Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Welfare State’ Category

News From the Welfare Front, from Boycott Workfare to Universal Credit.

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Boycott Workfare, the admirable campaign group against government schemes for unpaid work for the out-of-work, has resurfaced with a chapter in a book published by Pluto Press.

A new book chapter using testimonies compiled by Boycott Workfare exposes the violent impact of forced labour.

When we talk about what’s wrong with workfare, we often mention the horrifying material impact on people’s lives of the benefit sanctions that underwrite it. The political impact of unwaged work is also important – the way it attacks workplace rights and destroys our freedom. And workfare is psychologically violent and humiliating: it is coerced labour that’s supposed to build skills and motivation but obviously does nothing apart from offer free work to businesses and charities.

Now, in a freely available chapter of The Violence of Austerity, just published by Pluto Press, the accounts of 97 people who were on workfare schemes between 2011 and 2015 show how workfare is not only ruthlessly exploitative, but can also mean being forced into dangerous work in which health and safety laws are violated as a matter of routine. As the authors write:

If being employed in workfare schemes can be read as a forced and therefore violent process in itself, it should also be read as a process that contains the potential for a different type of violence: the violence that confronts workers when they are told to stand in the cold, to lift heavy loads that they physically cannot lift, or to endure other forms of physical and psychological degradation.

‘The violence of workfare’ documents 64 concrete allegations of breaches of health and safety legislation, at 43 workfare exploiters across the UK – in charities, social enterprises, maintenance companies and discount stores, as well as in environmental, agricultural and recycling projects. The first-hand accounts that the chapter is based on were all submitted to Boycott Workfare via the name and shame section of this website. These ‘employers’ benefited from 1,139 weeks of forced labour from the 97 people whose testimonies are included. That’s almost 22 years of coerced, unpaid labour.

These testimonies make clear how people have been forced to carry out hard labour or heavy lifting, despite existing medical conditions which make this work agony. The testimonies reveal how people have been denied access to protective equipment, and how people have been exposed to dust, chemicals and other hazards. In some cases, these accounts document how organisations have refused workfare conscripts access to food or water, and denied them even short breaks.

At the same time, the testimonies collected together in this chapter provide evidence of workfare exploiters threatening to ‘sack’ people who don’t work fast enough, or try to complain or try to gather evidence of the conditions they are being forced to operate in. People on workfare face being sanctioned if they are unwilling to work in unsafe conditions or if they take any kind of action to draw attention to these conditions.

And some workfare exploiters, it is made clear, are more than willing to exploit the fear that the sanctions regime generates to try and force people to accept dangerous working conditions. That same fear is used to ensure as much management control over workfare conscripts as possible. ‘The fear of sanction can intensify and generate yet more unreasonable demands from employers,’ the authors write. ‘Workfare, as a form of forced labour, effectively permits employers to breach health and safety laws with impunity’. Dangerous working conditions are an effect of unfree labour, compelled by the threat of sanctions.

But we can fight.

We are all entitled to the same basic health and safety protections in workplaces, and in the next few weeks, Boycott Workfare is aiming to bring out a ‘know your health and safety rights leaflet’ that can be used to provide information on these rights, and how to challenge dangerous conditions. And we must continue to name and shame exploiters, and expose the conditions in which they force people to work. Public pressure works, and now that workfare exploiters can no longer hide behind anonymity, we can consign workfare to history.

‘The violence of workfare’, by Jon Burnett and David Whyte, is available for free here. You can read more about the chapter, and the rest of the book, in this article from Disability News Service.

Background:

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive social security.

We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact.

We expose the companies and organisations profiting from workfare and we take action against them. We encourage organisations to pledge to boycott workfare. We inform people of their rights at the jobcentre and we provide information to support claimants challenging workfare and sanctions.

Boycott Workfare is not a front for any political party, or affiliated with any political party. Anyone who shares our aims is welcome to get involved. Email us: info@boycottworkfare.org, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Unfortunately, Boycott Workfare do not currently have the capacity to take on casework. We recommend that claimants contact local organisations for one-to-one advice and support.

Meanwhile on the Universal Credit front….

Public Finance.

Council housing managers have urged the government to halt the rolling introduction of Universal Credit, which they said is causing “considerable hardship” to tenants.

The National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) also called on ministers to scrap the seven-day waiting period for new claims.

They said that almost four years on from the initial introduction of Universal Credit “our research shows that delays in the assessment process, poor communications between DWP and landlords, and the seven-day wait period continue to cause significant problems to both landlords and their tenants”.

Rent arrears among Universal Credit claimants remained “stubbornly high” at 73% – equivalent to £6.68m – and 40% of households had accumulated arrears as a consequence of claiming.

Meanwhile, households faced mounting debts, as the average arrears for Universal Credit claimants had increased from £611.73 in March 2016 to £772.21 a year later.

NFA managing director Eamon McGoldrick said: “We are strongly urging government/DWP to halt the roll out of UC and ‘pause for thought’ until the system works properly for both claimants and landlords.”

The NFA and ARCH said their members generally supported the principles of Universal Credit and had launched initiatives to support tenants into work.

But they warned: “It is clear that support provided to tenants by landlords alone is not sufficient to resolve the problems being experienced and is not scalable as the roll out accelerates across the country and many more families and children become a part of the Universal Credit system.”

ARCH chief executive John Bibby said: “If the level of intensive support needed to vulnerable tenants is to be sustained during the planned rollout additional resources are essential.”

He also called for provision of a transition fund to enable landlords to support vulnerable tenants.

The DWP defines Universal Credit as support for people on low incomes or out of work, intended to ensure they are better off in work than on benefits.

It replaces: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; income support; working tax credit; child tax credit; housing benefit.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 27, 2017 at 3:02 pm

As BBC Women’s Pay Gap Dominates News, Benefits Freeze leads to Evictions.

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Evictions reach a record high - new report for JRF published

More Important than Pay Gap for Women at BBC? 

No doubt this is important, so important that you can barely turn the radio or the telly on without hearing about it.

45 BBC women urge action now from Tony Hall on salaries as Claire Balding reveals Women’s Hour pays 40 per cent less than other shows.

But I can’t help feeling, call me a workerist, a miserabilist, and all the rest, that this is a lot more important.

100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hit

(Thanks Enigma and others…)

Charities demand action to tackle toll of soaring housing costs, welfare cuts and ‘no fault’ evictions.

A record number of renters are being evicted from their homes, with more than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to a shocking analysis of the nation’s housing crisis. The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s growing army of tenants.

More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It is an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded. The research appears to confirm fears that a mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.

High numbers of “no-fault” evictions by private landlords is driving the increase. More than 80% of the extra evictions had occurred under a Section 21 notice, which gives a tenant two months to leave. The landlord does not have to give a reason and there does not need to be any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant.

The study found that changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to claimants in many areas. Housing benefit was no longer covering the cost of renting in some cases, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 a month outside of London, and between £124 and £1,036 in inner LondonHousing benefit has not risen in line with private rents since 2010, and a current freeze means the rates paid will not increase until 2020.

The number of tenants evicted from their properties reached a record high, according to a new report highlighting the misery and insecurity faced by renters struggling on low incomes.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

The report shows:

  • the rented sector has grown in the past 12 years by nearly a half, and the number of tenants being evicted from their homes has grown by a third: 10,000 more tenants lost their homes in 2015 than in 2003
  • the number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014
  • the increase in repossessions in recent years has been almost entirely due to the increasing use of ‘no fault’ evictions, using Section 21 (S21) of the Housing Act 1988
  • the use of S21 is highly concentrated geographically – four out of every five repossessions using S21 are in London, the East and the South East, and nearly two-thirds are in London alone.

JRF is calling for the Government to end the freeze on support for housing costs, and uprate Housing Benefit in line with local rents.

According to recent research carried out by CCHPR for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the growing gap between rents and support for housing costs is a key factor behind the rise in private rented sector evictions.

The research included in depth interviews with tenants on low incomes and identified the high levels of stress and disruption caused by insecure housing.

‘With the £50 a month [housing benefit shortfall] coming out of the JSA – that’s almost a week’s money in itself – and then you’ve got the other bills…I just couldn’t make it work. I had to choose… do I pay the rent… electricity… buy some food?’

Changes in welfare benefits have not kept up with rising rents, causing misery for tenants as they cope with inevitable financial pressures. Furthermore, the rising number of ‘no fault’ (Section 21) evictions gives rise to insecurity as tenants on low incomes face a complete lack of options when they lose their home.

The full report ‘Poverty, evictions and forced moves’ can be downloaded here.

We call for Labour to Announce Plans to End the Benefit Freeze.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 24, 2017 at 11:12 am

Ipswich Unemployed Action: Debate and Real News, not Alternative Facts.

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Facts, Opinion, and Debate, Not ‘Alternative Facts’. 

Ipswich Unemployed Action’s policy on news is simple.

We are first and foremost the creation of our contributors, those who post in the Comments, and who provide us with the leads to follow up on the things that matter to the unemployed, and those on benefits.

So, for example, there is an important discussion on the use of personal data for Universal Credit, and the potential for Job Coaches (does anybody seriously use this term any more, it’s beginning to sound like a Butlin’s Redcoat…) to put pressure on claimants, to  misuse their power, and, at worst, bully people.

There is also debate about the “My Values” questionnaire, and other issues of private information.

When we come to hard facts we rely on our contributors to get to what we can be sure of. Our stories often begin with people writing things, and always end with people free to express what they think on them.

Behind this we use reliable sources, such as Welfare Weekly, The Mirror, the Independent, to cite only three, as well as a variety of campaigning groups, like the Trussell Trust, the CAB, and others, and, last but far from least  Parliamentary committees, like the PAC, and the Work and Pensions Committee for serious stories about the hard facts of what benefit rules are.

Oh, and sometimes the DWP – if more rarely Ministers – are forced to make clear statements as well.

What we do not do is repeat rumours, ‘alternative facts’ and the kind of self-serving stuff that has made SKWAWKBOX a hissing and a by-word for growing numbers on the radical left, and amongst campaigners more broadly.

Things are bad enough already; they do not need exaggerating.

This is the kind of  story that interests us:

People in Blackpool are “struggling” with Universal Credit a charity has warned, even though the full roll-out of the benefit has not hit the resort.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is asking the Government to look again at the benefit, designed to top up low paid workers’ income and help the unemployed after finding people waiting 10 to 12 weeks before their first payment.

It wants the roll-out paused until the problems can be ironed out.

By 2022, seven million families in the UK will get Universal Credit, which is replacing six existing means-tested benefits, and in October 50 new areas are set to be using the system.

Tracy Hopkins, chief executive of the Blackpool CAB said for many people the benefit works, but many others are in serious trouble.

he said: “We have not had the full roll-out here in Blackpool, just for young Aunemployed people, but we are seeing many people struggling and are very concerned indeed. “People are having to wait 10 weeks without money. It is too complex. “They have to claim on line, and many of the people claiming in Blackpool do not have access to computers at home.

“People are telling us they are having to make 10 calls to the helpline. We hear about people waiting 30 minutes for help on the phone. “Also there is a seven day waiting period before they can start a claim. We want the Government to remove this to stop these unfair delays. “We are talking about vulnerable people too, with health problems and working people on low wages who need extra help with such things as child care.” She said the delays were counterproductive since people were in danger of being forced out of their jobs by not being able to afford to carry on or by risking the sack by taking time off to get Universal Credit sorted out.

More here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM THE SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF DPAC.

The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together. You can read her blog here

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights ,who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Campaign to Get Rid of Ex-DWP Minister Iain Duncan Smith.

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It was my privilege over the weekend to meet some Labour Party members from the constituency of our old friend, Iain Duncan Smith.

They told me of this (in reality rather more vividly),

THE CONSERVATIVES are calling for “help” as over 500 Labour supporters prepare to launch their campaign to ‘Unseat Iain Duncan Smith’.

According to a letter, believed to be from the local Tory association, the Conservative MP is preparing himself for a fight from the “hordes of Momentum”.

While the Chingford and Woodford Green MP increased his vote share by 1.2 per cent at last month’s general election, his 2015 majority fell from 8,386 to 2,438.

For 47 years the area has remained Tory, but Labour now has its sights set on turning the whole of Waltham Forest red.

The campaign will see left-wing columnist Owen Jones and Labour’s losing candidate Bilal Mahmood head to Hatch Lane, in Chingford, this Sunday – and 500 people are set to join them.

Another 2,400 people said they are ‘interested’ in attending the event called ‘Unseat Iain Duncan Smith – Campaign for Labour’.

I informed them of how we lot feel about our former Boss.

His crimes are too numerous to list, though his legacy, for the disabled, and for anybody caught up in Universal Credit, ensures they are far from forgotten.

Our Ace Reporters have covered Duncy’s attempts to wriggle out of his past,and call to “revisit the whole idea of work and sickness benefit”.

Though this has been in the news not too long ago, still banging on about ‘low value people’.

This time it’s European migrant workers,

 

Meanwhile Doug points out that “50 new areas are marked for UC to begin in October.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Universal Credit: Iain Duncan Smith’s Love Child.

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This is important to bear in mind:

If you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days. Don’t let this stop you making your claim and apply as soon as you are entitled to do so as it can take up to six weeks after you claim for your first payment to reach your account.

During those 6 weeks (increasingly the norm), people can take out loans.

The loans are taken from the first payment.

You could be left – a real case – with around £70 a month to live on…

The latest on Iain Duncan Smith’s Love Child:

House of Commons Debate on Universal Credit

 On Tuesday 27th June 2017 there was a debate in the House of Commons on Universal Credit, Damian Hinds Minister for Employment informed the audience that DWP recognised the concerns raised and are working to resolve them.

To date over a million people have made a Universal Credit Claim with £530,000 currently on the new benefit, more people are now on Universal Credit than on JSA.

Under the full service 99% of claims are made online DWP have conducted a survey on those on the scheme, apparently 82% of claimants have said they are satisfied with the new system.

Landlords were a key topic in the debate and it appears that DWP are aware of the issues faced with Housing, because of this they have introduced a Housing Confidence Scheme whereby work coaches now speak with claimants about Housing and look at their budgeting and any difficulties that they may face making it easier to facilitate direct payments to Landlords.

The UC 47 has been redesigned with improvements making it easier for the landlord to complete and apply for direct payments and receive payments faster.

Currently, DWP are working on ways to make it easier for Landlords to find out the status of APA’s and will announce the details in the near future.

You can watch the debate by following the below link:

http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/432847ea-d55c-426f-98c5-c81aed753d08?in=19:13:28

Alternatively you can follow the below link to read the transcript:

http://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-06-27/debates/2B95A18D-0F11-4B11-91C8-9A93C6FBC17E/UniversalCreditLowestoft

After watching the debate are you confident in the proposed changes and would you house someone on Universal Credit?

Today in the Mirror,

Families could be left penniless over Christmas as the online roll-out of Universal Credit causes a “Scrooge effect”, a former minister has claimed.

Labour MP Frank Field has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke to express fears that expanding online applications for operation to 27 more local authority areas at that time of year could add to hardship already caused by delays in payments.

He wrote: “Such a revolutionary transition to the full service shortly before Christmas risks leaving large numbers of families without money, and facing misery, over the festive period.

“There is, of course, the six-week wait which new claimants must endure even if their claim for Universal Credit is processed on time.

“It is not inconceivable that a family with children making a new claim in mid-November could be left without money on Christmas Day, even if the system processes their claim as planned.

Given, though, that the current system struggles in some cases to cope with its existing caseload, the new system being rolled out just before Christmas could trigger all sorts of chaos.”

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2017 at 10:09 am

Iain Duncan Smith: “I was a Cruel and Heartless Bastard as Work and Pensions Minister.”

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Iain Duncan Smith 

Iain Duncan Smith: Covering Himself Against Regime Collapse.

This caught my eye, and doubtless plenty of others, this morning when I bought my copy of the claimants’ favourite daily, The ‘I’.

After a recent  flop as a Radio 2 Presenter Iain Duncan Smith is flaying around looking for a new role and purpose in life.

Iain Duncan Smith says work capability assessments don’t work and are ‘too harsh’

Former minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has admitted that work capability assessments given to sick people are “too harsh” and offer a “cliff edge” choice between work and no work.

He added that this “cliff edge” view of work and illness adds stress to the process and encourages people to misrepresent their conditions to assessors.

Speaking at an event held by the Spectator magazine and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on The Conservative Route to Fighting Poverty, Duncan Smith said that these issues prompted the DWP to review the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) system of assessments a total of five times.

It was quite obvious to us that the system was far too narrow, was acting in a far too harsh manner and was making judgements about people,” he said. He added that despite these reviews, which helped “soften” these effects slightly, the system remains flawed: “The whole process of having a benefit that says you are either too sick to work or you can work, actually works against the nature of how people think of themselves,” he said.

Mr Duncan Smith, like Secret Police Chief  Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, after the death of Stalin, now claims that he was secretly planning to change the whole system all along:

Towards the end of his time as minister, before his departure from the department in May 2016, Duncan Smith had started to formulate plans to totally reshape the way these assessments were done.

“I came to the conclusion that it was time to review the whole way we do this and remove the cliff edge,” he said. “The cliff edge tempts people to make wrong declarations. And it means that whatever assessment you’re making becomes very critical, which adds extra stress.” He argued a system where someone could be deemed fit for some work, or a certain number of hours a week, would remove much of this strain. The current system, he added, works “directly against” getting people into work: “If you’re in work you’re likely to be healthier. Given all of that, the benefit we have works directly against that. It forces people out of the work environment rather than keeping them in.”

On a roll ‘Beria’ Duncan Smith is now going all out for radical reform in a last-ditch bid to save the ‘system’.

Speaking to a newspaper close to the crumbling ruling regime, The Sun, he said yesterday:

BAN THE BLOCKS

Iain Duncan Smith calls for an end to tower blocks in Britain and demands higher taxes on empty luxury homes

The ex-minister said that tower blocks should be replaced by ‘low-rise buildings’ in the wake of Grenfell Tower disaster

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Vote Labour, Vote Sandy Martin for Ipswich.

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This is not just a general appeal for vote Labour but a specific call to back Sandy Martin in Ipswich.

Sandy worked in the Ipswich Community Resource Centre, affiliated to the TUC Centres for the Unemployed, when it was in Old Foundry Road.

He has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of the unemployed, and for all those on benefits.

Sandy has joined the national days of action against Benefit Sanctions and participated in TUC events for welfare rights.

This is a picture of him in Ipswich, outside the JobCentre in Silent Street.

 

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Sandy Martin Joins Protest Against ATOS and Benefit Sanctions.

The Labour candidate for Ipswich has backed many other causes, from the campaign against Tory austerity, to the defence of the NHS, which have wide support.

 

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Demo for the NHS 2017.

This is after his candidacy was announced:

For many people their 60th birthday is time to look forward to new challenges – but for Sandy Martin the challenge is more daunting than most.

Because on the day he celebrated his landmark birthday he was formally chosen as his party’s candidate in the marginal Ipswich seat at the 2017 General Election.

He will be trying to overturn Conservative Ben Gummer’s 3,733 majority from 2015.

Mr Martin is leader of the Labour group on Suffolk County Council – and was also celebrating 20 years as a member of that authority on the same day. May 2 is clearly a significant date for him!

He has lived in Suffolk most of his life and moved to Ipswich from Halesworth in 1993 – and said he felt it was important that someone who really knew the town could represent it in Westminster.

He said: “Ipswich people want to be represented by someone who lives in Ipswich and is able to give all their attention to the issues that affect Ipswich. Partly because of my age I would not go to parliament with an ambition for ministerial office.”

Mr Martin is a regular campaigner with his Labour Party colleagues – and is seen as coming from the party’s mainstream tradition.

From his discussions on the doorsteps he said people in the town were most concerned about the everyday issues that directly affected them – especially health, education and housing.

He said: “The major concerns that people want to talk about have not changed much from last time.”

Mr Martin said the role of an MP was not just to support their party in Westminster – it was also to act as an ambassador for their constituency.

And he felt that Ipswich was in a very strong position: “When you look at the port and the Waterfront and the proximity of the town to London, we are in a very fortunate position.

“And compared with many other places Ipswich is still relatively affordable. It is a great place to live but it needs to be even better.”

He is unconvinced by the arguments for a new large bridge linking the east and west banks of the River Orwell – but backs proposals for new bridges to allow the development of the island site at the Waterfront.

And he feels the best way of easing traffic in the town centre would be to build the long-awaited northern by-pass.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2017 at 9:04 am