Archive for the ‘Suffolk’ Category
Thursday: Outside Ipswich Jobcentre.
Interviewed on Radio Suffolk.
Benefit sanctions must be fought against
These sanctions are cruel and handed out for ridiculous reasons such as:
- Arriving minutes late to a meeting
- Not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job!
- Missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close family member.
This has to stop.
- Share your story – we are looking for people who have been sanctioned to tell their story.
- We want to show the reality and impact on people’s lives – show your support – share on Twitter and Facebook #No2Sanctions
See More Here.
Welfare Weekly: Thousands to protest against ‘cruel and ineffective’ benefit sanctions regime
Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action’ to stop benefit sanctions.
Activists from Britain’s biggest trade union Unite will tomorrow (Thursday) be protesting outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London, calling on the UK Government to stop it’s “cruel and ineffective” benefit sanctions regime.
Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action‘ to stop benefit sanctions.
Since May 2010, over 3 million people have been referred for a sanction 8 million times. Over 318,000 people have had their benefits cut or stopped completely in the last year alone, often for punitive and unfair reasons – such as being late for appointments with the jobcentre, or being too sick to ‘actively seek work’.
According to the food bank charity Trussell Trust, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17, including over 188,500 to children, with the most common reason for referral being problems and delays with benefit payments.
Above: Mid-Suffolk and Babergh South Suffolk (Tory) Council Video……
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Damian Green sometimes spends time away from his taxing life in the bijou town of Ashford answering questions about ‘reforms’ to Personal Independence Payments.
Sample, 15th of March, Parliament, “I am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend. I think that he and I would agree that that was a significant step forward when it was introduced, and I am determined that we maintain progress in that direction so that people who have a disability—whether a physical or mental impairment—can lead as full a life as possible.”
We note that in reply to one question he said, “In his long and distinguished career, the hon. Gentleman has been shadow Leader of the House, so he knows perfectly well that such things are a matter for the usual channels. It is therefore somewhat above my pay grade.”
You wonder if the turmoil in his department’s botched scheme Universal Credit is ‘above’ both his ‘pay grade’ and ability to deal with…
These are some of the latest difficulties.
Finance chief warns people are being forced into new debts
DESPERATE tenants faced with long delays in accessing new Universal Credit benefits are beginning to steal food to survive, the Town Hall has warned a parliamentary committee.
Camden Council told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that the new system – a single monthly, means-tested benefit – was backfiring due to delays in the system. This meant people were racking up debts and rent arrears before they had received any help. In some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed.
The Town Hall’s official submission to MPs said: “One tenant has confessed to a rent officer that they were stealing food to eat. It is common to hear that Universal Credit claimants are borrowing heavily from family and friends. The Department for Work and Pensions’ Universal Credit helpline set up to advise claimants on the progress of their claim is providing an unacceptable service. Telephone calls can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”
The council is one of a number of local authorities, volunteer groups and charities giving evidence to the committee investigating the effectiveness of the new benefit system, first devised by former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
The reforms were meant to make the process of claiming benefits simpler through a single account, but the monthly cycle has left many struggling as they wait for a first payment. The council, meanwhile, fears that landlords will stop letting to those affected, particularly as many do not have savings to fall back on.
Around 230 people currently claim Universal Credit in Camden, but this figure could jump to 10,000 when the system is rolled out across the country this year.
Camden’s submission to the committee added: “While we recognise there is much to support in a benefit system that encourages claimants to take responsibility for a personal budget and outgoings, we feel strongly that a system should not be set up in a way that potentially adds to the risk of vulnerable people losing their home.”
The ‘very long’ wait on the phone struck home.
This is more and more people’s experience of anything to do with the DWP, and all the rest, particularly the infamous ‘outsourced’ bits of the state, run by private racketeers.
In sum the next story comes as no surprise:
Pressure mounts on UK government to halt universal credit. Third Force News.
Pressure is mounting on the UK government to ditch universal credit until its catalogue of problems are resolved.
Scotland’s social security secretary Angela Constance warned the Westminster-imposed system was no longer feasible in Scotland and is demanding UK ministers halt its introduction.
The minister’s demand comes after a Westminster committee launched an inquiry into universal credit amid concerns over delays in payments.
The new system – where people use an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is fully operational only in certain parts of the country.
Three Scottish councils, East Lothian, Highland and East Dunbartonshire, have it in place, with other areas piloting aspects of the full system.
Constance has written to Damian Green, UK work and pensions secretary, to ask for a “complete halt to full service roll-out of universal credit in Scotland with immediate effect”, stating it is “no longer feasible”.
She said people who are moved on to full service have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears.
As a result,
Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears, Constance said.
“It is clear that the system simply isn’t working and the UK government is not prepared to make the necessary changes,” she said.
“The six-week delay in receiving a payment – with longer delays for some being experienced – is a completely unacceptable situation and one which has the potential to push low-income households into further hardship and homelessness.
“I was also shocked to hear reports that, in some areas, landlords are advertising properties as ‘No UC’ due to their experience with the system.
“Despite the UK government having these issues highlighted in the pilots for universal credit and by councils, charities, housing associations and parliamentarians, absolutely no meaningful reassurance has been received.
“I therefore cannot be confident that these issues are even close to being fully resolved and it is my view that it is simply not credible for the UK government to continue with the further roll-out of full service universal credit until these problems are fully resolved.”
Leading charities have backed the call.
As should we all.
Meanwhile the Rt Hon Damian finds time for this jaunty event on the 17th of March.
Ashford MP, Damian Green, has shown his support WWF’s tenth Earth Hour by making a special pledge to help protect the planet. The world is changing fast, and it’s never been more important to show support for action on climate change.
Damian Green joined the WWF at the House of Commons this week to show they care about the future of our planet, ahead of the global lights out event, taking place on Saturday 25 March at 8:30pm.
Damian Green said: “I am delighted to support WWF’s Earth Hour this year to demonstrate how important it is that we take climate change seriously. I am proud to be a member of a parliament which has set ambitious targets to reduce our carbon emissions over the coming decades. The Government has outlined clear plans in order to live up to these ambitions.”
Each year, millions of people around the world come together to call to support Earth Hour. Last year a record 178 countries took part and iconic landmarks across the UK switched out their lights, from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to Brighton Pier, Edinburgh Castle and Caerphilly Castle. This year is set to be the biggest yet as it’s the 10 year anniversary of Earth Hour. With 2016 breaking temperature records for the third consecutive year, it’s never been more important to tackle climate change.
Comment: I am not convinced of this.
We had a debate in France back in the 1980s on the idea, promoted by amongst others, the journalist and theorist André Gorz.
Carried on the by New Economics Foundation in the UK.
We then posed some simple arguments against it:
- If universal basic income is available to all then why restrict it to nationals of one country?
- How exactly will it cover things like the rent, electricity bills and the gas charges?
- Will it actually pay the bills?
Labour’s key economist, the ‘sovereigntist’ economist and pro-Brexit James Meadway (former chief economist at the New Economics Foundation) comes from this Basic Income supporting background.
Anyway this is the story:
Two councils, Fife and Glasgow, are investigating idea of offering everyone a fixed income regardless of earnings.
Scotland looks set to be the first part of the UK to pilot a basic income for every citizen, as councils in Fife and Glasgow investigate trial schemes in 2017.
The councillor Matt Kerr has been championing the idea through the ornate halls of Glasgow City Chambers, and is frank about the challenges it poses.
“Like a lot of people, I was interested in the idea but never completely convinced,” he said. But working as Labour’s anti-poverty lead on the council, Kerr says that he “kept coming back to the basic income”.
Kerr sees the basic income as a way of simplifying the UK’s byzantine welfare system. “But it is also about solidarity: it says that everyone is valued and the government will support you. It changes the relationship between the individual and the state.”
The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively. The intention is to provide a basic economic platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has suggested that it is likely to appear in his party’s next manifesto, while there has been a groundswell of interest among anti-poverty groups who see it as a means of changing not only the relationship between people and the state, but between workers and increasingly insecure employment in the gig economy.
Scotland was recently added to the list of “places to watch” for basic income activity by the Basic Income Earth Network, founded by the radical economist Guy Standing, whose hugely influential book The Precariat identified an emerging social class suffering the worst of job insecurity and most likely to be attracted to rightwing populism.
SERIOUSLY BAD NEWS
Sharp readers will remember the plan announced in 2015 to shrink the “estate” of the DWP by 20% over the next few years.
Well, here are some examples of this move in Glasgow – where a whopping HALF of all Jobcentres will close!!!!!!
This is devastating news, because thousands of claimants will now have to travel many expensive miles and miles to their nearest designated Jobcentre – and woe betide them if they’re late!!!!!!
Even if claimants are fit enough to walk in order to save on travel costs – and many aren’t – what happens in bad weather? Trudging through rain, hail or snow on a 7 or 8 miles return trip will be no easy task.
The BBC says (just now)
Benefit claimants in Glasgow may have to travel further for employment services under UK government plans to close half the city’s 16 job centres.
The Scottish National Party described the proposal as “morally outrageous”.
It said those from the poorest areas would face higher travel and phone costs, making it harder to seek work.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the closures would save public money and reflected an increase in use of online and telephone services.
Under the plans, there would be no job losses among Jobcentre Plus staff and claimants would not have to travel further than four miles or 40 minutes.
Denise Horsfall, DWP work services director for Scotland, said it was now easier for claimants to access Jobcentre services “whether that be in person, online or over phone”.
“By bringing together a number of neighbouring jobcentres we’re continuing to modernise our operations while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer,” she said.
The DWP said there would be a public consultation in areas where customers had to travel more than three miles or more than 20 minutes.
Is this, people ask, the foretaste of a full on-line service?
Damien Green’s future of no “stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pensions..” or accessible Jobcentres? Or indeed JSA?
In the meantime closures mean long journeys, already a problem in rural East Anglia.
And not every is on-line.
The Tory government has been accused of using Scotland as a “guinea pig” for more callous attacks on the poor.
The Record can reveal that plans are afoot to shut down eight Jobcentre plus offices in Glasgow,including those in some of the UK’s most deprived areas.
The move appear to contradict DWP guidelines which say that job centre closures should not take place unless alternative premises are less than three miles away or no more than 20 minutes in public transport.
Opponents believe the closures will lead to further misery for those already facing draconian benefit sanctions as the Tories drive home crippling austerity measures.
And whistleblowers who contacted the Record believe Glasgow is being used as a template by the Government amid secret plans to roll out similar closures UK-wide.
Chris Stephens MP for Glasgow South West said: “This decision is simply morally outrageous. It will result in the poorest communities not being serviced by a job centre and make it even harder for those seeking employment to get support.
“Thousands of people will now have to travel further at additional cost to attend their appointments.
“Approximately 68,000 people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit in Glasgow will be impacted by these closures.
“Given the brutal sanctions regime this will mean that the numbers facing sanctions will undoubtedly increase.
“It will also mean that those seeking assistance from the Department for Work and Pensions will have to call expensive 0345 numbers – the so-called “telephone tax” – to speak to an advisor about their claim which places the cost of Job Centre closures onto the people it should be assisting.
These plans make Glasgow the guinea pig, as I fear the closures announced will be used as a template for further closures across Scotland and the UK.
Libraries are a key resource for the unemployed.
We use them to do our Jobsearch (part of the 35 hours we have to carry out as part of our ‘Jobseekers Agreement’.
We use their Internet services (where they are available) to write CVs, to upload CVs, apply for jobs and look around the web for posts.
We use them for books on how to do this, and for help from staff about the best way to do it.
This resource is under threat.
Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close. BBC.
Almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total, an investigation by the BBC has revealed.
Over the same period, some 15,500 volunteers have been recruited and 343 libraries have closed, leading to fears over the future of the profession.
Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the public library service faced the “greatest crisis in its history”.
The government said it funded the roll-out of wi-fi to help libraries adapt.
The BBC has compiled data from 207 authorities responsible for running libraries through the Freedom of Information Act. Our analysis shows:
- Some 343 libraries closed. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings (and there were four others, such as home delivery services)
- The number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 buildings shut
- A further 111 closures are planned this year
- The number of paid staff in libraries fell from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now, a drop of 7,933 (25%) for the 182 library authorities that provided comparable data
- A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run. In some areas, such as Lincolnshire and Surrey, the move has led to legal challenges and protests from residents.
Now we have this in Suffolk.
Anybody who uses Ipswich central Library knows the strain they are already under.
To say the least there are ‘problems’ about the Net service.
How people who rely on smaller libraries manage is hard to tell, it must be hard.
Tory-run Suffolk County Council seems determined to make our lives worse:
Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny Committee will be discussing the council’s budget proposals on 30 November.
These proposals include a further reduction to the Suffolk Libraries budget of £230,000 for 2017-18. This follows a cut of £350,000 for the current year (2016-2017) which Suffolk Libraries accepted with reluctance.
Alison Wheeler, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “We recognise that public-sector funding is decreasing, and in response Suffolk Libraries has since 2011, with stringencies and economies, saved more than 30% of the original library budget without affecting local services.”
“In terms of relative cost – for every £1 spent by the Council, less than 1 penny is spent on the library service. The library service actively contributes to several of the county’s key priorities which include support for vulnerable people, raising educational attainment, supporting small businesses and empowering communities.”
“Suffolk Libraries is now in its fifth year of operation and each year it has lived within its means and saved increasing amounts of council tax. This has only been done with the sustained hard work of library staff, help from community groups, local volunteers and support from library customers.”
“With this extraordinary support, we have together ensured that all Suffolk libraries are still open, local library opening hours have been sustained and the services people enjoy, and which we know make a difference to people’s lives, have continued to flourish.”
Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board added “Over the past year we have made it clear that it would be impossible to make further cuts without having an effect on services. We pledged to work constructively with the council on the longer-term future of the county’s library service and offered them a plan in June in which we suggested ways we could save money over a longer period, and which would allow us to keep library opening hours intact.”
“Five months later, it’s disappointing to see that the council’s budget proposals do not reflect the alternative plans we presented. The larger sums required will almost certainly mean we can’t carry on providing the library service in the same way.”
“However, we are still in discussion about the final sum. People will be consulted on any changes and we will strive to minimise the impact on customers, and ensure that people will still have access to the same wide range of services and activities in their community.”
“Suffolk Libraries’ Board is committed to keeping libraries open and for local services to flourish. The Suffolk community has shown a huge amount of support for local libraries over the past few years, and this has never been more needed, or valued.”
All this week protests have been taking place.
The Canary continues.
Disabled rights activists brought Downing Street and Westminster to a standstill on 7 September as part of a week-long campaign against the Conservative government. Activists coordinated a vocal protest outside Number 10 to remember the victims of welfare reform. They then blocked traffic in all directions on Westminster Bridge for over two hours. This was during the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) of this parliament.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said in a statement:
We call on the new Prime Minister to make public the findings of the UN investigation in the UK, into violations of deaf and disabled people’s rights; to scrap the Work Capability Assessment and to commit to preventing future benefit-related deaths.
Suffolk DPAC activist at London protest, Wednesday.
– Sign the petition to stop benefit cuts for disabled people.
– Support DPAC in its fight against austerity cuts.
– Volunteer to support people with a learning disability, through Mencap.
– Find out when a protest against austerity is happening, near you.
This is stark reminder of why these protests are important.
Diabetic man left too poor to eat after benefits cut forced to have leg amputated Welfare Weekly today.
David says he couldn’t afford to manage his condition after being sanctioned for five months by the DWP.
A diabetic man left virtually penniless after being sanctioned for five months by the Department for Work and Pensions, claims his leg had to be amputated after his health deteriorated.
David Boyce, 59, from Weaste, was left without enough money to meet his basic health needs and even had to sell his belongings. But David says he still couldn’t afford to eat healthily, which is an essential part of the management and treatment for diabetes
David was a photographer who used to own a business, but was forced to give up his work because of ill-health. A dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over “issues with paperwork” led to David’s benefits being sanctioned fourteen times.
However, it’s clear that the sanctions happened because of a flawed decision-making process on the part of the DWP, as he later won an appeal which successfully overturned every sanction, with support from Salford’s Unemployed and Community Resource Centre. He was eventually awarded the money that had been wrongfully withheld from him.
The government have claimed that benefit sanctions are an “incentive” to “help” people like David into work. However, David has been pushed even further away from the job market, because he now has been left with a greater degree of disability: horrifically, the sanctions have cost him his leg.
David said that by July, complications from diabetes had already caused irreversible damage. His health deteriorated because he had no money to live on: he couldn’t control his insulin intake and was unable to follow his strict diabetic diet.
Subsequently he suffered diabetic ulcers and was diagnosed with the flesh-eating infection, necrotizing fasciitis, and doctors were forced to amputate one of his legs.
He told the Manchester Evening News: “I suffered from depression and mental anxiety. I’m not a rich man. I had to sell everything to eat.
You don’t tell anyone, it’s embarrassing, that’s what they prey on. You go into a depression. You lock yourself away.”
David Boyce’s tragic case was revealed as protesters gathered to demonstrate against the extremely punitive and irrational Jobcentre conditionality rules and welfare sanctions.
Campaigners gathered at Eccles Job Centre this week to protest against the immoral benefits sanctions. They said that scores of people were being left depressed and on the verge of suicide.
David’s horrific experience is not an isolated case, sadly. Many campaigners have reasonably demanded an inquiry since the death of former soldier David Clapson, who also had diabetes. He died of ketoacidosis, caused by a lack of insulin in the body, after being sanctioned for missing a single Job Centre meeting. He was also unable to afford to maintain an electricity supply to keep his fridge running, where he ordinarily safely stored his life-saving insulin.
Ipswich Protest Last Year.
Somebody (okay, Martin from Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC) spoilt Iain Duncan Smith’s Big Day Out (Friday) at Kesgrave, by Ipswich – a venue you can only get easily with your own transport.
Former minister launches Vote Leave campaign in East Anglia
Former minister and Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith was the keynote speaker at the event at Kesgrave Hall – and was joined by business leaders and politicians from other parties.
Among those at the rally was UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn, a key backer of the Vote Leave campaign.
A protester in a wheelchair was removed from the meeting after heckling Mr Duncan Smith over his policies when he was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
On BBC Look East that evening their were pictures of the stewards roughly bundling Martin out of the Great Man’s meeting, shouting his opposition to the hate-ridden polices which Iain Duncan Smith has inflicted on millions.
Duncan Smith was not the only horror there.
UKIP is keeping quiet about it at the moment but in 2013 these were their policies about the unemployed:
UKIP don’t just loathe migrant workers.
They hate the unemployed here as well.
We are, UKIP says, “a parasitic underclass of scroungers”. (The Void)
They want this policy,
Require those on benefits – starting with Housing and Council Tax Benefit recipients in private rented homes – to take part in council-run local community projects called ‘Workfare’ schemes. The schemes will be in addition to council jobs.
The Void comments that it is now hard to find the policy document that says this.
But more evidence keeps coming in of their views,
We have this,
“Some long-term benefit claimants would be banned from using their benefit cash to buy cigarettes, alcohol or satellite TV subscriptions under proposals due to be presented at the UK Independence party’s spring conference on Saturday.
The proposed ban on paying for satellite TV comes only a fortnight after it was disclosed that Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and biggest shareholder of News Corp, had met the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, for the first time, prompting speculation that the Sun may support the party.”
Which reminds us of this on Welfare Weekly’s site:
Would leaving the EU worsen or improve the lives of poor and disabled people?
Results so far: Worsen 59% Improve 21% Don’t know 20%