Universal Benefit System in deep water again


Universal Benefits IT system in trouble

The Labour MP for north west Durham has asked Theresa May whether the rollout of Universal Credit is a matter of “gross incompetence or calculated cruelty”, as Labour MPs applied further pressure on welfare reform.

Laura Pidcock was among those to raise the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions, as the Government prepares to face a Labour-led debate on the benefit in the Commons.

The Prime Minister said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was listening to concerns and improvements were being made to the system, which rolls a number of benefits into a single payment.

Universal Credit is not just a benefit for jobseekers, it is for people in work to subsidise their low pay, for carers and for those that cannot work.

My constituents in North West Durham have endured the brunt of austerity for many years.

Now the DWP proposes to rollout the Universal Credit system in my constituency over Christmas, the toughest financial time for residents.

My question for the Prime Minister is this. Is the rollout a matter of gross incompetence or calculated cruelty?”

– LAURA PIDCOCK, NORTH WEST DURHAM MP

read more

Thousands of pensioners and working-age families at risk of losing their homes in a controversial benefits overhaul

The Government is scrapping its Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) scheme and replacing it with a loan from next April 2018. The move could be a massive blow to thousands of low-income pensioners.

Thousands of pensioners and working-age families are at risk of losing their homes as part of a controversial benefits overhaul.

The Government has announced plans to scrap the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) benefit and replace it with a loan from April 2018.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been sending out letters to 135,000 households – of which 65,000 are low-income pensioners – telling them to decide whether they want to take responsibility for the loan when the benefit is scrapped.

However, insurer Royal London has slammed the move, pointing out that claimants aren’t being told what rate the new SMI Loan will charge or being given enough guidance on taking out the state-backed second mortgage.

 

Read more

Bus pass age increase in Scotland looms nearer

NICOLA Sturgeon has refused to give a guarantee that the free bus pass will be available to all over 60s following a review.

The Scottish Government is currently looking at the provision of concessionary bus travel, which is available to everyone over 60 and other groups including disabled people.

Ms Sturgeon said the bus pass had to be sustainable and said everyone who currently has one will keep it – but she refused to say if the current age eligibility criteria will remain the same.

The First Minister was asked by Labour MSP and leadership contender Richard Leonard about the government’s plans for the free bus pass.

He asked if she would give a commitment that eligibility criteria would not change within this parliament, which lasts until 2021.

Ms Sturgeon said no decisions will be made until the consultation is complete and that the government was “asking people across Scotland for their views on how best to ensure that the bus pass is sustainable for the long term”.

She added: “Whatever the outcome, nobody’s bus pass will be taken away from them and, indeed, some people who do not currently qualify for a bus pass will do so in the future.”ead more

Nearly three million over-65s are struggling to cope with bills and everyday expenses, an Age UK report has found.

While latest government figures show 800,000 pensioners are living in ‘material deprivation’, the charity’s report has warned a worrying number can’t even afford a basic standard of living.

Last year the number of pensioners living below the poverty line rose to 1.9 million – with 945,100 retirees stating they would not be able to replace a cooker if it broke down.

Over 1.2 million added that they have no access to a car and can’t afford a taxi to get around – including to hospital appointments.

A further 286,300 revealed they routinely worry about monthly bills – and are struggling to manage a life out of the red.

Read more

Raising Age limit in Scotland for bus pass gets nearer

The age limit for free bus passes could be raised as a consultation on the benefit gets under way.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf has issued a call for views on proposals aimed at making the concessionary travel scheme affordable in future.

More than 1.3 million over-60s and disabled people benefit from the free bus pass, accounting for about 145 million journeys each year or a third of all those made in Scotland.

The scheme is facing a £9.5m cut in the 2017-18 draft budget despite rising numbers of older people.

Yousaf insisted passes would not be taken away from those who already benefit or are due to obtain one before the changes come in.

Labour said the SNP has “no mandate” to make cuts to the bus pass budget as no such policy was in their manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election.

The new consultation looks at whether the age of eligibility should be raised in one go or gradually to bring it into line with the state pension age, which will be equalised for men and women in 2018.

 Read more

This topic has been raised many times, the most recent in January 2017

 

A pensioner is calling for a change in the rules after a friend, who suffers from dementia, was refused a bus ride for losing her pass.

David Hall and pal Margaret were hoping to catch the Fastrack B bus to Dartford town centre on August 4, when they were told the 80-year-old was not allowed on.

The grandmother-of-six had lost her bus pass, which entitles her to free travel, earlier in the week and had visited Dartford Library to buy a new one

She was told the new pass would not arrive for two to three weeks so kept hold of her receipt and had been using it as proof of payment to travel on other buses.

Mr Hall, 75, said: “The bus driver said she wasn’t insured to be on the bus.

Read more

Lancashire Village that lost bus link hails £1m boost

Lanacshire Village celebrates

A £1MILLION boost to the bus network in Lancashire has been hailed as ‘fabulous news’ in a village that lost its service.

The new administration at Lancashire County Council has committed to increase the budget to support bus services from £2m to £3m.

A key priority is to restore lost links between communities, particularly in rural areas.

That was the case for about eight months in Sabden, where villagers without access to a car were effectively ‘stranded’’ in 2016.

Other plans include increasing the frequency of services on routes where there is more demand and stabilising the network to support routes that might otherwise disappear.
Read more

MSP earning £62k asks public if he should take free bus pass or pay the fare


A GLASGOW MSP is asking constituents to help him with a dilemma of ageing.

John Mason wants to find out if people think he should apply for a free bus pass as he has just turned 60.

Mr Mason, while agreeing with the concessionary travel scheme, said he is in a well-paid job and can easily afford the bus fare.

He is grappling with the decision of using what he is entitled to or accepting something for free at a cost to the public purse, which on a MSP salary of almost £62,000 he can afford to pay for.
Read more

State pension age to go to age 68

Teenagers and those in their twenties can expect to work to age 70 as the state pension age rises to cope with an ageing population and longer lifespans.

There are already a number of age increases planned, but that process is beginning to accelerate.

The Government has just announced that a planned increase to 68, due to happen between 2044 and 2046, will now take place between 2037 and 2039.

read more

The Local Government Association calls for more powers on bus passes to be devolved to them

Councils are spending £200m a year subsidising the concessionary bus fares scheme, new analysis has revealed.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned the scheme has been underfunded for years by central government, and is being financially topped up by councils at the expense of other discretionary services.

In a new report – due to be published later this week – the LGA is calling on the Government to fully fund the concessionary fares scheme and give councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman, said: ‘Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.

‘The way the concessionary travel scheme is funded by Whitehall has not kept up with growing demand and cost. By giving councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, and properly funding the free bus pass schemes the government could help us support and maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.’

Read more

Our take on Barbecues for Vegetarians

Fred Robson here – it isn’t often that we write off the topics of bus passes and pensioners benefits, though noting the ongoing interest in my last effort on Recycle coal dust and make the Winter Fuel Allowance go further in 2011 I have decided to offer my take on Barbecues for Vegetarians, due in no small part to my wife being a vegetarian, and myself a keen meat eater who also appreciates plenty of veg in the diet.
20170619_173757
Doubtless there are many recipes and instructions available on-line (Jamie Oliver describes his as The Ultimate vegetarian BBQ but my menus are very flexible as to which vegetables should be used. I’m taking more about cooking technique which can offer excellent results. The cooking method is very much around using foil containers which can be purchsed very cheaply from suppliers such as Wilko or can be recycled from your takeaway meals.

A good variety of vegetables are needed for my solution, including onions,tomatoes, baby sweetcorn, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, mange tout peas, broad beans, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, courgettes, aubergines – in fact any that you happen to have to hand.

Step 1 Put a dash of cooking oil in the bottom of each foil tray
Step 2 Prepare the veg and chopping to reasonably small size Veg in foil trays

Step 3 Fill the trays with veg fairly full, mixing different veg in a random way
Step 4 Sprinkle herbs and seasoning to taste
Step 5 Add garlic to suit your taste
Step 6 Seal the foil containers with the lids, silvery side down
Step 7 Place the foil trays on the BBQ at a fairly early stage, but aiming as far as possible to cook slowly as far as possible. This way your veg can be served in their natural juices.
On the BBQ
A bit of trial and error will improve your technique and avoid to much ‘caramelisation’ !
BBQ Veg
One other important tip – don’t regard this as something just for vegetarians, as your family /guests will come to appreciate this alternative method of enjoying veg alongside their meat.

bbq-meal185300
Bon Apetit as the foreigners say !
Bus Passes Blog editor