Archives For November 2014

1) Young at increased risk of poverty, says report

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released a report revealing that the young are now at an increased risk of poverty, as unemployment and insecure work continues to blight the jobs market.

The report said:

“Youth unemployment has risen continuously since 2004. By 2011 it was two-thirds higher than 2001. At a record high, it’s three times higher than that of other adults.”

Education and qualifications seem to play a major part in whether a young person is able to remain out of poverty. The less qualified a person is, the more likely they are to be unemployed and living in poverty and after the age of 19, the likelihood of getting qualifications drops significantly.

  • “The lower people’s qualifications, the higher their risk of unemployment. This risk has risen over the past decade.”
  • “16- to 19-year-olds not in full-time education are at greater risk of poverty than any age group except the youngest.”

Though, gaps in attainment and increased risk of unemployment can be sourced back to early education. The report said:

“An ‘attainment gap‘ emerges before school. It continues through childhood. By 16 and older, it is considerable.

  • Tests at age 3 show a significant gap between more affluent children and the poorest fifth
  • Lower-achieving but more affluent children overtake the highest low-income achievers by age 7
  • Poorer children are half as likely to go to university as their more affluent peers

Across ethnic groups, white young people do less well than their peers from many minorities. But the performance and treatment of black Caribbean and Traveller children raise serious concerns.

For minority ethnic groups poverty is twice as likely, despite improved qualifications.

Poorer higher education students were already more likely to drop out, defer, switch, repeat or restart courses before tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance applied.

But the aspirations of disadvantaged young people are high.”

Read the report here.

2) Bill to stop ‘revenge evictions’ talked out

Image: Shelter

Image: Shelter

On Monday last week, around 1000 protesters demonstrated outside Parliament in demand for better rights for tenants.

Shelter estimate that some 213,000 people are evicted every year in ‘revenge evictions’ which happen following complaints to landlords over poor housing.

A Bill was put to the House of Commons to end these evictions. It required 100 signatures. Unfortunately, only 60 MPs signed.

Shelter also estimate that 2% of the public are landlords and that private tenancies have seen an increase in poor housing standards. Further, at a time of rocketing rents and stagnant wages, affirming rights for tenants should be a priority for government. Everybody should be able to access safe, secure housing.

Unfortunately, the outcome of this Bill shows priorities are held elsewhere.

Shelter later revealed that 2 MPs ‘filibustered’ the Bill – a tactic of talking out, to delay or ‘talk to death’. They are MPs Philip Davies and Christopher Chope.

Shelter vow to continue the fight until they win.

Read Shelter’s blog ‘We Will Make It Happen’ here.

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government accused of ‘numbers game’ in use of apprenticeships

Hundreds of thousands of people aged 25 and over are entering apprenticeships which pay as little as £2.73 an hour.

Apprenticeships have been bandied around by parties of all colours as a solution to youth unemployment but  “figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) show that more than 350,000 of the UK’s 851,000 apprentices were over 25, with more than 50,000 aged over 50.”

“The number of UK apprentices has risen from 491,300 in 2009 to 851,500 today – an increase of 73%.

“However, the proportion of those over 25 has more than doubled – it was 19% of all apprentices in 2009/10, but now stands at 42%.”

There is now concern that apprenticeships are being used to subsidise full paid jobs and losing focus on the young whilst also massaging employment figures.

Read more about this story here.

4) Theresa May says ‘Time is right’ for more police powers

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Speaking at a counter terrorism event last week, the Home Secretary Theresa May said that the ‘time is right’ to increase police powers to monitor online behaviour in order to combat terrorism and child abuse.

This news snuck out following a general silence since the terror threat was raised to ‘substantial’ earlier this year in the UK.

Considering the ‘loss’ of 114 files on child abuse within government and the Home Secretary’s inability to find someone to lead the child abuse inquiry who had no connection with those involved, we remain unconvinced that these greater powers to probe our online conversations and activity is in our interests or for the protection of potential victims.

May said these powers should be implemented following the General Election.

Read more about this story here.

5) David Cameron attacks migrant workers, but does nothing about exploitative bosses

David Cameron was criticised for attacking migrant workers with further restrictions to benefits, whilst doing nothing to stop exploitative bosses from paying low wages.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today David Cameron did not act as a prime minister but as a low-grade scrapper, trying to save his political skin by kicking migrant workers.

“He knows he cannot please his big business paymasters who want free access to European workers and the profits that come from their hard work on low wages.

“Instead he inflames a fear of European workers, proposing to cement them as a second-class workforce with no access to the assistance that millions of low paid workers in this country simply need to make ends meet.

“Too many UK employers are addicted to welfare to top up their low waged workforce. It is not migrants that are dragging down pay, but boardrooms that are holding it down.

“Why does he not tackle this by ensuring that collective bargaining can safeguard wages? Look at Germany, which has far greater levels of immigration than the UK but which has laws to protect decent wages.

“What the prime minister did today was to send out a message that the problems in our economy are the fault of workers, wherever they come from. This is a lie. It is not migrant workers who recruit in Poland, or force zero hours work upon people desperate for a job.

“It is not migrant workers who have sold off council homes, cut our Sure Start places, brought ruin to our NHS, or have forced the greatest collapse in living standards in generations.

“It is business behaviour and political decisions that are causing insecurity, not ordinary people trying to make a living.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Government not doing enough to tackle ESA problems

Dr Litchfield’s fifth and final independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been published and the Government has responded to a Work and Pensions Select Committee review into Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
For the last five years, Mind has been feeding into the independent reviews, calling for changes to the WCA process which is used to decide whether someone is able to get the disability benefit ESA. We have also submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee outlining our concerns about wider benefit reforms and the failure of government schemes to support people with mental health problems into work.MIND%20logo[1]

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manger at Mind, said:

“We welcome the ongoing improvements to the WCA through the independent review process, and particularly the focus on the experience of people with mental health problems. However the narrow scope of these reviews means that wider problems with the system for people with mental health problems have still not been tackled.

“The Work and Pensions Committee report provided a comprehensive evaluation of ESA and the WCA and included strong recommendations. Unfortunately the Government’s response represents a missed opportunity, with little sign that they are willing to make reforms of the scale needed.

“Very few people with mental health problems are being supported into work through ESA, and huge numbers of people are receiving benefit sanctions from a system that does not understand their needs and barriers. As a result, many people are finding that the stress and pressure they are put under is making their health worse, and making them feel less able to work. That’s why we’re calling for everyone with mental health problems claiming ESA to receive personalised, specialist support which acknowledges and addresses the barriers they may face in getting and staying in work.”

7) Pensioners lead protest for energy rights, after ONS reveal 18,200 excess winter deaths last year

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Pensioners marched and demonstrated outside the offices of lobbyists Energy UK following the release of the winter death toll from the Office for National Statistics.

Find out more about Fuel Poverty Action here.

8) #Cameronmustgo trends for four days

The hashtag #Cameronmustgo trended for 4 days last week, with an outpouring of hundreds of thousands of messages and reasons to sack the Tory PM. Unfortunately, it got no coverage in the media.

From ‘Bring Back News to the BBC’ – Nov 25 –

#CameronMustGo is still trending in the UK on Twitter for the fourth day in a row. No sign at all of it on the #bbctrending Twitter feed. I haven’t heard mention of it on any BBC news outlets (do let us know if you see/hear anything like meaningful coverage). Daily, wall to wall coverage of a single tweet by Elizabeth Thornberry on all mainstream media outlets for many days, but 400,000 + tweets largely ignored by all but single articles in the liberal outlets (HuffPo, Guardian, etc), which have all written multiple articles on Thornberry – 2 to 3 a day for 5 days.

“The mainstream media is talking a completely different language and setting a totally different agenda to the people of the country, and it is happy to talk UKIP, immigrants, scroungers, but not austerity, injustice and poverty. That’s why we need to speak up for ourselves.”

9) George Osbourne’s #AusterityFail

Ahead of budget day on 3rd December, the People’s Assembly have put together a video of messages for George Osbourne.

 

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Today the government revealed how many excess winter deaths there were last year. Fuel Poverty Action and Reclaim the Power are holding a demonstration in London, along with providing information on energy rights and advice on how to protect yourself and your community.

From Fuel Poverty Action:

“Despite a mild winter and ‘relatively mild flu season’ there were still more than 18,000 Excess Winter Deaths last year- meaning that more than 6,000 people in the UK died from the impacts of a cold home.
We think this is an outrage. Join us today to demand change.”

See the Facebook event here.

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By Tomas Davidson

Ever more regularly I hear phrases like “austerity”, “rationalisation” and “deficit” bandied about in social parlance, a backdrop for pub conversations, the soundtrack to staff room lunch hours, but rarely do I pay it much attention. In fact, apart from some ill-informed lambasting of our financial system (normally after a few ales) I barely even think about it.

citizens-advice-bureau

I can no longer disregard these terms as abstract notions, small-scale concerns that bubble around quietly in my subconscious but must recognise them for what they are; real threats to the lives and liberties of the most vulnerable in our society. I know this because I know what is going to happen to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

I was a volunteer and employee of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Manchester for 3 years. This is a service that supports 30,000 people every year, day in and day out. Over the course of my time there I was amazed by the commitment and compassion shown by its volunteers and staff and watched CAB help countless people perilously perched on the verge of disaster be pulled back from the brink through hard work and a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge. Benefit appeals, homelessness applications, unfair dismissal claims, debt advice, these are all the normal affairs and narrowly averted disasters that occur inside the CAB offices every single day.

The latest austerity measures, however, are set to toll the death knell for the Citizens Advice Bureau in Manchester. Manchester City Council are proposing cuts to advice services of 50-75%. This, on top of the removal of the majority of legal aid contracts, will be one wound too many for the charity.

If the proposals go ahead, the already stretched service will face total dissolution. The three remaining bureaus in Manchester will be forced to close, the city wide telephone advice service will go dead and the outreach services will stop. Redundancies will abound.

Apart from the tragedy of losing these skilled workers, whose many years of experience in the advice sector will be discarded and who may soon have a very personal need for the kind of advice they were trained to give, who will be the real victims of austerity? As always, it will be the most vulnerable and misrepresented who will pay the price. With the last bastion spent these people must now unravel the complex entanglement of the benefit system alone. They must advise themselves when their houses are to be repossessed or when bailiffs come knocking, lying about their statutory powers. Bills will pile up, appeals will go un-submitted and employees will be subjugated.

So what have I learnt about “austerity”, “rationalisation” and “deficit”? Extreme spending cuts are for the best right? The only way to drag the country out of a black hole of debt? Call me cynical but in a nation where household disposable income fell for everyone but the richest 5th of households this year, where the rates of tax continues to be slashed for the top 1%, where the proportion of GDP going to the state will be the lowest in western Europe by 2015 (lower than even the US); I have to question the mentality behind removing the provision of advice and dissolving a charity symbolic of our right to question the authority of the administration. A charity which attempts to champion social recourse.

In my opinion CAB are being shut down by jargon. Language is being used to tell a powerful political story that convinces us that spending cuts are a necessary evil, used to excuse social injustice, and to justify deprivation and despair. Shut down people’s means of expressing their dissatisfaction and you effectively silence them.

“Austerity”, “rationalisation” and “deficit” – it’s a gagging order.

Please sign this and make our voices heard.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Last week, renowned journalist John Pilger spoke at a Q&A on media power with Des Freedman from the Media Reform Coalition who released his new book ‘The Contradictions of Media Power.’

We have picked some of our favourite quotes from John Pilger during the talk, which give us an insight of his experience and understanding of media power, which is something we can all learn from. And he definitely puts it best.

john-pilger

 

“The whole essence of media is not about information. It’s about power.”

 

“Today the media is, as the father of propaganda, Edward Bernays described, ‘an invisible government.’ It’s in the government. It’s in the government’s vested interests. The Prime Minister is a PR man by trade, and not a very good one. That’s all he is. He shouldn’t be taken seriously, he just has the position. That position allows him certain aspects of power. But the real power resides in propaganda and the media. That’s true now all over the world.”

 

“In the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the journalism played a very, very critical role in ensuring that invasion took place. Especially in the United States, which has constitutionally the freest press in the world.

“Now, when discussing this with a number of distinguished colleagues in the US and in this country, following the invasion, they were unanimous in saying, had journalists in responsible positions, both in television and in newspapers (especially television because of it’s power), had they questioned the deceptions, had they challenged them, had they done their jobs as journalists, had they as Dan Rather of CBS said – asked the critical second question, instead of amplifying and echoing the lies told as pantomime. Had they done their job, they believe that invasion might not have taken place. The fact that they were saying that, and these are people from well inside the media establishment on both sides of the Atlantic, saying that had those journalists done their job, that invasion might not have taken place, and hundreds of thousands of people would be alive today. That’s the power of the media.”

 

“You’re working within a system that is inherently hostile to truth telling. And I don’t say that as satire, I mean that. It is hostile to truth telling. One only has to see the media reaction to the truth tellers Edward Snowden, Julian Assange. The bitter reaction of people who shamed much of the media, almost at a stroke.”

 

“There is something called censorship by omission. You don’t really discuss what you leave out but it’s left out.”

 

“If you look back to 2008, the stories on BBC News, all over the papers, the banks were suddenly crooks. When Northern Rock collapsed, the banks were crooks, they were all exposed. The Guardian was full of tombstones of copy about how the banks were rotten from the inside. It was the story.

A glimpse. That story ended after about three months and it was turned around, that it wasn’t really the bankers, but it all came down to a national debt and a controlled narrative was there and it’s called austerity and that debt had to be paid off. Why? Why did it have to be paid off? The people that you quote (46% of people believe that austerity has gone too far or is not needed) that’s a majority really. If you’re getting that in the poll, 46%, that’s a majority. Proving again that most people are ahead of the media. They usually are, they’re ahead of the media as far as going to war, they’re ahead of the media in terms of the economics of their lives, how they live.

So we saw this glimpse of the truth of this massive criminality……all the rotten architecture had collapsed…almost collapsed. Banks were nationalised. Banks were nationalised with no conditions. The consciousness of how this happened which was there, for I suppose about six months, was, thanks to a very effective propaganda system, was shifted. That it wasn’t the banks’ fault, it was our fault.”

 

“We’ve almost got to stop using the term mainstream. It’s a misnomer. We’re always drawn to look through this prism of something called the mainstream. It’s not. It’s actually an extreme. What could be more extreme than various institutions that propagate rapacious illegal war, deception about economic policies. What could be more extreme than that? There’s nothing mainstream about that.”

 

“The greatest propaganda institute in Britain is the BBC. It is that because it has the greatest reputation. It has the greatest credibility. It has a worldwide reputation. Some of it earned. In news and current affairs, almost none of it earned. And I don’t say that again satirically. So this idea that we concentrate on the demons, Murdoch , the Daily Mail (bad enough), because in a way the Mail and the BBC compliment each other and they all follow each other. …It’s about understanding that spectrum of propaganda and how it affects all of us.”

 

Should journalists represent the people? Yes of course but as Martha Gelhorn famously said; “All journalism should be from the ground up, not from the top down.” It almost never is. And that is something again that has to be taught to young journalists.  These basic things that you do, the most reliable sources of the truth, not all the truth, but of a way of finding the truth are to be found at ground level. That’s my experience as a reporter. And I had to find out that the people who were above ground level, especially up there, were not reliable sources.”

 

This is the name of the talk held by the High Pay Centre last week. We have previously shared their brilliant work and along with this event, they also released a booklet with insightful essays that we suggest you read – you can download them here. 

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The talk began with Professor John Kay highlighting the stark reality of how entrenched the heavy and unfair hand of business in our government has come to be accepted:

“Prof Kay cited a case in the US in the 1870’s where a lobbyist had been hired by a company that subsequently refused to pay him as they didn’t like the outcome. The lobbyist sued the company.The case went to the Supreme court that took the view that lobbying was so repugnant, the contract was unenforceable.

“He contrasted this with a decision by the US Supreme court in 2010 that took the view that lobbying was protected by free speech.”

We are given a mantra day in, day out that business interests are somehow the interests of us all. That paying bank managers more is what we must do to ‘keep the talent’ that has overseen the corrupt architechture of the banks, with full impunity. So much so, that further damage is allowed, further corrupt practice, further lives ruined by the allowance of these interests to oversee the ‘solutions.’

Business in Government 

Everyday we see our ‘leaders’ bowing to corporate interests. Blair is believed to have once said of his alliance with Murdoch “It is better to be riding the tiger’s back than let it rip your throat out.” Throughout changes in party colours and faces in government, Murdoch has remained a presence in 10 Downing Street. Blair is Godfather to Murdoch’s grandchild, The Chipping Norton Set describe a village of affluent, connected power which include David Cameron, Rebekah Brookes and more. Not forgetting Cameron’s PR man throughout the election and beyond was former editor of the now defunct News of The World, Andy Coulson, who presided as editor during the phone hacking scandal. Indeed, have we ever seen a more successful ‘solution’ for corporate interests than in Leveson? The public are sold the idea of the investigation like no other, that justice will be served, before revealing that Blair advised Brooks to hold a public inquiry as he had done with Chilcot to peter out, to make some noise, but of no real consequence. Blair walked free.  As did Brooks and Murdoch after plenaries of amnesia.

Government decisions are now always made with corporate interests in mind. Murdoch’s power to distort the news with a 40% hold on UK media, is more important than public interest, or indeed, the truth to our politicians. Those funding political parties have sway over our laws and policies. Corporate lobbying is an investment, not an expense – the power given to companies, businesses and billionaires is access to the society we live in, a proven, working system of manipulating laws and motions to the interest of profit – with no interest paid to public feeling or indeed lives.

In the booklet from the High Pay Centre, Luke Hildyard, Deputy Director, describes in the foreword how controlled our politicians have come to be:

“During one meeting with a leading politician we were told that though they found a particular policy convincing, they were not prepared to say so publicly until business leaders do likewise….

Our experience at the High Pay Centre is instructive. Our polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of people support proposals to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest paid worker. When I discussed the idea on Sky news – owned by one of the UK’s biggest corporations – the interviewer suggested, probably correctly, that ‘it was never going to happen.’ The Spectator noted no mainstream politician ‘would embrace such a provocatively anti-capitalist measure.’

That the idea of capping executive pay, at say,  a mere 75 times that of their lowest-paid worker is seen as more provocative than pay gaps of that size and larger is perhaps worrying. But the issue with corporate power is less about whether big business is right or wrong about certain policies, than whether it is sustainable for them to exert such influence in the face of public opinion.”

IB43_700

And this is part of the crux, if it can be assumed that all ‘mainstream politicians’ could not support anti-capitalist measures, or anything that bucks the trend of money flowing to the top, it means we have no real choice (Read 8 Reasons why the UK is not a democracy).

Further, as business controls the leaders who speak about policy, and the media that feeds us information, business has worked hard to instil us with an amnesia that there can be anything other than this system. But there are plenty of alternatives now and in history…

“By the 1940s high rates of taxation deterred people at the top from trying to secure excessive pay rises. What was the point? They would receive only a fraction of the extra money when top tax rates were taken into account. To imagine what it was like, think of what the re-introduction of higher taxation today might mean. A chief executive could receive as little as 10% today on earnings over £500,000 a year, if they could be taxed at 90%. There would therefore be little point in asking for pay rises once you were on £500,000. Double your pay after that, to a nominal £1million a year, and you would receive only an extra £50,000 for all your supposedly additional efforts.”

Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid

This kind of taxation was taking place not so long ago. The fact that we have come so far in the changes to wealth distribution, shows how destructive this path is. Take a look at the news to see the entrenched contradictions of punishment and reward. The week the bedroom tax came in, which of those it affected two thirds were disabled, 96% had nowhere to move to in order to escape the charge, and arrears increased after it’s implementation. Some £14 from a person on between £65-150 a week can mean the difference between eating or heating. That same week, there was a tax cut for the rich, that would in essence eat up any of that money saved through hammering the poor. This is how in favour of business our government and entire system is. The news is littered with these contradictions – particularly during austerity.

The protection of these interests as we have seen in Leveson, in Chilcot, in Teresa May’s inability to find someone to head a child sex abuse inquiry into government who does not have links to those in question, in Priti Patel’s ‘rebellion’ as Conservative MP against plain cigarette packaging when she was an ex-lobbyist for the tobacco industry, in ex-Sun editor Richard Caseby’s lash out at the Guardian for inaccuracies in welfare reporting when his current organisation (a senior communications position at the DWP!) have been publicly reprimanded for manipulation of welfare statistics to push through punishing policy, demonstrate how much a part of the fabric they have come to feel. But they still are working against the public interest.

Image: Shouldwe.org

Image: Shouldwe.org

Last night, BBC Panorama did an investigation into small businesses who were made bankrupt by their banks following the 2008 crash. They did this by manipulating house price valuations and cutting them in half in order to hurry on business owners to sell their assets (despite enjoying good business prior to this) and by bringing in administrators to ‘help’ who would then gain access to business information, and continue administrating for the bank when they demand the business sell up. This shows how free these companies are to manipulate our entire lives for their benefit. And this happens everyday.

Tamasin Cave, from Spinwatch, was also at this HIgh Pay Centre talk. She had worked to instate a lobbying register, to give transparency to the world of corporate lobbying. Unsurprisingly, there is always a way out. A register has been instated but it is shoddy, there is no obligation to record the meetings that would shed light on political affiliations and decisions, and therefore it is of no use.

What the real results of overbearing and insidious corporate interests really mean is a society where these interests are neither punished, nor questioned. They are above the law. As we are choked on the image of potential benefit fraudsters, our entire society is under a heist by the city. The Libor scandal, where the manipulation of inter-bank lending rates affected trillions of pounds of transactions has still seen no one jailed, but the government has introduced an increase to a 10 year maximum penalty for benefit fraudsters to keep us all safe.

“At the very lowest level of housing fraud is someone begging for money for a bed for the night or just for a cup of tea, only to use the money they are given to buy a can of beer…Whether it’s £20 of unwarranted housing benefit claimed, £2000 cash in hand to a builder or a £200,000 bonus secured because your Libor guesses were correct (after having manipulated them with your mates), it is still fraud. It is, however, fraud that increases by several orders of magnitude as you move up the spectrum. It would take millions of acts of homeless people all uttering the same lie to equate to a single lie of a single banker awarded a bonus.”

Danny Dorling, All That Is Solid

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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1) 71 Coalition MPs named and shamed for profiting from NHS sell-off

Unite the Union has published a list of 64 Tories and 7 Liberal Democrats who all profited from reform and plans to sell off our NHS.

“Named on the list of 71 Coalition MPs…are David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, along with former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – proving that corruption played a huge part in the introduction of private firms into NHS work.”

How many of them declared this clear conflict of interest while voting for the Health and Social Care Act in 2012? None seems the most likely answer.

According to the Daily Mirror, “All 71 MPs named in the dossier voted in favour of the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Act in 2012, which opened up the NHS to more private firms.”

Mike Sivier, Vox Political

Read more about this story here.

2) 10,000 students march against fees and cuts

Around 10,000 students marched on 19th November in a protest for free education.

This was the largest mobilisation since the student demos of 2010 and it largely passed peacefully.

Paint was daubed on the NUS building after a withdrawal of support for the action:

‘We did not organise what happened at the NUS but we do know students are very angry about being let down by the NUS,’ said Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which was one of the groups that organised today’s demonstration. ‘When you see the numbers here today they are in danger of becoming an irrelevance.’

There were some scuffles with police, when at one point several hundred protestors pulled down metal fences to take over the space at Parliament Square.

ALL arrestees were released without charge.

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“Aaron Kiely, from the Student Assembly Against Austerity and a member of the NUS national executive, said their message was very simple: a return to free education and an alternative to tuition fees.

“Students are really angry because we go to university and then at the end of it we get an average of £40,000-worth of debt. That puts you in a hell of a difficult position when you start to think about a mortgage and a family. We need an alternative.”

Organisers say this is the start of a wave of action before the General Election.

Read more about this story here.

3) Cameron warns of ‘looming crash’

David Cameron warned that the eurozone was facing a third recession during closing speeches at G20, as unemployment and staggered growth continue to halt economic improvements. Austerity has failed to measures the PM can no longer hide, it is not working and therefore further cuts would be propagating a lie –  we can take this as the confession.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

“The eurozone is teetering on the brink of a possible third recession, with high unemployment, falling growth and the real risk of falling prices too,” Cameron writes. “Emerging market economies which were the driver of growth in the early stages of the recovery are now slowing down. Despite the progress in Bali [trade talks in 2013], global trade talks have stalled while the epidemic of Ebola, conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine are all adding a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Iain Duncan Smith laughs during panic room woman’s challenge against bedroom tax

An unnamed woman challenged the government on Wednesday after being hit by the bedroom tax on her ‘spare room’.

“The “spare room” that the government want to penalise her for having is a specially adapted “Panic Room”. It’s there to provide a safe space for her and her child if her abusive ex-partner – who has raped and assaulted her – tries to cause her further harm.”

Incredibly, IDS argued the case FOR the government and the tax to a hearing in June where he unsuccessfully asked for the case to be dismissed.

While the case was read out in detail by Ed Miliband, according to MP Fiona O’Donnell, IDS just laughed at the story.

Read more about this story here and here.

5) Occupy Democracy returns to Parliament Square

Protestors from Occupy Democracy returned to Parliament Square over the weekend to again demand democracy and more representative and participatory Parliament.

Image: Commondreams.org

Image: Commondreams.org

The website reads:

“Last month, we occupied Parliament Square peacefully for nine days. The Establishment responded with a strategy designed to have a chilling effect – over-policing and media silence. We remained peaceful and resolute in our determination to make our point, and to demand our right to protest and assemble. Our numbers grew and we kept on with our solutions-focused programme of debates, talks and entertainment. On the final night we agreed a provisional set of demands.”

Read more about this story here.

 

Ranjan Kumaran  – @financialeyes 

The ongoing marketisation of the NHS made further progress in the Deregulation Bill at the House of Lords on Tuesday. 

Listen to the BBC’s Today In Parliament and you wouldn’t know. They chose to devote the full half hour to discussing various other aspects of the Deregulation Bill such as pub licensing and the sale of alcoholic ice cream to children.

Lady Williams, who spoke in favour of alcoholic chocolate consumption, is one of the peers who got the Health and Social Care Bill through the Lords for the Lib Dems.

There are other Lib Dem links to lobbying for private health – though few as prominent as that of Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (Miriam Clegg) and Tim Clement Jones.

According to Tuesday’s Hansard Transcript, the NHS was indeed debated as part of the Deregulation Bill.

Journalist and TTIP observer @glynmoody describes the Deregulation Bill as being like a mini-TTIP for the UK.

It’s scope to get rid of existing regulations seems unlimited. At a recent meeting on TTIP and the Deregulation Bill organised by the Stop TTIP campaign, Health Campaigner Lucy Reynolds of NHA party says, all known UK law is “up for grabs”.

Topics on Tuesday included the Transfer of Criminal and Financial Liability when NHS Trusts or Foundation Trusts are merged or transferred.

I can’t think why Sean Curran and the BBC thought this wouldn’t warrant a mention. Corporate capture by the City Lobby? Government Dictat, self censorship?

Who knows. I’d love to FOI the BBC about this but you can’t get any sense out of an unregulated regime broadcaster whose incomplete and therefore erroneous reporting is constantly defended as ‘editorial independence’.

Today, the Efford Bill gets it’s second reading and MPs will choose whether to back it.

Image: castrust.org

Clive Efford Image: castrust.org

You might think the Privatisation of the NHS, as a Neo-Liberal Project, would merit sensible discussion somewhere in the press. And you’d be right.  There was some coverage of the Efford Bill in the Guardian the other day.  However the comment section seems much closer to the mark than the article.

The Guardian seem pretty comfortable with this Efford Bill.

Today they promoted a 38 Degrees advert backing the Bill.

Not all campaigners agree with the Guardian’s position.

Given their support for War, Austerity, TTIP, Deregulation and PFI, many find it hard to see the Labour Party as anything other than a False Friend.

For anyone genuinely interested in this issue, I recommend reading this response. And this. These rebuttals points out the failings and inconsistencies in the Efford Bill.

A quick glance at the kinds of conversations taking place in the House of Lords this week makes for uncomfortable reading. I am disappointed at the lack of coverage the Bills are getting in the Mass Media. Even though this article only superficially points at the laws the UK government is currently passing, for some reason it seems to be one of only a few articles making any criticism of the Deregulation Bill at all.

State and Billionaire owned Media are preventing healthy discussion of politics in this country.

Please Share. Bring on the Real Media.

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Thomas Barlow – @tbarls

Like many people I have been in and out of work over the past couple of years.

Every job is temporary, or low paid, or unspecified hours, or all of them together.  And all of the jobs come to an end.

Recently I decided that I was going to stop this cycle and follow my dream of becoming a writer.  This is it,  this is what I will do, or die in the process.

So when I was told, suddenly, by my advisor, that I had to come in every day to the jobcentre for the next two weeks at least, I finally felt confident enough to speak back.

Though not at the time I was told.  As my interview was ending my advisor told me

“Oh, and you have to come in every day for the next two weeks, starting tomorrow”

“Really?  Oh ok” I replied meekly and got up to go.  Oh come on Barlow, you are supposed to be a Welfare rights journalist, try again!

“Actually, um,” I sat down.  “Err, could you tell me why I have to come in?”

“Oh I don’t know, we don’t have time to cover that here.  I have booked you an appointment with your special advisor to help you sign off as you are going to declare yourself self-employed.  You can ask them”

“Ok, when will I meet them?”

“Three weeks.”

“Is this really necessary?  I just want to sign off with the right support, do I need to come in?”

“If you don’t come in you’ll be sanctioned.  It is as simple as that.”

I half expected her to say ‘I don’t make the rules…”  Or “Just doing my job…”

*****

I go home.  Raging.

It is the straw.

There is no explaining it, but all the humiliation and fear and shame of years of sporadic employment wells up within me, and makes me unfathomably angry.

From the outside it may seem perfectly reasonable.  You don’t have a job, you should do what you’re told, and shut up.

And that is part of the fear and misery of being unemployed.

You don’t feel like you have the right to be treated like a human.  It is perfectly fine to be treated like cattle, for the mere crime of being unable to become a wage slave.

I am signing off.  Forever.  All the years of being treated as ‘less than’ finally bubble up through my usually meek and polite barriers.  I am going to talk about this.

*****

I arrive at 10.30am, on the dot.

“If you can just take a seat here, I will sign you in.”

“Why am I here?”

“If you can just take a seat…”

“Why am I here?”

“Has no one explained?  Well I am afraid I can’t tell you.  All I know is if you don’t sign this and sit here, we can take your benefits away.”

“You mean my right to live?  Why?”

“I’ll see if I can get someone to answer your questions now, then.”

*****

I am introduced to my special advisor.

“So why am I here?  This isn’t in my jobseekers agreement.”

“Quite frankly Mr Barlow, we can do what we like with you.  You have to come in when we tell you to, or else we will sanction you.”

“You mean you will take away the means for me to live.  Fine.  You have the gun to my head, why am I here?”

“You shouldn’t see it as a gun to your head.  This is an opportunity.  I have loads of clients who wish they could be in here daily.”

“Well I don’t.  And it is a gun to my head.  You can take away all of my money, make me homeless and allow me to starve.  You know sanctions kill people right?  It’s a nice word for a dirty act.”

“Look Mr Barlow, quite frankly we have got the powers we wanted.  Not everyone sees it that way, but I do.   There are people who do spend their time actively job seeking. If you are not willing to search for a job for 35 hours a week…”

“We deserve to die?”

“Well…”

“Because that’s the crux of it isn’t it?  You are saying that in a world of plenty, where there is way more than enough to go around” and there is you know, more homes than homeless, more food in the bin than the hungry could eat, more energy in the world than we all could use  “that if I refuse to be disciplined by you and the state, then I should die.”

“I know what you are saying, I used to be a job seeker myself”  They always have been, job advisors. “I know how hard it can be.  I was refused benefits for months, you don’t have to die.” Nice change of tack.

“How did you get through it?”

“I lived with my mum who supported me.”

“So what about people without family, or without means, or without space, or spare cash?  I mean isn’t this the point of Welfare?  It is a way of looking after each other, because we all have – or should have – more than enough. It isn’t supposed to be disciplinary.  It is not supposed to be something you punish people with, force them to do unwaged work, or make them feel small.”

“That’s not what I want to do.  I want to help people back into work.”

“But that isn’t what you do any longer is it?  You have to find ways to take our means to live away from us.”

“Well it is not what I want to do.”

“OK.  So why am I here again?”

“Because if you don’t come in you’ll be sanctioned.”

“Right…”

*****

I spent the two weeks writing articles and emails on my phone in the job centre.  The computers didn’t have access to email (though they did have access to facebook), so i just made do.

After making a fuss about the pointlessness of the whole exercise, I was left to my own devices.

My fellow ‘jobseekers’ (I would prefer to think of them as human beings, but there we go), spent the two weeks bemusedly looking at Facebook and LinkedIn, before occasionally asking if they could leave to go on a job interview.  They twiddled their thumbs and kept their heads down.

I guess that is what they want from us all.

*****

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Hestia, a charity delivering supported housing, registered care, domestic violence refuges, community outreach services and day centres across London, today expressed concerns about changes to the welfare system saying that Government reforms are failing vulnerable people – with less and less practical support being available to people in urgent need.

Hestia’s services support adults and children who are in crisis. For example they support people with mental health needs as well as helping 500 victims of domestic abuse every day through the largest number of domestic abuse refuges in the capital.

In responding to the Government’s current consultation on Local Welfare Provision, the charity spoke to staff and service users across its schemes to get a real view of how the removal of Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, as well as cuts to discretionary funds are having on the most vulnerable in society.

Hestia found that vulnerable people are not being adequately protected by the current system.

A series of case studies found it common that women moving on from domestic abuse refuges would have no access to beds, fridges, cookers, washing machines or other essential household items as they moved into empty and unfurnished accommodation. This situation could remain unresolved for months due to current constraints and delays. The Government proposals could withdraw discretionary support entirely and make the situation even worse.

Patrick Ryan, Chief Executive of Hestia, said:

“From our experience of working with vulnerable people across London every day, we can see that the  previous changes to the welfare system are failing those most in need. We are concerned that further changes and reductions to discretionary support will have devastating effects on the most vulnerable.”

“We already see that discretionary assistance is inadequate to meet the needs of vulnerable people at a time of crisis. For example, we have seen women who are pregnant or with severe physical health needs being denied a bed to sleep in or a cooker to feed themselves for months on end.”

“One service manager stated that of the 290 tenants she supports, around a quarter had made enquiries for financial and practical assistance – and none of these had been successful under the current provision. These setbacks undo much of our work to rebuild people’s lives. The human and financial costs of not providing these essential necessities are much greater than the financial commitment required to do so.”

On 14th November a jobs fair was held in Chingford, the constituency of Iain Duncan Smith.

Under threat of sanction and checked for letters from the jobcentre, unemployed people from around the borough attended (According to the PCS union, there has been a 350% increase in sanctions for those on sickness benefits, and 920,000 people on JSA have been sanctioned in the year up to March 2014).

Despite being the poster boy due to open the fair, IDS snuck in at 08:30am and scarpered way before the 10am start. Outside a small herd of police manned a handful of protestors. We went along to speak to some of them. Thanks to Lucas Hinchey for the film work here.

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Kam Sandhu