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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

JSA earnings disregards and GEs

Earnings disregards for Jobseekers Allowance claimants compared to outcomes of General Elections

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Over the past five years there has been an upsurge of Government-promoted stories about generations of families who have never worked, while the Department for Work & Pensions has itself admitted:
“Information on the number of children growing up in families where their parents and grandparents have never worked is not available, as there is no suitable data source which would allow us to produce a robust and representative estimate of this persistent multigenerational worklessness.”
 Of course, all this has been in the context of an increasingly right wing mainstream political 'consensus' that I would describe as a highly blinkered fixation regarding a 'need to lower the benefits bill'. That consensus/fixation has reached the point where Labour's Work & Pensions Spokesperson Rachel Reeves has proudly boasted that Labour does not represent the unemployed. All these stories that seek to lower out of waged work benefits and basically hound people out of Social Security conveniently ignore successive UK governments' negligence regarding how best to support disabled jobseekers when successive UK governments have consistently failed to acknowledge how many claimants of Unemployment Benefit — now 'Jobseekers Allowance' or JSA — have a disability.

I was a disabled jobseeker for many years before claiming Employment & Support Allowance. I have also met other claimants and ex-claimants of JobSeekers Allowance and its Unemployment Benefit predecessor who have done truly voluntary work for charities rather than the more modern 'work for your benefits within 90 minutes single journey of your home' regimes. And from 1988 the 'earnings disregard' on Unemployment Benefit — now JobSeekers Allowance — has remained at £5 per week for a single, childless claimant. That means that if the claimant's weekly earnings amount to less than the £70+ that is their JSA rate, their JSA top-up will leave them just £5 a week richer before travel-to-work and other such expenses, if the DWP does not screw up on calculating the earnings from part-time earnings forms submitted when signing on.

Questions arising from the above

  1. How many General Elections and terms of UK Government have passed without the 'earnings disregard' for Unemployment Benefit/JSA claimants being increased in line with inflation?
  2. What impact does this 'earnings disregard' have on teachers, lecturers and care workers who are only paid 'contact time'?
  3. The 'permitted work' earnings disregard for people on disability-related 'out of work benefits' working 16 hours or less per week has risen from £66 a week in 2002 to £93 per week for 'Contributions-Based' ESA claimants in 2010, to £104 a week for ESA claimants on Supported Permitted work at current rates. Given the DWP's consistent record of failing to recognise the plight of disabled JSA claimants while making the system for vulnerable benefit claimants ever more punitive, can the upwards shift in 'permitted work' earnings compared to JSA's stagnant 'earnings disregard' be considered a 'honey trap' to wean people off ESA that takes no consequence of the short-term nature of many 'Supported Permitted Work' projects?
  4. How much worse can the chaos regarding 'earnings disregards' get when Universal Credit claimants on fluctuated work hours have to wait six MONTHS before the amount of housing-related support they get can be worked out?
  5. Should not the BBC questions emanating from David Cameron's announcement that he does not intend to remain in Prime Ministerial office be more geared to the questions raised above than to the agenda of a man who will be living off 24/7 at armed policing at taxpayers' expense after just one term of office?
  6. What questions would you ask arising from the above?

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