1) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – Employment in 2014 – 24/04/2014
We announced our first live debate in collaboration with Inner City Theatre last week. On 24th April at Hoxton Hall, we tackle employment in 2014 in an environment of wage pressures, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and continuing unemployment. We aim to start the conversation on the ground with an audience, panel and some UK artists, and without the usual question-avoiding officialese of usual political debates.
We are pleased to announce our panellists as follows:
Natalie Bennett – Leader, Green Party
Thomas Barlow – Equalities Officer, Greater Manchester Union
Kam Sandhu – Founder, RealFare
YEUK representative – Youth Employment UK
If you want to attend, the tickets are free for unwaged and £5 for waged. You must register first by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to save your place.
Please see our trailer here:
2) ATOS quits fit-to-work tests
French healthcare company ATOS, who were awarded the £500m contract to administer all fit-to-work tests until next August, will end their contract early, the government have announced.
With mounting call and evidence from campaigners and many sick and disabled people up and down the country that ATOS were wrongfully administering the test and results, leading to inhumane and stressful consequences for those facing the tests, the company have decided to exit the contract by early next year. They will receive no compensation for doing so, and have agreed a penalty payment with government.
However, whilst many charities and campaigners welcome the exit of ATOS, they say the whole system needs overhauling, rather than continuing with the same tests with another company.
Last year, the Work and Pensions Select committee backed this by saying the responsibility for problems with the fit-to-work tests and their administration “lay firmly with the DWP” but that the department was failing to “apply sufficient rigour or challenge to ATOS.”
3) Low Income families increase debt by 29% in six months to deal with welfare reforms
Low income families are increasing their debt by £52 a week after being hit by welfare reforms, wage pressures and the rising cost of living, according to research from a poverty project.
“The project found that the average household debt stood at just under £3,000, up by 29% since October, equivalent to £670. Families were typically spending £34 a week repaying debts, from an average income among those surveyed of £176 a week.”
The findings are the third instalment of six, from the Real Life Reform project which examines the financial and social changes and behaviours of up to 100 households.
Andy Williams, chair of the Real Life Reform steer group said:
“In our first report in September, people said they’d resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.
“Nearly eight out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food.”
4) MPs approve welfare cap
The permanent welfare cap was voted through on Thursday by a vote of 520 to 22. 13 Labour rebels defied Ed Miliband by voting against it. See their names here. It was thought there would have been more rebellions against the cap but the vote fell on the same day as Tony Benn’s funeral and some were absent. It is thought others were convinced to vote for it, as the level of the cap could be adjusted as Labour sees fit should they get in at the next election.
However, Save The Children have warned that the cap will push 345,000 children into poverty. The cap excludes Jobseeker’s Allowance and the state pension, so will pressurise working benefits – affecting families across Britain.
Will Higham, the charity’s director of UK poverty, said: “Parties need to explain how they will work to improve wages and welfare to ensure that work pays. Otherwise, the vote will become a straitjacket, binding future governments from taking action to stem a rising tide of child poverty.”