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Monday, 19 May 2014

Benefits, tax dodgers and the media

Over the last week I’ve been thinking how much media attention gets given to benefit fraud and then to tax evasion both big issues at the moment but one is clearly bigger than the other yet you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. With the high profile account of Gary Barlow and his Take That band members avoiding tax to the tune of 20 million its worth looking at the perceptions and the realities of benefits and what goes where . So lets look at the benefits some not all can claim if they can get that far that is. Job-seekers allowance: 29 per cent of people think we spend more on JSA than pensions, when in fact we spend 15 times more on pensions (£4.9bn vs. £74.2bn). Benefit fraud: people estimate that 34 times more benefit money is claimed fraudulently than official estimates: the public think that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is claimed fraudulently, compared with official estimates of £0.70 per £100. The problem is blaming people who are in a powerless position in this society is very easy and easily swallowed. Unfortunately we don't have a gutsy opposition ready to defend people on benefits instead Labour capitulates to the lies. The harsh realities of the benefit system don’t get headline news. The bureaucracy, the waiting, the never-ending form to complete, constant jumping through hoops (figuratively speaking), grinding poverty as the meagre amount of money you receive just JUST about keeps your head above water... and even then. And there's the conditionality and sanctions. Sanctions are unjustly used and used arbitrarily i.e. someone 5 minutes late for their Jobseekers interview. Work programme providers have been known to threaten people with sanctions which aren't sanctionable.....! Again this causes fear and if you experience sanctions ... even more grinding poverty.... The number of sanctions applied to ESA claimants rose 334 per cent between December 2012 and December 2013, according to new DWP statistics. In the May 2014 statistical release, 'Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance Sanctions: decisions made to December 2013', published today, the DWP sets out figures for both ESA and JSA sanctions. The report shows that since the new ESA sanctions regime was introduced on 3 December 2012 there has been a steady increase in the number of adverse sanctions decisions (ie a sanction was applied) made, from 1,102 in December 2012 to 4,789 in December 2013. The total number of adverse sanction decisions over the period was 28,702 with - • 5,889 applied for failure to attend a mandatory interview; and • 22,814 applied for failure to participate in work related activity. In addition the statistics show that of the 28,702 decisions - • 13,994 were reviewed - in 8,508 cases the decision was overturned; and • 331 were appealed - in 90 cases the decision was overturned. In respect of JSA claimants, the statistics show that 870,793 sanctions were applied during 2013, an increase from 804,866 during 2012, and from 650,577 during 2011. Since the new JSA sanctions regime was introduced on 22 October 2012 there have been a total of 1,028,819 adverse sanction decisions up to the end of December 2013, and of these - • 550,033 were low level sanctions; • 388,224 were intermediate level sanctions; and • 89,831 were high level sanctions. Of the 1,028,819 decisions - • 317,411 were reviewed - in 146,486 cases the decision was overturned; and • 34,503 were appealed - in 6,158 cases the decision was overturned. Furthermore 5.6 per cent of lone parent income support claimants were sanctioned in 2013, according to new DWP statistics. In 'Income Support Lone Parents Regime: Official Statistics', published today, the DWP sets out figures on income support lone parent work focused interviews (WFIs), and sanctions for failing to attend a WFI, for the period from April 2004 up to and including December 2013. The statistics include that - • between April 2004 and December 2013 inclusive, 9,779,200 WFIs have been attended by income support lone parent claimants; and • In the year up to and including December 2013, 597,000 income support lone parent WFIs were conducted. In relation to sanctions for failing to attend a WFI, the statistics include that - • between April 2004 and December 2013 inclusive, 597,100 sanctions were imposed on income support lone parent claimants; and • in the year up to an including December 2013 there were 43,800 sanctions imposed on income support lone parent claimants - some claims were sanctioned more than once, such that 40,400 individual claims incurred a sanction in this 12 month period, representing 5.6 per cent of the income support lone parent client base in that period. This all makes for grim and depressing reading yet the media doesn't splash these realities on their front pages instead benefit fraud is more of a sensationalist item grabber. Who cares if someone has been sanctioned and has lived without any money for weeks...? Freud, IDS and McVey (the trinity of evil) would argue that this was based on fairness and anyway just go out there and get a job... And we all know how easy it is to just get a job don’t we???

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