Virgin Give The Game Away: Unpaid Worker Schemes Bring Corporate And Commercial Opportunities

traineeshipsVirgin Media are the latest company to sacrifice their public image to benefit from unpaid workers on Government schemes.  According to the company, employing young people on Traineeships and paying them nothing can bring “corporate and commercial opportunities”.

The shocking admission comes in a leaflet advertising the Traineeship programme (pdf), which can involve up to six months work without pay.  They have been designed to ‘prepare’ young people for an ‘apprenticeship’ at below the minimum wage and participants are often not even offered one of these at the end of the scheme.  Instead they are given an ‘exit interview’ to pat them on the heads for all their unpaid work.

As pointed out by @boycottworkfare, unpaid work on Traineeships is not yet mandatory, although no doubt many Jobcentre advisors will try and pretend they are.  They may soon be right.  George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement that in future people under the age of 21 who refuse some form of workfare in the corporate sector will be sent on an even longer workfare scheme with a charity instead.  With the latest workfare scheme appearing to be in chaos, it remains to be seen if this particular threat will ever be fully carried out.

In the meantime Virgin Media seem quite happy with the new arrangements and say they will be recruiting unpaid workers on an ongoing basis.  This is hardly surprising, according to the leaflet Traineeships were ‘developed  in response to business needs’ and can help ‘build the workforce required for business success’.  Virgin Media Loves not paying wages and that’s the name of their new twitter campaign.  Let them know what you think @VMLoves

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Bin British Gas: Put Power in Public Hands! Take Action On May 12th

british-gas-protestA mass demonstration outside the annual AGM of British Gas has been called by Fuel Poverty Action Group on May 12th. Whilst many people are unable to properly heat their homes, British Gas made £571m in profit  last year.

Just staying alive in the UK is becoming ever more expensive as rents, fuel and food prices soar.  A low paid job now barely covers even the most basics needed for survival, whilst the safety net of the benefits system is being ripped away.  None of this is necessary or unavoidable.  Tesco workers get shit wages, whilst we pay extortionate prices for food, so that share holders and directors can make huge profits.  Pensioners are freezing in their homes so that energy company bosses can enjoy lavish lifestyles.

Virtually every last scrap of cash that passes through our hands ends up lining the pockets of the same rich who smear us as scroungers if we need benefits to survive, even if we manage to find a job.  Most of the time we spend working is not to earn ourselves what we need but to increase the huge profits made by those at the top – money we never see.  And they use that money to buy houses and flats that they rent back to us at eye-watering prices.  Then the greedy cunts complain if they have to pay some tax on the money they’ve fleeced.  Yet every single penny spent by the government is to maintain the system that keeps them rich, and us poor.

It’s time to make them feel uncomfortable for a change by confronting them wherever they gather.  The British Gas AGM is as good a place as any to start.  Join Fuel Poverty Action Group and others from 1pm on May 12th outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London, SW1P 3EE.

For the latest details keep an eye on: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/

Join and share the facebook page for the event and please tweet, blog and spread the word!

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Just For The Record, The WCA Is Not Being Scrapped, Yet

atoskillsgrafThe report in The Daily Record which claims that Atos style assessments for sickness and disability benefits are to be scrapped should sadly be treated with caution.

There is no doubt that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is in chaos, after the announcement from Atos that they are pulling out of the contract to run the tests.  This has led to a predictable tantrum from Iain Duncan Smith, who is now running round telling everyone he was going to dump Atos anyway and is threatening them with huge fines.  This is the same Atos that he is dependent on to sort out the shabby assessments for Personal Independence Payments, which are currently also mired in chaos.  But there has been no announcement as yet that the WCA is to be scrapped, and the report the Daily Record’s story seems to be based on does not call for this.

The story refers to the recently published response by the Government to the review of the Work Capability Assessment carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield.  The Government have accepted all but one of the recommendations in this report, which includes agreeing to carry out an impact assessment into whether in some cases a decision could be made without a face to face assessment.

Litchfield recommends: “The Department carries out a full impact assessment on an alternative process whereby DWP Decision Makers triage cases” and that “where suitable and sufficient evidence is available on paper and a face-to-face assessment would provide no additional value, the Department should make a decision without referral to its HAP;”

The Government have responded: “DWP will carry out the recommended impact assessment to inform decisions about if and how triage of cases by Decision Makers might be implemented.”

So unless the Daily Record know something that no-one else does, and if they do urgent clarification is required, that unfortunately, appears to be it.  An impact assessment into whether in some cases a face to face assessment is not required – as in fact already happens in some cases – will be carried out.  A small step forward perhaps but a long way from the claim that assessments are set to be scrapped.  Atos still kills, for now at least.

Some of Litchfield’s recommendations will be welcomed, such as a six month time limit before someone who has recently won an appeal against a WCA decision can be called for re-assessment.  Others are more dubious, including the idea of involving the Government’s snake oil salesmen, the nudge unit, in the drafting of correspondence sent to claimants about the WCA.

Perhaps the most telling part of the Government’s response to this review is the recommendation that is rejected.  Litchfield makes the fairly reasonable suggestion that so-called Healthcare Professionals carrying out assessments of people with mental health problems should have: “suitable and sufficient previous experience of dealing with people with mental health problems”.

We’re not having that say the DWP, who have deferred agreement on this point complaining that they don’t know what suitable and sufficient means.

All of the recommendations and the Government’s response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296328/wca-review-year-4-response.pdf

Litchfield’s initial report is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265351/work-capability-assessment-year-4-paul-litchfield.pdf

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Who The Fuck Does Esther McVey Think She Is?

Esther-McVey-2942256Newly unemployed people are to be treated as benefit scroungers from the first day of their claim the Minister for Unemployment Esther Mcvey announced today.

In a breath-takingly patronising statement McVey rants that from the end of the month newly unemployed people will be forced to show “they are taking their search for work seriously” before becoming eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance.  This will mean producing a CV and signing up for the shambolic Universal Jobmatch – the Government job search site that is a laughing stock amongst claimants, employers and recruitment professionals alike.

This will be treating those recently made redundant  as ‘adults’ according to the minister, who clearly thinks that unemployed people are children.  Those facing these new measures will include people who have worked for years, unlike pampered posh girl McVey who bummed around in her Dad’s company for a while before launching a less than memorable television career.  Yet here she is lecturing people who’ve recently had real jobs about how to make themselves ‘prepared and enthusiastic’ to avoid the ‘one way street to benefits’.

The changes are being introduced despite the Government’s own statistics showing that 75% of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance are back in work within six months.  In contrast the number of people who have been unemployed over one year currently stands at 828,000, up from 757,000 in May 2010 when this Government weren’t elected – and this figure was the highest since May 1997.

With long-term unemployment soaring, and the Work Programme seemingly making things worse, the DWP are turning their attention to those who have just lost their jobs in a shoddy attempt to grab the headlines.  Once there was a time when governments pretended to care about people who had been made redundant.  Now they are more interested in smearing them as potential scroungers and forcing them into demeaning interrogations with Jobcentre busy-bodies in case they are secretly feckless.

This is what this Government really thinks of so-called hard working people.  Get laid off, for any reason, and you are instantly transformed into benefit scum in the eyes of Esther McVey.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Rich Will Destroy London Like They Destroy Everything Else

1-hyde-park

One Hyde Park, where flats cost £100 million and no-one lives in them.

It is difficult to imagine a more grotesque situation than entire streets full of mansions lying empty in Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Kensington whilst just down the road the number of people sleeping in shop doorways soars. But this is the sad reality of a reckless free-market economy which turns our homes into just one more commodity to be gambled with by the rich.

It is impossible to guess just how big the London housing bubble will get, and how far outside of the capital the impact will stretch.  The news that house prices have risen by 18% in just one year should chill everyone who hopes to continue actually living in the city.

London’s housing market is being turned into a billionaire’s casino, and as more money pours in those returns will keep getting bigger.  Or at least they will until someone blinks.  And then the whole sorry scam will come crashing down, leaving the not quite so obscenely rich – who thought they were the players – discovering that they have been well and truly fucking played.

The end result could be a disaster as London is split between a minority of buy to let landlords, who have several homes, and tenants with none who can no longer afford the rents demanded to compensate for mass negative equity.

The real fucking tragedy though is that the only thing worse than the bubble bursting is prices continuing to soar.  Already most of the capital is unaffordable for those on low incomes.  With housing benefits now capped far below rents in many areas, the vast majority of London’s private tenants are only a P45, an illness, or an accident away from being socially exported from the capital.

As prices soar the creative heart of London will be ripped apart.  The days when young people could come to the capital, live in a squat, or a cheap if grotty shared house in somewhere like Hackney or Brixton are already long gone.  It is no surprise that beyond over-hyped internet start ups and hipster twats, London’s cultural life is decaying from the bottom up – those at the top just can’t see it yet.  Artists, actors and musicians will be forced to join the exodus out of the city along with street cleaners and care workers.

Social housing is now being re-structured as a stepping stone for young middle class professionals, with laughably called affordable rents set at 80% of soaring local rental markets.  Many of those who already have a council flat are being bedroom taxed out of the capital.  When these tenancies end, these homes too will convert to ‘affordable housing’ in many boroughs – which means they will be unaffordable for most people.

The problems do not end there.  Hundreds of thousands of children are currently growing up in social housing in London who will never be able to afford to live here when they have families of their own.  Meanwhile as the so-called ‘generation rent’ approaches old age, few will have pensions which cover London rents.  The housing crisis in London is only just beginning.

Yet to hear the debate about London’s housing problems you would think the problem only affects ‘young professionals’ hoping to get on the housing ladder.  It is as if the rest of us – millions of us – do not exist.  The people who built this city, clean it, drive the buses and look after its children are being quietly abandoned with no thought at all to our lives, housing needs or futures.

Across London, from Deptford to Tottenham, luxury flats are springing up like a virus – the first warning to the poor that this is no longer our town.  There was a time when gentrification took a couple of decades, areas like Notting Hill did not become the playgrounds of the rich overnight.  Now as soon as a Foxtons opens next to the launderette you know you’re fucked.

When this onslaught is finally complete London will die.  No-one wants to live in a city full of braying chinless wankers jabbering into smart phones about house prices all day.  A global city of the super rich may sound like a utopia to the likes of Boris Johnson or the toffs in government.  But they will destroy London like they destroy everything else.  The end result will be a city that may have lots of places to buy fucking artisan cupcakes or quaff Champagne, but it will be a place with no soul.  Their money will not be able to fix that.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Housing Crisis, What Housing Crisis? Says Homelessness Charity Boss Jeremy Swain

killing-with-kindnessAn astonishing post from the boss of one of London’s largest housing charities shows how those paid a small fortune to represent homeless people are completely out of touch with the reality that their so-called ‘service users’ face.

Jeremy Swain is the boss of Thames Reach, one of the largest providers of emergency and temporary accommodation for single homeless people in London and the South East.  Recently he attended a meeting with Unemployment Minister Esther McVey, along with other highly paid charity chief executives and civil servants.

In his write up of this cosy affair you might have thought that the boss of a charity which works with the homeless people would tear into the Minister about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap or the current brutal benefit sanctioning regime. Possibly he might have mentioned that Boris Johnson’s housing strategy for London contains virtually no provision for desperately needed social housing.  He might even have offered a vicious condemnation of the current appalling policies aimed at people sleeping on the streets which amount to little more than police harassment of those without a home.  Surely at least he would mention soaring rents which are currently making much of the South East unaffordable for people on low incomes, or changes to housing benefits which force people under 35 to try and find a room in a shared house rather than self-contained accommodation.

But instead of this Jeremy writes on the Inside Housing website* that he is  concerned that parts of the homelessness industry “doggedly refuses to acknowledge successes” or makes it an “an article of faith that these are the worst of times” which may even “lead us into unquestioningly believing this to be true”.   There is no mention at all of the vicious welfare reforms which have already taken place, or of the carnage that is yet to come.

The latest rough sleeping figures show a shocking 37% leap in the number of people on the streets since this Government weren’t elected.  Statutory homelessness, which in practice largely means homeless families, remains at a relentlessly high level, despite changes to the law which means families can now be fobbed off into the expensive and insecure private sector rather than qualifying for social housing.  Jeremy is right that the number of families in temporary accommodation has fallen slightly since the obscene highs that were seen at times under the Labour Government.  But really, so fucking what.  As the Bedroom Tax begins to bite, and Discretionary Housing Payments run dry then things are set to get much worse, possibly even than we can yet imagine.

For those on low incomes, who are often in insecure housing to begin with, a crisis is taking place, but not one that will ever affect Jeremy’s pay packet.  Benefits are being stopped or sanctioned for the most trivial of reasons.  Atos assessments are driving people into both desperate poverty and ongoing despair.  Plans to strip Disability Living Allowance from a fifth of disabled people will only make things far worse, as will further cuts to housing benefits which will now shrink on an annual basis.  And throughout this onslaught a hate-filled campaign has emanated from the DWP and Esther McVey herself which has led to the most marginalised groups – exactly the type of people Thames Reach work with – being abused in both the national press and the streets.

The sad truth is that at heart Jeremy Swain and Esther McVey are both committed to the idea that poverty is a personal failing rather than a structural consequence of a capitalist economy.  That’s why Swain has remained obsessed with making Special Brew or cider more expensive, rather than tackling the causes of why so many people are drinking themselves to death.  Just like Iain Duncan Smith, Swain believes making poor people even poorer is the only way to bring them into line.

This is why he was also happy to lend Thames Reach’s name to the Killing With Kindness campaign which re-emerged last year and warned “well meaning people” not to give money to beggars because they might spend it on drugs.  In a breath-takingly nasty move, this campaign was launched over the Christmas period.  Give the money to us instead said Thames Reach, so Jeremy Swain can continue stuffing vol-au-vents down his neck and sucking up to murderous monsters like Esther McVey.  There’s a good living to be made from homeless people for charity chief executives after all.  And no need to derail the gravy train, and risk those lucrative Government contracts, by telling DWP ministers what you really think of their vile behaviour.

*you need to register to read it, but it’s free.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

jesus-workfare-salvationFrom Boycott Workfare

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty will be holding another of their regular and extremely successful blockades of the Salvation Army on Saturday morning from 11am onwards.

Join in with an online blockade of the Salvation Army’s social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.

Make your feelings known and you may even get to join the prestigious ‘Banned by the Salvation Army over workfare related comments’ facebook group.

Although the Salvation Army are steering clear of the government’s latest workfare programme, the 6 month long Community Work Placements, they are still major users of workfare, taking part in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. The Salvation Army have expressed their support for workfare for sick and disabled people using the disturbing phrase “emancipation through employment”. Their enthusiastic support of workfare has won them praise from the government last year that they were ‘holding the line’ as other organisations were dropping out of the schemes due to public outrage.

We will keep the pressure on until they fully withdraw from all workfare schemes which threaten people with benefit sanctions of up to 3 years, causing hunger and homelessness.

Contact the Salvation Army UK on Facebook and on Twitter: @salvationarmyuk

They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at: info@salvationarmy.org.uk

Please spread the word!

The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid