Government eases sanctions for homeless people

Homeless people have been granted new exemptions from benefit sanctions under regulations laid before parliament today. Under the new rules, Jobcentre Plus advisors will be given the discretionary power to exempt rough sleepers and those in supported accommodation from looking for work.

It comes after a report by Homeless Link in September found that 31 per cent of homeless people on jobseekers’ allowance benefits have been sanctioned, compared to 5.5 per cent of the typical claimant population.

£27m cut leaves London's needy at risk, says London Councils

Government plans to withdraw £27 million of emergency support risk harming the capital’s most vulnerable people and undermining the introduction of Universal Credit, London boroughs are warning in a report published today.

Universal Credit to take the first new claims for couples

Universal Credit has been extended as the service opens up to new claims from couples in five sites. Hammersmith, Bath, Rugby, Harrogate and Inverness will take new claims from couples as well as those from single people. Other sites in the north west of England and Wales will also make this change from this summer.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:
“Universal Credit is transforming people’s lives and is available in a growing number of areas. Today we take on the first new claims from couples.”

New UK child poverty strategy 'ignores impact of government's welfare reforms', says CPAG

The Child Poverty Action Group has accused the government of ignoring the impact of its welfare reforms in drawing up its new child poverty strategy.

Launched by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, the new strategy has identified supporting families into work, improving living standards and raising educational attainment as the fundamental ways to achieve the long-term goal of ending child poverty by 2020.

Welfare reforms boost skills training by 40%, according to government figures

Government welfare reforms have boosted the number of benefit claimants training to improve their skills by almost 40%, according to government figures.

Business-backed local skills training schemes, called sector-based work academies, and mandatory skills referrals by Jobcentre Plus have contributed to the number of benefit claimants in England starting training going up by 39.1% in a year from 464,400 (2011 to 2012) to 645,800 (2012 to 2013).

Government "could breach its own welfare spending cap"

Leaked internal documents have revealed that the government could breach its self-imposed cap on welfare spending as a result of the cost of the main sickness benefit.

The memos suggest Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) costs are rising with few cost-cutting options.

In March, MPs agreed a 2015-16 welfare cap of £119.5bn, excluding the state pension and some unemployment benefits. The Treasury said it was "confident" of remaining within the cap, saying delivery of ESA was "back on track".

Watchdog attacks the government's handling "fiasco"of disability payout

A report by parliament’s public spending watchdog, the public accounts committee has found that the government's handling of personal independence payments (PIP) has been "nothing short of a fiasco" that has caused distress to thousands of sick and disabled people.

Labour pledges to "pause" universal credit if elected in 2015

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, has announced that Labour will "pause" the build of the government's flagship welfare reform for three months to allow for a National Audit Office report on it, if it wins the next general election in 2015.

Report shows lower skilled workers face increasing difficulties to find a job

The European Commission has published the European Vacancy and Recruitment Report 2014, which found that low-skilled workers encounter increasing difficulties to find a job, face lower job stability and are out-competed by medium-skilled workers even in occupations with lower skills requirements. In contrast, job opportunities are growing in some high-skilled professions.

20 per cent of Brits fear being forced to leave their local area by housing costs

One in five Britons fear having to move out of their local area because of the high cost of housing, according to a new survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Housing and Ipsos MORI.

The online poll questioned adults aged 16-75 across Great Britain, and found that 20 per cent of people agree they might have to leave neighbourhoods because of soaring housing costs.

£20 million support for welfare reform claimants unspent

New figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that almost two-thirds, or 63 per cent of councils paid out less than their total Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) allocation to tenants, leaving £13.3 million left over. In addition, around three-quarters of councils did not apply for a £20 million government top-up fund to help claimants adjust to welfare changes, leaving a further £7.1 million unspent.

The new figures also revealed that:

Wonga chased debt with fake lawyers, says FCA

The UK’s largest payday lender, Wonga, must pay £2.6m in compensation after sending letters from non-existent law firms to customers in arrears between October 2008 and November 2010.

Universal Credit policy to expand to 90 jobcentres in North West England

The government's flagship welfare policy, Universal Credit, is to be introduced in 90 jobcentres in north-west England, Iain Duncan Smith says.

The work and pensions secretary told the BBC the change would apply only to single claimants, with couples and families joining at a later stage. But ministers have not set a target date for that to happen. The benefit is currently distributed at just 10 jobcentres, having been delayed a number of times since its creation.

Labour plans to offer government contracts to smaller organisations

Labour will mount an assault on big outsourcing companies if it wins the election, reducing their role in delivering the government’s back-to-work programme and exploring a plan to force them to pay all workers more than the minimum wage in exchange for Whitehall contracts.

The proposals are the latest plank in the party’s drive to end “business as usual” in the corporate world, and follow pledges to introduce an energy price freeze, rent controls, a mansion tax and a tighter cap on pension charges.

Hundreds of thousands hit by benefits backlog

The government has announced that hundreds of thousands of people have been hit by a benefits backlog, with more than 700,000 people waiting for an Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment.

Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, blamed the delays on Atos, the contractor that is carrying out controversial fitness-to-work tests. However, Atos has said its staff have been "vilified" and abused for doing what was asked of them by ministers.