Who The Fuck Does Esther McVey Think She Is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Rich Will Destroy London Like They Destroy Everything Else

1-hyde-park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

jesus-workfare-salvationFrom Boycott Workfare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please spread the word!

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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Meet The Green Workfare Charity Boss Who Also Runs A Biotech Firm And Builds On Greenbelt Land

bob-lawsonThere are few things more contemptible than those who claim in public to care about poverty or the environment, yet show no such scruples when it comes to making a buck.

Bob Lawson is the Chairman of the Groundwork Federation, an organisation currently the target of anti-workfare protests.  Groundwork are a ‘green’ charity, who boast on their website of ‘helping people create healthier, safer and greener places’.

Like so many of the idle rich, Lawson doesn’t just have one non-job, he has three.  When not prancing around pretending to be some kind of eco-warrior, Bob Lawson is also the Chairman of Barratt Developments PLC.  This organisation have a very different approach to creating healthier and greener places, which mostly involves the use of a bull-dozer.  There have been countless protests against the company who are currently littering the countryside with houses for posh people.  Barratt would rather build on greenbelt land than create green spaces.  They have also been the target of anger for attempting to water down social housing provision. 

Lawson’s third job is as the Chairman of Genus plc.  Mostly this company genetically modifies cows and pigs to sell to the factory farm industry.  Never trust a hippy.

Bob Lawson is not the only hypocrite at the Groundwork Federation.  Their CEO Graham Duxbury wrote in a piece for the Huffington Post last year that we should “hang our heads in shame” about people finding themselves forced to choose between heating or eating.  Yet some of those people will have been sanctioned for failing to attend workfare organised by Groundwork.  Benefit sanctions are one of the biggest causes of people forced to depend on foodbanks, and facing what Duxbury calls “real agonies”.  It is not us who should hang our heads in shame.  It is Graham Duxbury and his planet-fucking Chairman.

As part of the week of action against workfare tell Groundwork what you think of their use of forced labour on twitter @groundworkuk and facebook them here 

For the latest news on the week of action against workfare visit:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3436

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action Against The Green Charities Profiteering From Workfare

groundworkuk-ruining-livesFrom Boycott Workfare

Environmental charities The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Groundwork UK are two of the biggest workfare exploiters in the UK.  Both accept forced labour placements, often to carry out hard, outdoor, physical work, and both have lucrative contracts to manage workfare schemes

Both charities have been invited by the DWP to help run Community Work Placements – the upcoming mass workfare scheme which involves a shocking 780 hours of unpaid work.  As some more enlightened charities have stated these placements are not volunteering.  Anyone who refuses one of these unpaid positions will face brutal benefit sanctions.

Groundwork receive huge amounts of tax payer’s money already from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG)* and the National Lottery.  Unlike other organisations they have remained silent about their use of forced labour despite repeated criticism on social media.  With the Government paying their bills, they are more like a workfare Quango than a real charity.

Both charities however do not just rely on the government funding to survive, but also the goodwill of genuine volunteers, community groups and partners.  As part of the week of action, let’s make sure everyone knows about their dirty little workfare secrets.

Groundwork are on twitter @groundworkuk and facebook them here You can email them at: info@groundwork.org.uk
Tel: 0121 236 8565

Groundwork have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest visit: http://www.groundwork.org.uk/Page/map

The Conservation Volunteers are on twitter @TCVtweets and facebook them here

Email them at: information@tcv.org.uk
Tel: 01302 388 883

To find your local TCV office visit this website

But please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive

For the latest news on the week of action against workfare visit:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3436

Sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exception

*This article was amended on 5th April to correct this sentence, which mistakenly stated that Groundwork receive funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  The correct Government department is the DCLG. Groundwork have received DEFRA funding in the past – despite a recent denial – and now say that the DCLG funding has stopped. This doesn’t mean that Groundwork are not a workfare quango: they receive huge sums of public money from the lottery and the DWP, and in their 2012/13 Annual Report said that:

It is recognised that, in the short term, the financial security of Groundwork is dependent on the organisation’s charitable aims demonstrating that they contribute to the priorities of central and local government. (pdf, p. 11).

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Trade Unions Unite For Militant And Sustained General Strike Len McClusky Announces

"Fuck the law ... I'll go to jail if I have to" said McClusky

“Fuck the law … I’ll go to jail if I have to” said McCluskey

In a genuinely historic move, every trade union in the UK has signed up to a sustained general strike against austerity which could begin in the next few days Unite leader Len McCluskey has confirmed.

The shock announcement comes after months of secret meetings by union bosses in which agreement was reached to take decisive action to fight back against the demolition of the welfare state and NHS.  In a statement released early this morning McCluskey said:  “We are tearing up the rule book.  Fuck the law, I’ll go to jail if I have to.  It’s time to take a decisive stand and we call on everybody, in or out of work, to join  a sustained militant campaign  to support the strikes.”

Every union is believed to have agreed to take part and to adopt old style tactics, such as squads of flying pickets, to strengthen the strike.  They have called on non-union members to help them blockade workplaces and picket the homes of scabs.  Only those staff involved in essential services, such as emergency healthcare and processing pensions and benefit payments will remain at work.

McCluskey confirms that unions will ballot on a strike within two weeks, however walk-outs could start to take place in the next few days: “We will not wait.  This Government would make all trade union activity illegal if they had their way.  It’s time to show them that no matter what laws they introduce we will resist them and we are millions strong.  The fightback starts now and it stops only when we win,  We will bring this country to a standstill.”

He was joined in the announcement by Mark Serwotka of the PCS Union which counts thousands of Jobcentre staff amongst their members.  In a surprise move Serwotka apologised to claimants for the union’s inaction to date:  “We got it wrong,” he said “we should have acted much earlier.  The leadership of the PCS Union can only issue a sincere apology to all who have suffered under this regime and we are desperate to make amends.  From today we are instructing our members to refuse to impose benefit sanctions or administer the Work Capability Assessment.  We hope to  have a full strike in place, with every Jobcentre and DWP office closed, by the end of the week.”

McCluskey continued: “All of us took our eyes off the ball, there is no doubt about that and it is time to rectify that situation.  We cannot stand another five years of neo-liberal reforms”

On the subject of the Labour Party, McCluskey continued: “The modern Labour Party is pathetic and the party political system is broken.  Unless they stand behind this strike in both word and deed then the Labour Party will not see another penny from any trade union”.  Senior Labour Party figures were said to be reeling from the news.  Owen Jones, for once, was unavailable for comment.

Instead unions are set to pour millions into grassroots campaigns which are committed to using direct action tactics to fight back against austerity policies.  “Close motorways, occupy public buildings, be creative and most of all cost the bastards money” said McCluskey, “whatever you need, we will pay, details of how to apply for funding will be available on our website from tomorrow.”

Unions are believed to have taken action to protect cash reserves to protect against government attempts to sequester or block funds.  Detailed secret contingency plans are in place should union leaders be jailed.

The move comes as over 100 anti-poverty and disability charities signed a statement pledging non-cooperation with this, or any government until every single welfare reform introduced by Iain Duncan Smith is revoked.  Some of the biggest organisations in the country are even set to give up charitable status to allow them to campaign more vigorously against government policy.  A spokesperson for the Leonard Cheshire Foundation confirmed the news: “Enough is enough, it’s time to fight back, by any and all means necessary.”.

Senior Tories have yet to comment on the move, but McCluskey is unrepentant.  Revealing his personal motivation for the strikes he explained: “I did not come into trade unionism to see everything that working class people have fought for over the years destroyed whilst we stand on the sidelines.  History will not forgive us if we do not act now.  We will not go back to work until a radical new settlement is reached or until the whole rotten neo-liberal charade comes crashing down.  I’m proud to be part of this great initiative which will place trade unions right back where they should be – at the heart of working class struggle.”

(do not hold your fucking breath, sadly this could only ever be an April Fool)

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid