Category Archives: Fighting Back

Number of Sick And Disabled Claimants Facing Sanctions Triples In Just Six Months

sanction-sabsThe number of sick or disabled people who have had there benefit sanctioned for not taking part in ‘work related activity’ has almost tripled compared to just six months ago the latest figures show.

7.507 claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), had their benefits sanctioned in March 2014, up from 4,698 the previous month and 2,369 In Sepetember 2013.  This has taken the total number of ESA claims sanctioned to over 100,000 since the regime was disgracefully introduced by Labour.

These clamaints are in the Work Related Acivity Group (WRAG) of ESA, meaning they have been judged unable to work at present but may possibly be well enough for employment in the future.  They include people with serious and life-threatening conditions including cancer.  Astonishingly this group are still sent on the Work Programme, where they may face compulsory ‘back to work’ training or even workfare.  Should they fail to attend any activity the private sector providers running the scheme dream up then they will have their benefits sanctioned.

These are not the only sick and disabled claimants who face sanctions.  Inhumane Atos assessments have led to many people with serious health conditions or disabilties being forced to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.  According to the DWP, since the tougher new sanctions regime was introduced in December 2012, over 150,000 disabled people have had their benefits stopped.  Whilst people on sickness benefits only generally lose a portion of their benefits, those on JSA can lose every penny.  For people with special dietery needs or other conditions, this can prove fatal as the tragic death of David Clapson recently showed.

Appalling many of those sanctioned will have been driven into poverty due to failure to attend workfare with so-called charities and community organisations.  The first names of these organisations accepting workfare placements on the latest scheme, which involves 780 hours of unpaid work, are now starting to leak out.  Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health (@_LAMH_ also on facebook) have been reported to be accepting this form of workfare and have remained silent about their grotesque exploitation since being exposed.  @SumoWaste have protected their tweets on twitter and also have nothig to say about their grubby exploitation after they were named and shamed on the facebook page of Edinburgh Coaltion Against Poverty.  Also recently named as taking part are @DISC_Services, a so-called charity who will be receiving tax payer’s money to arrange workfare placements and who are also on facebook.

The DWP refuse to name the charities taking workfare placements, if you know of one contact Boycott Workfare to have them named and shamed.

Please sign, share and tweet the petition for an inquiry into the benefit sanctions that killed David Clapson: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-hold-an-inquiry-into-benefit-sanctions-that-killed-my-brother

The latest benefit sanctions figures can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-march-2014

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Sign The Petition For An Inquiry Into The Benefit Sanctions That Killed David Clapson

MAIN--David-ClapsonThe family of David Clapson – the former soldier who recently died after his benefits were stopped as punishment for missing a meeting at the Jobcentre – have launched a petition calling for an inquiry into benefit sanctions.

In his sister’s own words:

“My brother, David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier, died starving and destitute because he was penalised by the Job Centre for missing a meeting.

“David had his £71.70 weekly allowance stopped meaning that he couldn’t afford food or electricity. He was penniless, starving and alone. His electricity card was out of credit meaning the fridge where he should have kept his diabetes insulin chilled was not working. Three weeks after his benefits were stopped he died from diabetic ­ketoacidosis – caused by not taking his insulin. 

“David wasn’t a “scrounger”. He had worked for 29 years; 5 years in the Army – including two years in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, during the height of the troubles – 16 years with British Telecom, eight years with various other companies, and in recent years was a carer for our sick mother. When mum went into a home, David turned to the state for help, receiving benefits while he looked for work and taking unpaid work placements.

“When he died he had just £3.44 to his name, six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines. A coroner also found he had no food in his stomach.

“People turn to the state when they are in need – that is what the system is for – a safety net for hard working people like my brother when they need a bit of support. That £71.70 a week was his lifeline. To withhold it from him for missing one meeting is cruel. And the heartbreaking thing is that he was really trying. CVs for job applications were found near David’s body. He had been on work placements, passed his fork lift truck certificate and had been on a computer training course.”

To read more and sign visit: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-hold-an-inquiry-into-benefit-sanctions-that-killed-my-brother

Please sign, share, tweet and blog this. Let’s make sure this tragic story does not go away.

You can also sign the petition calling for benefits sanctions to be scrapped  without exceptions.

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/

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

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

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

Iain Duncan Smith In The Dock Again Over Unlawful Atos Assessments

MHRNThe DWP are back in court next week for the closing part of a successful challenge to the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

This is the test run by Atos which is used to find people ‘fit for work’ and stop their sickness or disability benefits.  It is mired in chaos with a huge backlog of appeals and an ever growing number of tragic deaths linked to the process.  Even Atos themselves are pulling out of the assessments after fierce campaigning saw their carefully managed corporate identity demolished due to their involvement in the cruel and bungled system.

The WCA has also had its share of legal problems after a Judicial Review last year ruled the assessments are unlawful under the Equalities Act for those with a mental health condition.   Rather than accept this defeat and improve or scrap the tests for this group of claimants – or better still everybody –  Iain Duncan Smith appealed this decision and lost.  During the time this took many people will have seen their mental health worsen, been admitted to hospital or even taken their own life due to being forced to undergo assessments which are not suitable for their condition.

Next week’s court case will largely be about what amendments can be made to make the WCA legal.  As Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) explain:

“Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.”

A vigil called by MHRN and supported by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) will be held outside the court next week on Tuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm.  Head to the Royal Court of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL.  Full details at: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/07/vigil-for-the-wca-judicial-review-tues-8th-july/

MHRN say they have been too cautious about publicising this important victory.  Sometime people have been working so hard for so long that they don’t even see when or what they’ve won.  But the Work Capability Assessment – introduced by Labour and which looked unbreakable at the time the current government weren’t elected – is beginning to look broken.  That didn’t happen by accident.  It happened because disabled people and benefit claimants have fought these vicious assessments in the courts, on the internet and in the streets.

The real opposition to this Government has not been the Labour Party, the unions , charities or even the growing range of celebrity left-wimgers.  It has been people who are disabled, sick, carers or people on their own with kids to look after.  People dealing with shit housing, homelessness, low or no wages, the bedroom tax, workfare, benefit sanctions and most of all poverty.  The people that liberal do-gooders call vulnerable and the Tory press calls benefit scum.  Yet we keep winning and those victories should be shouted from the rooftops.  As MHRN say:

“We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.”

Please blogs, tweet,share and spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case.

Don’t forget this Friday’s Independence Day Party outside the DWP and around the UK called by DPAC.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Shame Of The Church of England: Dean of Westminster Allows Hundreds of Police To Attempt Stamp Out Of Disabled People’s Peaceful Protest

westminsterabbey-protest2

This is what Christianity looks like

The leadership of the Church of England showed themselves to have the morals of sewer rats today after hundreds of police were drafted in to prevent a peaceful protest by disabled campaigners.

A protest was taking place in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, where Disabled People Against Cuts, backed by Occupy and UK Uncut, intended to establish a camp for independent living to highlight the shameful decision by the current Government to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF).  Whilst many people were able to enter the grounds of the Abbey, with several disabled activists taking control of the gates, they were soon joined by hundreds of police.

Whilst the protest was being established a letter was presented to the church explaining the reason for the disruption.  This was completely ignored by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, who instead of meeting with the protesters, or even giving a statement, cowered inside and allowed the police to carry out his dirty work.  At the time I left two people had been arrested, for reasons which are currently unclear.  Over 200 police kettled the 60 or so protesters, which included many severely disabled people who use the ILF themselves.  Police refused to allow any food or drink for those inside the Abbey grounds, and even prevented a severely disabled person’s personal assistant from entering the kettle.

At one point, so desperate were the police to arrest someone for nothing,  they charged into the crowd causing people to fall onto several wheelchair users.  Such was the sudden aggression of police it is a miracle no-one was severely injured although unconfirmed reports suggest one disabled person did have to receive treatment after this assault.  Police also attempted to remove access ramps for wheelchairs users to prevent them from being able to peacefully protest in the Abbey grounds.  Equipment was damaged and police prevented the planned disabled toilet and other infra-structures to be created which would have led to a safe event.  Throughout the afternoon all those inside the grounds remained at risk of violent arrest, and in fact, as you read this, that might be happening.

The protest was held on private property, meaning that the church leadership were happy for all of this to take place.  At any point the Dean of Westminster could have demanded that police stand down, yet he chose to allow this abuse to continue unchecked throughout the afternoon.  Hundreds of people contacted him on twitter demanding the protest be allowed to continue without this police harassment.  The Dean ignored all of them.

Throughout the afternoon all attempts at negotiation with the church leadership were rebuffed.  Instead the Dean of Westminster let the boots and fists of the ever willing London Met do his talking for him.

Whilst no-one expects anything less from the police, who have a history of attacking and injuring disabled protesters, the action, or inaction of the church leadership is a fucking disgrace.  The Dean of Westminster would rather disabled people are abused, kettled, assaulted and kept without food or water than allow a creative protest against vicious cuts which are likely to lead to some people being forced to live in institutions.

The latest news is that those inside the Abbey grounds are currently meeting to decide what to do next.  With no word from the Church then staying could mean mass arrests in the ground of the Abbey.  Whatever the occupiers decide you can show support by telling Westminster Abbey @wabbey and the Dean of Westminster @deanwestminster exactly what you think.  After today’s shameful behaviour he must be hoping that the existence of hell really is just something liars use to scare children with.

Then come and join next Friday’s Independence Day demonstration outside the DWP and make it the biggest protest yet to show that no-one is going to be frightened away from fighting to save the ILF.

For the latest news follow @Dis_PPL_Protest on twitter or visit their website at:  http://dpac.uk.net/

Read the statement from DPAC on the reason for the protest: http://www.independentliving-fightback.uk/online/

UPDATE:  Protesters have now left rather than face violent arrest.  Also, as someone has pointed out on twitter, Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar, meaning it is technically under control of the Queen.  Day to day management of the site however is down to the Abbey meaning it is almost certain the police would have stood down had the Dean demanded it.  Yet he didn’t even try.  All the signs so far suggest he did the opposite and would have been happy for the police to clear the site.  There has still been no comment made about today’s events by either the Dean or Westminster Abbey.  Of the two arrested, it seems one was not held and was released during the protest and another was taken to Charing Cross police station.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid