Archives For jobcentre

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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1) Jobseekers must now take on zero hour contracts or face sanction

Jobseekers will face sanctions for three months or more if they do not take on zero hour contracts, according to a leaked letter from Employment Minister Esther McVey last week.

For the first time, claimants could be sanctioned for not applying or accepting certain zero hour contract jobs, despite growing concern that these contracts lead to insecure employment and an undue upper hand to the employer. The ONS revealed last week that 1.4 million Brits were now on zero hour contracts, a number that has more than doubled in the last year.

“The senior Tory confirmed that, under the new system, Jobcentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts“, although they would have discretion about considering whether a role was suitable.”

Government insists the change is possible because Universal Credit will be able to track what hours were worked each week and adjust payments to suit. However, the Universal Credit system has been awash with problems and delays, and critics say this could hamper claimant chances of finding more secure work or training.

Image: The Liverpool Echo - Employment Minister Esther McVey

Image: The Liverpool Echo – Employment Minister Esther McVey

Read more about this story here.

2) In-work Housing benefit claimants rise by 60% since coalition

The number of people in-work claiming housing benefits has risen by 60% since the coalition took power in 2010.

The figures were revealed by the House of Commons Library after a request from the Labour Party, and showed “the number of Housing Benefit claimants who are in-work and struggling to keep up with their rent payments increased from 650,561 in May 2010 to 1.03 million by the end of 2013, and is continuing to rise.”

This will cost the taxpayer an extra £4.8 billion by May 2015 and demonstrates that falls in working conditions and pay are also contributing to rises in poverty, and that claimants are not restricted to the unemployed.

The rise also demonstrates the spread of extortionate rents, which people are struggling to keep up with. Yet, the rate of house building remains at it’s lowest for decades, despite the prospect of creating jobs, housing stock and affordable rent prices.

Photo: www.theguardian.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

3) Tory led company made £8m profit from Royal Mail fire sale

An investment bank which made profits of £8m in one week following the sale of the Royal Mail, was led by former Tory Chairman, Archie Norman.

Lazard, a bank which was invited to advise on the Royal Mail deal whilst also given preferential terms in the sale of under-priced Royal Mail shares, was promoted by Vince Cable as one of the firms that would form “a core of high quality investors.” Yet, one of the divisions put their shares up for sale within a few days, taking advantage of the predictable rise in price and trousering £8m in one week.

Financial News reported back in July 2013:

“Lazard, the independent investment bank, has appointed former Conservative minister and ex-Asda chief executive Archie Norman as its London chairman, as the firm works on the privatisation of the Royal Mail.”

“Norman, 59, who has been a senior adviser to Lazard since 2003, will strengthen his ties with the investment bank at a time when a string of UK Government mandates are up for grabs.”

 

Read more about this story here.

4) Britain’s rich now have more than pre-recession wealth

The Sunday Times Rich List has revealed that there are more than 100 billionaires now living in Britain, with a combined wealth of £301 billion.

This has more than tripled from a decade ago, when £700m was required to enter Britain’s top 50 wealthiest people. The entry rate is £1.7 billion now.

The UK has the highest rate of billionaires per head anywhere in the world, and London has the highest rate of any city.

Read more about this story here.

5) “I have no time for you, sir” – BBC Question Time audience member tells Farage.

 by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) 1.4 million Britons now on zero hour contracts

Official statistics released on Wednesday revealed there are now 1.4 million people on zero hour contracts in the UK. More than one in ten employers use these casual employment contracts, and they are mostly found in the retail, care and service sectors.The figure has increased rapidly since 2010 and has more than doubled in the last year.

Zero-Hours-Contracts

Zero hour contracts do not provide a minimum number of hours, and no holiday or sick pay which is leaving an ever growing number of people without job and financial security week to week. Defenders of the contracts say that they can be used well and work for certain jobs, however, the increase in their use is normalising these contracts in further sectors and can be used as a way of disempowering the employee and keeping wages low. We spoke to Giselle Cory from the Resolution Foundation a little while back about the issues surrounding increased use of zero hour contracts:

“Labour market flexibility is on the one hand a very good thing, and for some people zero hour contracts will be perfect, but for a lot of people we know they’re not. So for people who perhaps have responsibilities at home, young children for example, and are on zero hour contracts where they need to be available for work all the time, but don’t know what hours they’re going to get that week, it’s very difficult to manage their lives – both manage their budget but also manage their childcare and make sure they can get to work if they’re needed. For those families, when they have no option but to take these zero hour contracts, they’re left in a quite miserable and precarious position because they have no security day-to-day or week-to-week.

“[Some employers are] in effect, using these contracts as a management tool, when that’s not what they’re intended for and that’s a great imbalance of power between the employer and the employee.”

Read the full interview here.

Pressure now mounts on Vince Cable to act on providing better job security during the ‘recovery.’ Cable has also commissioned his own study into the contracts, the findings of which will be published shortly.

Read more about this story here.

2) Sanctions are ‘damaging’ and have ‘no positive impact’ say Jobcentre advisers

The coalition government introduced a new benefit sanctions regime in 2012 as they believed the old system was too soft. However, 70% of Jobcentre staff that responded to a PCS survey said that sanctions “had ‘no positive impact’ in influencing jobseeker behaviour” and “three quarters had noticed an increase in the number of claimants being referred to food banks as a result of their benefits being cut.”

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

Sanctions have increased dramatically in the last two years. In statistics released a couple of weeks ago, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found jobs, raising questions on the legitimacy of the sanctions where there are no opportunities or jobs for people.

The news also supports what was said by the 2 Jobcentre advisers we interviewed last week. You can read their accounts here.

Read more about this story here.

3) Green Party push Lib Dems into 5th place in Euro election polls

“Green Party of England and Wales ahead of the Lib Dems in the Euro election polls, and David Cameron has confirmed he will have a live TV debate with Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett – Green Party Leader. That’ll be the first time a woman has appeared in these election debates.”

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4) UKIP have to cancel freepost address after receiving bricks and faeces

UKIP have had to cancel their freepost address after they were sent unwanted and unpleasant packages at their own expense.

After the freepost address was circled online, many took to sending bricks to the political party in order to charge them with hefty postage fees. Others sent leaflets and phone books, but after receiving blood and faeces the party decided to cancel the address.

Polls suggest that UKIP may do well in the European elections on 22nd May. To find out all you need to know about the party – check our lowdown.

In other UKIP news, Farage will once again appear on Question Time this week, prompting a petition calling on the BBC to stop giving the leader of the UKIP party disproportionate airtime. The petition says:

“Despite leading a party with no elected Members of Parliament, Nigel Farage has appeared on the BBC’s foremost political discussion programme more often than any other British politician: 14 times since 2009. This utterly disproportionate airtime runs contrary to the BBC’s duty as a public service broadcaster to provide balanced coverage.”

You can sign here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

In the second part of our interview with a Jobcentre adviser we talk about sanctions and the Work Programme. Read the first part of the interview here.

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

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?

“This is the type of thing that would not be out of place in the novel ‘Catch 22’. We are constantly told by managers ‘there are no targets, only expectations.’ However, the expectations are based on the highest performing local offices or Districts. So, say I work with a colleague who sanctions because they get some sort of sick power kick from it (I do know some people like this, there are some in every office).  They might refer 7 people for a ‘doubt on their actively seeking’ per day. In your team meetings or one-to-one, it will be mentioned, and staff will be asked why they haven’t got as many. Regardless of what the DWP official line is, nobody is ever reprimanded for referring too many. The only time that would come up is if a large amount of the referrals were allowed (not sanctioned) by the Decision Maker because they were poor quality – i.e. the evidence sent over was poor or the person had actually shown they had done sufficient searches for their Jobseeker’s Allowance. Some staff are getting scared that they aren’t doing enough and they will be marked in the ‘must improve’ category. Enough warnings and you could be out of a job. So Iain Duncan Smith will tell you that there are no targets and if any manager is still using the term target they will get a reprimand. However, I have seen the District tables which clearly show the direction an office is travelling in with regards to sanctions and referrals. Offices which are lower than the highest performing office will be told they must aim towards similar numbers or else. They are too crafty to put anything in an email, or at least most of them are.”

What have been your experiences of the success/failure of the Work Programme? Have you referred many people onto it?

“I have referred hundreds. I am unable to emphasise enough what a massive con and waste of taxpayer’s money this is. Daily, I speak to those poor souls on this mad scheme and many who have returned after a 2 year stint. How journalists have not scooped this, I do not know.  The payment by results contract is an incentive to do nothing. Look at it like this; you are a private company paid to get people into work. You have a financial investment. Who do you invest that money in? Mr Jones who is highly educated and has only recently been made redundant? Or Mr Simpson who has been out of work for years and needs everything from numeracy and literacy training to PC skills? Mr Jones may only need a £50 interview suit or most likely no intervention at all – he will find work on his own. Bingo! The Government will pay you £2,500 if he starts work and stays there for 6 months. You could invest a hell of a lot of your staff resources and profits in getting Mr Simpson to a job ready state, but it’s a huge gamble. You get a higher reward but your losses are higher if he doesn’t find work. Private companies do not like this kind of risk. This is why it is now without question that Work Programme providers ‘park’ the harder to help customers. I have seen this relentlessly for the past couple of years and I do not think anyone could deny this is what happens. I ask customers what the WP is doing for them and they tell me they are lucky if they get a phone call every few months. But, if this person finds a job on his own (which does happen) the WP provider could get £12,000+.”

5) Are you told to give a full description of the help the jobcentre can provide in the form of money for travel expenses to job interviews, or courses that are available? If so, how many take this help up? If not, why not/by who?

“It is not advertised openly. The hope is that the jobseeker will fund expensive training themselves. If they ask then we will put the case forward to pay it. The District fund for this is finite so each case must be looked at on merit. Sometimes the procurement process is so slow the jobseeker will borrow the money from relatives to gain the training they need. The travel to interview expenses have never been openly advertised, as it is hoped that they will fund this themselves. I must say that the chances of funding from DWP are a lot better than for those on the WP.”

What one policy would you change to help jobseekers?

“A tricky one. I couldn’t nail it down to one thing as so much is currently wrong. You see most of the things we do are dictated by Ministers and Senior Civil Servants. At most, they pop in to sit by you for an afternoon to see what you do. They then think they know how to improve or change things but they don’t. It’s all half-arsed hair-brained back of a beer mat type stuff. No one feeds back up the line when something is not working.  The DWP is full to the brim of yes men. Take Universal Jobmatch; staff have been saying that it’s garbage since it was introduced. Staff locked out of it, jobseekers and employers cannot use it. It’s loaded with duplicates and non-jobs but we are told by DWP Press Office that it has revolutionised the way people look for work.  We are told we must use it and must sell it to Jobseekers.”

“But back to your question, I would scrap the Work Programme.  I would invest the millions spent on this into real training for Jobseekers.”

 

 

We interviewed a Jobcentre adviser to ask about their experiences of welfare reforms since the coalition came to power. Having seen the changes and effects of unprecedented reforms, we wanted to know how their job experiences and demands had changed. Following on from our other interview last week, we bring you a second interview with a Jobcentre Adviser.

In the first part of this interview we talk about changes to welfare since the coalition and how the number of unemployed is remaining hidden under reforms.

Image: The guardian

Image: The guardian

How long have you worked in the job centre?

“10 years+ and in numerous positions.”

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? 

“It is clear that the Coalition/Tories have created a determined propaganda campaign against the most vulnerable members of society.  From Osborne’s shirkers and workers speech to the ‘hardworking people’ mantra.  Clearly designed to separate claimants from those who feel they are hard done to. If you can make the masses think that claimants are feckless lazy scum, you can get away with doing virtually anything to them.  Who will stand up for the worthless?  Well, Tory soundbites differ from the reality and I should know as I see it daily.  Are there lazy people who do not want to work? Yes.  I will not lie.  However, these are in the minority.  For some it is a transitory phase.  Most do want to work and indeed sign off when the opportunity arises.  Not through force, but for a number of other reasons.  If jobs existed in the numbers that are required, they would find work. It’s all very well Duncan Smith and McVey spouting that there are x thousand jobs in the system.  If you need experience in z and you only have experience in y, you aren’t going to get the job.

“I have witnessed several grown men with learning needs and disabilities crying and begging not to be sanctioned.  I thought we were meant to help the vulnerable but we are now just a tool to get the numbers to back up the Coalition agenda.

“The reforms have been designed to hide the numbers of unemployed.  So many have been sanctioned and are not counted in the official figures.  Many are desperate and will take these Mickey Mouse zero-hour contracts to escape the fortnightly gauntlet.  I must also add truthfully that I had never come across a zero hours vacancy until the last couple of years.  That is not to say they did not exist but I never encountered one.  Now they are everywhere.

“Apprenticeships are another tool to hide unemployment figures.  Very cynical.  Older folks will hear the spin – ‘1 million apprenticeships,’ and say ‘great!’.   Wrong! Coffee shop apprentices, call centre apprentices etc, are just a way for employers to undercut the minimum wage.  They are doing this in the thousands.  Who can blame them?  £98 per week and then get a new one in after 12 months.  Fantastic! Britain now has a time served coffee shop worker to compete in Cameron’s global race.

“Wage Incentives. This scheme is an absolute disgrace.  Employ an 18 – 24 yr old for 6 months and the taxpayer will give you £2.5k.  Paid at minimum wage you will make a profit even if you get them to lick stamps. Vacancies that were full paid jobs are now changing to Wage Incentive vacancies as Job-centre staff convince employers to accept money for nothing.  This is seriously affecting the jobs market and it is all down to Coalition pressure to increase Wage Incentive targets.  They can then claim falsely that the scheme has created 1000’s of vacancies, when in truth it hasn’t.  The vacancies were already there.  The taxpayer has just paid 2.5k to employ A instead of B.  Economic sense? Nope.”

Have you referred claimants to a food bank? If so, what were the reasons? Can you tell us about any experiences in particular?

“I have referred several customers to food banks.  Mainly following a sanction.  Although we were instructed to ‘signpost’ rather than ‘refer’, several months ago, after the press got hold of what we were doing.  Prior to this we did have official instructions from a senior level to refer to food banks after the withdrawal of ‘Crisis Loans’.  I have personally arranged food parcel deliveries for customers who for various reasons have ran out of food.  I do not know how they manage on £71 or £56 per week.”

Read Part 2 of this interview tomorrow.

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.

1) Government pass Hospital Closure Act

The government have passed clause 119 – also known as the Hospital Closures Act – it grants government new powers to close or downgrade hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt and other ministers insist that the clause will only be used in extreme circumstances, and is a way of clamping down on lengthy reviews and consultations. However, campaigners believe it will leave communities “without a voice.”

Lewisham Hospital, which was saved by the efforts of the local community, is an example of the places at risk. Jeremy Hunt had planned to close the hospital, which was a well run service for patients and financially, because of the debts of another hospital. Following the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, Jeremy Hunt’s actions were found to be illegal, but campaigners fear that these new powers could override these laws and see government’s shutting down hospitals unneccesarily within 40 days.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Read more about this story here.

2) Two legends of socialism pass away

The outspoken RMT union leader Bob Crow, and veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, both passed away last week leading to an outpour of tributes to two leaders who stuck strong to their convictions of a fairer society for ALL.

The RMT say they remain militant in their fight against attacks on “our social class” and they have inherited Bob Crow’s legacy.

Meanwhile the death of Tony Benn has demonstrated that we need more politicians who stay true to their convictions of garnering a fairer society.

See some Tony Benn tributes here.

And the Artist Taxi Driver video on Tony Benn here.

3) DWP advising Jobcentres on sending claimants to foodbanks

The DWP is advising Jobcentres on how to send claimants to food banks, despite ministers previously insisting they “do not refer people to food banks or issue vouchers” and that food banks are “absolutely not a part of the welfare system because we have other means of supporting people.”

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that there is a “high level process” in place in referring claimants and supplying vouchers, but staff are instructed not to use the term “food voucher.”

“A six-step flowchart for jobcentre staff shows that the four reasons to recommend a food bank when claimants ask for help are hardship caused by benefit changes, benefit payment delays, a benefit advance has been refused, or the advance is not enough to meet their needs.”

Read more about this story here.

4) There is an alternative – Budget Day Protests

Following the People’s Assembly Conference on Saturday 15th March, several protests will take place across the country on the day of the budget, with the message that there is an alternative to the government’s cuts and Britain needs a pay rise.

Image: The People's Assembly

Image: The People’s Assembly

Find out more here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

We came across this excellent video made and created by the dole animators who also take part in the video. From the voices of those at the heart of the effects of punishing welfare reform, we hear what it is really like for the so-called ‘scroungers’ who are on benefits, after losing their job, becoming ill or unable to work.

“We warn you not to be ill,

not to have an accident,

not to lose your job.

We warn you not to make the choices we didn’t make.”

The Dole Animators

1) Workfare Week of action sees thousands respond and take action
Image; Welfare News Service

Image; Welfare News Service

The Workfare week of action (6-14th July) saw thousands of people from around the country voice their opinion on the controversial Workfare scheme, which forces benefit claimants to work up to 30 hours a week unpaid, or risk losing their benefits.

As well as the demonstration outside the Hilton, where the network dinner was held for the welfare to work convention, there were thousands of tweets, comments and e-mails sent to companies taking part in the scheme and the DWP.

Stay tuned for our interview with Jo from Boycott Workfare up on the site soon.

Read more about this story here.

2) Sick and disabled will be forced to address their ‘barriers to work’ or lose benefits say DWP 
                     Image: http://www.ftadvisor.com

In a press release on Monday 8th July, the DWP announced a new 2 year pilot scheme which would force claimants on sickness benefit to have regular meetings with doctors and therapists in a bid to get them back to work, or they would lose their benefits.

The scheme will target 3,000 claimants on Employment Support Allowance, who have been assessed as able to work in the future. The regular meetings will focus on getting them back into work.

The scheme will run alongside two other pilot schemes to see which works best. This one involves higher healthcare involvement, another will involve enhanced Jobcentre Plus support, and the third has enhanced Work Programme advisor support.

Read the press release here.

3) Carers face eviction and debt due to bedroom tax

Carers are not receiving sufficient help and support as the bedroom tax forces some into debt and possible eviction, despite promises from government to help vulnerable carers.

The Carers UK charity found that one in six carers interviewed in the first 100 days after the bedroom tax was introduced, had fallen behind on rent or were in debt.

Around one in ten carers will continue to qualify for support from the £25m discretionary payment fund created by government specifically to help carers who need support.

Read more about this story here. 

4) £1bn benefit cut will hit Scotland’s most vulnerable

Citizens Advice Scotland has warned that disabled and ill scottish people will lose out on £1bn due to the “quadruple whammy” of the coalition cuts.

Citizens Advice Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland

With 170,000 people facing the ‘fit to work’ test under the new reforms, Citizens Advice are worried that around 115,000 ill and disabled people will lose out on their benefits unfairly, given the track record of the tests. Around 40% of “fit to work” decisions are overturned at appeal.

On top of this, the benefit replacing the Disability Living Allowance, has new criteria. Personal Independence Payments are given under much stricter circumstances, for example – being unable to walk 50m without assistance.

Disabled people also face being hit by the bedroom tax and housing benefit caps.

Chief Executive of Citizen’s Advice Scotland, Margaret Lynch said the “quadruple whammy [was] making life a misery for sick and disabled people in our communities. The people who have suffered most from the welfare reforms are those who were already the most vulnerable.”

The DWP retains that it is “absolutely committed” to helping disabled people.

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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