementia, severely disabled children or seriously ill partners. A fifth of carers were receiving no practical help at all – leaving them unable to take a break from caring or even get a good night’s sleep."

Carers UK has warned that even greater numbers of carers face crisis, as social care services in England are cut by £3.5 billion and carers’ benefits by £1 billion.

Helen Herklots also said:

“As our ageing population means a growing number of us will take on caring responsibilities for older or disabled loved ones, our society cannot afford for caring to result in breakdown. It brings costs to our health services when both carers and the person they care for end up in hospital and to our businesses and economy when carers have to leave work when they cannot get the support they need to combine work and caring.

“This is a challenge all political parties must respond to at the election: how will you act to support our families when we need to care for ageing parents or disabled loved ones?”

Carers UK's call to action to all political parties

Carers UK is calling on all political parties to take urgent action to:

  • Deliver urgent new funding for social care services.
  • Place a duty on NHS bodies to identify and support carers.
  • End cuts to carers’ benefits and take urgent action to alleviate carers’ financial hardship.
  • Implement a right to paid ‘care leave’ for those combining work and care.

Read the Carers UK report: 'Carers at breaking point' (link opens in a new window)

Source: Carers UK press release about the 'Carers at breaking point' research (link opens in a new window)

Turn2us resources for carers

If you are struggling to make ends meet, help may be available to you through benefits and grants, depending on your needs, circumstances and background.

Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search

Use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

Turn2us information pages

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help. This includes a Turn2us Carers information section and an Illness, Injury and Disability information section

Also in the news

Benefits

Northern Ireland

Social care

Date of publication: 11 September 2014

9/10/2014 9:57:56 AM

Benefits claimants experience widespread discrimination - Who Benefits?

Who Benefits? campaign website (link opens in a new window)


 

Hundreds of thousands of people claiming benefits have been physically and verbally abused, new research commissioned by the Who Benefits? campaign reveals this week.

The YouGov poll for the coalition of charities found that many people who need support from benefits are having difficulty renting homes, opening a bank account and getting paid employment because of attitudes towards people on benefits.

Key findings

  • 15 per cent of those receiving benefits said they had experienced verbal abuse because they are getting support from benefits, while four per cent reported that they had been physically abused. This amounts to nearly 800,000 people facing verbal abuse and 200,000 facing physical abuse for claiming support. The abuse comes in addition to a raft of challenges that they may already face such as illness and disability, low wages, or caring for a loved one.
  • 16 per cent said a landlord or letting agent had refused to let them rent a property
  • 18 per cent said they’d been treated less favourably by a potential employer or had difficulty accessing a bank account or financial services because they were claiming benefits.

Mental health, confidence and self-esteem suffers

Mental health, confidence and mental health, key factors in helping people get back on their feet, suffered.

  • 38 per cent of people supported by benefits said they worried that the public thought negatively about them, and that their self-esteem was affected as a result. 31 per cent said worrying about public perceptions was impacting on their mental health.
  • 11% have felt excluded or isolated by members of their family.
  • 18% have felt excluded or isolated by friends.
  • 17% have felt excluded or isolated from their community.

Who Benefits? call to action

In light of this new research, Who Benefits? is calling for a shift in the debate from shaming people supported by benefits to focusing on the reasons that they need help, whether that’s low wages, unemployment or the housing shortage.

Participants in the survey said the following would reduce their need for support from benefits:

  • Receiving  higher pay (28%)
  • More affordable essential items (food and utilities) (25%)
  • More job opportunities (23%)
  • More affordable housing (18%)
  • More help overcoming issues caused by having an illness or disability (12%).

Who Benefits? comments

Katharine Sacks-Jones from the Who Benefits? campaign said:

“We need to change the way we talk about benefits. Until we do, hundreds of thousands of people will continue to face abuse and be denied essentials, whether it’s a bank account or a roof over their heads, simply because they receive some extra support to make ends meet. Our benefits system should help people when they fall on difficult times and support them to live with dignity, instead many find themselves isolated and excluded from society.

“Until we change the debate and acknowledge the real reasons that people need support – be it low pay, disability, illness, homelessness or mental health problems – decent people will continue to suffer.”

Comments from a benefits claimant

Andrea Hall (not her real name) who became homeless with her two children after her relationship with her abusive husband ended, said:

“I wanted to live in an area close to my family, where most houses are privately rented. I had countless experiences of calling letting agents only to be told that their landlords did not accept tenants on benefits, whilst other adverts simply stated ‘NO DSS’. It was incredibly demoralising to be completely excluded and discriminated against without any knowledge of me personally and my circumstances. I found myself desperately pleading with letting agent staff that I was not a bad person and I would look after the house, trying to justify my request for a home. I felt very judged and it was possibly the hardest and most desperate time of my life.”

Find out more about the Who Benefits? campaign (link opens in a new window)

Use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator

Source: Who Benefits? press release: Benefits claimants face physical and verbal abuse and widespread discrimination (link opens in a new window)

Date of publication: 10 September 2014

9/10/2014 9:47:27 AM

The cost of dementia to the UK has hit £26 billion a year

Alzheimer's Society press release about the Dementia UK report (link opens in a new window)


 

The cost of dementia to the UK has hit £26 billion a year – enough to pay the energy bills of every household in the country, finds an Alzheimer's Society report published today.

Two-thirds of the cost

People with dementia, their carers and families shoulder two-thirds of the cost themselves. The charity is urging the government to end the artificial divide between health and social care which unfairly disadvantages people with dementia.

Most comprehensive review of dementia in the UK to date

'Dementia UK: The Second Edition', prepared by the London School of Economics and King's College London, is the most comprehensive review of dementia in the UK to date. It reveals how people with dementia and their carers are left footing a £5.8 billion social care bill for help with everyday tasks such as washing and dressing. The 1.3 billion hours of unpaid care that carers, usually spouses or adult children, provide would cost the state £11.6 billion if they did not provide it for free. Meanwhile the current cost of dementia diagnosis and treatment to the NHS comes in at £4.3 billion and local authorities pick up a further £4.5 billion.

Numbers of people affected by dementia soaring

The new research also reveals that numbers of those affected by dementia is soaring. By the next general election in 2015, there will be 850,000 people living with dementia. If current trends stay the same and no action is taken, this number is expected to bypass two million by 2051.

Snapshot of how well people with dementia are living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

In addition to Dementia UK, Alzheimer's Society has published 'Dementia 2014: An Opportunity for Change' which provides a snapshot of how well people with dementia are living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It draws together evidence from a survey of over 1,000 people with dementia.

Key findings include:

  • Just over half of people with dementia (58 per cent), reported to be living well
  • Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) said they had felt anxious or depressed recently
  • Seven out of 10 people were living with another medical condition or disability as well as dementia
  • Of those looked after by a carer, 43 per cent said their carer received no help with their caring role.

Alzheimer's Society's call to action

Alzheimer's Society is calling for a successor to the Prime Minister's Challenge on dementia, which is scheduled to end in just over six months.

It should prioritise:

  • A 66 per cent dementia diagnosis rate across all areas so that people do not miss out on the support currently available – with a commitment now to reach 75 per cent by 2017
  • No one to wait longer than 12 weeks from seeing their GP to diagnosis
  • A guarantee that everyone has access to a Dementia Adviser or equivalent following a diagnosis to help them live as well as possible at all stages of the condition

Alzheimer's Society's comments

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society, said:

"This new research exposes the staggering financial and human impact of dementia. It is plain to see that our social care system is on its knees, leaving an army of tens of thousands of unpaid carers bearing the brunt. If you have cancer or heart disease you can quite rightly expect that the care you need will be free. That is just not the case for people with dementia. Families are forced to break the bank to pay for basic care for a loved one.

"These spiralling costs cannot continue unchecked. 225,000 people develop dementia in the UK every year - that is one every three minutes. While government has woken up to the challenge dementia presents, today's report reveals we need radical solutions and serious funding commitments to put social care on a sustainable footing.

"While in recent years there has been a small improvement in dementia diagnosis rates, a postcode lottery still prevails. Everyone with dementia should have access to the certainty of a diagnosis and the right support to come to terms with and manage the condition. If we do not see a nationwide effort to improve diagnosis rates we could see more than a million people living with dementia without a diagnosis by 2051."

Find out more about the Dementia UK report (link opens in a new window)

Source: Alzheimer's Society press release on the Dementia UK report (link opens in a new window)

Can Turn2us resources help you?

If you have dementia or are caring for someone who has and you are struggling to make ends meet, use our Turn2us Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Turn2us Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help.

This includes a Turn2us Illness, Injury and Disability information and a Turn2us Carers information. If you are struggling with housing and energy/water costs, see the Turn2us Housing Costs information.

Also in the news

Mental health

Universal Credit

 

Date of publication: 10 September 2014

9/9/2014 9:15:43 AM

Join an Age UK Techy Tea Party this morning

Age UK information about National Techy Tea Party Day (link opens in a new window)


 

Do you want to know more about technology, such as email and the internet.

Age UK in partnership with mobile phone network EE is holding a National Techy Tea Party Day today at EE stores across the UK from 9.30 to 11.00 am.. The day is open to anyone who wants to know more about today's technology

What will I learn?

EE’s expert staff will be on hand to answer your questions and help build your confidence with today’s technology. They can help you with everything from sending your first text and creating an email account to setting up a tablet. You’re invited to bring along your own phone, laptop or any other devices to learn more about them.

Along with your chat with an expert, you can also enjoy a cup of tea and biscuit.

Joining a Techy Tea Party is easy – just go into your local EE store.

Find out more about Age UK's National Techy Tea Party Day (link opens in a new window)

 

Date of publication: 9 September 2014

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