Sunday, June 25, 2017

Credit...To The Universe!

                                                   
                                                   

In the UK, Universal Credit is the name given to a system of entitlements and benefits affecting relief for the poor, the unemployed, the impoverished, all of which were once assigned to six separate entities. The resulting attempt at streamlining costs, as well as consolidating and simplifying services, has come under fire in Britain for any number of reasons. Both the old programs, and Universal Credit, all come under the Department of Wages and Pensions (DWP).

The Old Programs

  1. Job Seeker's Allowance: this benefit granted entitlement for an allowance of cash for job-seekers, and was formed as a part of the social security program in the UK.
  2. Housing Benefit: this was an allowance of cash provided on a needs based eligibility, which means the amount of cash could vary, depending upon the applicant's needs.
  3. Working Tax Credit: not a rebate, this is a low-income needs-based entitlement which is meant to supplement the income of working people.
  4. Child Tax Credit: similar to the Working Tax Credit, eligibility for the Child Tax Credit may be part and parcel to those eligible for the Working Tax Credit, as it applies to those with low incomes responsible for one or more children.
  5. Employment Support Allowance: Illness and/or disability were handled under this the ESA. It was granted with an emphasis on employment rehabilitation for worker retraining.
  6. Income Support: a wide base of entitlements came under Income Support, which also determined eligibility for Housing Benefit, and Child Tax Allowance, among others. This was a program which functioned in very general catch-all type categories, and is likely the area most impacted by Universal Credit.
The implementation of Universal Credit began in 2016, and is expected to be fully implemented by 2021. The most hopeful estimates suggest that the implementation of Universal Credit (UC) shall be in-effect at the end of 2017, at the earliest.
UC represents a trend in British Governance emphasizing welfare reform, and consolidating those reforms under the applicant's awareness that Universal Credit will eventually be tapered-off, and the entitlement, cease.

Universal Credit has several problems, from the no-confidence vote given its internal Information Technologies, and the 90% of the IT employees of Universal Credit whom voted this way, to the evolution of paperwork which applies to what was once a more specialized approach. Each of these had an architect, and a forum to anticipate, as well as prevent, foreseeable problems. But what they did not anticipate has the program preying on the anxieties of British people...

The Architects

Lord David Freud

                                             
Lord David Freud, British welfare reform chief, and chief regime-architect for the Universal Credit program, is also the great grandson of Sigmund Freud. Although he retired in December of 2016, and in some people's views, "before his catastrophe could reach critical mass", his presence as the chief of welfare reform bears little hints at connotation, such as the occasion when he remarked, "Disabled workers are not worth minimum wage!" This elitism seems to be essential DNA to the program, echoing throughout the problems implementing it, to the questionable eligibility criteria shifting now and again. He is the behind the scenes, and silent partner to this program.
                                             

Iain Duncan Smith 

                                             


Iain Duncan Smith, former Sec of State for Workers and Pensions, is the Conservative politician whom worked closely with Lord Freud to consolidate the six previous, or legacy benefits, has retired from political life as of the Summer of 2016. His 2010 annunciation about the Universal Credit program was well-received among his fellow Conservative Party members. He was pretty much the public face of the program. A staunch Eurosceptic, he seems to have accomplished a pile of what might have once been called, "Impossible Dreams."
                                             

                                             
June 14, 2017: the Greenfell Towers tragedy, to many, quantifies the lingering and copious problems faced by the poor, and the injured in the UK. The fact that the facility was cited precisely to prevent this type of a tragedy serves to ease no concerns about what many in Britain feel is yet further encroachment in the quality-of-life faced by one, and all, as they participate in the perfunctory Universal Credit program.
                                             

                                             

Nowadays in Britain, the consolidation of qualifying circumstances for one to seek assistance from the government simply lumps everyone together, and handles the unique needs of injured workers right alongside those seeking assistance due to their status as retirees. The Universal Credit program does more than this: it lumps no less than six formerly independent offices of public assistance into one, giant, jumbled, confused, and in some reports, ineffective system.

The relief which individuals seek, as well as the relief sought by families, as well as the job-seeking younger people and the older ones, as well, have been sacrificed in this generation like sheep, while they work their ways through a perfunctory and an unproven system. They have become the guinea pigs, the first and originally wounded, the forced participants bound to discover the bugs, and either work them out, or far worse, they will find out that the bugs within this new system can never hope to be worked out.

All for a system which was promised to be better, cheaper, which meant a more efficient system, and overall, a system of greater effectiveness. But the year which has passed since the program began to be implemented has been wrought with increasing hardships, incredulity, and in the end, some analysts have concluded that Universal Credit has already proven to be far more expensive than the program the British people were originally sold.


The Change Has Come....Right?

The reception from the Conservative Party for Smith's bold annunciation of Universal Credit in 2010 was understandably optimistic. Smith had long-been a welfare-reform advocate during his ascension from soldier of the eighties, where he had served in Rhodesia and Northern Ireland, to his inability to clinch a berth in 2003 as PM due to what some had perceived as his ardent Catholicism. 

But the blessing of Margaret Thatcher did grant him a term as the head of the Department of Wages and Pensions, with the Cameron administration. A term which combined his advocacy for welfare reform with the opportunity to make it so. His view of the system as it was then, and in his words, "expensive and complicated, and unfair", was that it wasted manpower and exposed the system to potential fraud due to a lack of oversight in the thinly stretched apparatus, which could only catch fraud after it happens. 

In spite of the cheerful inaugural speeches of 2010, the system has done little to please the people whom it most affected: the recipients, themselves. 

Everyone from Occupational Psychologists to the advocacy group Citizen's Advice has lodged a growing list of concerns with UC. These complaints include a new bureaucratic expectation of the citizens of Britain to perform the implausible 42-90 day waits after being approved for housing and food assistance, to the observation that combining systems into one pathway will accomplish exactly the opposite of consolidation, and the costs of operations shall inflate annually, accordingly.
But one thing that nobody wants is a new system. 


The New Old System

Those whose cases are still being assessed under the old program, so-called, "legacy recipients", are the most troubled by potential reassessments per the criteria of Universal Credit. For example, families assessed for entitlements under the old system shall now lose €2400 annually if they have one child, and as much as €2600 for those with three, or more. To a struggling family, this is a substantial loss-of-income which has been described as, "a back to work incentive" when, in fact, eligibility would be under entirely different criteria for non-employed recipients. 

And it gets worse, as receipt of entitlements are threatened by hours being increased, for example, prompting some recipients to avoid the conflict by finding it cheaper not to work, as the wage is less.

Some people wait 60 days from approval dates, some wait less: but after being approved. This idiosyncratic fact has the UC advising families that are waiting that they should try their luck at food banks.

The Result

That people are anxious is an understatement. But UC authorities having to be forced by UK courts to admit that internally, problems which should have delayed the program, or cancelled it altogether, were both known to its planners, and routinely ignored, seems conspiratorial to recipients. The results are that the problems with the UC's Information Technologies networks, for example, are magnified to the point of seeming to be so impairing that they have had an impact in terms of human tragedy. The consolidation should have been mostly in this area. But, as it turns out, the area where most of their efforts went, to the on line application process, is relatively wasted as poor people don't have WiFi, or computers, for that matter. This is a prime example of ineffective rationale plaguing the program, currently. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

The fact is suffering is going to happen, and under the best of conditions, institutionalizing relief will be somewhat dehumanizing. But trying to conceal the stunted view of impoverished life, in its bombastitude, and its bias, and in the internal documents which UC still refused to relinquish only serves to feed public anxieties even more. And the troubling fact is that any person anywhere may someday be forced to rely on public trusts like these in order to live. 

But the very unyielding circumstance which places a person at the mercies of these programs should be eased by these programs, not constantly reminded that he or she has a very little bit of time to enjoy the little bit of money that they are eligible for. And, on the other hand, people's fearful compliance ought not be for sale, nor should they be penalized for working an extra hour. 

The reality is that fractional reserve banking has wasted an entire generation of people. Now, the answer isn't Universal Credit, the answer is options. Education, livelihoods, professions, and compassion. But not confusing the needs of a paraplegic with those of a needy family. And this is the least harmful thing UC, in jumbling them all into one house, shall do.

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