Benefits Reform Trial Scaled Back

A new reform to the welfare system is about to be scaled back by the government.

The plans of ministers are to give people the possibility to claim the new Universal Credit in four areas of north-west England from April.

However, it was announced that three of the pilots will not be able to start until July.

According to Labour the Universal Credit was “on the edge of disaster” mainly because IT systems were still not ready to stand the pressure.

This Universal Credit is created in such a way that it is simple and cheap. It will merge several earnings-related benefits and tax credits into one single payment.

The Department for Work and Pensions had first decided to test it in four areas but now they said the beginning of the programme will be set only in one area- Ashton-under-Lyne.

Not before July the other three job centres will start working with Universal Credit.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “The scheme is already late and over-budget and in spite of earlier promises ministers have admitted that they have no idea when out of work claimants will move over to Universal Credit.”

Salary data calculations are needed for the Universal Credit so Mr. Byrne said that small firms have to provide this data as they have now been delayed from April until October.

On Friday Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South and a member of the work and pensions select committee, said that she was both pro and con the delaying as she felt the government first had to check everything was all right.

“The welfare system is like a giant jelly in that if you press down and try and make a change in one area, something else that you may not be expecting pops up”.

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Health and Safety Not Gone Mad, says HSE

The great number of cases where health and safety were used as a false reason so that something could be banned, were criticized by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Most people associate falsely health and safety with absurd situations where preposterously risk-averse restrictions are applied. A good example of the mentioned is a ban on shredded paper at a school fête. People need to learn that the Health and Safety Executive has provided restrictive rules so that they cannot use law in order to do anything they want.

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE, explained that there were cases blown up by media, which in fact had nothing to do with actual health and safety regulations.

“The reality is that people hide behind health and safety when there are other reasons for what they’re doing – fear of being sued perhaps, or bad customer service,” she said. “It’s time for them to own up to their real motives.”

HSE set up an expert panel the aim of which is to investigate cases in which because of the health and safety grounds some benign activities were prohibited.

For one year, this panel reported 150 cases where health and safety rules were not used in the proper way by either business or public bodies. Among the cases were a restaurant, which refused to serve burgers rare, and bars, which refused to fill pint glasses, which were equipped with, handles.

In the words of Ms. Hacklitt the panel had seen amazing cases which proved that people were not well aware of the meaning of health and safety.

She said: “The sad fact is that while all this nonsense is being spouted, it overshadows what health and safety is really about – ensuring people return home without injury from their day’s work, every day.”

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Norfolk Police Chief’s Disappointment Over Trip Legal Claim

The 33 years old PC Kelly Jones, who last year injured her leg and wrist at petrol station is now suing its owner. Her chief said he was disappointed of her decision as in fact she tripped on a kerb while attending a suspected break-in.

PC Jones could not be found in order to comment her actions.

Mr. Gormley said: “This type of claim does not represent the approach and attitude of the overwhelming majority of our staff who understand and accept the risks inherent in policing and which they willingly confront to keep the public they serve safe.”

The opinion of South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss is that all the police officers she knew were doing excellent job. This is why according to her this single case should not spoil their reputation.

Solicitor Pattison Brewer sent a letter to the petrol station in according to which PC Jones had gone to the Nunns Bridges garage at 00:20 BST.

He claimed his client went towards a gap in the fencing near a jet wash area in order to access the rear of the premises.

She was not well aware of the petrol station so she tripped and fell because of the high kerbing.

She felt the owner of the filling station did not manage to make this place safe for their clients as it was not bright enough.

In the words of the petrol station owner Steve Jones he could not do anything else for the safety of the officer as the kerb had been quite visible.

Paul Ridgway, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, said: “It’s not common, I appreciate that, but the claim has come in and we’ve honoured the officer’s wishes by putting it through to the solicitor.”

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Consultancy Agreement: Overview

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A Consultancy Agreement is a contract for services between an independent contractor (a self-employed individual) and the client for the provision of consultancy services.

A consultancy arrangement may be an attractive option for both client and consultant, in part because of the tax advantages. However, the fact that an arrangement is structured and documented as a contract for services and not a contract of employment is not conclusive evidence of the relationship between the parties; HMRC and the employment tribunal will look at the substance of the relationship, rather than the legal form or any labels that the parties have given to the relationship. In other words, a Consultancy Agreement is not a contract for services if the substance of the underlying relationship suggests otherwise.

Establishing whether the consultant is employed, self-employed or a worker is very important because the status of the consultant will set out:

  • the basis on which the consultant’s income is taxed;
  • whether the client will be required to make deductions of income tax and employee NICs) from the consultant’s fees and pay employer’s NICs;
  • whether the consultant will have the benefit of various employment protection rights available to employees, or the more limited rights available to workers;
  • whether the individual is owed the common law and statutory duties relating to health and safety owed by an employer to its employees or whether the individual (as an independent contractor) is responsible for their own safety.

There is no single test for determining employment status but there are a number of criteria that are considered when deciding whether a person can be said to be an employee. In determining employment status the employment tribunal and HMRC will look at the substance of the relationship, rather than the legal form or any labels that the parties have given to the relationship. However, there are three fundamental conditions that must be met for an employment contract to exist:

  • the individual must provide his own skill and work in return for pay (“personal service”);
  • there is a sufficient degree of control of the individual’s activities (“control”);
  • the other provisions in the contract are consistent with it being a contract of employment (“other factors”).

It is important to note that when issuing a consultancy agreement to a former employee, the client should try to make the terms as different as possible to the terms of the previous employment contract, as if the nature of the work is similar to that previously carried out on an employment basis, the consultancy arrangement may be deemed to be a continuation of the employment relationship

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We have a wide selection of legal document templates and forms including Consultancy Agreements.

Our Consultancy Agreement template is fully comprehensive; it provides a complete framework and reduces the chances for employment-related liabilities to arise. It is also flexible to suit the requirements of both parties and balanced in that it is designed to protect the interests of both parties.

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The Increase in Council Tax will Hit the Poorest

Joseph Rowntree Foundation announced that probably more than two million poor families living in the UK will suffer hard because of the tax benefit charges.

From the 1st of April after the changes do happen families with average low income will receive an increase of about £138 per year.

Council Tax Support (CTS) will replace the now existing Council Tax Benefit (CTB)

The rules in CTB are set on a national basis and Council Tax Support is structured by local councils. These will give local authority the possibility to set up the system in the way which will suit their local area in the best possible way.

It turns out, however that the money available to fund CTS is 10% lower than that of CTB.

This is the main reason why cuts may not be put off.

According to a research made by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1.9 million people who nowadays do not have to pay council tax will later have to pay an average of £140 a year.

The head of poverty at Joseph Rowntree, Chris Goulden, shared his view that this extra cost will affect seriously poor families.

“This tax hike will push people into poverty or cause more hardship for already very poor households, taking money from families who had little to start with” he said.

The opinion of a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government was that this was just the next step of the government after all other things it did in order to freeze council tax bills.

She said: “The localisation of council tax benefit will give councils stronger incentives to cut fraud, promote local enterprise and get people back into work.”

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Criminal Records Bureau Checks To Be Relaxed

Due to the new changes to laws announced by the Home Office if job applicants want to succeed they will have to disclose to their employers their past criminal activity.

These changes had to be made after the decision of the Court of Appeal that the criminal record checks done now were not compatible with human rights laws.

The results from the legislation which is about to start functioning soon will be the decreased number of serious convictions being filtered from checks because of the elapsed time. When 11 years have passed after adult convictions which resulted in a non-custodial sentence they will now be filtered. The number of years for adults’ cautions is 6.

Young offenders’ convictions will be filtered after five and a half years for non-custodial sentences, and 2 years for cautions.

Nowadays certain employees such as doctors and teachers for example require the criminal records checks which are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

CRB used to be responsible about these checks but under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 DBS took over their work.

In spite of the changes, convictions for serious violent and sexual offences will continue being disclosed by the DBS.

According to the Minister for Criminal Information, these changes were needed in order to “[strike] a balance between ensuring that children and vulnerable groups are protected and avoiding intrusion into people’s lives.”

It all started from a job applicant who was not allowed to work part time at a football club because of police cautions. The reason for these cautions appeared to be the two bicycles he stole when he was 11 years old.

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Housing Benefit Changes May Increase Homelessness

MPs announced that the government will from now on monitor closely the effects of the declared benefits cut for people in social housing who have a spare bedroom.

This move will affect about 660,000 people who use social housing.  This means a 14% cut in housing benefit for people with a spare room and a 25% cut for those who have two or more rooms.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should watch carefully the results and act swiftly if rent arrears and homelessness do increase.

People with low income will suffer most as the £14 they will lose each week will have a strong effect over their lives.

First of April is the date that the changes will start functioning, reducing the housing benefit bill and free up larger homes for people in need.

Statistics made by a number of housing associations pointed out that people would rather choose to take the financial hit staying in their current homes than moving to another place.

According to Margaret Hodge, chair of the PAC, the DWP therefore has to do something in response to the increases in homelessness and rents.

“At the time of our hearing, far too many of those who stand to be directly affected were worryingly unaware of the reforms and what they will mean for their finances,” she said.

She also added that DWP did not take into account the administrative costs when announcing the potential £6.2bn savings of the change.

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Who has the right to vote the England-only laws?

Due to a recent report the majority of MPs representing English constituencies should back Legislation that affects England only.

The McKay Commission was launched in order to take a decision if Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs have the right to vote on English-only matters.

The words of the government about the report mentioned were that it needed to be seriously considered.

As Scottish and Welsh MPs supported the English government in 2004, it was allowed to push through the introduction of university top-up fees.

However, the current situation was announced to be “unsustainable” so serious changes had to be made.

The proposal of the McKay Commission was that the MPs of different districts had to take decisions only about their regions, which proposal is not only for England but also for Wales.

MPs would be given specific Parliamentary time to debate either to endorse or reject the plans for England.

The commission gave the idea that the proportion of English MPs who have supported a Bill would be published together with the final results.

“If a government was seen to have failed to attract the support of a majority of MPs from England [or England and Wales] for business affecting those interests, it would be likely to sustain severe political damage,” it says.

The opinion of the commission chairman Sir William McKay was that Westminster law-making had to focus on England and Wales as soon as possible.

He added that according to surveys people in England were not satisfied of the existing arrangements and supported change.

“There is a feeling that England is at a disadvantage, and that it’s not right that MPs representing the devolved nations should be able to vote on matters affecting England.”

In a statement the cabinet Office spokesman said they would first have to think carefully before announcing the final decision.

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‘Mock trials’ in Public Inquiries Must End

The chief executive of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) published a report claiming that the ‘litigation model’ of public inquiries is not quite effective now so it has to be changed embracing alternative methods of dialogue and decision-making.

Karl Mackie, who is the author of this report commented that public inquiries have become ‘increasingly prevalent’.

According to him the ad hoc nature of inquires was a simple model but at the same time it cost much, required long time and in most of the cases did not deliver what has been promised.

Last year CEDR commissioned a study the results of which showed that only 27% of the 2,000 people polled were convinced of the authenticity of the inquiry system and 58% shared that inquiries cost too much.

‘It is now time for a rethink and reform, including pilots of alternative approaches,’ said Mackie.

The suggestion of Mackie is moving away from the “litigation model”, which would provide better conditions for greater dialogue between parties using the techniques of mediation, arbitration and alternative dispute.

In his opinion there were inquiries which had adopted the ‘ambiance of a mock trial’.

Two things need to be done so that the current situation changes- increased training should be given to those judges who chair public inquiries; process has to be divided into two different distinct phrases- investigation and recommendations.

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