Sunday, 16 February 2020

Managed Migration, Transitional Protection and Universal Credit

If you are on legacy benefits and being told to move on to universal credit through managed migration, you need to watch this video. UCAN has produced a simple video so you can absorb the subject without falling a sleep.  If you want to know why transitional protection is important, watch it. It has been produced by Doug Haywood; actors: Ripon Ray and Barbie!

UCAN Managed Migration from Doug Haywood on Vimeo.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Is Universal Credit here to pay? What do the courts say? Asks Ripon Ray

It’s clear from consecutive governments that our welfare system is not here to pay for those who are genuinely in need of help when they suffer actual financial hardship. It will penalise and leave you in destitution. Social landlords have already said that Universal Credit (UC) is pushing people to the verge of homelessness. Peobody Trust, a housing association, confirms that 30% of  their UC claimants have gone without essentials like food; and rent arrears are almost six times  the average, compared to the arrears of  the previous housing benefit claimants. Whether the current government is going to make a U-turn on its flagship policy, regardless of a number of conundrum, is no where to be seen. 

The birth of the financial crisis in 2008 was the welfare reform. As part of a number of changes, post crisis governments introduced cuts on local government funding by 40%, benefit cap, bedroom tax and the introduction of the council tax reduction, replacing full council tax benefit support had claimants been deemed too poor to pay. 

Introduction of UC should be considered in this context. One can realise that the purpose of this policy is to save money in times of austerity. However, UC was sold on the basis that work is going to pay. There is the tapering system that takes only 63 pence from every pound UC claimant  earns as a worker or employee. If addition, UC can extremely harsh to claimants in other categories.

The minimum income floor puts the self-employed at a disadvantage. This was confirmed in the case of Charmaine Parkin, the case brought by Equity the actors union. It does not matter whether Ms Parkin was left in destitution due to her work.  In her case, she was worse off than being unemployed. 

If you are a worker, and your employer makes an administrative error, the claimant has to suffer the financial loss and live in poverty. If an employer pays two pay slips in one assessment period because it's convenient for the employer, the recipient may find that on the following assessment month, they are not in receipt of any payment because DWP’s computer will declare, that they have been paid too much. Therefore the computer will refuse to give more money.  It may then take the claimant out of the threshold of entitlement to any benefits from UC.

It so happens that the current successful challenges in courts against UC are connected with disability rights and migration to it. Natural Migration is triggered when a claimant’s circumstance have changed in such a way that  they are not entitled to legacy benefits. They are then forced to apply for UC. 

Most obvious types of natural migration occur when claimants move to another borough and are then told they were ineligible for previous benefits. Such a scenario is most conflicting when disabled people lost out on severe disability and enhanced premiums when they moved to UC. Under Managed Migration, however, they are provided with Transitional  Protection, a top up of the shortfall of payment until your circumstances change. It was in this context that two cases went to the High Court to argue that, due to claimants moving onto UC, it discriminates against them. They were moved onto UC with Managed Migration. DWP appealed against the decision of the High Court. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the lower courts. It means that those who are moved onto UC through Natural Migration must be compensated for the loss of Transitional Protection.

Universal Credit was sold to members of the public on the basis that it was meant to be simple, fair and here to pay to those who need financial support. On the face of it, it's anything but!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

The Trades Union Congress, Zero Hours Contracts and UCAN

On 13th January 2020 at 6:30pm renowned speakers from the labour movement highlighted the impact of zero hours contracts. I would like to thank the Trades Union Conference for organising such an event in partnership with Thomson Solicitors. Ripon Ray, representing UCAN, a campaign group focused on educating and informing members of the public on universal credit, was part of the panel.  

Friday, 27 December 2019

When Hard-up Save Money on Energy Bill

Is there a way for you to save money on energy if you are hard up?

It will get to a stage when cold weather will become unbearable.  You may have to make a decision and turn the central heating on to keep yourself sane in such long nights and short days. 

In Britain the average temperature in winter had been 5c. Last winter it was 3.5c. Protecting yourself from cold weather is going to be a challenge even in current winter especially when it's below 0 degrees. If you have children, elderly or health conditions, you and your household could be further in need of a warm home. Putting aside double or triple glazing, or anything else expensive to install,  I want to give you a few simple tips to save you  money on energy which may, at the same time, prevent you from catching a cold, asthma, or even a heart attack in this winter.

Payment in winter:

The cost of gas and electricity is significantly high during winter. It’s also a necessity to use fuel in this period. In summer you have the warm weather so there is no need to keep your home warm. Unfortunately, in winter, there is no escaping. You need it to stay alive.

It might put you at ease to know that your energy bills can be brought down if you know where to look. Cold Weather Payments are one of the ways to do just that.  To qualify for the payments, you may have to keep an eye on the actual weather forecast. Watch out for your nearest weather station and keep a record of the temperature at or below 0 degrees. The scheme is valid only between 1st November 2019 and 31st March 2020. There is a catch though: you must be in receipt of Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers’ Allowance, income related Employment Support Allowance for at least one day during the period of cold weather. You’ll get £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather. In case you want to find out how to get it, check here:

If you are in receipt of state pension (and another benefit), you may be entitled to a one off Winter Fuel Payment. You should be getting this payment automatically. Your energy supplier adds the payment to your bill. If you don't get a reduction in your bill you should consider making a claim by calling 0800 731 0160. You will be asked to provide your National Insurance Number, bank or building society account details, and the date you were married or entered into a civil partnership (if appropriate).

Avoid estimated bills:

According to Ofgem, the energy industry regulator, an average household energy spend is around £1,254 per year.  To estimate your bill, a  fuel supplier uses various equations - your past energy usage, the time of year, whether your house is insulated and the number of people who live there.  

If you are paying your bill on an estimated reading, you are not the only one. It’s a well-known fact that in winter the cost of energy is high regardless of the variation in usage in the weekends, in the daytime or  at night. An estimated bill is not the true reflection of your actual use of energy. If you are ever in doubt, contact your provider to get a true reflection of your energy cost. You need to write your meter number or take a picture of it, contact your supplier and give them the number shown on your meter. You will then know your actual energy usage. 

Switch supplier

Perhaps you have done everything you could, yet, it’s impossible to bring the cost of energy down - what do you do next? You must consider switching your supplier. If being faithful to your energy supplier does not bring reduction in the cost of energy, what is the point of sticking with it., a free online website that you can use to find whether there are better fuel suppliers available to you in your locality.   

Guess what: I recently helped a client to switch.  Through I brought her energy bill down by £300 for a year. You won’t necessarily see the reduction in your energy until you make the decision to be unfaithful and do something about it. You do need to come out of your comfort zone and make the move.

Pre-payment meter and save money:

You may want to call it a ‘key meter’ or a ‘pay as you go’ tariff. Around 5.9 million people in the UK have a prepayment energy meter. It’s a well-known fact that prepay customers have fewer options for tariffs and they pay more. If you can find out whether you can change to a credit meter, you will definitely save money.  It will open up to a variety of cheaper tariffs for you. If you request for a credit meter, before they make a decision, a fuel supplier will do a credit check on you to see whether you can keep up with repayments with the meter. If you pass the check, an engineer will call in to remove the prepayment meter. It could be that they may charge a fee to pay for the cost of installation of the credit meter. You might be able to offset the cost of installation by making savings on the new tariff.  

Do remember: each supplier has its own policy on whether to replace the prepayment meter. Contact your supplier first. 

There are other options too. If you are on a pre-payment meter you can still switch your supplier to get a better deal. According to Ofgem, as long as you owe less than £500, you can switch to a new supplier even if you are paying off the debt.  You would do it under the ‘Debt Assignment Protocol’. This  means the new supplier takes on the existing debt and you repay the new provider based on a new agreement with the new supplier. So long the supplier agrees with you to take on your debt, you can then definitely switch. 

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Welfare Rights Campaign in Tower Hamlets

43% of children in Tower Hamlets are living in poverty according to Trust for London. 7.7% of the working population are unemployed in the borough. Whether to claim universal credit or not would be a big question for a lot of people.  In order to raise public awareness of universal credit in the local community, Universal Credit Action Network (UCAN), have organised a public meeting. You can hear from local campaigners and advice charities on the impact of welfare reform to the local community. If you are free on 18th December at 6pm, pop over at Brady Centre, Whitechapel. Refreshment provided!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Budgeting on Your Money Matters...with Ripon Ray

24% greater than on the eve of the financial crisis, Britons owe a total of £72.5bn on credit cards with £400m added to balances in November 2018 alone, according to the Bank of England. In such a mountainous backdrop, it's essential that regulators and the central government put financial education on top of the agenda for the well-being of communities who are struggling with money.

On Your Money Matters show, I have tackled this exact issue by interviewing Michelle Turpin Cope, Money Trainer. She personally struggled to manage her money once she resigned from her job as a nurse due to stress and depression. She had devoted her life caring for NHS patients. Once her savings ran out, she had to turn to state benefits; otherwise, would have been destitute. The luxury of spending money on a cup of coffee every day, without realising the impact this purchase would have on her finances, was really an issue for her.

Once she went on a money mentor training, she was forced to think about her spending habit. From then on her life changed forever because she was confronted with the psychology of spending. Financial planning or budgeting became the solution to her problem. This is why she has been passionate about budgeting and money management.

Managed Migration, Transitional Protection and Universal Credit

If you are on legacy benefits and being told to move on to universal credit through managed migration, you need to watch this video. UCAN h...