Saturday, 29 June 2013

Armed Forces Day: Ministers break promise to exempt military families from Bedroom Tax

2013 No. 665

"[Section] 7. Policy background 

7.3  In response to concerns raised ...

• People who are approved foster carers ...

• Adult children who are in the Armed Forces (including the Reserve Forces) but who 
continue to live with parents will be treated as continuing to live at home, even when deployed on operations. This means that they will continue to be treated as 
occupying the room if they intend to return home."

So said the explanatory memorandum on government website with regards to members of the Armed Forces and the Bedroom Tax. Only for us to find out, three months later, that the government has changed its mind. According to the Mirror, it now says that soldiers’ homes stop being their main residence once they have moved into barracks, meaning their families are being hit with the bedroom tax as they are deemed to have “spare” rooms.

But then we should have realised the exemption was too good to be true - it was published on April 1st 2013.

Happy Armed Forces Day!

Three-person IVF

Morland, The Times

Friday, 28 June 2013

Government's flagship Work Programme finds jobs for just 1 in 10

Just one in ten people on the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme have been found jobs, damning figures revealed today. Of the 1.2million unemployed placed on the Work Programme, 1,071,900 have not found long-term jobs. The figures are even worse for the out-of-work disabled - where 97 out of every 100 have been failed.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “No wonder the benefits bill is £21billion higher than planned.” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady added: “People who lose their jobs need support, not a raft of vicious new welfare policies that will hurt them and their families.”

Overall, the Work Programme has helped 132,000 long-term unemployed into jobs - a dramatic improvement on the previous year when just 9,000 were helped into work. The Department for Work and Pensions claimed the figures showed the “growing success” of the programme.

The DWP said the new figures only counted those who have been in work for long periods - six months in most cases, or three months for the hardest to help. But critics have attacked the programme for not doing enough to help long-term unemployed find work.

Under the Work Programme, charities and businesses are paid according to results to get people into work, with extra bribes to get the hardest to help into work. By the end of March, just over a million people had been referred to the programme. Just 8.5% of those who started on it in June 2011 completed at least three months of work in their first year, increasing to 13.4% for more recent recruits who joined in March of this year.

Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said the figures did nothing “to reduce the fear that the Work Programme is failing to reach harder-to-help jobseekers”. She added: “We remain deeply concerned that the Work Programme, as currently designed, is insufficient to tackle the problems faced by more disadvantaged jobseekers.”

But Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “The Work Programme is helping large numbers of people escape the misery of long-term unemployment and get back into real jobs."

Daily Mirror

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Spending review for 2015-16

• On Wednesday, George Osborne is due to announce £11.5bn of cuts for 2015-16 by outlining plans for limits on previously uncontrolled parts of the public finances, such as housing benefit. Unemployment benefit and state pensions are unlikely to be affected.
> Telegraph

• Vince Cable is refusing to accept deep cuts to his departmental budget without a guarantee of billions in funding for job-creating capital projects. The business secretary is arguing that the coalition must have "a strong story to tell on growth" to run alongside its tough message on slashing the budget deficit and balancing the books by 2018.

• Progress towards agreeing reduced 2015-16 budgets with Whitehall departments has been slowed by an attempt to win hundreds of millions of pounds extra for the Government's Troubled Families programme, led by Louise Casey.
> Independent

Monday, 17 June 2013

G8 protests in Northern Ireland

Click on image to enlarge

Saturday, 15 June 2013

99 weeks to go ... and you bet we're counting

Voters go to the polls nearly every week in different parts of the country, with the results pored over by election strategists for signs of which way the political wind is blowing. 

This week, Labour's Steve Battlemuch won a landslide victory at a council by-election in Wollaton West - wiping out the last remaining Tory stronghold in Nottingham. Nottingham South is a must-win marginal for the Conservatives. However at Walkergate, in Newcastle, the Conservatives scored 27.2%, coming second and slashing Labour's margin of victory by two-thirds.

Labour clung on to Woolston, a Southampton City seat, by 133 votes from UKIP, with the Tories 27 votes further behind in third place. The ward is in marginal Southampton Itchen, currently represented in the Commons for Labour by former cabinet minister John Denham.

Labour gained Kirklees Borough, West Yorkshire, from the Tories, on a swing from Conservative to Labour of 7.4%.

BBC News

Friday, 14 June 2013

Careers advice

If you're wondering what line of work might be rewarding in years to come, debt collection is looking good. Council tax arrears, non-payment of bedroom tax, students defaulting on their newly-privatised loans - life looks rosy for the bailiffs.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

You can't trust Cameron with the NHS

"The revelation that A&E waiting times have hit a ten-year high under David Cameron demolishes once and for all the Tory spin that the A&E crisis has nothing to do with them.

"David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt have wasted precious time provoking a fight with GPs to distract attention from their own failings.

"Their arrogance and complacency in the face of a crisis is one of the greatest dangers the NHS faces ... The crisis in A&E proves that you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS."

Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary