Archives For May 2013

We spotted this great article ahead of the day of action against welfare reforms tomorrow. It’s from the good people over at Scriptonite Daily, and tells the story of three people facing eviction due to the bedroom tax; Helen Sockell, 56, a blind woman in Kilmarnock, Richard Rourke, a disabled widower from Derbyshire, who also has a daughter that suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy and a rape victim called ‘A’ to protect her identity.

The article is great for shining a light on the human impact of these reforms.

Find the article here.

Helen Sockell - A Blind Woman Facing Eviction over the Bedroom Tax Image: The Daily Record

Helen Sockell – A Blind Woman Facing Eviction over the Bedroom Tax Image: The Daily Record

 

“More than 25,000 people applied for the ‘discretionary housing payment’ to help pay their rent this month, as the Bedroom Tax kicked in.  This compares to just 5,700 applications in the same month last year. Notices of eviction are being issued up and down the country.  Caught up in these figures were a blind widow, a disabled dad and a rape victim. It is time to put a human face on the statistical failure of the Bedroom Tax.”

Scriptonite Daily

 In the second part of our interview with Ellen Clifford, from the Benefit Justice Campaign, we talk about her work with DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), ATOS, and what happens after the national day of action on Saturday.

DPAC Campaigners at a protest. Image: Demotix.com

DPAC Campaigners at a protest. Image: Demotix.com

You work for Disabled People Against Cuts. Can you tell us what sort of effects you have seen first-hand from the cuts. What is it doing to people that you’ve worked with?

Just to say I don’t work for them, we’re unfunded. It’s something we do after work or those of us who aren’t lucky enough to work. But we do have people contacting us everyday. Particularly due to the WCA (Work Capability Assessment), which has been in place and has been attacking people for the last couple of years. We have people who are suicidal, who are really in despair. I mean, the figures for people who have taken their own lives or who’ve died as a consequence of the stress of the WCA are shockingly high.

“People who really can’t see a way out because their income, the money that they need to feed themselves and to survive, is being taken away from them, and they don’t know where to turn or what to do.” 

But I would like to think that through people getting in touch with other people in the same situation through DPAC, that people find peer support and avoid those situations where people really feel they’ve got nothing to do but kill themselves. But we certainly have people who are feeling suicidal, or are feeling depressed. People who really can’t see a way out because their income, the money that they need to feed themselves and to survive, is being taken away from them, and they don’t know where to turn or what to do. We’re seeing really, really, extreme effects on people.

This was highlighted in the case of Stephanie Bottrill, who a couple of weeks ago committed suicide. Her death was attributed to the bedroom tax, cuts and the government. Is this what we will see more of? 

Unfortunately I think so, yes. I have heard that she wasn’t the first. Actually, there were some other deaths related to the bedroom tax before that. But unfortunately, I don’t think it will be an isolated case. There are some mental health organisations I know that have been reporting for the past couple of years huge increases in suicide, because people are being hit by all the different cuts and the changes and having money taken away.

Stephanie Bottrill took her own life after the introduction of the bedroom tax, and left a note blaming the government. Image: The Mirror

Stephanie Bottrill took her own life after the introduction of the bedroom tax, and left a note blaming the government. Image: The Mirror

“So when you leave people with absolutely nothing to live on…there’s consequences to that.”

I heard of one story in Hackney, of a man that had been found fit for work even though he had terminal cancer. He was appealing it, and while you’re appealing, you can’t actually get employment and support allowance. And, because of a mess up with his sick note from his GP he was left with no income, and then he was hit by the bedroom tax so he was actually minus income. Quite often we’re hearing about people who are left with not just nothing to live on, but actually owing money, because of the bedroom tax coming in on top of all their other money being taken away. So when you leave people with absolutely nothing to live on and food banks you can only visit a maximum of three times a week then you’re literally leaving people with nothing. There’s consequences to that.

I wanted to talk to you a bit about ATOS. Now we have heard the terrible stories about how ATOS has treated people, how they have deemed ill and severely disabled people fit to work. But why have they been able to carry on? It doesn’t seem like they are being stopped. Why?

These tests have been developed over many, many years. It started in the New Labour years. The DWP worked with ATOS and Unum insurance providers, to develop a way of looking at disability called the bio psycho social model of disability which denies disability exists and says that it’s in your own head.

So this has been a very determined and deliberate policy that’s created these tests over many, many years. The government isn’t going to back out on it because it’s achieving what they wanted.

“It was New Labour that introduced ATOS to this country. That’s something disabled people aren’t going to forget for a long time.”

And this is something that will happen under Labour or a Conservative government?

It’s harsher certainly under the Tories, but it was New Labour that introduced ATOS to this country. That’s something disabled people aren’t going to forget for a long time. And it was the DWP under Labour that were talking to Unum Insurance Providers about developing the bio psycho social model. That was at the same time they were talking to our faces, and championing the social model of disability, which is the empowering way of looking at disability.

On Saturday, there is a national day of action against welfare reforms which you have helped organise. But this must be forming part of a larger picture. So what happens next? 

What we need to do is prepare for when and if evictions start happening. It’s great to have a national day to come together to show our opposition. But what’s really important at the moment is building the local campaigns at grass roots level, so that communities know how to fight back against what’s going on. They can put the pressure on their local council to do things like redesignate bedrooms, or to try and demand from councils that there are no evictions and no relocation. But, also that if it does come to it, that communities will be standing outside people’s doors, not letting the bailiffs in. So, I think one of our main focuses is on supporting those local campaigns to develop.

150417_274242869377189_1750197938_n

A Benefit Justice Summit Flyer

And what is the alternative if people don’t take action?

Then what we’re going to see is our communities being torn apart and destroyed . People being relocated to different areas. I think Lambeth’s choice destination for people is Clifton Villa, Margate, I found out the other week.  Yeah, by the seaside but it’s an extremely deprived area and people are being removed from their families, their networks, their communities, and maybe even their jobs. We’re going to see a rise in people, unfortunately, who might be taking their own lives because they don’t where to go or what to do.

“What we’re going to see is our communities being torn apart and destroyed.”

But we’re also going see local authorities in complete chaos. There was an interview with I think a Leeds councillor last week, and they were saying it cost them so far £500,000 to put in the support for their council tenants who don’t know how they’re going to pay, or what they’re going to do. So local authorities are being thrown into crisis by this, and it’s going to be a complete mess. At least, if we have communities on the ground looking after each other, then we’re going to avoid some of the mess.

Find out more about the Benefit Justice Campaign here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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Over the last few weeks the Department for Work and Pensions has come under fire from leading experts and organisations over it’s handling of, and reporting on, the latest changes to the UK benefits system.

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, faced fresh criticism this week for his use of “unsupported” statistics to promote the effectiveness of the newly implemented benefit cap.

In April of this year the new benefit cap was trialled in Haringey, Enfield, Croydon and Bromley with a view to roll the scheme out nationwide within the year.

In an interview with the Daily Mail last month, supporting the national implementation of the trialled changes to the benefits system, Iain Duncan Smith was quoted saying “already we’ve seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact”.

However, a complaint made by Nicola Smith from the Trades Union Congress to the UK Statistics Authority about the legitimacy of these claims lead to an investigation into the statistics used. The complaint was upheld when Andrew Dilnot of the UKSA wrote an open letter to the Secretary of State stating that they had found the statement to be “unsupported by the official statistics published by the department.”

This is not the first time that the DWP has been it hot water with the UKSA over it’s use of unsupported statistics. Making a Point of Order in the Commons last Monday, Debbie Abrahams, the Oldham East and Saddleworth MP, said that this incident followed “similar issues regarding the Child Support Agency statistics in February, and also extends to the Secretary of State for Health and his health funding claims last December”.

The latest criticism of the Department for Work and Pensions comes fresh off the back of two controversial court rulings against the department in recent weeks. The first ruling was against their attempt to conceal the identities of companies that have signed up to their widely condemned Workfare scheme – due to the possible financial and reputational damage it could cause. The second was the case brought against the Work Capability Assessment – which judges have ruled “substantially disadvantages people with mental health conditions”.

Photo: rethink.org

Photo: rethink.org

The reason for the cap, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, is to “encourage people to work”. Speaking on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the employment minister Mark Hoban said the best way for people to avoid the controversial benefits cap was to “move in to work”, however as the case of the Work Capability Assessment shows – this isn’t always possible for some.

In real terms the changes will mean that for single parent families, or families where neither parents are working, the total amount of benefits they can claim is set at £500 a week – including rent – and for people living alone this has been set at £350 a week.

To top off a bad month for the DWP a new storm could be about to break. On Thursday last week a judge gave permission for a full judicial review of claims that involve four vulnerable families who rely on welfare payments to provide for their children.

The cases involve victims of domestic abuse. According the the Guardian two of the families “face a stark choice between descending further into poverty and risking losing their homes, or returning to their abusers in order to escape the imposition of the cap”.

Rebekah Carrier, the solicitor at Hopkin Murray Beskine who acts for all of the claimants, warned in The Guardian: “This is a cruel and misguided policy. It will have a catastrophic impact on our clients and many thousands more vulnerable children and adults. They face street homelessness and starvation.

“A year ago the children’s commissioner warned the government that these changes would result in a sharp increase in child poverty and homelessness, with a disproportionate impact upon disabled children and children of disabled parents, and some BME groups.
“The difficulties now faced by my clients were predictable and avoidable. The reason for the policy is said to be to encourage people to obtain work but my clients face difficulties in securing employment because they are lone parents with caring responsibilities for babies and toddlers, and disabled adults who have already been recognised as unable to work due to their disabilities.”

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

The DWP’s key aim, according to their site, is to “help its customers become financially independent and to help reduce child poverty.” However, their recent actions and reforms seem to be having the opposite effect on the people they are meant to protect. And we have a feeling there is more to come….

Clea Guy-Allen
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Ahead of the national day of protest against welfare reforms this Saturday, we caught up with Ellen Clifford – one of the organisers of the Benefit Justice Campaign. In this first part of the interview, we talk about the Campaign, divisive tactics and the need for unity.

Ellen Clifford - Benefit Justice Campaign/DPAC

Ellen Clifford – Benefit Justice Campaign/DPAC

For those that don’t know, could you tell us a bit more about the Benefit Justice Campaign, how it came about and why now? 

The Benefit Justice Campaign was set up by three campaigns, DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts, Defend Council Housing and the Right To Work Campaign. We came together in January of this year because the people that we represent were being hit on all sides by cut after cut after cut from this government and we wanted to unite together to form a campaign. So rather than disabled people campaigning on our own, we want to be with council house tenants who were going to be hit by the bedroom tax, and with unemployed workers, and we also wanted to unite with workers through the trade unions because the government has been using a lot of divisive rhetoric about benefit scroungers and the difference between strivers and skivers, and we wanted to come together and overcome a lot of those myths, that a lot of people who are being hit by the benefit cuts are actually in work. And what the government is doing affects people in work and out of work – so to provide a combined campaign to oppose it.

Why have the government been pushing this striver vs. skiver debate? 

Well it was very effective and it has been very effective over the last couple of years. People have actually thought we really need to reform the welfare state. A lot of people talk about the need to stop all these people having a lifestyle on benefits. So actually the government rhetoric has been really effective, and what they’ve managed to do is they’ve managed to get away with causing misery and pushing many, many thousands of disabled people – the poorest members of society, into poverty. That’s what they’ve been effectively doing, but they’ve got away with it and there hasn’t been an outcry because they’ve wrapped it up in all this language of reform and saying that these people are taking all the taxpayers’ money, and trying to point the finger at people that don’t really exist. There aren’t people choosing to live a lifestyle on benefits because it’s ‘such a wonderful life’.

A lot of people would say we’ve got this national debt, so there has to be cuts. ‘Everyones feeling the pinch’, so what would you say to them?

Yeah, not everyone’s feeling the pinch. There’s a certain section of society that really isn’t being affected by it. Meanwhile, there are sections of society that are being hit over and over again. So research that came out recently from the Campaign For a Fair Society, showed that the poorest members of society are being hit harder than anyone else. But they also showed that disabled people with the highest level of support needs, people with complex and severe disabilities, are being hit 19 times harder than the average person so there’s no way ‘we’re all in it together’. There are some sections of society who are being deliberately targeted harder than anyone else.

“Austerity is lining the pockets of certain sections of society.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times Rich List in April showed that the 1000 wealthiest UK residents increased their wealth by £35bn last year. So some people are getting richer out of this actually. Austerity is lining the pockets of certain sections of society.

So why aren’t we attacking rich people more?

I think some sections of the population are, but we mainly do that through social media, through our own blogs, or through the left wing media maybe. Certain elements of the right wing media certainly have fallen in with the government and they will reproduce the government statistics which are shown to be misrepresented most of the time.

A Previous Defend Council Housing Protest in London Image: demotix.com

A Previous Defend Council Housing Protest in London Image: demotix.com

You already have a lot of support for the campaign, but how do you get to the people who are a little more shut off? There must be people who would maybe stand with you and support you, but they aren’t aware of what is going on. How do you get to them, and how do you get them to act?  

And it’s the isolated people who are more likely to be in trouble because they’ve got no support so it’s about reaching those people. I think through social media DPAC has got quite an online presence. We’re very involved in Facebook and Twitter and social media, and people find us through that because people are looking because they don’t know where else they can turn to. So that’s one way, but of course people don’t all have access to social media and the internet, and what we’re seeing increasing is local campaigns being set up and just going around, like I was doing on Sunday, just knocking on doors in estates where people are affected – so actually meeting people in person.

At the Benefit Justice Summit a couple of weeks ago in Westminster, you had many organisations coming together for different struggles – around 37 from around the country including DPAC, Hands Off Our Homes, Manchester vs. Bedroom Tax and so on. There was a lot of talk about unity, and coming together – why is that such a strong message right now?

I think people are feeling that because we’ve been attacked for the last couple of years and we haven’t managed to change it yet. The government have done some small U-turns – for example the bedroom tax exempting children with severe disabilities. But, we’ve never got them reverse the direction of welfare reform so I think people want to come together en masse to try and mobilise, to try and fight against the bigger things that are happening – essentially to get the government out and that’s only going to happen if everyone campaigns together.

Find out more about the Benefit Justice Campaign here.

Join us for the second part of the interview on Thursday.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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1. The True Impact of the Bedroom Tax

The Independent broke the news that there had been a 338% increase in the number of people applying for emergency handouts as a result of the bedroom tax introduction last month.

25,000 applications were made for discretionary housing benefit (DHP) in April,  across 51 councils, to help cover rent. In the same month last year there were 5,700.

Every council saw a rise in claimants, and many reported a massive shortfall in funding given to deal with the influx, leading some claimants who would otherwise be helped, to be turned away. Some councils had to hire extra staff in order to cope with the increase in applications and to help give advice.

According to the DWP, the rise is down to better publicity of DHP by local councils. Somehow, we’re not convinced.

Read more about the story here.

Bedroom Tax Impact was front page news for The Independent

Bedroom Tax Impact was front page news for The Independent

2. The Universal Credit system is not working, according to official review

A report released by the Major Projects Authority which reviews the 170 most expensive projects set by government has put the Universal Credit system on an ‘amber-red’ status meaning it is in danger of failing.

The MPA works on behalf of the taxpayer to ensure the biggest and most expensive government projects are reviewed, creating better transparency and improve efficiency and delivery.

The DWP said that the findings were out of date and that through close consultation with the MPA, they have strengthened their plans to put the system back on course. However, the release of the data came on Friday evening, raising questions on whether there was an attempt to ‘bury bad news’.

Read more about this story here.

3. Iain Duncan Smith faces judicial review over ‘benefits cap’

The DWP seems to be forming a close relationship with the courts, as another summons was brought to them this week. This time, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is challenged on the ‘benefits cap’ by four families.

The policy, brought in last month in some boroughs, caps the amount of benefits claimable for those who do not work enough hours to claim Working Tax Credits.  It is set at £500 for lone parents and couples and at £350 for single adults.

For two of the families, the £500 will not cover their current rent, leaving them no money for food, clothing or necessities. The cap will force them into arrears, eviction and probable homelessness. The other two families have escaped domestic violence from a spouse upon whom they relied financially. The cap will have equally devastating effects on their lives.

The government say the cap will affect 56,000 families by the time it is rolled out nationally in September this year.

Read more about the story here.

4. Working Capability Assessment ruled unfair on sufferers of mental health problems

There was some well-earned victory for welfare campaigners last week, as three judges ruled that the Work Capability Assessment was unfair on those suffering from mental illness.

Charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society took part in the case to give evidence on the experiences of its members, explaining that the task of gathering all of an individual’s paperwork and information from GPs, social workers and hospitals was simply too much for some sufferers.

Camapaigners are now calling for an all out review and suspension of the WCA in order to assess its overall suitability and compliance.

The DWP said it will appeal against the decision.

Read more about the story here.

 5. Disabled workers stop traffic in Central London

Ahead of the National Day of action on 1st June, attendees at the TUC Disabled Workers conference abandoned the last part of their day to take to the streets in a passionate and spontaneous protest that halted traffic along London’s Tottenham Court Road.

Protesters had spent the Wednesday vowing to fight against welfare reforms that are severely affecting their lives in terms of employment, housing and benefits.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Image: Black Triangle Campaign

Image: Black Triangle Campaign

Three judges ruled that the Work Capability Assessment was unfair and discriminatory for sufferers of mental illness. The ruling, which was passed on Wednesday, came as a huge victory for welfare campaigners and charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society who all took part in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of members and supporters.

The WCA requires candidates being put forward to supply all of their evidence from people and places that will help build their case, such as GPs or social workers. Acquiring this information is wholly the responsibility of the claimant, and this is what the case focused on.

The responsibility to gather this information for some sufferers of mental illness is simply too much, and this lead to some cases being unfairly decided upon because claimants found it impossible to gather everything they needed for the Assessment, and decisions were made without full knowledge of circumstance.

The DWP was found in breach of the Equality Act 2010, having failed to make reasonable adjustments for those with mental disabilities. The DWP must now ensure that evidence is not left out, and is taken into account.

MIND%20logo[1] Rethink%20Mental%20Illness%20Logo[1]

Above: Rethink Mental Illness and Mind – Two of the charity organisations giving evidence in the case.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said:“This ruling proves once and for all that this cruel and unfair process is unlawful. The judges have independently confirmed what our members have been saying for years – the system is discriminating against some of the most ill and vulnerable people in our society, the very people it is meant to support.

“This ruling will help improve one aspect of the Work Capability Assessment, but there are still many other problems with it. We will keep campaigning on behalf of everyone we represent until the whole process is fair for everyone.”

This is a huge victory for campaigners who have worked for years to fight the cases of those suffering. We can only hope this is the first step to more justice for those who are being penalised unnecessarily.

KS

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The sick and disabled will be financially hit the most, by several different welfare reforms, according to a report from Sheffield Hallam University.

Despite a media focus on the ‘bedroom tax’, the report – entitled ‘Hitting The Poorest Places Hardest’, explains that the largest financial loss will be to incapacity benefits, which will lose £4.3bn a year. Those affected by new incapacity benefit reforms stand to lose an average of £3,500 a year. For people affected by the changeover from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments, they will lose £3,000 a year, on average.

These same individuals are may also face reductions in housing benefits, which will see a further £1,000 loss per household. A huge hit.

The report aimed to see how the reforms would affect different areas around Britain, and found that ‘as a general rule the most deprived local authorities across Britain are hit the hardest.’ The top three sections of Britain were older industrial areas such as Glasgow, some London boroughs including Hackney and Brent, and seaside towns which includes the most affected town – Blackpool, which stands to lose over £900 per working adult.

Blackpool will be hit hardest by reforms.  Image: featherhotelblackpool.co.uk

Blackpool will be hit hardest by reforms. Image: featherhotelblackpool.co.uk

The report explained that UK ministers ‘take the view that the welfare reforms will increase financial incentives to take up employment and because more people will look for work, more people will find work. ‘ This assumes that extra supply of labour will create extra demand, however, this theory has been thwarted by previous economists and does not sit as a comfortable premise for a plan against unemployment, particularly in a struggling economy.

Instead, the report concludes that hitting the most deprived areas hardest will in fact, cause a ‘knock-on consequence’ by taking out large amounts of benefits, it will negatively affect local spending and local employment and interest by companies of local business, causing a deeper ‘downward spiral’.

KS

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The Department for Work and Pensions released a press release this month on fraud and error, and declared that ‘hard work must continue to cut a £3.5bn loss’ which makes up 2.1% of benefit spending.

In the press release, the DWP say they have increased their ‘crackdown on benefit fraud’ over the last year, a huge focus made by government, says Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform:

“Our fraud investigation teams are also continuing their hard work – targeting areas of high suspected fraud, using the latest technology to investigate these criminals and going back over old claims to uncover people trying to swindle the taxpayer.”

However, while £3.5bn is a lot of money, £3.5bn is not what is attributed to fraud alone.

‘Fraud and error’ includes fraudulent claims, overpayments made by claimant error and overpayments made by official error. When broken down like this, these are the figures released by DWP:

Fraud – £1.2bn

Claimant Error – £1.6bn

Official Error – £0.7bn

The fraud figure now equates to 0.7% of the overall benefit spending figure which stands at £166.8bn.

Overpayment by error adds up to £2.3bn (1.3% of overall spending), nearly double the fraud figure, and yet there seems to be no ‘crackdown’ by government on this.

Further, overpayment errors are not necessarily a loss of money. This money can be recovered, and the DWP got back around £890m of overpayments in the last year. Bringing down the error figure to £1.31bn.

These figures also do not include underpayments. In 2012/13 underpayments to claimants amounted to £1.4bn or 0.9% – higher than the fraud amount.

It is of course, important to combat lost or fraudulently claimed money. However, there needs to be perspective and context on these figures. Fraud and error are not the same. One is illegal and one is not. Putting the figure of error in with fraud and then announcing a crackdown on fraud alone, can skew the size of the problem.

There has been a lathering of media courage and fear placed on the idea that claimants are playing the system and making huge claims that they don’t deserve. Cue the recent rise in tabloid front pages with pixelated stills of incapacity cheats dancing around, or people claiming for more children than they have. The truth is the figure for fraud has hardly changed in the last few years. There has been no surge in the crime. It has just received more coverage by tabloids, and for a government that wants to introduce harsh reforms, it has favorably put in its elbow grease to the skiver vs. striver divide, that now works to punish and stigmatise 99.3% for the actions of 0.7%.

And of course, the figure for fraud is dwarfed by the figures for tax evasion and avoidance. The cost of tax evasion, which unlike tax avoidance – is a crime, is thought to be around £5bn a year. The same for tax avoidance. In fact, Oxfam said in an article today that ‘Britain was the centre of a tax system that was a ‘betrayal of people here and in the poorest countries”, with a claim that around a third of £12trillion of tax evasion from around the globe is held here. Far more taken out by far fewer, which begs the question, who is really ‘trying to swindle the taxpayer?’

Read the full DWP report here.

Image: www.mirror.co.uk

Lord Freud – Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk

KS

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1) Benefit Justice Summit Declares Day Of Action

Following what we heard at the Benefit Justice Summit on 9th May, it has been announced that campaigners are now planning a national day of protest against the bedroom tax and other reforms on 1st June.

Protests will be held in towns and cities across England and Wales on a day that will also coincide with marches in Europe against austerity.

The protests hope to help unite small local groups against reforms in a vision to build a stronger, national opposition. Following the suicide of Stephanie Bottrill, who took her own life because she could no longer afford rent after bedroom tax, Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing said, “The nationwide day of protest on 1st June will honor Stephanie Bottrill’s memory in the best way we know.”

Bedroom tax protest in Traflagar Square, London

Image: The Guardian

Read more about this story here.

2) Businesses and charities using Workfare scheme must be named, tribunal rules.

The DWP suffered a defeat at a tribunal over the Workfare scheme this week, as it was ruled that the names of companies taking part in the scheme, which can use unemployed people for weeks without pay as a condition for receiving benefits, must be named.

The DWP tried to defend a need of privacy over the company names due to potential financial and reputation damage. However, if the public chooses not to use or donate to charities and businesses because of ethical views, surely that’s our choice to make, and not theirs to cover up?

The DWP also said that revenue paid by the Department to firms for placements would be lost and that there would be redundancies, and also asked the court to take into account the impact of campaigns such as Boycott Workfare, which aimed to end the scheme.

The tribunal ruled that ‘the public interest balance militates strongly in favour of disclosure”. The DWP is now deciding on its next move.

Read more about this story here.

3) DWP postpones release of figures about effects of sanctioning.

The DWP not giving us information again, unfortunately. This time, the department’s figures on how many people have lost out on benefits under the new sanctioning scheme introduced in October.

The figures, which were meant to be released this week, are delayed due to ‘significant doubts about the quality of the new regime statistics’, said the DWP.

However, after recent criticism over the way Ian Duncan Smith, secretary of State for Work and Pensions, uses statistics about the department, there is some concern over the postponement of these numbers, and whether they are delayed in order to minimise bad press over the new sanctioning systems.

Read more on this story here.

Image: MSN

Image: MSN

4) Fears over public anger as some MPs may gain £10,000 pay rises

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) who are responsible for MPs’ salaries and pensions are likely to suggest large increases in pay in a report next month.

It is thought a raise of around £10,000 is most likely on top of the current £65,738 annual packet. However, amidst the huge debates over cuts and welfare reforms it is feared that Prime Minister David Cameron will find it hard to back and justify these rises.

Add this to other news this week that George Osborne had vowed to target corporate tax evasion shortly before announcing the new Star Wars film being made in the UK, which is eligible for tax breaks, and we are definitely not feeling like ‘we are all in this together’.

Read more about this story here.

KS
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The London borough that includes Canary Wharf and parts of the Olympic Park is home to some of the poorest children in UK with 4 out of 10 families living below the poverty line and it’s only going to get worse, a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has predicted. A secondary school music teacher, who has worked in Tower Hamlets’ school system for 12 years tells us how poverty affects her pupils now, how it affects their performance and what the future holds.

Image: Blottr.com

“Neglect” is the biggest problem facing Tower Hamlets’ children, Angela* says, “but it’s often not dramatic enough to action on but causes stress to the child. It’s clear some of the children have not been washed and have very greasy hair, severe skin complaints, not having the correct P.E. kits or equipment. 60% of the nursery children who joined one particular school this year were not toilet trained and had under-developed jaws because they had never been given solid food. Also obesity, unhealthy bodies and skin problems. Even sitting on the floor is difficult for unhealthy children.”
These deep-seated issues and unhappiness undoubtedly affect pupils’ behaviour: “If you are uncomfortable physically, everything will be more challenging.” One boy who is visibly malnourished, undersized, hungry and itchy from a “head to toe” dry skin condition “doesn’t have bright eyes or strong bones and he is often disruptive and lacks focus. I have never come across a child who is just ‘naughty’, every time there is a very good reason.”
“It’s all hands up, enthusiastic faces at the start”
Are poverty-related problems something they can overcome and what happens to their ambition? “I have never met a child who didn’t believe they had something to give, it’s all hands up, enthusiastic faces at the start,” she says. “As they pass through the system becoming more self-conscious, their enthusiasm is locked away as doubt sets in. The ambition in all children is the same to a certain age, then they become of aware of their environment and start to feel hopeless. Young people in privileged homes and schools have a much clearer route to their dreams and ambitions. They also have parental modelling of success and consistency of expectation among their friends and families.”
This comes after the IFS published a report predicting that by 2020, relative child poverty will increase by 34% and absolute child poverty will increase by 55%, a rise far greater than that for working adults. The think-tank attributes this surge to the coalition’s governmental policies, stating: “Tax and benefit reforms introduced since April 2010 can account for almost all of the increase in child poverty projected over the next few years.”
The UK loses a talented, bright workforce, creative and inspirational leaders.
For Angela, one of biggest tragedies is that while many children have the opportunities to reach their potential, it won’t be the same for her students. “The UK loses a talented, bright workforce, creative and inspirational leaders in their community,” she said, “because they lost the path and didn’t have parents who could float rent until they got a job or supported with tuition fee. In the end, grabbed what they could to survive, often a basic shop job in their area, way below their potential.” The Primary Curriculum Manager for music in Tower Hamlets predicts that children won’t be able to escape the generational poverty trap, eventually repeating the patterns their parents made.
End Child Poverty puts Tower Hamlets, with constituencies including Hackney, Bow and Bethnal Green, as the 3rd most deprived borough in England, with one of the highest population densities in London and child poverty levels, 5 times higher than in Richmond.

Image: hackneycitizen.co.uk

In 2011, 56.5% of secondary school pupils in Tower Hamlets received free school meals, over twice the England average of 18% of pupils in all state schools. Poverty is being exacerbated by the recent “bedroom tax”, Housing Benefit cuts and with the impending Universal Credit, the problems can only get worse. Angela says: “There has always been poverty and social problems in Tower Hamlets, but I think there have been times when the routes to success were marked more clearly. Financial cuts in the recent years have meant provision is not in place for those who need it any more. We are very much in danger of creating a greater, impassable divide, leaving seriously talented young people unable to break the poverty trap.”
Reacting to the IFS report, Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “We always put our children’s needs first in family life, and we should do as a nation too. But today’s dire projections reveal we are in danger of failing the next generation.”
“We urgently need a child poverty strategy that contains policies which deliver on important issues such as job security, living wages, and affordable housing for low income families. The security of our families and the progress of our children must move to the top of the Government’s list of priorities. If children aren’t put first, the threat of a child poverty crisis will become a reality.” Read the full press release here.
*Name has been changed
JM
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