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TOPIC: UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MODERN SLAVERY

UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MODERN SLAVERY 24 Jul 2018 17:55 #9479

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UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MODERN SLAVERY
By Bernadette Meaden
July 18, 2018

Could Universal Credit facilitate modern slavery? It seems almost inevitable that it will, and not unreasonable to believe that it is already doing so.

If Universal Credit works perfectly as designed, claimants must wait five weeks for payment, during which time some people will have no income whatsoever. In reality, the wait can be very much longer. People borrow to survive. They can borrow from the government, by getting an Advance Payment, but this is deducted from their benefit when it is eventually paid, making a low income even lower.

So, far from being a solution, Advance Payments, or the need for them, are a part of the problem, which is why in Universal Credit areas debt can become such a big issue. People are turning to payday loan companies and in some cases, they are turning to loan sharks – who are by definition, criminals. In a 2017 survey on Universal Credit, housing providers noted “The reported increase in the presence of loan sharks within our communities is alarming, but sadly not surprising.”

But you can’t get blood from a stone. People with a very low or non-existent income cannot indefinitely keep up with demands for extortionate interest payments. So, what is the next logical step for a ruthless criminal? They take payment in other ways, perhaps in the form of sexual abuse, perhaps in the form of labour.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), a national team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks, recently explained how becoming indebted to a loan shark can lead to modern slavery. In a blog ttiled ‘How loan sharks are menacing victims and forcing them into modern slavery’, they wrote: “Loan sharks are criminals who charge extortionate interest rates and use callous methods to force people to pay the money back. The IMLT have encountered victims being forced into prostitution, drug dealing, and illegal money lending by the loan shark.

“Debt bondage, also known as bonded labour, is the world’s most widespread form of modern slavery according to Anti-Slavery International.

“Debt bondage occurs when people borrow money they cannot repay and are required to work to pay off the debt, resulting in them losing control over the conditions of both their employment and the debt.”

This explanation of debt bondage was a guest post for the website of the Clewer Initiative which aims to enable the Church of England to detect modern slavery in communities and help provide support and care to victims. It is funded by the Clewer Sisters, an order of nuns founded in 1852 to help homeless women who were drawn into the sex trade.

So a religious Order which was set up in the absence of a welfare state to help the victims of poverty and exploitation may now find itself indirectly helping people forced into modern slavery by welfare ‘reforms’.

And it seems clear that this is a growing problem. In May this year, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority reported that the three most common nationalities referred to them for labour exploitation were Vietnamese, British and Albanian, and that “In 2017, the number of British potential victims increased substantially (362 per cent)”. The numbers are relatively small at the moment, but only 10 per cent of benefit claimants are yet affected by Universal Credit. The mass migration of millions of people still on legacy benefits has the potential to create havoc, particularly for people with physical and mental health problems.

And sadly, when a family is tipped into poverty and debt, it is not only the adults who become vulnerable to exploitation. There is increasing awareness of the ‘county lines’ system run by organised criminals. As the Children’s Society explains, “County lines – or ‘going country’ – is when gangs exploit children, some as young as 12, to sell drugs across county boundaries…Gangs deliberately target vulnerable children, such as those in care or living in poverty.”

It seems inevitable that as Universal Credit rolls out, more adults will be driven into the arms of loan sharks and potential abuse and exploitation, and more children will fall prey to the criminal gangs just waiting to exploit their vulnerability. A country with a properly functioning welfare state, with true social security, would not leave its citizens vulnerable in this way.

www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/26364
YNWA: You'll Never Walk Alone
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UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MODERN SLAVERY 25 Jul 2018 10:22 #9483

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I was just thinking the other day that once claiming Universal Credit, you are always going to be tied into it unless you work at or above the earnings upper limit. Work under it and they will always be on your case to `find more work or more hours`. So in many ways, UC is a controlling machine where anyone claiming it will always be answerable to it. Unlike the old legacy system where you could earn the equivalent of JSA and sign off/close your account.

Those days will be long gone once UC Full digital service is in full swing. This seems to be the aim of the whole plan. Anyone IN work at the moment and losing their job won`t know what the hell is waiting for them. A five week wait for any payment for starters.
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UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MODERN SLAVERY 27 Jul 2018 12:13 #9502

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comply or die, exactly!

Also with support networks suffering, when you fall off the bottom rung you will disappear even faster than before. In turn as I believe we are already seeing, crime is likely to go up. More places then become risky to visit the more desperate people end up living there. It would be a smart politician indeed who would come up with a policy to create widely affordable housing but that is not quite happening just yet.

Tax haven for the super rich supported by a never ending supply of cheap labour is what this gov't seem to be preparing the way for. The emphasis of the rhetoric is constantly on quantity over quality of jobs so standards are not considered that important.

Hopefully at least the cost of living will go down once we get to a point when people just stop being able to afford the goods which keep others in business. Obviously even if this provided a springboard for economic recovery, the decline has been sustained for so long that it would still take decades. We have in the recent past seen how things don't unravel so simplistically. Waves of bankruptcies and repossessions don't seem to have much effect on policy and most significantly when the economy as a whole began to fail last time it was the banks who received the help with wages stagnating or going down relative to the continuing rise in the cost of living. Efforts from smart business models such as 'discount' supermarkets (paying higher wages than the big names) or to a lesser extent pound shops (as some items can be purchased cheaper elsewhere - reflecting a false economy which people can very easily fall for) are about the only highlights I can think of - unless of course you are one of the fatcats getting fatter from the misery of others.
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UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND MODERN SLAVERY 27 Jul 2018 13:06 #9506

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I feel that`s exactly what will happen Verc given the high street suffering, people on middle and low incomes `just about managing` and those at the bottom without any safety net at all and answerable to social landlords who have a licence to kill. I can`t say I have a lot to look forward to in the next ten or more years. Being on ESA and realising that we are only an assessment away from being cut off is always daunting, even when we know we have leave to appeal any decision made to throw us to the wolves in joke shop. Leaving anyone who already has illness or disability is just savage. Yet here we are with a government who actually impliment such policy.
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