29 4 / 2013

As the youngest of 4, we knew from an early age, that our son was “different” “quirky” and had delayed developmental milestones. As his Mum, I vividly remember bombarding the Health Visitor and Doctor telling them that this child was different from his older brothers. After many tests we were told he was autistic.

I could not return to work. This child needed me there full time, 24/7 as he struggled with night terrors and seeing the world through a unique point of view. I was able to claim carer’s allowance and my son to claim Disability Living Allowance, but with 4 sons I also needed my husband to help care for the family too so he decided to become Self Employed, working 2 jobs to be flexible enough to fit our son and the older boys needs into our lives.

Part of the “extra help” which Gordon Brown was quick to realise back in the early 2000s was that low paid workers who claim working tax credits and have a disabled child, need a bit extra money to cope with all the added costs that are incurred with disabled children. Currently as long as a child up to their 16th birthday is in reciept of either the High Rate, Middle Rate or Low Rate Care Component of DLA the family receive a “Disabled Child Tax Element” on top of their Working Tax Credits. This element is paid at the rate of £57 per week for ALL disabled children. Many people with children ask why this top up is needed and I never tire of telling them:
Can your teenage child catch a bus? Yes? My son cannot. He cannot go on public transport without adult supervision because he may have a meltdown, get highly anxious, or be bullied for staring at people or asking people personal questions.

Tucked away in Universal Credit, is a little known clause on the Disabled Child Tax Element. The DWP, in order to save money on the Welfare Bill, have decided disabled children also need to be scrutinised. When UC is rolled out, only those children who are ” the most severely disabled” will continue getting the disabled child tax element at £57pw. These children must be in receipt of HR care DLA only. Those children who receive Middle Rate and Low Rate Care will receive HALF the amount at £28pw. It is also noted that the DWP say this is “per household” so people who may have more than one disabled child will lose out enormously, as the claim is based on one child only.

The DWP say” the reason is to align adult and child payments thus removing the “cliff-edge” in the current system that exists when young people transfer in a planned transition to become independent adults”
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmworpen/576/57607.htm

It has been noted by organisations such as The Children’s Society and CAB that those families most severely impacted will be those losing £30pw who have children with fairly severe disabilities who are in receipt of MIddle Rate Care on DLA. See Link above to Parliament report.

As well as this loss, families with disabled children have always been penalised with childcare costs if they work. Recently many middle class families with able bodied children have been publically denouncing the Government as childcare is so costly. I would like to add:

Try finding a nursery that can care for children with a range of disabilities with specially trained staff. If you can find one, and I know of none where I live, how much more would the cost be? Also disabled children need childcare costs until their 18th birthdays. Nurseries and after school clubs generally take children until their 12th birthday. Any childcare to enable a parent of a disabled child to work is as rare as hens teeth! This traps parents into being a full time carer on the measly £58pw Carers Allowance (which thankfully is NOT included under UC).

Take that support away as the Government are planning to do and the outcome would be a lot different: less independence, less outside activities and a frustrated, angry child. I pity any parent with a baby or toddler with a disability who would like to work this year.I think this Government may well take away your choice.

20 4 / 2013

Take a look at this proud photo of my youngest son, Luca aged 14. He is autistic.

As the youngest of 4, we knew from an early age, that our son was “different” “quirky” and had delayed developmental milestones. As his Mum, I vividly remember bombarding the Health Visitor and Doctor telling them that this child was different from his older brothers.  After many tests we were told he was autistic. At the time we were living in Liverpool, and Luca had intensive early intervention with speech therapy, nursery, specialist toy library and his own disability social worker from the age of 2. While of course as parents, we knew we had to do our best by him, we also knew our lives would change for ever with a child with special needs.

I could not return to work. This child needed me there full time, 24/7 as he struggled with night terrors and seeing the world through a unique point of view. I was able to claim carer’s allowance and my son to claim Disability Living Allowance, but with 4 sons I also needed my husband to help care for the family too so he decided to become Self Employed, working 2 jobs to be flexible enough to fit our son and the older boys needs into our lives.

Part of the “extra help” which Gordon Brown was quick to realise back in the early 2000s was that low paid workers who claim working tax credits and have a disabled child, need a bit extra money to cope with all the added costs that are incurred with disabled children. Currently as long as a child up to their 16th birthday is in reciept  of either the High Rate, Middle Rate or Low Rate Care Component  of DLA  the family receive a “Disabled Child Tax Element” on top of their Working Tax Credits. This element is paid at the rate of £57 per week for ALL disabled children. Many people with children ask why this top up is needed and I never tire of telling them:
Can your teenage child catch a bus? Yes? My son cannot. He cannot go on public transport without adult supervision because he may have a meltdown, get highly anxious, or be bullied for staring at people or asking people personal questions like “Why are you so fat?” Many children with autism have no outward visible sign of disability and to be honest, sometimes this actually goes against them as people assume they are “normal” and being rude or cheeky or having a tantrum akin to a toddler!

This has created huge problems for my son and we as parents have had to patiently coach him on what NOT to say in public. People often ask me what do I do with that “huge” extra £57 pw? I ensure that my son has as many outside interests like “normal” teenagers as possible! He attends Drama School at weekends, and he plays Cricket to improve his co-ordination skills which are poor. He has a special diet which improves his anger management. His bedroom has been made “Luca friendly” so he knows exactly where everything is and the room is in a colour he likes, as he has a fear of some colours! So that is where we spend the extra money: on making his life the best possible.

Tucked away in Universal Credit, is a little known clause on the Disabled Child Tax Element. The DWP, in order to save money on the Welfare Bill, have decided disabled children also need to be scrutinised. When UC is rolled out, only those children who are ” the most severely disabled” will continue getting the disabled child tax element at £57pw. These children must be in receipt of HR care DLA only. Those children who receive Middle Rate and Low Rate Care will receive HALF the amount at £28pw. It is also noted that the DWP say this is “per household” so people who may have more than one disabled child will lose out enormously, as the claim is based on one child only.

The DWP say” the reason is to align adult and child payments thus removing the “cliff-edge” in the current system that exists when young people transfer in a planned transition to become independent adults”. It has been noted by  organisations such as The Children’s  Society  and CAB that those families most severely impacted will be those losing £30pw who have children with fairly severe disabilities who are in receipt of MIddle Rate Care on DLA.

As well as this loss, families with disabled children have always been penalised with childcare costs if they work. Recently many middle class families with able bodied children have been publically denouncing the Government as childcare is so costly. I would like to add:

Try finding a nursery that can care for children with a range of disabilities with specially trained staff. If you can find one, and I know of none where I live, how much more would the cost be? Also disabled children need childcare costs until their 18th birthdays. Nurseries and after school clubs generally take children until their 12th birthday. Any childcare to enable a parent of a disabled child to work is as rare as hens teeth! This traps parents into being a full time carer on the measly £58pw Carers Allowance (which thankfully is NOT included under UC).

So take a look at the photo of my precious boy above with the School Endeavour Cup for Sport last year. That photograph took 13 years of input by teachers and ourselves as parents; and yes money to get that child confident enough and able to participate with his year group through lots of different activities and life experiences.Take that support away as the Government are planning to do and the outcome would be a lot different: less independence, less outside activities and a frustrated, angry child. I pity any parent with a baby or toddler with a disability who would like to work this year.I think this Government may well take away your choice.

Take a look at this proud photo of my youngest son, Luca aged 14. He is autistic.

As the youngest of 4, we knew from an early age, that our son was “different” “quirky” and had delayed developmental milestones. As his Mum, I vividly remember bombarding the Health Visitor and Doctor telling them that this child was different from his older brothers. After many tests we were told he was autistic. At the time we were living in Liverpool, and Luca had intensive early intervention with speech therapy, nursery, specialist toy library and his own disability social worker from the age of 2. While of course as parents, we knew we had to do our best by him, we also knew our lives would change for ever with a child with special needs.

I could not return to work. This child needed me there full time, 24/7 as he struggled with night terrors and seeing the world through a unique point of view. I was able to claim carer’s allowance and my son to claim Disability Living Allowance, but with 4 sons I also needed my husband to help care for the family too so he decided to become Self Employed, working 2 jobs to be flexible enough to fit our son and the older boys needs into our lives.

Part of the “extra help” which Gordon Brown was quick to realise back in the early 2000s was that low paid workers who claim working tax credits and have a disabled child, need a bit extra money to cope with all the added costs that are incurred with disabled children. Currently as long as a child up to their 16th birthday is in reciept of either the High Rate, Middle Rate or Low Rate Care Component of DLA the family receive a “Disabled Child Tax Element” on top of their Working Tax Credits. This element is paid at the rate of £57 per week for ALL disabled children. Many people with children ask why this top up is needed and I never tire of telling them:
Can your teenage child catch a bus? Yes? My son cannot. He cannot go on public transport without adult supervision because he may have a meltdown, get highly anxious, or be bullied for staring at people or asking people personal questions like “Why are you so fat?” Many children with autism have no outward visible sign of disability and to be honest, sometimes this actually goes against them as people assume they are “normal” and being rude or cheeky or having a tantrum akin to a toddler!

This has created huge problems for my son and we as parents have had to patiently coach him on what NOT to say in public. People often ask me what do I do with that “huge” extra £57 pw? I ensure that my son has as many outside interests like “normal” teenagers as possible! He attends Drama School at weekends, and he plays Cricket to improve his co-ordination skills which are poor. He has a special diet which improves his anger management. His bedroom has been made “Luca friendly” so he knows exactly where everything is and the room is in a colour he likes, as he has a fear of some colours! So that is where we spend the extra money: on making his life the best possible.

Tucked away in Universal Credit, is a little known clause on the Disabled Child Tax Element. The DWP, in order to save money on the Welfare Bill, have decided disabled children also need to be scrutinised. When UC is rolled out, only those children who are ” the most severely disabled” will continue getting the disabled child tax element at £57pw. These children must be in receipt of HR care DLA only. Those children who receive Middle Rate and Low Rate Care will receive HALF the amount at £28pw. It is also noted that the DWP say this is “per household” so people who may have more than one disabled child will lose out enormously, as the claim is based on one child only.

The DWP say” the reason is to align adult and child payments thus removing the “cliff-edge” in the current system that exists when young people transfer in a planned transition to become independent adults”. It has been noted by organisations such as The Children’s Society and CAB that those families most severely impacted will be those losing £30pw who have children with fairly severe disabilities who are in receipt of MIddle Rate Care on DLA.

As well as this loss, families with disabled children have always been penalised with childcare costs if they work. Recently many middle class families with able bodied children have been publically denouncing the Government as childcare is so costly. I would like to add:

Try finding a nursery that can care for children with a range of disabilities with specially trained staff. If you can find one, and I know of none where I live, how much more would the cost be? Also disabled children need childcare costs until their 18th birthdays. Nurseries and after school clubs generally take children until their 12th birthday. Any childcare to enable a parent of a disabled child to work is as rare as hens teeth! This traps parents into being a full time carer on the measly £58pw Carers Allowance (which thankfully is NOT included under UC).

So take a look at the photo of my precious boy above with the School Endeavour Cup for Sport last year. That photograph took 13 years of input by teachers and ourselves as parents; and yes money to get that child confident enough and able to participate with his year group through lots of different activities and life experiences.Take that support away as the Government are planning to do and the outcome would be a lot different: less independence, less outside activities and a frustrated, angry child. I pity any parent with a baby or toddler with a disability who would like to work this year.I think this Government may well take away your choice.

18 4 / 2013

My name is Bernadette Horton and I am married with 4 sons aged 14-24, the youngest of whom is autistic. I am a Part Time,Self Employed Independent Sales Rep, and my husband  has two part time Self Employed jobs as a DJ and a Cricket Coach. We also care for our son with autism.

The Welfare Reforms that will affect my family, are Universal Credit - both working and child tax credits and the new regulations regarding the Self Employed within Universal Credit. As we have a disabled child we will also be hit by the reduction in the disabled child tax element too. My huge concern is that my son only has 2 years left before he becomes an “adult” and has to move from DLA to PIP on his 16th birthday.

For the first time a Government are taking the unprecedented step of interviewing  and keeping a monthly eye on low paid workers who claim working tax credit. When Universal Credit is rolled out this year, the Self Employed will be required to attend a gateway interview and have their Self Employment scrutinised. They will also be subject to a “Minimum Income Floor” which assumes a business must earn the equivalent of the minimum wage per hour. For example if you work 20 hours a week from Oct 2013  the DWP will assume this is 20 x £6.31. Only a newly started business will be given time to set up in its first 6 months and make a loss. Everyone else will be looked at in minute detail.

If a business is NOT earning an equivalent of the Minimum Wage, a Self Employed person may be asked to look for an employed position as the business is deemed not viable. Sanctions are also brought into force if a person misses the monthly reporting deadline with their income to the Job Centre appointment with a climbing scale of sanctions for perceived misdemeanours.

There are some very obvious questions to ask the DWP in regard to the Self Employed. My first one is: Many women do part time self employed jobs like Avon, Betterware or Kleeneze as sales reps. We earn commission on the amount we sell once every 3 weeks. To earn £80 we have to sell £500 worth of goods. As a baseline the majority do not earn anywhere near the minimum wage over a period of 3 weeks. I feel that women will be hit disproportionately by the Minimum Income Floor and unfairly. As I am a carer for my disabled son I am exempt, but my husband is not. As a DJ, and since the smoking ban,he has seen pubs and clubs shut in droves every week and as a result, pubs and clubs are requiring less entertainment as people stay at home. Our income is unpredictable and quite poor in the winter months especially and minimum wage very hard to achieve on a monthly basis. That is why my husband works two Self Employed Jobs to cover the bad times and increase our income in the spring/summer as a cricket coach.

I also feel those in the creative arts like writers, craftspeople and sculptors who have sporadic incomes will also be unfairly hit, as will seasonal workers, gardeners, groundsmen who may depend on the weather for hours worked and income.

I feel a lot of strain already as we are low paid. To compound that strain with monthly reporting or face sanctions at the Job Centre, together with the knowledge tax credits could be withdrawn, or my husband forced to stop his self employment and be made to seek a paid job, initially claiming JSA is beyond belief really.

Only a while  ago George Osborne was talking about “low paid workers, hard working families striving to do the right thing” He was talking about my family I thought. But now because we are low paid, we are now seen as somehow “not doing enough” to earn more in a time of unprecedented austerity. The result will be people like myself forcibly being denied Self Employment and then being out of work. Surely that does not benefit the Unemployment Statistics that will  rise as a consequence? I fear for my family’s future under Universal Credit and would urge the Government to have some compassion on those who are doing their best to survive. In the Governments own terms we are contributing to society and our work is vital to the people we serve.

My name is Bernadette Horton and I am married with 4 sons aged 14-24, the youngest of whom is autistic. I am a Part Time,Self Employed Independent Sales Rep, and my husband has two part time Self Employed jobs as a DJ and a Cricket Coach. We also care for our son with autism.

The Welfare Reforms that will affect my family, are Universal Credit - both working and child tax credits and the new regulations regarding the Self Employed within Universal Credit. As we have a disabled child we will also be hit by the reduction in the disabled child tax element too. My huge concern is that my son only has 2 years left before he becomes an “adult” and has to move from DLA to PIP on his 16th birthday.

For the first time a Government are taking the unprecedented step of interviewing and keeping a monthly eye on low paid workers who claim working tax credit. When Universal Credit is rolled out this year, the Self Employed will be required to attend a gateway interview and have their Self Employment scrutinised. They will also be subject to a “Minimum Income Floor” which assumes a business must earn the equivalent of the minimum wage per hour. For example if you work 20 hours a week from Oct 2013 the DWP will assume this is 20 x £6.31. Only a newly started business will be given time to set up in its first 6 months and make a loss. Everyone else will be looked at in minute detail.

If a business is NOT earning an equivalent of the Minimum Wage, a Self Employed person may be asked to look for an employed position as the business is deemed not viable. Sanctions are also brought into force if a person misses the monthly reporting deadline with their income to the Job Centre appointment with a climbing scale of sanctions for perceived misdemeanours.

There are some very obvious questions to ask the DWP in regard to the Self Employed. My first one is: Many women do part time self employed jobs like Avon, Betterware or Kleeneze as sales reps. We earn commission on the amount we sell once every 3 weeks. To earn £80 we have to sell £500 worth of goods. As a baseline the majority do not earn anywhere near the minimum wage over a period of 3 weeks. I feel that women will be hit disproportionately by the Minimum Income Floor and unfairly. As I am a carer for my disabled son I am exempt, but my husband is not. As a DJ, and since the smoking ban,he has seen pubs and clubs shut in droves every week and as a result, pubs and clubs are requiring less entertainment as people stay at home. Our income is unpredictable and quite poor in the winter months especially and minimum wage very hard to achieve on a monthly basis. That is why my husband works two Self Employed Jobs to cover the bad times and increase our income in the spring/summer as a cricket coach.

I also feel those in the creative arts like writers, craftspeople and sculptors who have sporadic incomes will also be unfairly hit, as will seasonal workers, gardeners, groundsmen who may depend on the weather for hours worked and income.

I feel a lot of strain already as we are low paid. To compound that strain with monthly reporting or face sanctions at the Job Centre, together with the knowledge tax credits could be withdrawn, or my husband forced to stop his self employment and be made to seek a paid job, initially claiming JSA is beyond belief really.

Only a while ago George Osborne was talking about “low paid workers, hard working families striving to do the right thing” He was talking about my family I thought. But now because we are low paid, we are now seen as somehow “not doing enough” to earn more in a time of unprecedented austerity. The result will be people like myself forcibly being denied Self Employment and then being out of work. Surely that does not benefit the Unemployment Statistics that will rise as a consequence? I fear for my family’s future under Universal Credit and would urge the Government to have some compassion on those who are doing their best to survive. In the Governments own terms we are contributing to society and our work is vital to the people we serve.

12 4 / 2013

The DWP Standard CV Template that my son had to use whilst searching for a Job over the Winter of 2013.

The Job Centre (DWP) ask Jobseekers when signing on to claim Job Seekers Allowance for a CV. My son aged 20, had worked for the past 3 years and so had his own Professionally Made CV that he handed to his Job Centre Advisor. The Advisor said that the Job Centre liked Jobseekers to have a CV made on their own standard template. You can see from the photograph that the template is very basic, and contains the bare minimum of information for employers.

The layout is particularly poor, but the Job Centre will only accept CV’s on this template and NOT your own personal CV you may have done yourself. Another major headache is that this CV is stored in your own online account on the Universal Jobmatch site. This is a good idea as you are able to click on a job and if suitable you can apply instantly as your CV can be sent to the employer. However, in order to upload the CV to your online account, the document must be saved in an obscure docx or .doc format. Most young people and even older people like myself are familiar with the standard Word Doc for CV’s or school essays etc. My son had to find a free online document converter to convert his CV to a docx format.

Why have the DWP made this difficult for Jobseekers? It must be a particular hardship for younger people who may not have highly developed computer skills and would not know how to convert documents to upload online.

Many employers like the CV sent online when applying for a job but some do not. The bigger shop chains for example, may want a JobSeeker to complete their own in house application form. My son’s Job Centre Advisor gave him an application form for a major coffee shop chain at his fortnightly appointment to sign on and explain what steps he was taking to find work. As the Job Centre is 4 miles away on the train and costly, my son said he would complete the application that night and bring it back the following day when he knew he could get a lift with his Step-Dad in the car. When he arrived the following day he was met with a security guard at the door who asked him who his appointment was with.

My son replied he did not have an appointment but all he needed to do was hand in the job application form to his Advisor. The security guard refused to allow him entry as he did not have a “set” appointment, but instead as a compromise agreed he would hand it to the Advisor himself. My son reluctantly agreed and with his previous shop experience thought he had a good chance of an Interview. Days passed and he heard nothing. He emailed his advisor about the application form but was told the advisor had not received it in time. My son was rightfully very annoyed, as he had lost the chance of an interview, but apparently those are the rules given to the security guards. No appointment - no entry.

And I thought the name of the place where you go to look for work is a “Job Centre”!  Why can’t you walk in to hunt for jobs? Are there so many people unemployed the DWP fear people will get crushed if they do not have a set appointment time? And why the need for Security Guards at the door of a Job Centre? There are actually 4 employed there. To me it all sends out the wrong connotations in the battle to find work. Is this really what we have come to: Set Basic CV Templates with no individuality allowed, an online system that makes it more difficult to find a job, and a Job Centre you cannot walk into freely?

The system needs to change for the better with the focus on HELP - now!

The DWP Standard CV Template that my son had to use whilst searching for a Job over the Winter of 2013.

The Job Centre (DWP) ask Jobseekers when signing on to claim Job Seekers Allowance for a CV. My son aged 20, had worked for the past 3 years and so had his own Professionally Made CV that he handed to his Job Centre Advisor. The Advisor said that the Job Centre liked Jobseekers to have a CV made on their own standard template. You can see from the photograph that the template is very basic, and contains the bare minimum of information for employers.

The layout is particularly poor, but the Job Centre will only accept CV’s on this template and NOT your own personal CV you may have done yourself. Another major headache is that this CV is stored in your own online account on the Universal Jobmatch site. This is a good idea as you are able to click on a job and if suitable you can apply instantly as your CV can be sent to the employer. However, in order to upload the CV to your online account, the document must be saved in an obscure docx or .doc format. Most young people and even older people like myself are familiar with the standard Word Doc for CV’s or school essays etc. My son had to find a free online document converter to convert his CV to a docx format.

Why have the DWP made this difficult for Jobseekers? It must be a particular hardship for younger people who may not have highly developed computer skills and would not know how to convert documents to upload online.

Many employers like the CV sent online when applying for a job but some do not. The bigger shop chains for example, may want a JobSeeker to complete their own in house application form. My son’s Job Centre Advisor gave him an application form for a major coffee shop chain at his fortnightly appointment to sign on and explain what steps he was taking to find work. As the Job Centre is 4 miles away on the train and costly, my son said he would complete the application that night and bring it back the following day when he knew he could get a lift with his Step-Dad in the car. When he arrived the following day he was met with a security guard at the door who asked him who his appointment was with.

My son replied he did not have an appointment but all he needed to do was hand in the job application form to his Advisor. The security guard refused to allow him entry as he did not have a “set” appointment, but instead as a compromise agreed he would hand it to the Advisor himself. My son reluctantly agreed and with his previous shop experience thought he had a good chance of an Interview. Days passed and he heard nothing. He emailed his advisor about the application form but was told the advisor had not received it in time. My son was rightfully very annoyed, as he had lost the chance of an interview, but apparently those are the rules given to the security guards. No appointment - no entry.

And I thought the name of the place where you go to look for work is a “Job Centre”! Why can’t you walk in to hunt for jobs? Are there so many people unemployed the DWP fear people will get crushed if they do not have a set appointment time? And why the need for Security Guards at the door of a Job Centre? There are actually 4 employed there. To me it all sends out the wrong connotations in the battle to find work. Is this really what we have come to: Set Basic CV Templates with no individuality allowed, an online system that makes it more difficult to find a job, and a Job Centre you cannot walk into freely?

The system needs to change for the better with the focus on HELP - now!

11 4 / 2013

April 11th 2013 - Today a shiver went down my spine when I read of the debate in the House of Commons next Tuesday where the Government are seeking to abolish the Agriculture Wages Board. I am not a rural worker, but the wider connotation connected with the scrapping of the AWB, is that the Government are seeking to get rid of the Minimum Wage.

Once rural workers have the Minimum Wage abolished then it is only time before the rest of us Low Paid Workers follow. The Minimum Wage has been instrumental in ensuring Low Paid homeworkers, many of them women in particular,are paid a reasonable basic wage for their work. Until Labour brought in the Minimum Wage, many women were labelling envelopes for 50p an hour or cleaning for £1 an hour. Low Paid Workers were simply exploited for their Labour.

I will do anything to ensure the Minimum Wage is kept and what’s more I relish the campaign for a Living Wage which is surely the next step to take the Low Paid off Tax Credits - which is something this Government actually support!