Archives For benefits

1) Oxfam reveals 1% own half world’s wealth and increasing

New research released on Monday, by anti-poverty charity Oxfam, reveals that the top 1% own around half the world’s wealth, and if current trends continue, they will own more than the other 99% by next year.

In 2009, the 1% owned 44% of the world’s wealth. By 2014, this had increased to 48%. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% own just 5.5%.

Oxfam released this released their report ahead of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and said they would use their profile at the Forum to put pressure on countries and groups to tackle this increasing inequality.

 

Screen shot 2015-01-24 at 11.49.16

Read more about this story here.

2) 40% of British families ‘too poor to play a part in society’

Those aiming to keep subjects like the wealth gap, and the increasing power and wealth of the 1%, out of the limelight, often claim that this has no bearing on the poor, and that focus should be on the poor instead of ‘attacking the rich’. They will aim to break the relation between increasing wealth for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor, but that money is being taken out of societies, from public money, public services, and welfare. The same year 1million people needed a food bank in the UK, the rich list increased their wealth by 15%.

Now the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released a report detailing that 4 in 10, or 8.1 million people, live below an income required to play a part in society. This increased by a third from 2008/09 to 2012/13.

The findings show ‘economic growth’ is not happening for those that need it most.

“The definition of minimum income threshold assumes a single person of working age needs an income of £16,284. It suggests in the case of a couple with two children, each needs to reach an income threshold of £20,400. It does not pretend to be a poverty measure, or act as a substitute for the government’s half-abandoned child poverty measure of the numbers earning 60% below median earnings. It is instead a definition of the income required to have not just food, shelter and clothes, but also to be able to be a participant in society.

“The definition, reached in discussion with the public through focus groups, looks at what a household needs to be integrated in society and has been used in the past as a benchmark for the living wage.

“It includes, for instance, the ability to pay for a week’s holiday in the UK, or a second-hand car for families with children. It assumes no cigarettes or visits to the pub.”

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government challenged on benefit figures, as new poll shows British claimants in EU outnumber immigrants here

A new survey, conducted by the Guardian newspaper, shows that the number of Britons claiming benefits across the EU, outnumber immigrants from respective countries claiming here, going against government figures.

For example the report says that 23,011 Britons were on welfare in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, France and Ireland, compared to just 8720 of those nationals claiming here.

The survey was conducted on 23 of the 27 EU countries.

“Thirty thousand people, or 2.5% of all British nationals, in other EU member states means that the overwhelming majority of Brits abroad as well as European citizens in Britain are not an undue burden for the countries in which they live,” said Dr Roxana Barbulescu, researcher on international migration at the University of Sheffield, to the Guardian.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Farage admits he wants to privatise NHS

in 2012, UKIP leader Nigel Farage let slip that he would ‘feel more comfortable’ with a privatised NHS. Spin doctors did their best to say that he had changed his mind, despite Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall also expressing his desire to let privatisation in.

Now Farage says this is a debate he will have to return to, revealing that he is courting the idea of implementing a US style insurance scheme. Bear in mind, the US spends the most on healthcare and has the worst system in the developed world.

Image: Leftfootforward

Image: Leftfootforward

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Hinchingbrooke hospital became the first to be declared ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission, and was accused of putting patient safety at risk, with tactics including skeleton staffing. The hospital was owned by Circle Health, a private healthcare company which won healthcare contracts following donations to the Tory party.

Read more reasons why the NHS does not need privatisation. 

Read more about this story here.

5) There are 10 homes for every homeless family in England

The Mirror revealed that there are 10 homes for every homeless family in England, and yet numbers of homeless people keep rising.

While efforts by Labour to reduce homelessness over five years of government saw figures drop from 100,000 to 48,000, the number of homeless people has been increasing again since 2011.

While some of these empty homes are waiting for renters or sales, many are being held empty by investors.

The Labour government brought in a ‘use it or lose it’ policy that allows councils to seize properties left empty for 6 months. The Tories extended this to two years upon their election and even resisted attempts to multiply council tax on these homes.

Image: The MIrror

Image: The MIrror

Read more about this story here.

6) Steve Emerson laughed off BBC News

American ‘Terrorism expert’ (lol) Steve Emerson, who hit the headlines the other week for saying that Birmingham in the UK is a ‘no-go zone for non-Muslims’ was interviewed on the BBC about his comments and where he got his ‘findings’. It’s quite funny.

 

 

7) Occupy Democracy return to Parliament Square

 

Occupy Democracy enter Parliament Square, Judicial Review, 24th January 2014 from Occupy London on Vimeo.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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The Mail and Migration

kamsandhu —  November 6, 2014 — 1 Comment

“Migrants from outside the EU have taken £120 billion more from the state than they paid in taxes over 17 years”  

This headline is typical of the Daily Mail – a paper once described as ’the worst of British values dressing up as the best’ – in painting ‘foreigners’ as drains on ‘us Brits’.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

Interestingly the article is a response to the apparent good news that EU migrants have contributed £20bn to the economy in less than a decade.

The Mail clearly views this as a myth that needs to be debunked – fair enough, let’s see what they have to say.

  • Report finds immigrants have cost more in handouts than paid in taxes

This is true, because it turn out all British people have cost more in ‘handouts’ than paid in taxes.  There is a deficit – or shortfall in taxes to expenditure, but this is mainly due to a massive bank bailout in 2008 of £1.7 TRILLION that has had to be shared by all of us.

  • Non-European migrants living in Britain have cost £120billion since 1995

The suggestion here, as in the headline, that this has been a cost that has been more than the contributions made by Non EU migrants.  This again is a cost that has been assessed by the total debt accrued by us all and dividing it proportionally, we all have a stake in this debt.

  • By contrast EU migrants since 2000 made a net contribution of £20billion

Great. EU migrants are largely (65%) university graduates here to do high paid jobs which mean they are able to contribute more, so that’s nice.

  • Research comes at a time when there is public concern over migration

Yes there is – because the Daily Mail (a paper read by nearly 3 million people) – runs daily stories on the negative effects of immigration by misrepresenting the truth.

Ultimately this is story of British Debt:

“Over the 17 fiscal years considered, the amount of public expenditures received by natives [Britons] exceeds the amount of government revenues they contributed in 12 instances.

Although such is also the case for non-EEA immigrants for all 17 fiscal years, it applies to EEA immigrants for seven years.”

They almost correctly assess the cause:

“Factors include rising unemployment and the large welfare bill during the financial crash, which began in 2008.”

It is true to cite rising unemployment as a factor, it would also be true to cite lower wages, job instability, welfare cuts (which cost more than they save), rising tax avoidance by corporations, outsourcing, large scale banking fraud, economic recession, and the nature of neoliberal capitalism.

It would also be true to cite the limiting of economic opportunity for the poor and ethnic minorities (Non EEA migrants tend to be both).

Due to the grammar of the following point I am not precisely sure of the meaning of ‘the large Welfare bill during the financial crash’, but I assume it is an attempt to associate the cause of the financial crash with a large welfare bill.

That is absolutely not the case.  The financial crash, and subsequent debt has nothing to do with the welfare bill.  Nor does the rise in unemployment and increase in low paid jobs – these are all to do with the ideological reforms done in the name of austerity (and the neoliberalism of Thatcher and subsequent leaders).

The reason for a shortfall of tax revenue to expenditure per person has several causes, but this has little to do with migrants or the welfare bill.  A focus on those at the top, who are skimming off more than millions of us together could if we tried, would be more fruitful in the search for the cause of this.

But then we would probably have to examine all those who advertise in the paper – and those who own it…

A note on sources

Civitas and Migrant Watch are both hard right think tanks funded by billionaires.  They are ‘independent researchers’ – they have an agenda to divide and rule for the economic elite and they help push it by feeding these flimsy excuses of stories to the national press

A note on the Liberal Press

They are almost as bad in many ways.   They want to paint migrants as only valuable for what money they can make the country – as economic units.

They also engender a kind of jealousy for the working class.  Migrants have all the low paid jobs, and the high paid university jobs.  It is easy to be pissed off at both, when you are being discipled for not getting jobs that don’t exist, or are working your arse off for nothing.

We are all human beings.  We live in a world of plenty.  We could be freed from lots of work, from jealousy, from division and competition.  We could be on an adventure together.


When we talk about people, we must talk about how we can work together to build something better, not talk about how we are ‘worth’ more or less than others.

Thomas Barlow

1) Britain’s slow recovery is historically unprecedented

We said before that this had been the slowest recovery for a hundred years, but it seems Osbourne is breaking records with this one, as it is in fact the slowest recovery in 314 years! (We are still using the word ‘recovery’ in a mocking way, bytheway). David Blanchflower, Independent Journalist, decided to dig a little deeper at the record of the coalition, and found that not only is this the slowest recovery in over three centuries but the Coalition did choke the recovery’s progress.

Image: the Telegraph

Image: the Telegraph

“First, all previous recessions’ lost output was restored in four years or less, in contrast with just over six years – in fact 76 months according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research – for the current recession. Second, it is apparent that the steepness of the path of recovery in all previous recessions was approximately the same, that is to say, the slopes of all the upward lines pre-2008 is approximately the same. Third, the recovery under Labour between Q32009 and Q32010 also broadly followed that same path, as does the current recovery over the last year or so.

“Finally, what is unprecedented is the flatlining of the economy in the Great Recession under the Coalition, once the recovery was already underway, from around months 37 (February 2011) through month 59 (December 2012). In February 2011 GDP was 4.9 per cent below the starting level; it was 4.2 per cent below it in January 2012 and still 4.2 per cent below in December 2012. It had still only reached minus 3.1 per cent by May 2013, in month 64. The Coalition killed off recovery at birth.”

Read more about this story here.

2) Osbourne suggests welfare money should be redirected onto high-speed rail links for north

George Osbourne has suggested that welfare payments which provide no ‘real economic return’ should be redirected into creating high speed rail links and infrastructure for the north of country.

Osbourne suggested that welfare payments can indeed ‘trap people in poverty’ – this is true in some ways, but if we were to remove these welfare payments to build more trains, people would still be trapped in a state of poverty, whilst a train they cannot afford a ticket for is built outside their house.  We have a suggestion for what we could do with redirected welfare payments – start the Universal Basic income – an unconditional income of £7000 a year could be granted to every citizen if we removed the welfare system altogether. Stay tuned for our article explaining the UBI this week.

3) 300,000 people wait five weeks for benefit payments in UK

A report published on Thursday by the TUC revealed that the Universal Credit scheme hits 300,000 people a month with a five week wait as it assesses benefit payments. Previously, you had to wait two weeks for payment. image

The new waiting time could see people going into 2 months of rent arrears before receiving support. The report revealed that 39,000 newly unemployed people will be hit by the wait each month. The report also revealed that only 1 in seven people knew about the plans, with 70% saying they would be worried if they had to wait this long if they lost their job.

The TUC has now launched their new campaign, Save Our Safety Net, highlighting the holes in the welfare system, including the five week wait.

Read about this story here.

4) Iain Duncan Smith interview

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

IDS gave a interview to a BBC journalist which demonstrated that he is achieving exactly what he set out to.

“And what of those stories of people suffering hardship because of benefits being reduced or not paid. “These stories about people in difficulty didn’t start the day I walked through the door. But of course those stories are sad and I want to find out about them – the speed with which you pick those up is what you really test yourself on.

“The reality is that the change itself should help resolve that, if you don’t change it they’re still going to be screaming.”

“Speed” as demonstrated by the previous story, doesn’t seem to be the Minister’s strong point. 1 million people using a food bank should probably sound alarms for IDS, or perhaps the fact that the main reason given for needing a food bank is benefit delays, and yet an even longer wait has been installed in the new flagship welfare system Universal Credit. Although, yes, we should have known from the fact this MInister has remained in his place past the reshuffle, that he is wholly being rewarded for the work he has done. The work that is so good, that IDS wants to suppress the reports of failures and costs of implementation from the public. All at public expense of course.

Read the interview here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

A shocking report launched today (Thursday 12 June) has found that the back to work support provided through the Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus is causing severe anxiety for people with disabilities and pushing them further from the job market.
 
Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group’ is based on data from over 500 people with a range of physical and mental health problems. All respondents had been assigned to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) having applied for the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). People in the WRAG can have their benefits stopped if they do not engage with work preparation schemes.
 
This research found that the Work Programme or Jobcentre Plus had helped just five per cent of respondents move into work, while six in 10 people said that their health, finances, confidence and sense of purpose had all suffered as a result.
Most people who responded to the survey had been compelled to undertake compulsory back-to-work activities or have their benefits cut. The majority said their disabilities were not acknowledged or accommodated and made engaging in such activities difficult. Eighty per cent of people said they felt anxious about not being able to access activities and 70 per cent were worried about their benefits being cut.
 
The actual or threatened cutting of benefits is meant to motivate people to get back to work, but the report suggests motivation is not a problem. Sixty per cent were strongly committed to work, 30 per cent weren’t sure they could work and just 10 per cent either didn’t want to, or didn’t think they’d be able to, work. For most people (90 per cent), their health or impairment was the main barrier to work.
 
The report was produced by Catherine Hale, a Work Programme service user, with support from the mental health charity Mind and the Centre for Welfare Reform. Catherine currently claims ESA due to myalgic encephalopathy (ME), a long term health condition, and said:
 
“The majority of disabled people want to work. However, people who have been awarded ESA have genuine and often severe health problems which make it difficult to access employment. The current system ignores these difficulties, and relies on the threat of sanctions to get people into work. It is no surprise that it is not only failing disabled people but causing additional distress and anxiety, on top of the barriers that they already face.
“At my first back to work meeting, the Jobcentre adviser accused me of fraud and threatened to stop my benefits if I didn’t try harder to get well. They assume that people are not working because of defective attitudes and morals, not because they’re ill or disabled. This is wrong and deeply damaging.
 
“People claiming ESA need to be placed with specialist organisations experienced in supporting disabled people into employment, not into mainstream welfare-to-work schemes. Employers should widen job opportunities and consider making adjustments to accommodate people with disabilities including flexible or shorter working hours and the option of working from home.
 
Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, commented:
 
“This report adds to the existing evidence that the current benefits system is failing people with disabilities and mental health problems. There is far too much focus on pressuring people into undertaking compulsory activities, and not nearly enough ongoing, tailored support to help them into an appropriate job.
 
“Just five per cent of people are actually managing to get into work through this process, while many people are finding that the stress they are put under is making their health worse and a return to work less likely. We urgently need to see an overhaul of this system.”
 
The report, which has been endorsed by a further 18 organisations including Mencap, RNIB, Parkinson’s UK and the National Autistic Society, also found:
 
  • Most people received generic back-to-work support such as CV writing classes with very few receiving specialist support. Over half the respondents felt their ‘action plan’ of activities was inappropriate for them, and six in 10 people felt no adaptations were made to activities to take account of their barriers.
 
  • Almost all respondents were threatened with sanctions if they failed to participate in mandatory activities. On average, respondents had at least three different kinds of difficulty in participating in activities due to their health condition or impairment. 50 per cent said these difficulties were not acknowledged and 70 per cent said no adjustments were made to accommodate their disability.
 
  • 87 per cent of respondents who failed to participate in a mandatory activity were prevented by factors relating to their health or impairment. Only 6.5 per cent had actually received a cut in benefits.
 
  • The majority of respondents said they wanted to work given the right support and a job suitable to their disability, and that they believed employers could make use of their talents if jobs were more inclusive. 82 per cent of respondents said their Work Programme provider or JCP made no effort to adapt jobs on offer to make it easier for them to work.
 
  • Most people agreed the most helpful would be a package of support agreed upfront so that they could reassure potential employers of their ability to do a job. Adjustments that employers could make included flexible hours, working from home, working fewer than 16 hours per week, increased confidence on the part of employers and recruitment through work trials rather than interviews.

1) Inside Whitehall: Iain Duncan Smith must go

The Major Project’s Authority (MPA), designed to oversee implementations of public services and schemes, released it’s second annual report last week. In it, contained the failures and successes of government flagship schemes such as HS2 and Universal Credit.

The schemes are graded on a green, amber, red rating. But Universal Credit, had been given a “meaningless” ‘reset’ rating. A lie.

The Universal Credit scheme had been given a red rating by the MPA but this had been changed due to protestations from Minister for Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and his DWP department.

IDS has shown himself to be incapable of overseeing this scheme time and time again, with losses in the millions written off and damaging staff surveys revealing poor management, high stress and frustration. One member of staff said the work was “soul-destroying.”

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

The MPA’s red rating deems the scheme “unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action.” IDS’s attempts to manipulate the outcome and public fallout by falsifying the rating portrays the ignorance which Whitehall uses to gloss over huge failures.

Apparently, David Cameron considered replacing IDS at the last re-shuffle of government, and this is more likely now. It cannot come a minute too soon, because for the rest of us, IDS’s record of failures and abuse of power without consequence, has long since moved past disbelief into outright despair.

Read more about this story here.

See a timeline of how the problems emerged here.

2) Racism on the rise in UK, increasing social division and placing more people at risk of poverty, warns JRF

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

Racism has increased since the start of the millennium with 30% of people admitting they at least a little prejudice towards people from other races. No prizes for guessing how this issue has been exacerbated by political discourse recently. But, the JRF warn that this means something far more damaging for our society:

“Over the last two years JRF has funded seven projects that have explored how poverty and ethnicity are linked. They found that racial prejudice can restrict people’s opportunities at work and their earning potential, cut their access to essential services and can affect children’s education, all of which increase the risk of poverty.”

“Racism was not something we asked the researchers to focus on. But it emerged as a key theme from every single study. We found that:

  • “Racism, and the fear of it, restricts access to social networks, preventing people from making links which could lead to jobs, support for small businesses, training and other opportunities.
  • “It can prevent people from being promoted at work, wasting their skills and potential.
  • “In some parts of the UK it leads to people from ethnic minority backgrounds being directed into work for which they are greatly overqualified.
  • “It intimidates people from leaving their own area to look for work or access services.
  • “It underlies some concerns that people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds have about using childcare or formal care for older people.
  • “Children’s education is affected by low expectations among teachers and by racist bullying.
  • “Access to vital services, such as primary healthcare, is affected by experiences of racism, particularly from frontline staff such as receptionists.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Council Tax Arrears now most common debt problem for Citizens Advice

Council tax arrears have become the most common debt problem for families needing help due to welfare reforms and changes in support, Citizens Advice announced on Monday.

The charity have dealt with 27,000 people needing help with council tax in the first three months of this year, up 17% on last year.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

Citizens Advice said that the increase had come since the abolition of help with council tax in April 2013, with new rules introduced relying on councils to offer help. There are varying degrees of support from council to council but 244 out of 325 in England now require all working-age households to make some contribution. Council tax has now overtaken credit cards and loans as the number one debt problem for those seeking advice.

“Of those contacting the charity about council tax arrears, 42% were employed and 28% unemployed. The rest were full-time carers, or similar.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Labour will not undo unpopular coalition cuts

Shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Chris Leslie announced on Friday that Labour ‘could not afford’ to undo unpopular coalition cuts. Sorry to say but you will get more of the same from a Labour government, who undoubtedly released this news to prove they are ‘responsible’ with money. We would prefer if they were just as focused on being responsible with people’s lives too.

‘I’m not heading into this expecting popularity. Quite the opposite. All government departments in the next Labour Government will have to face fundamental questions as never before. We won’t be able to undo the cuts that have been felt in recent years. And I know that this will be disappointing for many people. A more limited pot of money will have to be spent on a smaller number of priorities. Lower priorities will get less.’

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) BBC Bias and the rise of the right

66% of people didn’t vote. European voters were turned away and told to vote in their own country. What did the BBC report on? A continued creaming over UKIP. Time to tune out of mainstream media. Listen to Chunky Mark.

 

2) Day after elections, Cameron announces plans to frack without permission

Cleverly timed release of this news with minimal coverage and attention, could it have been planned d’you think?

Image: BBC - Gas test Well

Image: BBC – Gas test Well

Cameron has announced proposals for new plans to allow land access to frackers. Following the reactions he has had to fracking, it seems Cameron is attempting to undermine a debate he is losing. Now the Euro/local elections are over, it’s time to take back the debate on this – Click here and like this page for forthcoming Fracking debates, news and campaigns.

“The UK government has proposed new rules regarding rights to access land in a bid to speed up the introduction of fracking.

“It proposes that shale oil and gas companies are granted access to land below 300m from the surface.

“It also suggests firms pay £20,000 per well to those living above the land.”

BBC News

Read more about this story here.

3) £16bn of benefits go unclaimed each year, as charities urge people to claim their entitlement

You read right. £16bn.

In America things like the workfare programme caused people to fall off the books, just so they would not have to face the undignified process of the welfare system. Similar things are happening here. Yet, the coverage you see of welfare remains an over-reporting of fraud and villification of benefit claimants. In the year 2012/3 around 24% of all media coverage of welfare was about fraud despite fraud accounting for less than 1% of welfare spending, and amounting to £1.2bn. The term scrounger has become the icon of one of the most destructive and divisive campaigns our government has ever set upon.

On top of this, there is clear evidence that the welfare system is hard to navigate, there has been removal of support and there is a distinct lack of information about what people are ENTITLED to. All this against a backdrop of rising poverty and food bank usage.

people-helped-stats

Now, 27 charities including Save The Children, Help The Aged and Citizens Advice have written a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper, stating that £16bn of benefits go unclaimed and urging the DWP to ensure that money earmarked for children, families and pensioners who need it most is received.

“They said as many as four out of five low-paid workers without children were missing out on tax credits worth at least £38 a week, while half of working households entitled to housing benefit, worth an average of £37.60 a week, do not claim it.

Up to three million households are also thought to be missing out on council tax benefit, while as many as 1.7 million pensioners are thought not to be claiming the pensions credit, which would boost their income by an average of £31 a week.

Take up of housing benefit and council tax benefit have both fallen during the past decade, while take up of child tax credit is lower in London than other parts of the country and is around 10pc lower among people from ethnic minorities.”

The Telegraph

Read more about this story here.

4) ‘NHS will not exist under Tories’

Shadow Chancellor, Oliver Letwin told a private meeting that the NHS would not exist in 5 years under a Conservative election victory.

The remarks have been denied by Letwin since, but confirmed by several audience members and used by Labour to call out Conservative’s real plans for the National Health Service.

“The Shadow Chancellor said that the health service would instead be a “funding stream handing out money to pay people where they want to go for their healthcare”, according to a member of the audience.”

Read more about this story here.

5) PCS call for end to sanctions and workfare

Labour exchange employees have called for an end to sanctions and workfare schemes following a PCS union conference where Jobcentre workers explained the attacks taking place on welfare and how their jobs were making them depressed.

Image: The guardian

Image: The guardian

Jobcentre worker, Martin Humphrey said:

“We have to say to people that they have to live on nothing for two weeks. To make people destitute for two weeks is despicable.”

Many felt that frontline civil servants were used to dole out the attacks on the most vulnerable, whilst also facing the brunt of anger from the disabled, elderly and unemployed.

The PCS have resolved to fight welfare attacks with groups like DPAC and other trade unions.

Read more about this story here.

6) Martin Hadfield, 20, tragically commits suicide because he couldn’t get a job

20 year old Martin Hadfield applied for dozens of jobs, with no success. His self-worth was deeply affected, say his family. And less than 24 hours after meeting with a Jobcentre adviser, Hadfield killed himself.

Image: Mirror

Image: Mirror

This tragic, tragic story speaks of the pressure put on the unemployed as well as being “the inevitable result of a system that tells people their only value is in selling their bodies for money – or ‘employment’.”

Read “The Fetishisation Of Work Must Stop.”

7) JSA Sanctions – A guide

A handy Sanctions document, detailing how to avoid them has been circulating. Read here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) ‘Help To Work’ comes into effect today

A new government scheme starting today will put tough new requirements on the long-term unemployed to continue receiving benefit.

‘Help To Work’ will affect those who have already completed the Work Programme and have been out of work for longer than two years. These claimants will now have to take part in community placements for 30 hours a week, which could include picking up litter or removing graffiti. They will also have to ‘sign on’ at the job centre every day, and receive at least 4 hours of intensive job search monitoring with advisers each week.

Should claimants not find work after six months, they will be re-enrolled on the programme and sanctioned if they do not comply.

Recent statistics show that only 3% of those on the Work programme have gone on to find gainful employment, which suggests problems within the government system and approach. Community placements also seem a lot like community service under threat of sanction, a worrying treatment of the unemployed like criminals and once again an attempt by the coalition to fix unemployment by fixing the unemployed.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) Occupy Wonga – May 1st

Occupy, DPAC and UK Uncut have joined to stage an action on May 1st against ludicrous interest rates and pay day loans. The action will form part of the Worldwide Wave of Action running from April 4th to July 4th.

The plan for the day is:

“May Day Itinerary:-

12:00 (High Noon) Assemble at Clerkenwell Green.

13:00 March sets off

2:30 Rally in Trafalgar Square in Honour of Tony Benn and Bob Crow.

As soon as the rally is finished, we march. When we arrive at the target we will occupy a space and Occupy London will hold a General Assembly on site; the assembly agenda will be confirmed on the day, by those present.

Supporting this action on the day will be:- *Occupy London *Disabled People Against The Cuts *Fuel Poverty Action *ClassWar *The Resistance Movement Of The UK”

Image: Occupy

Image: Occupy

Read more about this story here.

 3) Councils are sitting on £67m of emergency help

A Freedom of Information request obtained by the Guardian revealed that councils are sitting on £67m of the £136m given out to help with emergency appeals.

Record numbers of families are being turned down for help despite many being left penniless and hungry by benefit sanctions, welfare reforms and the bedroom tax. 4 in 10 applications are turned down for emergency help. In some places as few as one in 10 receive crisis loans.

Councils told the Guardian that they had given out less help than in the past because the public knew less about the schemes, with some failing to advertise that there was help available.

Read more about this story here.

4) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth

Real Talks’ first event went well on Thursday last week with a great discussion about current experiences, unemployment, policies and alternatives. Keep an eye on RealFare for the video and photos! Thanks to all those who attended.

1901420_1472443842973036_1787121605485013420_n

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

As we get closer to our Employment debate –  ‘A Job’s Worth’ on Thursday 24th April @ Hoxton Hall, we bring you some insight from a Jobcentre adviser on their experiences of welfare reforms since the coalition came to power. This is one of two separate interviews with anonymous Jobcentre advisers (the next one will be posted next week). In this one, we talk about the effects of sanctions on claimants, and what vital services have been removed from Jobcentres.

Image: Welfare News Service

Image: Welfare News Service

How long have you worked in the Job Centre?

“I don’t wish to be specific about the actual length of time I’ve worked for the DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) in JCP (Job Centre Plus) but it is less than 10 years.”

What are your thoughts and experiences of welfare reforms and rules since the coalition came to power? How have they changed? What are they aimed towards? What have been the effects on the people you serve? 

“The easiest response to this is to say that JCP services have gotten worse. As an example, we used to have support schemes in place for jobseekers who took up employment and who would have to wait until they were paid. Most jobs now are paid monthly and the return to work credit was one way of supporting people who were moving from benefit into employment.

“Another example is the loss of the crisis loan (CL) service. This was part of the “social fund” and was a very useful service for both jobseekers and surprisingly, us. Let me explain, if there was ever a problem with a jobseeker’s claim, through maladministration or another error, the CL service was a really good way for jobseekers to be able to receive at least a partial payment of their benefit. Now, if a payment is delayed or a jobseeker is without money there is the short term benefit advance or they can make an application to the hardship fund. More hoops to jump through and more levels of bureaucracy to climb.

“The most significant change has obviously been the changes to DMA or decision making and appeals – the sanctions. These reforms were introduced in Autumn 2012 and have been quite significant. They are mainly targeted at jobseekers. The main components, or what jobseekers are mainly sanctioned for, are Actively Seeking Employment and Refusing Employment.

“There has been a significant increase in jobseekers being sanctioned and I must say now, here, that some jobseekers need sanctioning as they have the attitude that they should be paid benefits for doing nothing. I am not going to give an opinion one way or the other about this only to say, what do you do with a group of people who will not look for a job? Do you say ‘it’s okay, you don’t have to as you are a special case,” but how do you justify this to the jobseekers who are genuinely looking for a job and meeting the conditions for benefit? There are lots of justifiable critics of sanctions, but I have yet to see any alternative suggestions to them.”

Have you ever experienced any use of target culture for sanctioning? If not, what are you told about sanctioning? If yes, how are you told to sanction and by who?

“At all staff meetings DMA is always mentioned. DMA is basically the sanction process. The two main reasons a claim has a sanction imposed are Actively Seeking Employment (ASE) and Refusing Employment (RE) A typical scenario could be this: a customer would typically have an ASE sanction imposed if they hadn’t shown enough evidence of jobseeking activity.”

“Numbers of actively seeking referrals to a decision maker or the number of refusing employment referrals are always mentioned at team meetings. We are also constantly being told that our off flow targets are going through the roof. I’m sure senior managers think we are incapable of reading blogs and social media output thinking we can’t make the connection that it is DMA which is generating the impression that unemployment is falling and employment is rising. Anyone sanctioned still has to attend to sign as they have to sign for their National Insurance contributions.”

What have been your experiences of the success/failure of the Work Programme?

“Very limited really due to the job I currently do. I can say with confidence that it is true the providers have been “parking” harder to help jobseekers. When the claimants were returning to the Jobcentre after the 2 year participation on the Work Programme, there was a very mixed set of experiences. Some jobseekers had multiple meetings with the advisors employed by the providers, some of them were reporting hardly having any contact with them. Also, some customers were coming back to the Jobcentre without even a CV. You have to ask yourself how they had been looking for work.”

What one policy would you change to help jobseekers?

“I would give each jobseeker a guaranteed maximum number of hours help from a member of the Jobcentre on a 1-2-1 basis. Give a more personal service. As it is there is a one size fits all approach and it does not work for everyone.”

 

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1) DWP to axe Universal Jobsmatch following ridicule for fraudulent posts

The DWP are drawing up plans to axe the maligned Universal Jobsmatch site after investigations have revealed the site has had thousands of fake jobs posted in an attempt to extract money from jobseekers through fake credit or security checks.

The website has also been ridiculed for it’s postings which have included ” MI6 “target elimination specialist” and “international couriers” for CosaNostra Holdings, as well as listings for pornographic websites.”

Documents obtained by The Guardian suggest the website, which is a mandatory sign up for jobseekers, could be dismantled when the contract of service comes up for renewal in 2 years.

Frank Field MP who has lead some of the research into the site is now pressing the National Audit Office for a new investigation as the site is “bedevilled with fraud.”

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Read more about this story.

2) Five richest families in UK have the more wealth than poorest 20% combined

Oxfam released the following information last week:

“Just five families in the UK are richer than the 12.6 MILLION poorest Brits. Inequality like this is a massive problem, but it’s far from inevitable – it’s a result of political choices that can be reversed.

“It’s time for change, and we’re determined to tackle inequality head on. Help us by SHARING this post to spread the word about the injustice of inequality on our doorstep.”

Image: Oxfam

Image: Oxfam

3) Osborne delivers budget for the haves and PR gaffe ensues

George Osborne delivered yet another budget that ignores the millions of people most in need of help from growth. Concentrating on savings, pensions and those already much better off, the financial plans seemed to serve the ‘haves’ as Julia Unwin stated in the Jospeph Rowntree response to the budget:

“This is a Budget for the people who already have, not for the people who need to benefit most from the return to growth. It is a lost opportunity for the 13 million people in poverty who need active intervention to tackle the structural barriers that keep them in poverty.

People on low incomes are unlikely to see the welcome  benefits of growth unless there is targeted help with household and housing costs, with child care and with the nature of jobs and training. The expense and inefficiency of high levels of poverty continue to put a drag on growth.”

A PR campaign ensued highlighting the ‘benefits’ the budget would give people in the form of beer (1p off the pint) and bingo (lowering tax) with the Conservative party shouting they were helping “hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.”

Imgae: The Telegraph

Imgae: The Telegraph

The above poster was released and re-tweeted with warnings like “this is not a parody.” Comparisons were drawn to Orwellian prophecies and many said the use of “they” was patronising as though the Tory party saw themselves as a cut above the masses. However, the most embarrassing element came from the Twiitersphere as the #torybingo hashtag began climbing the top trends with things like:

Screen shot 2014-03-23 at 14.31.52

There was a call for Tory Party Chairman, Grant Shapps to be sacked following the gross mis-judgement of the campaign. But it has turned out it was the briefcase bearer himself, George Osborne who signed off the design with some reporting he was very “enthusiastic” about it. 

Read more about this story here.

4) Warren Buffet agrees with Economists in predicting a stock market crash in 2014

Warren Buffet, along with other economists who predicted the 2008 crash, is now forewarning of a further crash this year.

Buffet and agreeing colleagues say we are living in a “financial asset bubble” and we should not be surprised that it will burst.

Image: Incolo

Image: Incolo

However, as opposed to looking at this prospect with fear, some such as Zero Hedge, say we need to look at this more optimistically:

“The world is not coming to an end. It’s going to reset. There’s a huge difference between the two.

“Think about the system that we’re living under.

“A tiny elite has total control of the money supply. They wield intrusive spy networks and weapons of mass destruction. The can confiscate the wealth of others in their sole discretion. They can indebt unborn generations.

“Curiously, these are the same people who are so incompetent they can’t put a website together.

“It’s not working. And just about everyone knows it.

“We’re taught growing up that ‘We the People’ have the power to affect radical change in the voting booth. But this is another fairy tale.

“Voting only changes the players. It doesn’t change the game.

“Technology is one major game changer. The technology exists today to completely revolutionize the way we live and govern ourselves.

“Today’s system is just a 19th century model applied to a 21st century society. I mean– a room full of men making decisions about how much money to print? It’s so antiquated it’s almost comical.

“But given that the majority of Western governments borrow money just to pay interest on money they’ve already borrowed, it’s obvious the current game is almost finished.

“When it ends, there will be a reset… potentially a tumultuous one.

“This is why you want to have a plan B, and why you don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket.”

Read more about this story here.

In a new feature on RealFare we will be exploring ‘The Alts,’ or the alternatives, that are happening all over the UK and the world. Politicians would like you to think they have no other choice when making cuts or harmful policies, and there is a media campaign that supports that. But, if we step outside this tunnel vision of how things are, we may find the choices made are not always so unavoidable. In the first piece, we talk about Germany and attitudes towards civil liberties….

The coalition have garnered an environment and an attitude that completely blindsides the elements of life that are immeasurable and intrinsic to living. The political and media campaign to blacken the names and lives of an ever extending group of people at the bottom of the social ladder for not working, or not working enough, is, without hyperbole, enslaving us under the Prime Minister’s guise of a ‘moral mission.’

The suggestion of the political line is that only those in work are ‘good.’ Only the “hardworking” or “in work” can feel any sense of moral high-ground. Suspicion is instilled against anyone who can’t or is not in work, however unable they are, and indeed, at the cost of however damaging this rhetoric has been to people’s lives.

Worryingly, the rhetoric goes much deeper as it becomes ever more surgically removed the notion of remuneration. The Conservative Party tagline insists they are “for hardworking people” (apparently). But not “hardworking people who earn a hardworking wage.” Politicians want to “get people into work” but not “get people into work with fair pay” or it seems, even any pay. Instead, further barriers are put up – entry level jobs now ask for work experience and workfare programmes provide a turnstile of free staff to large companies.

Twitter: @andymlockhart Friend took a photo of this at Rochdale Jobcentre Plus

Twitter: @andymlockhart Friend took a photo of this at Rochdale Jobcentre Plus

Somehow, debating the economy and jobs market has ironically become a debate without talk of money, or the exchange of labour for money. It asks that we offer up our labour for the sense of being ‘hardworking,’ as opposed to the sense of a pay packet. A burden is put on the unemployed to take anything they can, but no burden on companies to pay them.

How can this lead to a recovery?

But like the lie that if repeated enough is believed, we all further distance ourselves from the treatment of others by silently agreeing and legitimising the abuse of desperation and workers during ‘hard times’ in order to increase profit. Working for free/low pay/no pay, and seeking punishment for those not in work, sees us sleep walking into modern slavery as we forever work longer, for less and lower our expectations, demands and voices.

We have been made to feel snobbish for asking for better than a minimum wage job, or in some cases a job that pays us at all. We should be asking, why are people working to remain in poverty? Why are people being made to work for free instead of being paid? Why is paying people a wage they can live on seen as a radical concept and not a value that should be placed at the heart, in the very foundations, of an economy in our ‘developed’ world?

Image: Prosebeforehos by Nick Anderson

Image: Prosebeforehos by Nick Anderson

Poverty out-of-work jobseeker benefits are seen as luxuries, as are decent holidays, or time with your family. We are silenced from asking for a life outside our worth to an economy, which for our efforts then immediately turns on us with suspicion, should we fall off it’s troubled, corrupt and risky, state-subsidised, profit-privatised railtrack.

This is why we need to talk about Germany. And other alternatives. Because in an environment obsessed with usurping our values with profit, we need to regain the strength, importance and understanding of the ‘immeasurables’. We are told time and time again, parties have no choice but to make these “tough decisions,” but there is a world of alternatives for us to learn from if we step outside the rigid and well-rehearsed campaign happening here. Of course, everything comes it’s own pluses and minuses and there is always room for improvement. But would the decision to treble tuition fees seem so inevitable if we debated how Scotland has kept it’s education free? Or how Denmark not only offers free higher education but has grants available to all students?

Image: Oxford Essays

Image: Oxford Essays

The governing powers have worked well to instil us with an amnesia and incongruence of civil liberties. As workplaces and large corporations play out their race to the bottom of our working conditions, we are expected to follow complacently, believing the faceless, bigger than us ‘we,’ cannot afford to grant us the means to scrape by for our daily work. The guise of living in the ‘free world’ and ‘democracy’ conjures up a belief that those in power will look after our best interests, and thus our hardships must be for good reason, while simultaneously we are sold free work as a gateway to progress.

We are often compared to countries in a way that insists we need more work and discipline. South Korea comes top in education, so ignore the high rates of student suicide and migration, this must mean we need longer hours for children. Michael Gove wants to make public schools like private schools, with longer hours. Again, surgically bereft of talk of investment despite poverty being the main aggregator of a child’s ability to learn and do well. But we don’t talk about Sweden where there is a 99% literacy rate and free higher education for all students from the EU?

And we are rarely compared to Germany. Yet, it has plenty of good ‘measurables’ – measurables being the things government like to talk about – economy, numbers, workers, profit etc. Let’s mention what Germany has on it’s side in terms of these. Though before I do, I must say that these are examples of some strengths in another country and present potential debate or call for alternatives. They are not all perfect, and Germany still has a lot of room for improvement, but there are clearly things we could learn from.

Measurables

A strong economy which single-handedly save the Euro from a double dip recession

Germany has a strong manufacturing export and this, along with strong economic activity, saved the Eurozone from a double dip recession in 2011. Germany has continued to remain one of the biggest economic forces in the EU since then, and were we to discuss these strengths in the same way the Conservatives discussed South Korean education we would be debating how to create more manufacturing opportunities in our service-heavy country, and also how to increase economic activity.

Most economic activity is created by those with least money, as they spend their money on the essentials they need. However, benefit cuts, wage pressures and rising inflation and living costs has left the worst off even worse off, stagnating what economic activity and growth there could be here.

An abundant banking sector which spreads power and risk…

Germany has three types of banks – savings banks, co-operatives and private banks. All the money is not held by a handful of huge global banks as in the UK. Smaller banks make up a large portion of the sector which spreads the money of the country and allows less room for risk. Indeed, through the recession non-private banks remained strong:

“Two of the pillars—the 423 savings banks and 1,116 co-operative banks—have come through the crisis with barely a scratch so far. Each of these sectors already has a system of joint and several liability, which means that no individual member bank is allowed to go bust. Neither wants to become part of a wider European banking union, in which guarantees extend to weak peripheral banks.

They argue that their business model, working for the public or mutual good rather than for shareholders, is well suited to the mixture of households and small companies (known as the Mittelstand) that they serve.”

The Economist

The smaller banks have seen their problems, but the private sector has been far more misfortunate and risky. The strength and guarantees that smaller banks can provide should surely be a talking point following the global recession and it’s legacy of austerity here.

Image: Metrosafe

Image: Metrosafe

The subject was touched on by the Channel 4 programme “Bank of Dave” where millionaire Dave Fishwick embarks on a mission to create a community bank better than the high street. The programme sees him come up against the Financial Standards Authority who seemed reluctant to grant Dave a licence, seeming to take the line that he should “leave it to the other banks” as it is being dealt with already.

All this despite Dave’s community bank being more reliable and risk averse than any of our huge conglomerates. This demonstrates an unwillingness and a barrier in bureaucracy and government to provide alternatives when the current system is clearly hugely problematic for customers.

Could it be that the government don’t want to offer us alternatives…….

Where Measurables meet Immeasurables

Productivity and Work/Life Balance

Germans work on average around 1413 hours a year – one of the lowest rates in the OECD, and much lower than the average 1776 in other EU countries. This averages out at just under 30 hours a week.

Despite this, Germans are still more productive per head, per hour compared to the UK who work much longer hours (an average of 43 per week).

Germans also have an average of 40 days holiday a year including bank holidays. This is much higher than the European average of 27, and accounts for an extra 2.5 weeks worth of time off.

There are still some problems with the gender pay gap in Germany with women taking home 25% less in many cases. Still, the % of women in German government is 35% compared to the UK’s 22%.

The UK has long been recognised as one of the most overworked countries in Europe, but searching for work/life balance, even with the prospect of healthier productivity, doesn’t seem high on the government’s agenda. Maybe this is why we rarely see discussion of these comparisons or debates on the UK working week, despite us being more prone to work-related illnesses. In fact, politicians and media go as far as to trivialise and ignite suspicion about these illnesses to ensure, once again, we are working at any cost to our bank balance and our health.

Again, it doesn’t seem to fit with the current agenda of government’s attitude towards work. In a country hellbent on workfare programmes and low pay/no pay -talk of the work/life balance can only disrupt things.

Attitudes towards civil liberties

Germany and it’s government maintain respect and fierce protection of their civil liberties. This is largely linked to the Second World War, which has meant the country is careful with the power it provides it’s government. But it should serve as a lesson for the rest of us too, because the protection of their civil liberties is a systematic and logical culture born out of understanding of what can happen when governments hold too much power.

Take for instance the recent revelations about GCHQ and NSA and American surveillance of “allies.” German chancellor, Angela Merkel spoke out about the effects and infringement of American tactics on both her and her public.

“Mass surveillance sends the wrong signal to “billions of people living in undemocratic states,” Merkel claimed.

“Actions in which the ends justify the means, in which everything that is technically possible is done, violate trust, they sow distrust. The end result is not more security but less,” she added.”

PolicyMic

On a BBC report I witnessed, the attitudes towards spying were discussed from the point of view of several different nations. In this reporter’s package, it mentioned that the Germans didn’t like the idea of spying because it had been used to control and manipulate the population during Nazi Germany. However, when the report moved onto the UK’s attitude towards spying, it was shown as a glamorous business and suggested that Brits thought of James Bond when they thought of spying, and thus it’s aspirational, cool and nothing to worry about.

Image:  The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

In some cruel, post ironic twist, that BBC report talked briefly about how one country had learned to resist the infringement of government on human rights through history, and yet in the next breath provided the propaganda to ease through our own surveillance.

Why aren’t we learning from the huge tragedies of Nazi Germany too? Why aren’t we taking lessons from the place where spying and the seizure of civil liberties forewarns us of a dark world?

What money cannot buy…

The focus of our government on work and profit is an attempt to erode the worth of all our other liberties, and to keep us too busy and demoralised to get them back. Whilst at the same time dismantling and hollowing industries of the presence of much else but cold, soul-less, profit decisions. Last year, the respected journal, The Lancet published a report attacking the government for treating our NHS in very much this way:

“Reading headlines last week, such as ‘Struggling A&E units to get £500m bailout’ and ‘NHS managers to get price comparison website’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current coalition government views the NHS as a failing bank or business,”

This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart.”

The journal, which has been publishing on medical matters for almost 200 years, said the coalition’s NHS reforms meant the health secretary “no longer has a duty to provide comprehensive health services”, having handed over responsibility to a “complex system of organisations”.

We can’t provide care in an environment where the only language is money, profit and work. Workers’ rights, healthcare and education are just some of things that stand to suffer (some already are), with this sort of strategy.

Further, this ‘economic plan’ is not working. Threats, punishment and public shaming have still seen work programmes fail for over 90% of people – who have not found work after 12 months of being enrolled. This is neither efficient, cost-effective or dignified.

Do we need a tragedy to remind us how important our freedoms, protections and liberties are? Because it would much easier to learn from another’s history, and their actions and attitudes towards freedoms now. And with a government so enthused to do away with our human rights, now would be the time to take ownership of what is immeasurably important to our lives.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass