Author Archives: johnny void

RIP David Clapson, Another Man ‘Helped’ To Death By Iain Duncan Smith

RIP David Clapson, the latest tragic victim of callous welfare reforms.

RIP David Clapson, the latest tragic victim of callous welfare reforms.

When Funghi, the unemployed alcoholic  featured in the recent Benefits Street television series, disclosed that he had been abused as a child, most of those condemning him on twitter did not even blink.  Such is the state whipped up contempt amongst some towards people on benefits, that not even the revelation of a tragic childhood was enough to stop the bullying mob.

Yet one of the reasons child abuse is such an abhorrent crime is that the scars often last a lifetime.  Everybody knows this.  Addiction, depression, low self-esteem, isolation, these are just some of the ways that a life can be blighted by mistreatment as a child.  Often people like this find it hard to just get a job, and often not through want of trying.  The sad truth is that employers are not rushing out to hire people addicted to drink or drugs, or those with a serious mental health condition, or even people who might simply be judged to have a mild personality disorder.  In an economy based on high unemployment, and no real political will to change that, some people will always be left behind.  There are over two million people currently looking for a job.

Captitalism chews people up and spits them out.  Everybody knows this as well.  Whether the stress of a shit job or no job, poverty, lack of adequate housing and fractured communities, the pressures faced by those at the bottom are immense.  Yet the poor are now expected to be super-heroes.  Lone parents are not only expected to juggle looking after young children with endless work-related activity imposed by Jobcentres, but also to feed them healthy food, home-cooked on the fucking Aga using only natural ingredients.  It doesn’t matter that the pittance those parents have to survive on barely pays for value chicken nuggets and oven chips.  They should make do and mend, live on ten pounds a week, darn socks by the fire and be grateful that their children are just malnourished, not starving.

Disabled people and those with health conditions are now having those conditions and disabilities magically disappeared by endless health assessments which are designed to stop their benefits.  Such is the triumph of neo-liberalism, the rhetoric goes, that there is a job for anyone now if they just try hard enough.  If you can tweet you can work as one Tory MP claimed.  The stark fact that employers are guilty of grotesque discrimination towards disabled workers is swept under the carpet at best, or at worst disabled people themselves are blamed for this prejudice.

Many tyrants claim to be helping the people whose live are demolished by their acts of barbarism.  Whether European invaders ‘civilising’ Africa by forcing the people into chains, or Tony Blair carpet-bombing Baghdad to save it, death and destruction have often been inflicted by messianic monsters who believe they are killing people for their own good.

The latest government workfare scheme is called Help To Work.  It is nothing of the sort of course, when this type of workfare was tried in a pilot scheme it had no impact on whether people found a job.  But that hasn’t stopped gushing press releases from the DWP lying about all the wonderful new support the scheme offers.  In truth this so-called support is either forced labour or starvation and this Government couldn’t particularly give a fuck which.

Under the guise of this ‘help’, Iain Duncan Smith has re-designed the already scant support of the social security system to be a torture machine.  Slip up, just for a second, and you will be dragged down, to poverty, homelessness and destitution.  It doesn’t even matter if it’s not your fault.  People newly diagnosed with cancer now spend as much time fighting the DWP so they can have enough money to eat, as they do fighting their illness.  Victims of domestic abuse face being socially cleansed from the area they may have grown up in, instead of being provided safe, and secure housing.  Kids who’ve been in care are sanctioned, cut off benefits completely, and left to beg, rob, or sell their bodies to survive.

Today the Daily Mirror features the harrowing case of former soldier David Clapson on their front page.  This man, a 59 year old diabetic, was left penniless and without even electricity to keep his insulin chilled in the fridge.  A coroner found he had no food in his stomach.  His crime was to miss a meeting at the Jobcentre.  His punishment was death by benefit sanction.  Sanctions which ‘help’ people and according to one senior DWP official are even welcomed by those they are inflicted on.

David is not the first person to die as a direct result of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, and he will not be the last.  We will never hear of most of them.  As this Government knows only too well, the people they are waging war on are largely voiceless.  But there is an atrocity quietly taking place in the UK right now.

It is not worth one of these deaths to catch the tiny minority of benefit claimants who might be actively avoiding work.  In a country that spends millions on aircraft carriers, sports competitions, royal weddings and second homes for MPs, there is clearly enough money to carry a tiny handful of people on a subsistence income.  People who if the tabloids are to be believed do not live lives that many would envy anyway.  No-one who queues up outside the off-licence in the morning is usually very happy.  And daytime TV is shit, even on a flat-screen television set.

A society that drives some people to their deaths in the hope of catching a scrounger is no longer humane.  It is barely even a society.  Perhaps that is the point.  The rich would far rather have us fighting each other for the scraps they throw down than have a compassionate, strong and united working class.  We must change this, us from below.  If we do not, then the future is  not one you will want your children to grow up in.

Sign the petition to scrap the benefit sanctions which killed David Clapson without exceptions.

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Criticising Government Policy Online Is “Unacceptable Intimidation” According To Treasury

byteback-fb1As pointed out by @refuted, the Treasury’s claim that a recent anti-workfare social media storm was “unacceptable intimidation” comes just days after an Upper Tribunal judge endorsed this kind of criticism as “legitimate political expression”.

The comments came after news broke that Bristol IT company Byteback had pulled out of workfare a week after being visited by George Osborne to sing the praises of the scheme.  Hundreds of people had contacted Byteback on social media expressing dismay at their involvement in forced work after some fierce questioning from @andygale on twitter caused them to refer to their unpaid workers as ‘employees of the state’.

Shortly after this bombardment, and in a huge embarrassment for Osborne, Byteback apologised for their involvement in his grubby scheme and promised “no more involvement ever with workfare”.

This prompted a tantrum from the Treasury who took to the national press to complain of the “unacceptable intimidation” Byteback had faced online, referring to it as “outrageous”.  Yet in Byteback’s comments above it seems that what finally prompted them to withdraw from workfare was a phone call from someone called Robin.  According to the company themselves “we had a good chat with Robin who explained in details the issues surrounding workfare”.  Byteback even thanked Robin for this conversation, saying that they had been “ill informed about workfare”.  Well done Robin!

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It tells us everything we need to know about the Tory Party’s true attitude to civil liberties that a friendly phone call criticising Government policy is branded “unacceptable intimidation”.  Osborne seems to think the people running Byteback are fucking idiots, who are incapable of making decisions on their own based on new information.  He isn’t the only senior Tory who thinks this way either.

The DWP were back in court again this week as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s desperate attempt to keep the names of charities and companies using workfare a state secret.  The department were appealing an earlier decision by the First Tribunal (pdf) that these organisations should be named.  Part of their appeal was that the previous tribunal decision had not recognised that some comments made on the internet about workfare exploiters were really, really mean and had made the Salvation Army cry or something.

The judge was unimpressed, saying that: “the thrust of those blogs was well within the bounds of legitimate political expression within a democratic society”, despite acknowledging that “the occasional comment overstepped the bounds of decency”.  The miserable cunt.

The DWP also once again argued that if the public were told who is using workfare then the four week Mandatory Work Activity scheme would collapse.  Again they were rebuffed in a damning verdict in which the judge repeatedly pointed out that an appeal to the Upper Tribunal is supposed to be used to correct errors in law, not as an attempt to re-argue the facts.

As Boycott Workfare point out, the DWP seem to be “playing a delaying game - anything to slow down the release of the list of all the businesses and organisations  profiting from the use of workfare.”  They are right to be shitting themselves, anger against unpaid work schemes and the benefit sanctions they are backed with, is growing fast.

George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith seem genuinely astonished that so many people are appalled by forced and unpaid work.  But what is really making them furious is the devastating impact that mass collective action has had on their workfare policies. Those outside of the political classes, or the rich they serve, are not supposed to have any real political power.  That’s the kind of shit that gets toffs killed if you let it get out of hand.

To view the Upper Tribunal judgement visit: http://refuted.org.uk/2014/07/22/workfarenameandshame/

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Shameless – Workfare Exploiting Charities Slam The Benefit Sanctions They Are Responsible For

times-letter-sanctionsIn an act of breath-taking hypocrisy, the Salvation Army, along with the YMCA, have both signed a letter to The Times calling the current benefit sanctioning regime unfair and counter-productive.

This comes despite both organisations being involved in ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ and therefore responsible for reporting unemployed people to the Jobcentre to face sanctions if they don’t turn up for unpaid work placements.

The Salvation Army has even been praised by the DWP for ‘holding the line’ on workfare after scores of charities distanced themselves from the scheme. When peaceful anti-workfare campaigners visited the Salvation Army in protest at their use of workfare, the charity locked them inside and attempted to have them arrested with fabricated stories of staff being man-handled.

The Salvation Army have repeatedly defended their involvement in mandatory welfare-to-work provision and also their operation of a Work Programme sub-contract. Claimants on this scheme, including those on out of work sickness or disability benefits, can be ‘mandated’ to almost any job search related activity that the charity can dream up, including workfare. If their victims fail to do what they are told then it is the Salvation Army’s job to report them to the DWP to have their benefits sanctioned.

Not for the first time some charities are pretending to care about the poor in public whilst stopping their benefits behind the scenes.  If the Salvation Army and the YMCA think sanctions are unfair then perhaps they should stop sanctioning people.  Until then, these grubby attempts to white wash their own workfare crimes should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

To join the fight against workfare visit Boycott Workfare’s website.

Charities and voluntary organisations opposed to workfare can sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement.

The Salvation Army are on twitter @salvationarmyuk and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk

YMCA are on twitter @YMCA_England and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/YMCA.England

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Hundreds Of Disabled People Sent On Workfare Every Week, Is Unpaid Work The New Segregation?

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Disabled activists protesting in 2007 against Tesco, an early pioneer of unpaid work. Pic from here

The new Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Nick Harper has teamed up with David Cameron this week to boast about huge numbers of disabled people being sent to work without pay, often for profit making companies.  The gushing press release forms part of the DWP’s cringe-making Disability Confident campaign, the latest gimmick to cover up the endless vicious attacks on disabled people by the department.

According to the figures around 45,000 people registered as disabled with Jobcentres have been referred to an unpaid work placement since 2011.  Of those 29,000 were sent on the Work Experience programme and 16,000 on Sector Based Work Academies, which the DWP now appear to be claiming leads to a guaranteed real job.  This is a lie, Sector Based Work Academies promise a job interview only as this guidance for employers wishing to scrounge free workers makes clear (PDF).

Both of these schemes are officially voluntary.  However with claimants facing benefits being stopped or sanctioned for trivial reasons and seemingly on the whims of Jobcentre staff then little could be said to be voluntary under the current regime.  Claimants who refuse could simply be sent on a mandatory workfare scheme instead, and many have been.  Almost 22,000 disabled people have been forced onto Mandatory Work Activity since 2011, bringing the total number of known unpaid disabled workers to 67,000 in the last three year.  This is more than the 61,000 disabled people who the DWP say have got jobs through the Work Programme – and as ilegal reports this largely represents young disabled people on Jobseeker’s Allowance, not those unable to work and claiming ESA, the benefit for people with more serious conditions or disabilities.

But even this does not tell the whole story of the number of disabled people who this Government has bullied into working without pay.  Supported Internships can involve up to a year’s unpaid work with private companies and are targeted at young people with a Learning Difficulty diagnosis or Special Educational Needs, Other young disabled people may have been sent on Traineeships – up to six months unpaid work leading to a vague possibility of eventual employment as an Apprentice at far below minimum wage.  Some disabled people will now be facing the prospect of being forced to attend a full time unpaid Community Work Placement for six months for so-called charities or community organisations.  And the number of disabled people forced into workfare on the Work Programme – which can even include people on out of work sickness or disability benefits – is simply unknown as no-one has any real idea what the companies running the scheme are up to.

If all these people are added to the figures then it seems likely that the number of disabled people sent on workfare is higher than the number who got actual real jobs through welfare-to-work schemes.  This is what the DWP means by being Disability Confident, an army of unpaid disabled workers, many only there under the threat of vicious benefit sanctions.

The abrupt closure of the Remploy factories was a nasty and vindictive act but few would argue that segregated employment for disabled people is something that should be encouraged into the future.  But at least the Remploy workers got paid.  A new segregation is now emerging.  Instead of real paid jobs, in an inclusive work force, thousands of disabled people now face endless and ever more draconian unpaid work schemes with many losing their benefits completely if they won’t, or can’t attend.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Liars! The National Charity Who Are Deceiving The Public About Their Role In Workfare

WorkFare-not-workingUPDATE – Wednesday 23rd July: After five days of silence Age UK have issued furious denials on twitter and their name has been removed from the list of G4S Placement Brokers. There has been no explanation why they were listed as Community Work Placement sub-contractors. Perhaps G4S just made it up. Perhaps they have pulled out. We will probably never know as the days when charities were open and transparent about their activities seems to be fast disappearing.

Some of the UK’s largest charities have a dirty little workfare secret and one of the best known has even resorted to telling bare-faced lies about their involvement in forced work.

In a statement on their website, updated on 14th July 2014, Age UK say:  “Age UK, the national charity which includes our 453 shops, is not involved in the mandatory welfare to work scheme.”

This will come as a surprise to G4S who have recently announced that an Age UK training centre in Preston will be acting as Placement Brokers for the recently launched and very much mandatory Community Work Placements.  Age UK’ have claimed up until now that only local branches, who are managed independently of the national charity, are involved in workfare.  But according to the charity themselves these training centres are a division of the national organisation, they are not locally run.

Whilst one part of Age UK is flatly denying any involvement with workfare, another division is actively involved in forcing people to work for free.  This is either staggering incompetence or Age UK are telling bare-faced lies.

Community Work Placements involve six months full time forced labour under the threat of benefits being stopped.  It is by far the nastiest workfare scheme yet, placement providers warned they must not give workfare staff any benefits for their work, not even lunch.  Participants must be available to travel 90 minutes each way to attend placements and could be forced to work anti-social hours.  Those on the placements can not even take a couple of days off unless they are given permission from the Jobcentre and then they have to promise to spend the time  looking for jobs.  If someone is too ill to work they face an agonising call to the Jobcentre, who may decide they’ve been sick too many times and stop their benefits.  Not only do workfare workers not get paid, but they have none of the usual working rights that people in real jobs expect.

None of this seems to trouble Age UK (@age_uk), who presumably will be inflicting this scheme on older people who might have expected some support from the charity.  Some of them will end up sanctioned instead, left without a penny to pay for heating or food.

Not for the first time, charities funded by the public are turning on the very people they pretend to help.  And they are doing it for money, all of these organisations will be paid tax payer’s cash, via G4S, for forcing people to work for free.  They do not deserve a penny more of our money until they reject outright this grotesque exploitation and, in Age UK’s case, can prove they are telling the truth.

Almost 400 organisations have signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement condemning forced work.  To sign up visit: http://www.keepvolunteeringvoluntary.net/

Update: This post has been altered after mistakenly saying that Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) and DEAF have CWP sub-contracts. These two charites do have Work Programme contracts, which may or may not involve sending people on workfare but does involve sanctioning people. So they still bastards too.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Fightback Against Byteback And Their Grubby Workfare Exploitation

UPDATE: Byteback are out of workfare, top work everybody and fair play to them for admitting to making a mistake

byteback

A computer repair shop in Bristol has become one of the first companies to be caught boasting about forcing people to work without pay on the latest workfare scheme.

Byteback IT Solutions were recently featured in the Bristol Post after being visited by George Osborne due to their involvement in Community Work Placements.  These placements involve six months full time workfare under the threat of benefits being stopped.

This is a wonderful arrangement according to the company’s director Andy Town who said: “We recycle old computers so if they turn it on and make it work, everyone’s a winner but if they don’t, there’s nothing to break and it hasn’t cost us anything,”

When challenged by one critic of the scheme, @andygale on twitter, the company claimed, in a string of now deleted tweets, that people on workfare are ‘employees of the state’, as if it’s perfectly acceptable for private  companies to have their wage bill met by the tax payer.  This is the real culture of entitlement, bosses and businessmen scrounging off the state.  In truth workfare workers are nothing of the sort, employees get paid minimum wage after all.

As pointed out by @refuted, Byteback are a profit making company who charge a minimum of £45 an hour to fix computers.  DWP regulations require that any mandatory unpaid work schemes are for organisations which can demonstrate a community benefit.  Whilst Byteback carry out computer recycling, what this means in practice is that you can drop off your old computer and they’ll strip it for parts they can flog on for a profit.  Depending on what you want to recycle, they might even charge you.  It is difficult to see how this company has any more of a community benefit than the local scrapyard or second-hand electrical shop.

With proper community organisations increasingly condemning Community Work Placements as exploitative,  it is likely to be smaller companies like Byteback who have a dirty little workfare secret.  It is vital that they are exposed as the workfare profiteers they are so that all their customers can make up their own minds about whether they want to use the services of a company involved in forced labour.  It’s time to send a message to every grubby two-bit business out there who thinks they can make us work for free – snip – see above tweet, Byteback say they are out of workfare.

To name and shame companies and charities using workfare visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=16

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Young? Unemployed? Don’t Expect A Job At The DWP

mcvey1“I have always said that I will do everything I can to help equip young people with the skills they need to get their foot on the ladder – everything I can to encourage employers to open their doors to young people – and everything I can to support the youth of today to get on in life.”  Esther McVey responding to employment statistics February 2014

Despite endless government initiatives aimed at bringing down youth unemployment, just 1% of staff at the DWP are under 25 in a workforce that numbers almost 100,000.

The shocking admission comes in the department’s annual equality report which also shows that only 4.3% of DWP workers are between the ages of 25 and 29.   These figures come despite the Employment Minister Esther McVey repeatedly trying to tell us that young unemployed people are on of her ‘key concerns’.  Turns out she’s far more concerned about forcing young people to work in Poundland for no pay then she is about using her department to actually give people a real job.

Whilst anyone under 25 who wants to work at the Jobcentre should probably spend some time experimenting with drugs for a while first, these are damning statistics for a government that pretends to care about youth unemployment.  The truth is that just like every other grasping employer, the DWP has no interest in providing any genuine help for young people to get started in a career.  Why would they, when they can staff their offices with young people on unpaid ‘work experience’ instead of actually paying them wages.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Beggars To Be Grassed Up To DWP On New Scheme, Can The Salvation Army Sink Any Lower?

jesus-beggar3

The entire homelessness industry has questions to answer about how they are treating those they claim to support, but none has sunk so low as Jesus’ little fucking helpers in the Salvation Army.

A local paper in York reports that the Salvation Army are now teaming up with the police in a scheme which will could see homeless people grassed up  to the DWP if they are caught begging.

According to the paper, Salvation Army members, along with the police and local council busy-bodies will be patrolling the streets of York hunting for beggars.  The charity claim they will provide housing advice whilst the police will be ‘reminding people’ that begging is against the law, no doubt by arresting them.  Not to be outdone, representatives from York Council say they will inform the DWP if people found begging are receiving any benefits.  Which means their benefits will be stopped.  And they’ll have to beg more.

None of this will trouble the Salvation Army, who are quite happy to have people’s benefits sanctioned themselves should someone refuse to work without pay in one of their shit charity shops.  Some charities have warned that benefit sanctions are causing people to beg just to be able to buy food.  This latest initiative will ensure that in York at least, anyone sanctioned by the Salvation Army and forced to beg will now face harassment and possible arrest under a scheme part run by the same Salvation Army.  A vicious noose is being tied around the neck of some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the UK.  And everyday some of the UK’s best known charities help pull it a little bit tighter.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Snouts In The Trough, Let’s Make Sure Everyone Knows What Welfare-to-work Industry Parasites Are Up To #intowork2014

Delegates at tomorrow's workfare conference will enjoy a slap up meal whilst their victims queue outside foodbanks

Delegates at tomorrow’s workfare conference will enjoy a slap up meal whilst their victims queue outside foodbanks

Child poverty, eviction, special dietary needs going unmet, ill health, street homelessness, depression, suicide attempts, self-harming, relationships fracturing, utilities being disconnected, people with mental health conditions being sectioned, claimants forced to beg, go through bins or steal to survive – all of these things have been well documented as the consequences of benefit sanctions.  And all of them are acceptable as punishment for missing a meeting with your fucking Work Programme provider the vile participants in tomorrow’s workfare conference believe.

Almost one million benefit sanctions are now handed out every year by Jobcentres and the welfare-to-work sector. Benefit sanctions are one of the main reasons so many families are queuing at foodbanks.  Children are not just going hungry, but without toys, clothes, days out, Christmas or birthday presents, all because their parent’s have committed the crime of being unemployed.  No-one is left out.  Sick or disabled claimants, found unable to work at present, can still be sent on workfare or face being plunged into destitution by sanctions.

From the gushing tweets on the hashtag for tomorrow’s conference   it is clear those involved in this vindictive regime are proud of what they do.  They expect us to believe they are helping people, when all they are really doing is helping themselves to billions of pounds of tax payer’s money.  Britain’s biggest benefit scam is based on the lie that unemployment is caused by unemployed people and that no-one ever manages to find a job without the shoddy help of thieves like A4e and G4S.  The truth is that they just pick up huge job outcome payments on the back of normal churn in an employment market where real full employment is neither feasible nor desirable according to the think-tank who helped design these schemes.  A think-tank funded, incidentally, by the welfare-to-work sector.

Whilst those whose lives they have demolished queue outside foodbanks, delegates at tomorrow’s conference will enjoy a slap up dinner at the plush Crown Plaza Hotel.  Some tickets for tomorrow’s event cost an astonishing £450.  There is no shortage of our money being squandered on this back-slapping celebration of bullying unemployed, sick or disabled people.  If you only do one thing tomorrow, then make sure to let these parasites know what you think of the fucking disgrace that is the welfare-to-work industry.

Visit Boycott Workfare’s website for info on how to contact those involved in the conference and please spread the word.  We may not be able to stop these scum – yet – but we can make sure that everybody knows exactly what these poverty profiteers are up to.

Tweet using hashtag

Sign and share the petition calling for benefit sanctions to be stopped without exceptions.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action: CESI Festival of Workfare Exploiters and Apologists #intowork2014

brumconferencebwFrom Boycott Workfare

This annual gathering of organisations profiting from workfare – or hoping to – is being held at the Arena Convention Centre in Liverpool on Tuesday 8th & Wednesday 9th July.

If you’re near Liverpool, take part in the protest as the conference opens on Tue 8 July at 9am-12noon.

Wherever you are, why not let the private companies, charities and think tanks involved know what you think online #intowork2014. If you only have a minute – use our handy tweet buttons!

The conference is being organised by CESI (Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion) – self appointed ‘thought leaders’ in the welfare to work industry. People who make their money supporting policies that mean forced unpaid labour and poverty for many, but escalating profits for the few.   Tweet them @InclusionCESI

More info and details of the bastards involved at Boycott Workfare

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid