Posts Tagged ‘labour party’
Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions (30 March) as Scottish Challenges to Tory Social Security Regime Grow.
Stop benefit sanctions!
More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Half a million people have had their benefits suddenly stopped by sanctions in the last 12 months.That’s half a million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?
Benefit sanctions must be fought against
Please join an event near you on Thursday 30 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.
We will continue to add new actions on a regular basis, so please check back.
For further information please email your Unite community coordinator (see here).
You often wish that politicians, that is Westminster politicians, took these issues as seriously as they do in Scotland.
Morning Star (today)
SCOTTISH Labour unveiled plans yesterday to “kick the private sector out of our social security system,” branding the treatment of disabled and long term-ill benefit claimants under the Tory welfare regime “inhumane.”
The party will table amendments to the forthcoming Social Security Bill to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to rule out the involvement of the private sector and has urged the SNP to support its proposals.
Labour says that thousands of disabled people have experienced punitive assessments for the Tories’ personal independence payments (PIP), adding that the SNP’s decision to delay the devolution of welfare powers will mean that 140,000 Scots will still be assessed under the current system.
Last month, a Scottish government consultation on social security revealed a “strong consensus that services should not be delivered through the private sector or profit-making agencies, with the majority of respondents in agreement that social security should be delivered through existing public-sector or thirdsector organisations.”
Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said his party will seek to “use the new social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to kick the private sector out of our social security system.”
He laid into “these cruel and inhumane [PIP] assessments that have piled misery on vulnerable Scots.”
“Nicola Sturgeon failed to mention poverty once in her speech to the SNP conference. That tells you everything you need to know about her priorities,” he said.
He urged the First Minister to “work with Labour to use the new powers of our parliament” and abandon her preoccupation with Scottish independence.
Welfare Weekly (March the 17th) reports,
SNP Conference: Calls to scrap ‘draconian’ benefit sanctions regime
“The SNP does not believe we should be attacking the most disadvantaged in our society and completely rejects this benefits sanctions regime.
“The Tories need to realise this is the devastating consequences that removing the only source of income available has on real people and their families.
“It is extremely concerning that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health issues, are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime.
“The UK government must urgently scrap this punitive sanctions regime. The shocking findings of the National Audit Office illustrate the sheer unfairness and ineffectiveness of sanctions.
“The SNP has consistently done everything it can to mitigate the worst impacts of Tory welfare cuts spending £100m on protecting people – money we would rather invest in pulling people out of poverty.
“Our Government in Scotland continue to fight against the regime, for instance the Scottish Government have already secured agreement from the UK Government that the Scottish employment programme will not facilitate their benefits sanctions system.
“Scottish Ministers have been crystal clear that our services in Scotland must be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.”
The full text of the resolution reads:
“Conference rejects the punitive Tory benefit sanction regime; commends the creators of I, Daniel Blake for bringing the public’s attention to the cruel and callous reality facing tens of thousands of disadvantaged people across the UK; further notes with the concern the shocking findings of the National Audit Office of the scale and ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime; is concerned that the most vulnerable including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime, welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to make sure that the new Employment Programme, effective from April 2017, does not facilitate the UK Government’s sanctions system, and calls for the UKG to move urgently to scrap the unfair sanctions regime.”
This in an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).
The Charter Labour Needs.
Ipswich Unemployed Action will be taking a keen interest in Labour’s policies on welfare.
As the Conference begins we hear this:
The Mirror reports.
Labour will challenge the Tories “at every turn” in a fresh assault over Bedroom Tax .
And new shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith threatens he will make welfare boss Iain Duncan Smith’s life “not worth living”.
He said: “I will harry him at every turn so he won’t know which way he’s facing. We shall keep campaigning, and we will keep pressing for changes.”
We remain open-minded about Owen Smith.
He has made less encouraging statements such as this:
Owen Smith, Shadow Welfare Secretary, has called for a debate within the Labour party over benefits cap.
The Government is planning to reduce the benefits back from £26,000 to £23,000 – a plan that Labour oppose. In an interview on Newsnight, Smith said that Labour’s current policy is to oppose the cuts to the individual benefits cap.
But he noted that Labour need to review their position “right across the whole debate”.
He went on to say that the party is “”in favour of an overall reduction in the amount of money we spend on benefits in this country and in favour of limits on what individual families can draw down”. However he said that there needs to be a review of the party’s position to the cap in general.
There is also this report (BBC September the 15th),
Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to oppose the benefits cap have been undermined by members of his own shadow cabinet, as he prepares to face David Cameron in prime minister’s questions for the first time.
Speaking to the Trades Union Congress conference in Brighton on Tuesday, Corbyn said the benefits cap introduced by the coalition created “social cleansing” and that the party would oppose it all together.
But speaking hours later on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, the shadow work and pensions secretary, Owen Smith, said the party was only opposing government plans to reduce the cap.
The shadow equalities minister, Kate Green, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, said the Labour party’s present policy position was to support the principle of the benefit cap and that there was some evidence it had helped people into work.
She argued that policy was created collectively by the party, implying that Corbyn could not change Labour’s position unilaterally.
In the last parliament, the coalition introduced a cap of £26,000 on the amount of state benefits a family can receive. The Conservative government has pledged to cut the cap to £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside London.
Speaking to the TUC conference in his first major speech as leader of the opposition, Corbyn said: “As I’m concerned the amendments we’re putting forward are to remove the whole idea of the benefit cap altogether. We’ll bring down the welfare bill in Britain by controlling rents and boosting wages, not by impoverishing families and the most vulnerable people.”
He added: “We oppose the benefit cap. We oppose social cleansing.”
What we are interested in is this:
The Welfare Charter.
We should have…
1. A political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs
People are entitled to decent, stable and secure jobs that provide regular, guaranteed hours that allows them to also meet any caring responsibilities; not zero hours contracts in precarious jobs.
2. A wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end poverty
We need a National Living Wage that people can live on, not just survive on, that applies to all.
3. No work conscription – keep volunteering voluntary
Forcing people to work for free on pain of losing benefits is simply providing free labour to organisations that should be paying workers proper wages.
4. Representation for unemployed workers
Everyone should have access to an advocate to help them navigate the social security system and appeal adverse decisions.
5. Appoint an Ombudsman for claimants
A Claimants Ombudsman should be appointed to arbitrate on unresolved complaints, to ensure claimants are treated with respect and dignity.
6. Equality in the labour market and workplace; equality in access to benefits.
We need a labour market where structural inequalities are overturned and a benefit system that is accessible to people.
7. An end to the sanctions regime and current Work Capability Assessment – full maintenance for the unemployed and underemployed.
We need a non-means tested, non-discriminatory benefit payable to all, with housing costs met. This must be allied with the wide provision of low cost housing.
8. State provision of high quality information, advice and guidance on employment, training and careers
There must be a supportive and independent careers and job-broking service, not linked to conditionality or benefits, offering face to face advice.
Download here: 710X_WelfareCharter_A5_3
McDonnell: A Working Class Hero is something he is.
Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled what he called a “unifying” new shadow cabinet, naming his left-wing ally John McDonnell as shadow chancellor.
A short while ago….
Comrade McDonnell is simply the best.
Pledge on benefits sanctions ahead of election (22nd April).
LABOUR has pledged to stop people being stripped of benefits for “trivial” reasons, blaming the practice for the surging numbers at food banks.
The Opposition said it would abolish targets allegedly introduced at jobcentres for the number of sanctions – claiming that was leading to unfair punishments.And it promised clear guidance to ensure vulnerable people – carers, pregnant women, the mentally-ill and people at risk of domestic violence – do not lose benefits.
The latest figures show almost 19,000 sanctions were imposed in Bradford in just two years, since the rules were toughened, normally for four weeks for a first offence.
Ministers say the punishments target people who dodge jobcentre appointments or avoid finding a job, to tackle a “something for nothing” culture.
But MPs have highlighted examples of claimants who have been docked money after missing appointments because they were bereaved, sick, or looking after children.
Interviewed by the Telegraph & Argus, Rachel Reeves, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, said: “When staff have pressure to sanction people, to reach their numbers, then you end up with sanctions for trivial reasons.
“That’s why we will get rid of targets and we will also give jobcentres guidance about vulnerable people.
“So, if it is a pregnant woman, or a mum with young kids, or someone with mental health problems, those people should not be sanctioned.”
Ministers have denied there are targets for sanctions, but do record the number imposed in each jobcentre district – with a “direction of travel” column, comparing to the previous month.
A Conservative spokesman defended sanctions, arguing the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies had found tighter conditions for benefit claimants had had “some success” in encouraging work.
But the Liberal Democrat manifesto also promises changes, saying: “We will ensure there are no league tables or targets for sanctions issued by jobcentres and introduce a ‘yellow card’ warning, so people are only sanctioned if they deliberately and repeatedly break the rules.”
This does not go far enough.
We need an end to the whole Sanctions Regime.
Get rid of the Unemployment Business!
But it’s a start……
David Ellesmere, Labour Candidate for Ipswich, backing March anti-Sanctions Picket at Ipswich Jobcentre.
Labour has launched its Manifesto, Britain Can Be Better.
Relevant points for the Unemployed.
“An inclusive wealth-creating economy works when there is a shared sense of responsibility, so we will be a government that is both pro-business and pro-worker. We value all our businesses as organisations of innovation and wealth production, and we will work strategically with them to create wealth. We value our trade unions as an essential force for a decent society and as guarantors of skills and fair wages.”
“Britain’s route to prosperity and higher living standards is through more secure and better paid jobs. But Conservative policies are causing whole sectors of the economy to be dragged into a race to the bottom on wages and skills.
The Government has weakened employment rights and promoted a hire-and-fire culture. Labour believes our economy can only succeed in a race to the top – competing in the world with better work, better pay and better skills.Too many people do a hard day’s work but remain dependent on benefits.
We will raise the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019, bringing it closer to average earnings. We will give local authorities a role in strengthening enforcement against those paying less than the legal amount. And we will support employers to pay more by using government procurement to promote the Living Wage, alongside wider social impact considerations. Our Make Work Pay contracts will give tax rebates to businesses who sign up to paying the Living Wage in the first year of a Labour Government. Publicly listed companies will be required to report on whether or not they pay the Living Wage.”
It is hard for Britain to succeed when employees feel insecure and employers are undercut by those using exploitative working practices. Labour will ban exploitative zero-hours contracts.
Those who work regular hours for more than12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract. We will abolish the loophole that allows firms to undercut permanent staff by using agency workers on lower pay.
The Conservatives have introduced fees of up to £1,200 for employment tribunal claimants, creating a significant barrier to workplace justice. We will abolish the Government’s employment tribunal fee system as part of wider reforms to make sure that affordability is not a barrier to workers having proper access to justice,employers get a quicker resolution, and the costs to the tax payer do not rise.
This raises a lot of questions,
We will introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, paid for by a bank bonus tax. It will provide a paid starter job for every young person unemployed for over a year, a job which they will have to take or lose benefits.
Labour believes in rewarding work and in restoring contribution to the heart of our system. So we will not cut tax credits. We want everyone who can to have the chance to contribute through paid work, so we will create a more tailored back-to-work system that helps people secure and keep jobs.We will do more to help unemployed people get the skills they need for work, testing jobseekers’ Maths, English and IT skills within six weeks of them claiming benefits. They will be required to take up training where this will improve their chances of getting a job. We support the principle behind Universal Credit – that there should be a smooth transition into work – but it must be affordable and fit for purpose,so we will pause and review the programme.
There will be a guaranteed, paid job for all young people who have been out of work for one year, and for all those over 25 years old and out of work for two years. It will be a job that they have to take, or lose their benefits.And we will commission a replacement for the Work Programme at a more local level, working with local authorities to join up support for the long-term unemployed. We will introduce a higher rate of Job Seekers Allowance for those who have contributed over years. It will be funded by extending the length of time people need to have worked to qualify.
Alongside strong and responsive public services, the social security system plays an important role in supporting many disabled people to live independently,and must always treat sick and disabled people with dignity.Half a million families have been hit by the Bedroom Tax, and two thirds of those affected are disabled, or have a disabled family member. It is cruel, and we will abolish it.We will reform the Work Capability Assessment and focus it on the support disabled people need to get into work. We will give an independent scrutiny group of disabled people a central role in monitoring it. And we will introduce a specialist support programme to ensure that disabled people who can work get more tailored help.
- No Bedroom Tax.
- A Promise to ‘review’ Universal Credit.
- Yet another scheme to ‘replace’ the Work programme. This time with lots of fluffy words about being ‘tailored’ and involving local councils and the rest of the ‘local’ crew (aka, the Unemployment Bizniz under new names) no doubt eager to jump in as well.
- Monitoring/Review of the back to work process for the disabled.
- A wholly ill-thought ‘guaranteed job’ promise.
We will examine this job guarantee in more detail later but for the moment we ask:
- What choice will we have about the work we take up?
- Will it be at the Living Wage?
- What happens if we lose this job?
What we do not have:
- Abolition of the sanctions regime.
- An end to the ‘unemployment industry’ doing little but fill their own pockets,
- A raise in benefits to the ‘Living Benefit’ level that Ipswich Unemployment Action will set.
- Stop to to claimants paying Council Tax.
- Independent Medical Experts involved in assessing the disabled.
- Clear Abolition of ALL FORMS OF WORKFARE.
Hat-tips: Another Fine Mess and Enigma.
A Labour government would tackle the root causes of the increase in the use of food banks across the UK, with the party to pledge that they “can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society”. Shadow ministers will promise to solve jobcentre benefit delays, halt the proliferation of benefit sanctions, and address low pay in a five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people forced to turn to food banks.
They will cite Trussell Trust statistics showing that nearly a million people used food banks in 2013-14, figures that are generally assumed to underestimate the number of people who went hungry as a result of food insecurity over the period.
Labour will promise a cross-government approach to end what it calls the “chaos of food policy” under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and will say that a Labour administration will make tackling food bank dependency a specific ministerial responsibility.
A target would be set to reduce the number of people who cite delays in benefits being processed as the prime reason for using food banks. Benefits typically take around 16 working days to process, although backlogs mean many disability benefit claimants have waited for several months.
Studies have shown that benefit sanctions – when payments are stopped for alleged rule infringements – are the prime reason for between 10% and 30% of food bank users being referred for food aid.
Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.
It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.
Ending ‘targets’ (which the DWP under their Masters’ instructions lie their way away out of existence in any case), and a vague commitment to deal with ‘benefit sanctions’ is not enough.
What is wrong is not just their ‘proliferation’ but the rotten system that has left one in five claimants punished.
Frankly we don’t need reassuring bed-time words that, “Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”
What we need: The benefit sanctions regime should be scrapped
(we appreciate that Frances uses Ipswich Unemployed Action’s phrase, benefit sanctions regime)…
I am not sure how we reached the point where we need an inquiry to establish that stopping a person’s benefits to the level that they can’t feed themselves or their children may be wrong. But here we are, it seems. The recent MPs’ inquiry into the coalition’s benefits sanction system released its findings on Tuesday – a catalogue of cruelty with footnotes to add details of the claimants who have been starved.
The report is damning. As it should be. We have watched a system develop in which it is normal for ordinary men and women to be thrown by their own government into financial and psychological crisis. The scale is staggering. More than 1 million jobseekers had their unemployment benefits stopped last year – and, as the report states, the government has failed to prove this is not “purely punitive”.
Who exactly are we punishing? A disabled, single mother described to the committee the day she was sanctioned for missing an appointment because a flare-up of her hip condition meant she was physically unable to walk or drive. Despite explaining this to The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), she was told she’d receive no money for four weeks. The sanction remained in place for almost three months.
Exactly right: we should boil with rage that somebody is left at her wits’ end because of a punishment more that’s more like a court’s fine for criminal activates than the workings of a welfare system.
This is not being done to the middle classes with savings in the bank. Or those with power who are used to navigating a complex system. It is being done to the people who are already struggling – where a hardship fund exists but the application process is designed to be too difficult for vulnerable people to understand. Or, as the report states, making it so “the people potentially most in need of the hardship system were the least likely to be able to access it”.
Doubleplus right: this is being inflicted on people (and most of us know them, or are them) who have no resources. The bastards are making our sisters and brothers suffer to fit in with Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to ‘reduce’ welfare dependency’. They are pawns in his game.
The MPs’ call that an “independent review of benefit sanctions is urgently needed” seems almost polite for what is going on here. People are literally starving and their crime is that they dare to be poor and unemployed.
It is no surprise that the report concludes there is limited evidence that benefit sanctions actually help people find work. A jobseeker system that has sanctions at its centre is founded on the lie that the unemployed are too lazy to look for work unless they are threatened. The DWP acts as if it is training disobedient dogs.
Stopping the money people need in order to eat is not the purpose of government. The benefit sanctions regime should be scrapped – but let’s not stop there. The culture that created them needs shredding to pieces.
This is the kind of ‘equality’ we are now living in: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” (Anatole France).
To conclude the article of Frances Ryan:
Tripleplus right: Get rid of the regime and bring the authors of this system to justice!
Jobless young adults would lose their automatic right to some state benefits under a Labour Government to encourage them to find work, Ed Miliband will announce on Thursday.
The 18-21 age group would no longer qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and income support if they had skills below Level 3. If they undertook training to try to reach that level, they would qualify for a £57-a-week allowance, the JSA rate for under-25s. It would be means-tested and paid only if their parents’ joint income were less than £42,000 a year. Unemployed young adults would normally be expected to live with their parents rather than claim housing benefit.
The “tough love” plan is aimed at tackling the problem of almost one million “Neets” – young people not in education, employment or training. It would affect about 100,000 people, seven out of 10 of the 18-21 group claiming JSA. Current benefit rules prevent them training while looking for work.
Labour claims the move would save at least £65m a year in lower benefit payments and much more in the long run, because a “Neet” costs the Government more than £2,000 a year for the rest of their working lives.
Although denying benefits is bound to cause controversy, Mr Miliband will describe the move as “progressive not punitive”. It would not apply to people with young children or disabilities, which prevent them preparing for work. He will say the present system is unjust for young people not at university because they get no state support if they do more than 16 hours a week of training or further education.
The proposal forms part of a blueprint published by the IPPR think tank on how to create a fairer society in an age of austerity. The “Condition of Britain” report will shape the policies on which Labour will fight next year’s general election.
Mr Miliband will also endorse the IPPR’s plan to restore the contributory principle to the heart of the welfare system. Under Labour, the higher rate £71-a-week JSA, currently paid to people who have been in work for two years, would kick in only after five years in work, but the level would be raised by between £20-£30 a week
The Guardian notes,
The removal of JSA for those with skills below level 3 would affect seven out of 10 of the 18-to-21-year-olds currently claiming JSA, and initially save £65m.
- Making the benefits of people under 21 dependent on their parents’ income is wrong in principle: it makes them…dependent on their parents and fails to respect them as adults. If they can vote why can’t they have the same rights as everybody else?
- Why are people NEETS? Is Labour proposing to massively expand real education, or to use the existing system of training ‘providers’, many of whom have contributed to the dire results of the Work Programme as we know it. And what happens to those who do have Level 3 qualifications? We await clarification on this.
- Unemployed young adults will be “expected” to live with their parents. This is to confine people to their family home. The reasons why this is not suitable for many people are too obvious to need citing – though apparently not something registered by the paternalistic ‘blue Labour’ advisers who have shaped this idea. This does not just apply to those with young children or with disabilities.
One could add that the contributory element seems appealing to those who would qualify, but what about those who do not?
On this point the Guardian says,
Miliband will reveal further plans to make welfare more conditional by linking benefit payments to national insurance contributions.
Under his plans, people would only be able to claim the higher rate JSA of £71 a week after they have paid National Insurance for five years, instead of the current two. The contributory element of the welfare system has been eroded in Britain and is much smaller than in most European economies.
So many people will be further pushed into poverty.
And for those already on benefits.
Are we to see the real level of our benefits continue to erode well below the poverty line?
Will we still have to pay the ever rising cost of Council Tax?
Will full Housing Benefits be restored?
Miliband is silent.