Come to the Welfare Action Gathering on 15th February!

welfare-gathering-15-feb-copy
Come to the Welfare Action Gathering on 15th February!

Come to an info and skill-sharing day in London on 15 February, 10.45am-5.30pm, Maiden Lane Community Centre – 20 minutes walk or a short bus ride from Kings Cross Station, off York Way (156 St. Paul’s Crescent, London, NW1 9XZ. Venue wheelchair accessible.)

Getting your rights on Job Seekers Allowance is about a lot more than just knowing your rights.
This workshops aims to highlight some of the key rights, but also share some of the tactics groups and individuals have used to avoid getting screwed at the Jobcentre.

Hear from campaigns that have been organising around the bedroom tax and benefit cap in their local communities, find out how to set up an eviction resistance network, learn about our basic housing rights, and discuss how we can push for quality, secure, and truly affordable housing for all.

Welfare Action Gathering will also inxclude the following Workshops

Support, solidarity and resistance, understanding and negotiating on bills and debt, and more on Fuel Poverty Action’s pre-payment meters campaign.

Learn together how we can effectively navigate our way around Employment and Support Allowance for those claiming and those wanting to provide support. This will cover how to start a claim for ESA, methods of attempting to avoid Atos, and how to support each other through Atos to ensure we get the benefits that are rightfully ours.

Bringing workfare down – Tens of organisations have pulled out of workfare and the government fears the schemes’ ‘collapse’.

A chance for us to explore great ideas or important questions people have brought to the day, and link up to make things happen!

120 people were sent on Mandatory Work Activity Placements for Scarborough Borough Council, but the scheme has now been cancelled!

Less than two weeks into 2014 and we’re already having an impact! Scarborough Council, one of the worst workfare-using councils in the UK, has cancelled its involvement. Volunteer centre Knowsley CVS has taken the principled stand to have nothing to do with workfare schemes. On Friday, the DWP’s social media strategists were forced to abandon use of their hashtag #takeoverday to promote ‘work experience’ when people literally took it over to campaign against sanctions and workfare!

Over Christmas, The Mirror and The Guardian published our research into UK councils using workfare. Scandalously, councils have benefited from at least half a million hours of workfare labour since 2011. We highlighted some particularly shocking examples, including Scarborough Borough Council, which had taken 120 Mandatory Work Activity placements in its Parks Department.

Apparently the Council didn’t appreciate the national publicity, and following its first meeting in the new year, the scheme appears to have been cancelled practically overnight [Warning: link contains embarrassing self-congratulation by members of the same political party which introduced workfare to the UK]. Cuts to the Parks Department were proposed in 2012. This success should mean jobs are now a little more secure. Read the rest of this entry »

In December’s week of action, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty shut the Salvation Army shop down for over two hours!

The workfare industry annual conference disrupted with a very loud noise demo. Salvation Army in Edinburgh – the main users of Mandatory Work Activity in the city – blockaded for two hours. An anti-sanctions action in Germany. Solidarity with claimants subject to the farcical pilot of Universal Credit. The petition for all sanctions to be scrapped hit 10,000 signatures. Tea and information outside job centres. Workfare users picketed in Wales, Scotland and England. All this in just one week in 2013 – a year in which ordinary people made workfare’s progress a whole lot more rocky.

Targeting workfare exploiters

In 2013, your actions online and on the streets meant these brands stepped back from workfare: Shoe Zone, The Red Cross, Capability Scotland, Marriott Hotels, Superdrug, Argos, Wetherspoons and Debenhams.

In April, we helped expose that at least one Homebase store was using 25 placements at a time to save hundreds of hours on their payroll, and cutting existing workers’ hours as a result. Thousands of people took action online and outside Homebase stores across the UK, and just one month later, the company withdrew from the scheme (though we’re chasing up reports that it’s since reappeared in their Willesden store).

Boycott Workfare’s research revealed half a million hours of unpaid work in councils

New research by Boycott Workfare, covered in The Mirror and The Guardian, reveals that UK councils have used over half a million hours of unpaid work through the government’s workfare schemes, which compel people to work without pay on threat of benefit sanctions. Click here to see if your council is involved!

In a Freedom of Information request to all councils in the UK, 62% of the 271 councils who responded and held the information had taken a workfare placement at some point in the last two years. These placements include schemes with direct benefit losses, benefit losses if you drop out after starting, or referral to a scheme with direct benefit losses if you refuse to take part. Also, with all these schemes, Boycott Workfare has heard of people being told it is compulsory by their job centre advisor, even if officially you can choose to take part.

In total 1,929 placements were reported to have taken place across the 167 councils involved since June 2011, with 15 councils reporting use of the schemes but not saying how many placements they had taken. This is over 500,000 hours of unpaid work. Half of these reported placements were on the Work Experience scheme, but nearly 300 placements were on Mandatory Work Activity where people can receive a benefit sanction for up to 3 years for refusing to take part in the 4 week placements. Almost 300 people were also sent to work at councils through the Work Programme (or Northern Ireland’s equivalent Steps to Work) where placements were lasting up to 26 weeks.

More Poverty, More Homelessness, More Deaths: Labour Set Out A Vision For Workfare Britain

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The war on the poor is set to continue if Labour win the general election Rachel Reeves confirmed in her speech on social security policy today.

Pinning the blame for unemployment directly onto unemployed people, Reeves has set out a number of measures to fix those unemployed people with forced work and benefit sanctions.

At the heart of Labour’s policy is the so-called Jobs Guarantee which will see everyone who has been unemployed over two years – or a year for those under 25 – condemned to forced work for paltry sums of money.  In a genuinely nasty move, this work will be pegged at minimum wage and set at a maximum of 25 hours a week, meaning participants will not be eligible for tax credits.

For the vast majority of claimants, who pay rent for where they live, the bulk of any extra money will go straight to landlords due to housing benefit payments being cut as income rises.  For most claimants the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will merely mean they have enough money to travel to their forced work placement and on a good day afford a cheap lunch.

This workfare plus a sandwich scheme will be backed with tough benefit sanctions, already one of the main drivers of poverty in the UK.  A report published last year by Citizens Advice warned that sanctions had led to people becoming homeless, attempting suicide and being forced to go through bins to find food.  Labour’s workfare programme would only makes these problems worse as over-zealous Jobcentre staff and welfare-to-work crooks seek out ever more ludicrous ways to leave people destitute.  If Labour are elected then we might yet see what happens when the foodbanks run out of food.

As well as 25 hours a week forced work, claimants will have to complete 10 hours a week ‘training’, leaving little time to actually look for a job.  With training increasingly a euphemism for workfare, it remains to be seen what shoddy provision this will entail.  One thing is for sure – it will be done on the cheap and is unlikely to lead to real skills or qualifications.

Around one million people could be forced onto this scheme and it is likely that most will be employed by the public sector or in charities as they were under Labour’s Future Jobs Fund.  That means one million new workers entering the workforce, with wages pegged at minimum wage and no  employment rights.  If people on Labour’s workfare are sacked they don’t just lose their job – which on these terms might be a blessed relief – they lose everything, even entitlement to the pittance of benefits.

Astonishingly Reeves also called for higher wages in her speech today, although there was little indication of how that might be achieved.  Yet it’s hard to imagine a better strategy to force down wages and undermine working conditions for everybody than an army of poverty paid workers who face destitution if they leave, get the sack, or take industrial action.  If the unions tolerate this, then they will only have themselves to blame as their relevance in the public sector vanishes into thin air.

Anyone who thinks that cash strapped local councils will not use claimants facing the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee as a cheap source of tax-payer funded free labour is a fucking idiot.  Ignore what Rachel Reeves says about shrinking wages – her policies are a blueprint for high unemployment and low pay.

What she doesn’t say is equally as important as what she does.  There is no mention of scrapping the despised Work Capability Assessment – and Ed Miliband has already said that these assessments will stay.  There was also no mention of halting massive cuts to Disability Living Allowance, which will see a fifth of disabled people losing vital benefits.  Ominously Reeves talks of ‘better targeted support’ for single parents and disabled people to enter the workplace to combat what she repeatedly calls ‘worklessness’.  Anyone who thinks we can trust the Labour Party to end the demonisation and harassment of sick or disabled claimants – which they started whilst in Government –  is also a f…..g idiot.

As Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms bring back poverty not seen in generations, the answer from the Labour Party is more of the same.  Despite a spate of reports of suicides linked to welfare reforms over Christmas, they are every bit as committed to driving the poor into the ground as the Tories they are so desperate to copy.

It is hardly surprising that an Oxbridge clown like Reeves, with her background in the banking sector, is so clueless about what people with nothing really need, which by the way is more money.  She’s probably never done a real day’s work in her life, let alone had to survive on benefits.  But that won’t stop her condemning people to lives of utter misery by blaming them for the poverty caused by capitalism.  There will be more tragic deaths linked to the erosion of the welfare state if Labour are elected next year.  And if Rachel Reeves still has her job, then she will have just as much blood on her hands as Iain Duncan Smith.

Reproduced from the void, article by Jonny Void