Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Summary of Feb Meeting - 'Universal Credit' - untangled!?

27 February 2013

Full details are included in Feb Newletter & Minutes in Document Section but bullet points from Max Beckmann & Alan Lean - who are rolling their sleeves up to understand the regulations & advise on the impact for members as follows:

  • Universal Credit - complete revolution for Welfare State, currently people seen as relying on benefits & this is to be addressed.
  • Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Job Seekers all replaced by Universal Credit.
  • Will be 1 claim that covers all needs eligible for - online process & claimant will be managing own claim.
  • Additional elements will be added ie disabled children etc
  • Claim will look at Income coming in & then Universal Credit will be worked out. Now increased to 65% of every £1.00 earned which is hoped to be an incentive to work.
  • Definition of Employed is PAYE - anyone working under a contract of service
  • Definition of Self Employed - so Equity members  - anyone who isn't PAYE - Self employed for tax purposes is still recognised ie Schedule D number etc. Treasury rescognise this & have no plans/need to change Tax Status for actors.
  • Portrayed as a positive thing - for Equity members will be disastrous
  • Universal Credit will be paid monthly - Job Seekers was weekly
  • Employed claimants - log on & can calculate income regularly - the system will be more responive to regular circumstances.
  • Self Employed claimants - log on every month to declare income earned & expenses - so in effect submitting a mini tax return every month.
  • Have to prove that employment is 'gainful' or is perceived as a hobby. Gainful definition is: 'Carrying on at Trades Union vocation, is organised, regular & making profit'
  • For Self Employed  requirement - minimum income floor assumed to be for all self employed - 35hrs £216.00 a week - monthly £938.00 - this is impossible to guarantee for actors as itinerant professional profession with different working practices.
  • There will be a monitoring system that all claimants are follwing the criteria - this is to be outsourced to network of personal advisors.
  • Equity will be running specific training sytems on all the above and in regard to sanctions - as detailed below:
  • SANCTIONS - if not fulfiling the criteria ie refusing to travel 90 mins to alternative job offer of factory job to recent RADA student  - benefits would be suspended for 91 days. Now can appeal before the suspension is enforced. In the future have to wait until sanctioned & then appeal.
  • Used to be able to look for work in chosen profession for 30 weeks before having to seek other employement.
  • Universal Credit - had to have been paid in this profession already to qualify - this will affect new graduates & new members joining the industry.
  • Equity will be lobbying VERY STRONGLY on behalf of members to get recognistion of our working patterns. "We have a hell of a fight on our hands" - Alan Lean
  • Conditionality - will extend to partners income as well.
  • Max commented when meeting with DWP - Equity will be fighting the special case for entertainers& really work with the advisors.
  • Pension Credit is remaining but if a couple & one person is under pension age - then will have to claim Universal Credit.
  • Timetable for start - new claimants will begin in Oct 2013 - managed migration ie those already claiming to be complete by Oct 2017. 12 million people & outsourced to 1 organisation - potentially a disaster.
  • There are huge delays in starting - not ready & so much detail missing from the regulations. The detail is hoped to be in the upcoming 'guidance' from Advisors
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