Monthly Archives: April 2012

May Day and More

It’s set to be a busy month this May as resistance to the toff Government once more spills out onto the streets.

Join London’s branches of Solidarity Federation, along with UK Uncut and Occupy London, to take on Workfare in Central London on May 1st.  Meet on the TUC March which begins at noon from Clerkenwell Green.

If the Stalinist infected march doesn’t appeal then re-converge at West One Shopping Centre (by Bond Street tube) at 4pm.  Details on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/events/406395462721503/ whilst Sol Fed have produced a handy map of workfare exploiters in Central London.

There’s events and protests happening on May Day around the UK – some of them can be found at: http://uncomradelybehaviour.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/mayday-2012-anarchist-whats-on/

On Thursday 3rd May the energy companies will be targeted at the Big Six Energy Bash, more info at: http://climatejusticecollective.org/#/big-six-energy-bash/4561602950

Action continues against workfare and the poverty pimps who profit on May 4th, with a picket of A4e in Brighton, meet at the Clock Tower from 11am: http://www.facebook.com/events/211065069004254/

On Saturday 5th May Liverpool Sol Fed and Uncut will be once again Combating Workfare in the city, meeting at the Next To Nowhere Bookshop at 11.30.  http://www.facebook.com/events/388759674490817/

It may not be on the scale we all wanted, but it’s what we’ve got, and on the 10th May members of UNITE, the PCS and NIPSA will be on strike against the Government’s pension massacre.  Not much news of picket lines or demonstrations as yet, but will try and post some details as they emerge.

A conference is being hosted by Brighton Benefits Campaign on the 26th May where campaigners and activists will meet to discuss How Do We Break Workfare?  Full details at: http://brightonbenefitscampaign.wordpress.com/saturday-26-may-national-conference-how-do-we-break-workfare/

Finally, also on May 26th, UK Uncut will be hosting Street Parties around the UK.  No further details have been given yet, keep an eye on their website at:   http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

Apologies to everything I’ve missed, please feel free to post details of other stuff taking place this month in the comments.

Even Without Sanctions Workfare Is Still A Wealth Grab By The Rich

That the anti-workfare campaigns have forced major concessions from the Government over benefit sanctions is an important victory.

Sanctions have, temporarily at least, been removed from not just the Government’s Work Experience scheme for young people, but also the Work Programme and Sector Based Work Academies.  We have no guarantee however that the DWP won’t try and sneak sanctions back in once the row, and the court cases, have died down.  We also don’t know if they plan to force people onto Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), four weeks workfare, if they refuse to ‘volunteer’ for the other schemes.  According to George Osborne last year, this is Government policy.

Sanctions still very much exist on Mandatory Work Activity, which is basically a system of Community Service for unemployed people presided over by Jobcentre staff.  Unemployed people can be sent on MWA from day one of their claim if the Jobcentre decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  This most pernicious form of workfare is being propped up by charities who benefit from the free labour under the scheme.

Even if sanctions were to be permanently removed from all workfare schemes it should still be resisted. Unpaid work is yet another attempt by money grabbing bosses to increase their profits at both the tax payer’s and the workfare worker’s expense.  Huge companies such as Holland & Barrett are now basing their recruitment policies on workfare schemes.  This means they can select potential staff from the Jobcentre and offer them what is basically a probationary period with the company.  Because they don’t have to pay them, they can now take on more probationary staff than they need.  This allows them to benefit from a rolling pool of free labour for tasks which require little training.

The benefits of this for large companies are clear.  Argos gave the game away when they said they only used workfare staff during the busy Christmas period.  This put paid to any claims that taking on unpaid workers was somehow unprofitable due to the time needed to train them.  It is also one of the clearest indications we have of workfare being used to replace real jobs.

The evidence shows that most people on workfare are not offered a job with the host employer.  Even those who are subsequently employed have already had their wages paid by the state for up to two months.  This represents a significant saving to the companies involved.  Meanwhile workfare workers live on the pittance paid by the benefits system whilst working full time.  Many people have reported being unable to afford lunch and spending all day hungry, despite often carrying out strenuous physical work.

Another big advantage to workfare staff for employers is that it allows them to undermine both formal and informal agreements with existing staff over working conditions.  Workfare workers, many of whom are young and keen to impress, can be used to cover shifts that might have earlier attracted overtime rates.  ASDA forced workfare staff to work on Christmas Eve, whilst paid workers, many of whom aren’t Christians and would have welcomed the over-time, were sent home.  Workfare staff have no rights and can still be subject to benefit sanctions if dismissed for gross incompetence.  So far the DWP have given no indication as to what gross misconduct might mean in practice.  It is possible that gross misconduct could be construed as failing to cross a picket line.  Whilst the DWP hold the purse strings, and manage any disciplinary matters, the collective bargaining power of all employees is undermined.

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher introduced the despised Youth Training Scheme (YTS), later re-branded as the Youth Opportunity Programme (YOP).  The YTS was aimed at 16 and 17 year old school leavers who back then were eligible for benefits. Thatcher used the introduction of these schemes as an excuse to scrap benefits for those under 18.  It is possibly the agenda of the Tories to use workfare as cover to do the same to 18 to 24 year olds.  Cameron has already floated the idea of scrapping Housing Benefits for those under 25.

But even on the derided YTS young people were paid for their work.  In fact they were paid around a third more than was currently available to 18 – 24 years old on benefit.  Even then some employers chose to top up the wages of those on the scheme, something that seems almost unimaginable now.  If greed was good in the eighties, it is now seen as the greatest possible human virtue.  To greedy people at least.

There is an insidious drive by this toff Government to mislead our children into thinking that working for free is a necessary step in establishing a foot hold in the jobs market.  The truth is that according to the Government’s own figures, work experience is of barely any value to people looking for work.  For the vast majority of participants it is a complete waste of time.  People who attended workfare were only 16% more likely to be off benefits six months later than those who did nothing at all.  This figure can surely be explained by the fact that only the most motivated young people volunteered for workfare.  They also proved themselves able to pass the selection process needed to get on the scheme, which can include an interview with the employer .  They’d almost certainly have got work anyway.  Perhaps even quicker.

Back in the bleak eighties youth unemployment was higher than it is today.  George Osborne is obviously working very hard to change that, but even back then no-one suggested people should work for free to get a job.  If you worked, even on a YTS, or other training scheme, you also got paid.  You might have not got paid enough, but it was more than the dole.

Now the private sector expects the tax payer to pay for their new recruits, at least until they’ve decided whether they really want them or not.  In most cases it turns out they don’t.  And the DWP has decided the tax payer should keep young people in poverty whilst they work.  It is the worst of all possible worlds.  State funded forced labour to increase the profits of the rich.  Yet another wealth grab by billionaires intent on wrenching every last penny from the working class.  And all carried out by the state they pretend to hate and in many cases refuse to pay for themselves.

Combat Workfare on May Day!

The Homelessness Holocaust That Has Barely Even Begun

Despite the pleadings of Grant Shapps, the obnoxious little spiv in charge of housing, an unprecedented homelessness crisis is now inevitable in the UK.

The Local Housing Allowance (LHA – formerly Housing Benefit) caps have not even started to bite yet. The introduction of the cap is being staggered, depending on the date on which LHA was first claimed or last assessed.  The cap came into force for prospective tenants on the 1st April 2011.  For existing tenants the cap comes in 9 months after the date on which the claim for LHA was first made.  This means those who have a claim which began last April will have faced the implementation of the cap in January this year.  Only around a third of private sector tenants are likely to have seen their benefit capped so far.

Even those who have been subject to the cap are unlikely to have been evicted yet.  Eviction can be a lengthy process and one in which families in particular must go through in order to qualify for any help from the council.  If a household is not formally evicted then they may be deemed ‘intentionally homeless’.  Whilst councils have a legal duty to protect children they have no such duty towards adults who have been judged to have given up a home voluntarily.  In practice this means Local Authorities may offer to take children into care, whilst leaving the parents to fend for themselves.

There are huge numbers of eviction cases currently passing through the courts in London.  Canny tenants may still be paying their rent minus the amount which has been deducted from their LHA.  This means it will take much longer for arrears to build up and the eviction process will be much slower.

Newham Council, one of London’s poorest boroughs, claim they have 32,000 people currently in urgent need of housing and are attempting to relocate residents across the UK.  Only some of these people will be facing homelessness as a result of eviction due to the benefit cap.  The toxic combination of the cap for new tenants, placing most houses in the Borough out of reach, and the ongoing recession, is the most likely reason Newham Council have so many homeless people on their books.  These factors will create a torrent of homeless people in their own right, which will only increase as more people see houses repossessed, rents become unaffordable, and debt and money problems mount up for struggling families.

Grant Shapps revealed he is ignorant of his own policies when he claimed there are 1000 properties available on Housing Benefit within five miles of Newham.   Despite the fact that 1000 homes to house 32,000 people is hardly a rosy situation, he seemed unaware that Local Housing Allowance is a regional benefit now set at the bottom 30% of local rental costs.  The maximum available LHA for a four bedroom property in Newham is £300 a week.  The Guardian was only able to find 68 properties within that range within five miles of the borough.  Even then some of those properties will carry the ubiquitous condition of No DSS, meaning they are unavailable to people on benefits.  The housing crisis in Newham is far, far greater than Shapps has tried to pretend.

The graph above (from Shelter) disputes Shapps’ claim that rents are falling.  Quite the opposite is happening.  A combination of soaring rents and a plunging economy would be enough to create mass homelessness on their own, without any changes to housing benefits.  The 13% rise in homelessness (and 23% rise in street homelessness) reported by Shelter last year was little to do with Welfare Reform and far more to do with a flat-lined economy and rising unemployment.  We haven’t seen anything yet.

The LHA caps will push homelessness even higher over the next year as more people become subject to them and are evicted as a result.  The impact of the caps on LHA have barely begun to be felt.

Sadly it doesn’t end there.  The aforementioned change to set LHA rates at the bottom 30% of the rental market has still not yet been implemented for all tenants.  According to the Chartered Institute of Housing this move will place 800,000 properties out of reach for those who are unemployed, disabled, or on a low income.  Glasgow, Birmingham and Liverpool are all singled out as cities which may yet come to have a homelessness problem to rival that of London.  Some of those young people may come to London in the search for jobs and housing, and end up on the streets as so many did in the 1980s and early 1990s.  This time however they will be replaced by low income families socially cleansed from London and other areas.

Even this time-bomb isn’t enough for the toff Government, most of whom were brought up in mansions.  Previously, under LHA rules,  people under 25 were only eligible for a room in a shared house.  This has been increased to 35.  No assessment has been done to see whether there are enough rooms in shared houses for that many people.  And houses full of 20 year old students are hardly likely to opt to share with people just about old enough to be their parents.  This is yet another change that has yet to be felt and in particular is likely to impact on street homelessness.   Those with no children, who are not deemed ‘vulnerable’ (meaning they are not assessed as sick and disabled or claiming a pension), are not eligible for any assistance from Local Authorities. This leaves many younger people with no option but the street.

Homeless charities are reporting desperate funding problems.  This will mean less hostel and night-shelter accommodation.  Despite the lies of UKIP, many recent arrivals to London from Eastern Europe are currently on the streets, unable to secure work, housing or even afford a ticket home.  More young people leave home everyday, sometimes for economic reasons, sometimes to escape abuse.  The toughened benefit sanctions regime and the assessments for health related benefits, are seeing benefits stripped away on an unprecedented scale.  Hundreds of thousands of people are being left with not enough to feed themselves or their families.  New rules mean that LHA can no longer be paid direct to landlords.  In desperation people will dip into LHA payments to feed themselves or keep the heating on.  More people are likely to slip into drug or alcohol dependency as poverty bites and begin the downward spiral which can lead to life on the streets.  Previous ‘cardboard cities’, not seen in London for 20 years, will pale into insignificance compared to what’s to come.

Plans to increase Social Housing rents to the same level as the private sector will mean even Council Tenants in some areas will no longer have their housing costs met by benefits.  The Tories are currently forcing through laws which will ban squatting, whilst more evictions of traveller sites are likely.  The Government could not have created a more perfect storm.

The real bombshell is not set to hit until next year.  The £500 a week benefit cap will mean the end of life in Greater London for larger families on low incomes.  Tens of thousands of people will be made homeless at a stroke, most of them children.  The social chaos this will cause is unimaginable.  The personal tragedy for those concerned almost unthinkable.

There has long been a housing crisis in the UK and the last Labour administration did nothing to address it.  But the changes made by this Government will be devastating.  Homelessness wrecks lives, often leaving permanent scars.  Mass homelessness, on a scale never seen before in the UK,  may come to be seen as one of Cameron’s most tragic legacies.

Atos Occupied!

Activists from Occupy Newcastle invaded the Atos Assessment Centre in the city yesterday in protest at the brutal disability and health assessments carried out by the company.

French IT firm Atos have the contract to carry out the Government’s Work Capability Assessment, a short computer based test which is used to establish eligibility for the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance.  Hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people have been stripped of benefits, or placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).  A recent investigation found 32 people a week are dying after being placed in this group.  People in the WRAG group can face benefit sanctions should they not carry out pointless back to work activities inflicted on them by poverty pimps like A4e, or the money grabbing charities who are sub-contractors for the Government’s failing Work Programme scheme.

Atos are one of the companies bidding for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) contract.  This is a similar testing regime to the one currently run by Atos and is being designed to strip Disability Living Allowance from a fifth of disabled people.

Atos have seen protests outside their offices across the UK with regular demonstrations also staged outside their gleaming London Headquarters.

These protests show no sign of dying down as yesterday’s actions prove.  Campaigners occupied the waiting area of Atos’ Arden House where they performed street theatre.  According to indymedia, they met the usual contempt for claimants from Atos staff, with one of the occupiers saying:

“ATOS security and staff were quick to show their complete contempt for people out of work with the management telling activists to ‘stop being lazy and get a job’. They attempted to stop the protest from being filmed, confiscated the table being used as a prop (injuring someone in the process) and called the police. Despite these attacks the demonstration was successful.”

Meanwhile the Nottingham Defence Campaign has published a pamphlet highlighting both Atos’ treatment of sick and disabled benefit claimants, as well as the increased use of political policing in the city.

Last year two people were arrested and charged with Aggravated Trespass after a peaceful protest outside Atos’ Nottingham offices.  A solidarity campaign drew support from around the UK, with more demonstrations held in Nottingham in support of those charged, who were dubbed the ‘Atos Two’.

In a major victory for the campaign, the charges were eventually dropped as the complainant (Atos) no longer supported the prosecution.  This is not the first time the company has backed down.  After their attempts to censor the internet last year by issuing a wave of legal threats and take down notices to those critical of them, scores of websites defied their legal bullying.  Atos appear to have retreated, with no action taken against the websites which published material that Atos considered ‘tasteless’.

The pamphlet, which can be downloaded here (PDF) contains the story of the Atos Two, as well as many other resources including advice for those facing the Atos testing regime.  It also includes a copy of the joint letter signed by countless campaign groups, as well as health and social care professionals, which was sent to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

A print version of the pamphlet can be ordered for a quid, for more info contact: nottsdefence [at] riseup.net

This will not be the end of action directed at Atos and should provide a taster of what’s to come for the rest of the poverty pimp scum bidding to take on the Personal Independence Payment assessments.

Are Landlords Breaking The Law When They Demand No DSS?

Trying to find a place to live when you are on benefits can be near impossible.  Landlords already demand huge deposits, which few benefit claimants can afford.  Even then, claimants have to find a landlord who will accept Housing Benefit or  face being forced to lie about their financial circumstances.

This is one of the main drivers of homelessness. If you are unemployed, or on a low wage, and have no savings, it is near impossible to secure private rented accommodation.  Don’t expect the Council to help.  Unless you have children or can jump through the ever increasing number of hoops which means your Local Authority deems you ‘vulnerable’, then they are under no obligation to offer any help at all with housing..

The ubiquitous phrase No DSS is displayed in the windows of many Estate Agents and refers to their refusal to house benefit claimants.  Foxtons, one of London’s largest estate agents, on a quick phone call to their main number, say they will only accept benefit claimants in Guildford, Woking or Stratford, but not their swanky central London pads.  This includes, according to the person on the end of the phone at least, people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a non means tested disability benefit available to those in and out of work alike.  A call to a local Foxtons Office in Dulwich asking the same question brings the same answer.  They will not accept any tenants on benefits of any kind.

The refusal to accept DLA may simply be down to a mistake by their agents on the end of the phone.  Or it may mean that Foxtons will not accept disabled tenants in Central London.  It seems clear that anyone on an out of work health related benefit, such as Employment Support Allowance (ESA), would be wasting their time ringing Foxtons in the hope of securing a roof over their heads.

The phrase ‘No DSS’ is somewhat ludicrous since the DSS, the old Department of Social Security, doesn’t even exist anymore.  It is generally used as a euphemism to mean no-one on benefits at all.  This can be interpreted to mean someone on a low wage who qualifies for a Housing Benefit top up, as well as anyone on DLA, ESA, Income Support, Pension Credit or the unemployment benefit Job Seekers Allowance.

Indirect discrimination, in reference to disability, is defined in the Equalities Act as:

(1)A person (A) discriminates against a disabled person (B) if—
(a)A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability, and
(b)A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

It is unlikely that the Courts would consider preventing disabled people from accessing housing as a legitimate aim.  This begs the question of whether the phrase ‘No DSS’ is a legal demand for landlords to make.

Private sector tenants have been so worn down by the erosion of tenants rights that this is not a matter which has drawn much scrutiny.  A blog on The Guardian last year posed the question:  Do ‘No DSS’ and ‘No students’ notices fall foul of the Equality Act?

On the question of students, and most people on Job Seekers Allowance, it seems that landlords are acting legally, if immorally, when they discriminate against them.  However for those on disability benefit the situation is not quite so clear.  According to The Guardian (which is checked by lawyers and stuff):

“As I have said, I am assuming that placebobutton considers that refusing to let premises to benefit claimants will be indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of disability because disabled people are more likely to be out of or unable to work and therefore in receipt of social security benefits. I don’t know whether this is indeed the case, but statistics to this effect will be necessary if someone is going to show that disabled people are put at a particular disadvantage by this criterion. If statistics can be produced which show that disabled people are significantly more likely to be on benefits than people who are not disabled, then unless a landlord or estate agent can show that refusing to let to benefit claimants is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim – and it is hard to see what such a legitimate aim might be – he/she will fall foul of the Equality Act.”

There are around 6 million disabled people in the UK.  Over half are claiming DLA.  Around a third are likely to be on ESA, the benefit which is for people unable to work because of sickness or disability.  A significant number of disabled people will also now be on Job Seekers Allowance, particularly after the Atos holocaust which has seen hundreds of thousands of disabled people stripped of health benefits.

No-one who is not disabled is claiming DLA (despite what this Government may pretend).  It seems pretty clear that discriminating against someone on the grounds they are claiming DLA is therefore illegal.  If it is really Foxtons’ policy not to accept anyone on any disability benefits then they are probably breaking the law.  This is no real surprise.  Foxtons are scum.

The definition of disability given in the Equalities Act may not apply exactly to everyone on DLA or ESA, and obviously many people on Job Seekers Allowance are not disabled.  But the evidence suggests that of the 6 million disabled people in the UK, most are on some form of benefit, and around a third are on an out of work benefit.

As a third of the non-disabled workforce aren’t on benefits, it is therefore easy to show that yes, disabled people are more likely to be on benefits than non-disabled people.  If The Guardian is correct then  it does seem that the phrase ‘No DSS’ is illegal.

Perhaps it is time to turn our attention to the unpleasant practices of money grabbing landlords as the housing crisis bites?

You can call Foxtons to question them in detail about their policies towards disabled people on benefits on: 0800 369 8667.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

UK Uncut Plan Mass Street Parties

UK Uncut are calling for street parties across the UK on May 26th.  A statement on their website reads:

“UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action group, has today announced a new plan of action to start shortly before the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and the Olympic period. The group, best known for targeting tax dodgers, will hold street parties in major towns and cities across the UK in the run up to the Jubilee and Olympics which will ‘resist the cuts and celebrate a future that is decided by us, not a handful of billionaires’.

“The UK Uncut planned events will take place on the weekend before the Queen’s Jubilee. UK Uncut has dubbed these events as street parties with a ‘twist’. They plan to block major roads and high streets up and down the country to call for a ‘future uncut’ and protest the government’s cuts, austerity agenda and the closure of local public services.”

In the 90′s the street party movement, which began in London with Reclaim the Streets, swept the world.  A fusion of the direct action of the environmental movement, the enduring rave culture and some good old fashioned anarchism created a new and radical form of protest which genuinely appeared to rattle the state.

In 1997 Reclaim the Streets linked up with the striking Liverpool dockers for a March for Social Justice which ended in a huge rave in Trafalgar Square.  Prior to this a party had been held on the M40, where a tree was planted in the middle of the motorway.  The movement came to a head with the Carnival Against Capitalism on June 18th 1999 when thousands of people descended on the Square Mile and ransacked the financial district.  Six months later in Seattle the World Trade Organisation meeting was shut down by mass protests, sparking the worldwide anti-globalisation movement.

They were more optimistic times, and whilst the anger that lay behind them was genuine, Reclaim the Streets parties were both fun and spiky, a difficult combination to achieve.  At times it almost felt like we might win, but perhaps that was just the drugs.

UK Uncut appear to aiming more for bunting, disruption and cake than techno, ecstasy and fighting the filth, but with the Olympics coming and the Jubilee just round the corner, this action could help spark the Summer of protest against this toff Government we so badly need.

A documentary about the history of Reclaim the Streets (found via urban75)

Boris Johnson – The Joke That’s Not Funny Anymore

It’s now over two years since Boris Johnson claimed he would not accept ‘Kosovo style social cleansing’ on his watch and then proceeded to do fuck all about it.

For new claimants the Housing Benefit caps, which place most London rents out of reach of the low waged, the unemployed, disabled people or pensioners, have now been in place for over a year.  This effectively ended the safety net of the Welfare State for Londoners in the private rented sector.  Under this toff Government, should you be made unemployed, or become sick or disabled, then in all probability homelessness will follow.

Street homelessness is already predictably soaring.  Charities claim this is just the tip of the iceberg with thousands of young people sleeping on friend’s sofas, in hostels, squatting or living in night shelters.

The Government’s response has been to introduce legislation to ban squatting, whilst Boris has raided the budget allocated to rough sleepers for five million pounds.

In January the Housing Benefit caps came in for existing tenants, forcing thousands of people from their homes.  This is precisely the kind of ‘social cleansing’ Boris promised wouldn’t happen.  It’s happening.

The bungling Mayor didn’t even appear to notice until someone questioned him about it yesterday when he blustered that he would intervene.  Whatever he attempts now will be too little far too late.  Even if he scrapes the election, it’s unlikely he will do anything about the housing crisis in the city.   He never does anything.  The problem is set to get far worse next year when the £500 a week benefit cap is brought in.  Boris won’t do anything about that either.

It is a national scandal that unscrupulous landlords in London have made the capital unaffordable to anyone but yuppy scum and Russian billionaire gangsters.  But Boris shouldn’t be squeamish about supporting high Housing Benefit payments.  After all, he earns quarter of a million a year writing his shit column for the Daily Telegraph.  A sum he describes as chicken feed.

It is no surprise that rents are soaring in places like Newham who are attempting to re-locate their poorest residents to Stoke.  The Olympics is undoubtedly one reason.  A far bigger factor is the number of tenants forced out of Central London Boroughs into the outer regions.  This has sent demand soaring in the outer London boroughs with rents predictably rising as a result.

Council Tax rises are sure to follow.  The experience of Stoke should serve as a stark warning to the leafy Home Counties:

“We have seen in the past relocation putting strain on other services because the medical, education and justice systems are unprepared for an influx of very needy people.

“The result was huge, unplanned pressure on local services, the collapse of already vulnerable neighbourhoods and the rise of divisive right-wing extremism.”

The Stoke Housing Association asked to house London’s poor has predictably told Newham Council to fuck off.  It is the outer London Boroughs who will bear the brunt of the problems outlined above.  Any pretend cut in Council Tax that Boris has promised will be obliterated by the social costs of exporting thousands of London’s poorest residents out of the city centre.  Surrey could come to resemble the ghettos of Paris as a result.

With tube and train fares also set to rocket, hitting hard pressed commuters the most, the cost of the Tory Mayor and his party’s policies will prove disastrous for outer London.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has tried to distance himself from the chinless idiots currently plunging the nation into economic chaos.  But he is cut from the exact same cloth as Cameron and Osborne.  A true blue toff, his Dad was a Tory MEP who worked for the World Bank.  His brother, Jo Johnson is a Tory MP for Orpington.  Just like Cameron, Boris went to Eton and then joined the odious Bullingdon Boys at Oxford.  He is as out of touch and clueless about how most people live as the worst of the chinless knobs in the Cabinet.

When London was burning during the riots last year Boris couldn’t even be arsed to come back from his holiday.  When he finally turned up in Peckham he was jeered by locals.  Central London residents already think Boris is a twat who knows nothing of their lives.  His crude ‘water melon smiles’ racism and comparisons of gay marriage to bestiality have not been forgotten by those in the heart of the city.  Boris has tried to laugh off his past bigotry.  He’s little more than a posh Jim Davidson.

After eight years of Ken’s joyless scab junta it’s unsurprising that London elected a comedian to London Mayor.  But the joke has worn desperately thin.  Boris treats the job as little more than an excuse to quaff champagne with bankers and flatter his ego by waving his crap floppy hair about for the cameras.  And he only bothers to do that part time.  All Boris has come up with in his four years as Mayor are a few embarrassing looking bikes that weren’t even his idea and a couple of buses.

Boris earned over a million pounds last year.  He seems to care far more about increasing his riches than actually doing any work for Londoners.  Boris will do nothing to help ease the housing crisis should he be elected.  He will bluff and bluster whilst Council Tax, rents and fares soar in outer London.  And he is likely to be a national fucking embarrassment come the Olympics.

Boris should have served as a stark warning of what happens when arrogant little posh boys are given political power.  Lazy, brutal and incompetent, no-one sums up this current Government better than Boris Johnson.  He was never even really that good on the telly.  There will be no relief from the mass homelessness, social cleansing and desperate poverty emerging in the capital if Boris is re-elected.  And no amount of Boris’ spiffing japes will change that.

Disclaimer:  In the interest of balance it should be pointed out that Ken Livingstone, Brian Paddick, Jenny Jones, Lawrence Webb, Siobhan Benita and Carlos Cortiglia, are also cunts.

Workfare Doesn’t Help Young People Find Work

The Government are lying to our children that they should do ‘work experience’ in order to find a job, despite recent figures revealing it barely increases their chances of finding work at all.

Last week Chris Grayling attempted to hail the Work Experience scheme as a huge success brandishing research that shows those who had been on the scheme were 16% more likely to be off benefits than those who hadn’t.

This claim, which is far from impressive in itself, does little to prove that Work Experience is actually helping people find work.  Grayling was referring to a study commissioned by the DWP which tracked over 3000 people who had participated in the scheme along with a similar number who didn’t.

The problem is establishing whether those claimants were a similar group, in terms of not just prior work history and education, but other factors such as the local labour market or whether the participants were disabled.

And the DWP don’t have much of this information.  Whilst they can make some estimates of whether a young person has worked before using tax office data, they have no idea what the educational background of the individual concerned is.  They don’t know whether they have a criminal record or are affected by homelessness.  They don’t even know if someone has a disability or a health condition unless they have been told about them by the claimant and someone has bothered to record it.

This leaves researchers with only very crude estimates as to whether the two sample groups were the same.  The report says:

“For example, while we have not been able to observe an individual’s qualifications, personality type, life experience, experience of discrimination, confidence, health, language skills or happiness, we hope that by controlling for gender, age, ethnicity, disability, local labour market characteristics, labour market history, prior programme participation etc. the model will capture virtually all of their influence by proxy.”

They attempt to measure someone’s motivation to find work, or their possible value to employers, by using things like ethnicity.  They make an assumption that if they average things out like skin colour, the genitals they possess or where they happen to live, this will reflect how motivated or likely to find work they are.  This is bogus and verging on racism.  Under these factors a young black man fresh out of university could be statistically comparable to a young black man fresh out of prison.

They can apply all the statistical analysis to the data they want, it doesn’t change the fact that the raw parameters are verging on meaningless when attempting to measure motivation.  Black people are no more or less motivated than white people.  Employer racism is sadly still a problem for some young people looking for work, it is far from the only factor at play.  And no Government Work Experience scheme is likely to change that.

The strongest possible measure of similarity is an individual’s employment history, but even this is flawed because as the researchers admit:

“Figure 4.3 highlights imperfections in the P45 HMRC employment data and exposes gaps in our understanding of an individual’s status. In Figures 4.1 and 4.3, at 52 weeks before starting, 23% were in employment and 33% were on benefit (there will be some overlap between these two figures). This means that at least 44% (how many more depends on the degree of overlap) who are recorded as neither on benefit nor in employment. Their status is unknown; some might be in education but others will be in employment but are not recorded to be in work at that time. Moreover, in the week of starting Work Experience, 13% were employed; we would expect the real employment rate to be close to zero because all participants were actually claiming benefit in this week.”

So according to their data 13% of Work Experience participants were already in employment when the study began!  The researchers warn that “the employment impact estimates rely on imperfect data and should be treated with a degree of caution.”

One thing is clear from their research, which is that many Work Experience participants already had substantial ‘work experience’ .  This leave Ministerial claims that it is a necessary scheme to teach young people about the world of work looking somewhat flaky.

There is one very obvious way to measure the motivation of those who volunteered for work experience against those who didn’t.  And that is that some of them volunteered for fucking work experience and some of them didn’t.

There is also a way to measure how employable participants in the scheme were against those who didn’t sign up.  Employers have a choice of who they take on work experience.  Therefore those participating in the scheme have already been selected by an employer as suitable for workfare.  Some may have even attended an interview.  It’s entirely possible that unscrupulous employers may offer someone a job, but expect them to do a couple of months workfare first.  This brings all kinds of benefits to the employer, the main one of course being free labour.

The conclusion of the report acknowledges some, if not all, of the above problems with the study.  It also cautions that there may be an effect on the overall labour market of the Work Experience Programme warning that: “it is possible that the programme may have incurred some substitution effects (i.e. an employee taken on as part of WE by an employer is substituted for someone else who would have been hired).”

Grayling’s claims that young people who participate in Work Experience are a meagre 16% more likely to come off benefits than those who don’t may well be true but that is no indication of the success of the programme (and that’s come off benefits, not necessarily find work).

It is not possible to estimate with any confidence the higher levels of motivation or employability of work experience participants using the crude analysis in the study.  All we can be certain of is that it represents some skewing of the figures.  We can never know how many employers offer young people a job but demand they carry out work experience as a trial period first.  And we just don’t know how many people would have been given real jobs if the Government had not promised employers endless supplies of free labour.

But it’s really not inconceivable that undertaking Work Experience has zero impact on whether young people actually get a job or not.  All we know is that young people who volunteer for the scheme, and pass a selection process with an employer, are slightly more likely than those who don’t to be in work a few months later.  We also know that most of them probably won’t be in work few months later.

The Government’s new Youth Contract is workfare on a huge scale.  Whether this will actually be able to be carried out now sanctions have been dropped from many workfare schemes is unclear.  What is for sure is that on the evidence Grayling has presented then it is unlikely to have any effect on youth unemployment.

The only people workfare works for are exploitative employers who are being handed tax payer funded free labour on an industrial scale.  Workfare is little more than a state hand out to people like Tesco and Holland & Barrett. It is time to end this ludicrous waste of money and lives and demand that everybody is paid a wage for the work they do.

You can read the study at: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/early_impacts_of_work_experience.pdf

Black Out the Beeb on Jubilee Day

Strikes are possible over the Jubilee weekend as unions reject what they call a ‘derisory’ pay offer of just 1%.

UNITE, the NUJ and BETCU are balloting over industrial action which could see the BBC’s coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee forced off the airwaves.    Should the strike go ahead all good republicans should get down to picket lines and support them.  Whilst Beeb workers face effective pay cuts and redundancies, a fortune is being spent on yet another party for the fucking Windsors.

The Queen must be laughing her tits off at us.  With her subjects suffering under Con-dem austerity, the Windsors are quaffing Champagne and scoffing canapes paid for by cuts to disabled people’s benefits and free school meals.

That the Queen and her gang of inbred thieves have ruled over us for 60 years should be a cause of national mourning not celebration.  And now we are set to face another barrage of chinless toffs lording their riches and privilege over us.  Fuck them. Let the airwaves go blank on jubilee day.  A day of Eastenders repeats would be preferable to cringe-making pop stars sucking up to the Royals.  Peggy Mitchell would make a better Queen than Liz Windsor any day.  And the Mitchell brothers would be proper soldiers, unlike the effete pretensions of William and Harry.

But sparing fictional characters being made head of state, the best we can hope for is the unions sending a message to the world what’s really going on in the UK.  Should BBC bosses not back down we could even see a strike over the sacred Olympics as well.

Turn off your TV on Jubilee day and get down to a picket line or the anti-jubilee protest being held on the banks of the Thames by Republic.

Workfare Falls Over and Almost Dies … For Now

In a major victory for campaigners, the concessions made to the Government’s workfare schemes after the recent storm of protest are far greater than Employment Minister Chris Grayling first suggested.

A recent response to a Freedom of Information request reveals that any referral to workfare must now be entirely voluntary on not just the Work Experience scheme for young people, but also the Sector Based Work Academies scheme and the Government’s flagship Work Programme.

DWP staff are now being told to take immediate steps to ensure that no
claimant of any age is sanctioned under the existing rules for failing to take
up, attend or leaving the Jobcentre Plus Work Experience scheme, the Work
Experience element of sector-based work academies and work experience
arranged by Work Programme providers:”

This is only ‘temporary’ guidance, which suggests it may change once the workfare row has died down.  More importantly, Mandatory Work Activity, the scheme under which claimants can be sentenced to a months unpaid work on the whims of Jobcentre staff, is not included in the new guidance.

The Guardian has already revealed that some young people who turn down a Work Experience placement have been forced onto Mandatory Work Activity.  Last year George Osborne seemed to suggest this is Government policy when he said that “Young people who don’t engage with this offer [of work experience] will be considered for mandatory work activity”.

Trying to get the truth out of either the DWP or lying bastard Chris Grayling is near impossible, but it is highly likely that people who refuse to go on one workfare scheme may simply be sent on another.

Even under these new guidelines, sanctions will still exist on the Work Programme, the largest and most expensive scheme which has been inflicted on almost 400,000 claimants so far.  This means any training, job search sessions, and all the other crap that private sector poverty pimps like A4e  dream up will still be mandated and failure to attend will lead to loss of benefits.

So whilst (according to the rules at least) people can not currently be sent on workfare, it is likely that some people will be forced to sit around in A4e’s garish offices fighting over out of date newspapers for up to 30 hours a week.  A recent account of life at A4e reveals this rip off company to be little more than a fucking embarrassment.

Jobcentre staff, under pressure from above, now have unprecedented powers to sanction claimants.  Despite this new guidance it is possible that claimants may still be sanctioned under Job Seekers Agreement rules, or even that this guidance will not fully filter through to front line workers.  Whilst the Work Experience was always technically voluntary, in practice many young people were told it was mandatory.  This is an area the PCS, the union which represents Jobcentre staff, could help with, simply by reiterating to their members what the rules actually are and asking them to be followed.  Too many Jobcentre staff seem to take relish in punishing benefit claimants, a reflection of the culture in the DWP and the wider benefit bashing campaigns in the media.  The PCS should be working to change this culture.

Sanctions can also still be applied to sick and disabled claimants referred onto the Work Programme in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).  Shamefully it is largely the responsibility of charities involved in the Work Programme to refer their users to the DWP for sanctions.  Almost 10,000 sick and disabled people were subject to benefit sanctions last year.  Some of them will have been referred by the Work Programme charitable sub-contractors  such as MIND, Mencap and the Leonard Chesire Foundation.

It is also charities who will benefit from the remaining two workfare schemes – Mandatory Work Experience and the new Community Action Scheme, under which long term unemployed people can be sent on six months workfare.  Both these schemes stipulate that the work must be of benefit to the community, and  by and large most placements so far have been with charities.  Unfortunately, in a probable breach of Freedom of Information rules, the DWP are refusing to say who those charities are.

Tesco and other corporate scum rejected sanctions at their cosy meeting with Chris Grayling.   The charitable sector however has not been so forthcoming.

It is charities who are now propping up forced labour, and the DWP is helping them keep their dirty little workfare secrets safe.

Despite all of this, the new guidelines represent a major fucking embarrassment for Chris Grayling who has claimed many times that no-one has been mandated to workfare for private companies on the Work Programme.  A pending Freedom of Information request should tell us this week whether the DWP are prepared to admit the minister in charge is a lying piece of shit.

It appears that the Work Programme is in meltdown behind the scenes.  The private companies contracted to deliver the scheme are likely to react with fury to these new guidelines.  Mandatory workfare was at the heart of many of their Work Programme activities.  Sending someone off to stack shelves in Tesco for free was by far one of the cheapest ways to look like they were actually doing something for their billions.  They will no doubt be demanding more money and lower targets due to the changes.

Confusion is likely to reign both within the DWP and the Work Programme contractors.  Resistance to unpaid work in all it’s forms looks set to continue.  No-one can believe a word Chris Grayling says anymore, whilst the Secretary of State ultimately responsible, Iain Duncan Smith, seems to have disappeared from public life.

The Welfare Reform Bill has only just passed into law and already Welfare Reform is an omni-shambolic farce.  This Government couldn’t run an egg and spoon race.