Over 90,000 Children Now In Temporary Accommodation As The Homelessness Epidemic Gets Even Worse

homeless-march1There are now over 90,000 children living in temporary accommodation according to the latest official statistics – a rise of over 15% in just one year.

The number of these families living in B&Bs – which usually just means one room, often with shared facilities – has leapt by a shocking 35% compared to a year earlier.  990 of these families had been living in this kind of accommodation for over six weeks, over double the number from the same period last year.

Every measure of homelessness has risen according to the latest statistics, with 13,520 households accepted as homeless by Local Authorities between January and March 2015, a jump of 8% on a year earler.

The main reason for families becoming homeless was the loss of an assured tenancy with a private sector landlord.  Soaring rents, stagnant wages and shrinking benefits – combined with a barely regulated private rental sector where landlords can evict on a whim – is driving the homelessness epidemic as many people can simply no longer afford to pay their rent.

This week’s figures only represent a very small sample of the true number of homeless people in the UK.  Only those legally eligible for help from local authorites are included, which in practice means only those with children, significant disabilities or health problems and people over pensionable age.  Homelessness charities have warned that this measure only shows the tip of the iceberg of even these groups as recent changes to the law mean families fobbed off into insecure private rented accommodation by councils are no longer included in the figures.

A recent report found that rents have risen by 10% in the last year, and that’s across the UK, not just in London.  George Osborne has already pegged rises in Housing Benefits at just 1%.  The impacts of the Bedroom Tax and first Benefit Cap have still not been fully felt as local authorities have used Discretionary Housing Payments to top up Housing Benefits.  These payments will soon come to an end.  The number of houses built at a social rent, meaning they are genuinely affordable to low income families, fell to the lowest level in the history of council housing in 2013/14.

A perfect storm has already been created and we have not yet seen anything like the worst of it.  The full impact of Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms have not yet been fully felt according to managers of homelessness services in local councils when questioned by homelessness charities last year (PDF).

But even this will just be the beginning.  The government have already pledged a lower Benefit Cap, which will leave almost the entire private rented sector in the south of England unaffordable for out of work families.  Tens of thousands of people in social housing will also be affected, particularly larger families who will have nowhere they can afford to go.  Osbourne is also likely to scrap housing benefit completely for those under 21, whilst a mass sell off of housing association properties is also on the cards.  And that’s just what we know about.  Billions more is set to be cut from the social security budget, and however the Chancellor does that it will mean many people can no longer afford to stay in their home.

Disabled People Against Cuts have already called a protest outside next week’s budget.  Everyone who cares about having somewhere to live over the next few years should join them and say #balls2thebudget.  Please join, share and tweet the facebook page for the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1455266081436327/

You can read the latest homelessness statistics at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statutory-homelessness-in-england-january-to-march-2015

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Wednesday 8th July – DPAC Return to Parliament in a day of action to say #Balls2TheBudget.

assorted-game-ballsvia Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

DPAC joined by Class War, Streets Kitchen, Black Dissidents & others
Announce:
Balls to the Budget
#Balls2TheBudget
Wednesday 8th July, 10.30 am
Downing St

Big balls, small balls, footballs, tennis balls, volleyballs, handballs, rubber balls, plastic balls, flour balls, paint balls, canon balls, beachballs, hairballs, furballs, glitter balls, gumballs, basketballs, garlic balls, initialed balls, personalised balls.

Get creative.

Balls to austerity;
Balls to taking our rights;
Balls to taking our jobs;
Balls to cutting our services;
Balls to bankers bonuses;
Balls to cutting the ILF;
Balls to Met Police;
Balls to cuts to Access to Work;
Balls to cuts to Social Care;
Balls to the Bedroom Tax;
Balls to Workfare & Sanctions;
Balls to Forced Treatments;
Balls to Maximus, Atos & PIP;
Balls to Child Poverty & inequality;
Balls to low pay & exploiting workers;
Balls to anti-homless laws;
Balls to stifling protest;
Balls to migrant bashing, racism & Islamophobia;
Balls to cuts to Housing, Education, NHS, Legal Aid, Womens Refuges, CAMHS and much much more.

Then, afterwards – We Are Going Back.
11.30 The Lobby, House of Commons.

Bring balls.
Online: Twitter from 10.30 am till yer tweeting fingers wear out

Take part online by using and sharing: #Balls2TheBudget

There is a tweetlist you can use here: http://dftr.org.uk/Songbird.php?TweetFile=Balls2theBudget

Please spread the word!

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Don’t Let The Garden Bridge Turn Into The Workfare Bridge, Tell @TheGardenBridge To Pay A Living Wage

garden-bridge1

All those struggling with ever more vicious cuts to social security will be delighted to learn that millions of pounds of public money is soon to spent building a new bridge in Central London with a garden on it.  And if that isn’t enough of an insult at a time of soaring hunger and homelessness then – if Lanbeth Council get their way – some of those building this bridge won’t even get paid.

Over £60 million has been pledged already by the publicly owned Transport for London to build a Garden Bridge across the River Thames just yards away from two other bridges.  This vital project, which developers say has the support of business leaders and a famous architect, is the latest attempt to turn the capital into an elaborate Disneyland and playground for the global super rich.  With gentrification fast turning London into cultural desert then ever more gimmicks like this will be necessary to ensure middle class dickheads from across the globe keep flocking to city in the hope of bumping into Harry fucking Potter.

With planning permission granted it looks likely the bridge will now be built, although Westminster and Lambeth Council are still squabbling over the details.  As part of the negotiations, late last year Lambeth Council drew up proposals calling for the construction of the bridge to include ‘training and job opportunities’ for those that face significant barriers to work and ‘need support to get their foot in the door’.

Elsewhere in the document Lambeth say the developers should deliver Traineeships and Apprenticeships to local unemployed people.  Traineeships are a workfare scheme which include up to two months unpaid ‘work experience’ and are used to prepare young people for becoming an Apprentice where they will be paid just £2.73 an hour for the first year.  Let the good times roll.

Lambeth Council have also called for paid work experience placements in horticulture once the bridge is open, although they acknowledge that this would require some funding.  With the Tories promising permanent workfare for those under 21, then it is likely their flagship Westminster Council, who also get a say, will have their own plans to push young people into unpaid or poverty paid work on the bridge.

Nowhere in the document do Lambeth call for those working on the bridge to receive the London Living Wage, so we should, especially at the moment when the developers are pretending to be everybody’s friends.  You can contact them on twitter @TheGardenBridge and via their facebook page to demand that everyone who works on this bridge, whether they are training or not, gets a proper fucking wage.

UPDATE 29/6/15:  The Garden Bridge have said on twitter that they are “in early stages of developing educational & volunteering plans.”  So far they have not ruled out using workfare or committed to pay the London Living Wage.

Join the fightback against rampant gentrification in the capital at Camden’s first ever Fuck Parade on Saturday July 11th.

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Streatham Jobcentre Besieged By Protesters Demanding No Forced Treatment

no-forced-treatmentAround 100 people marched on Streatham Jobcentre today in a fantastic start to the fight against forced psychological treatments for unemployed, sick and disabled claimants.

Protesters gathered in Streatham Memorial Gardens with many carrying banners showing the growing anger at the collaboration of mental health workers and charities with the DWP’s workfare and benefit sanctions regime.  At just after 2pm the protest took to the streets, taking over the busy road before fnally arriving outside the Jobcentre which now also contains much of Lambeth’s mental health services.

The ever present G4S security guards blocked campaigners from entering the Jobcentre, with one member of staff informing the amused crowd that there were no jobs available today.  What bungling Jobcentre workers didn’t realise is that several people were already inside the building where they proceeded to disrupt the opening party of the so-called Living Well Network Hub and hung a banner out of the window to large cheers from the crowd.

The message from those present was clear.  The threatened forced psychological treatments pledged in the Tory Manifesto will be fought every step of the way – and any charities or healthcare professionals who collaborate with this unethical practice will also be held to account.  The re-locating of vast swathes of local mental health services in the Jobcentre building was also the target of anger – a move carried out without any public consultation and which suggests a chilling future for mental health service delivery in Lambeth.

According to The Guardian, the DWP are now denying that Streatham will be one of the pilot areas for the upcoming scheme which will eventually see therapists stationed in 350 Jobcentres.  Apparently the department made a mistake when they said this would be the case.  South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are also spinning fast, claiming there are no plans for ‘formal’ links between the new Living Well Network Hub and the Jobcentre.

A press release by homelessness charity Thamesreach, who are part of the network of agencies running the project, reveals a very different story however.  According to them the Hub brings together voluntary sector providers, GPs, psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers with Streatham Jobcentre Plus staff.  The intention, according to the charity, is “specialist mental health services operating alongside Jobcentre Plus Staff” with the  “common goal of improving health and well-being and helping people to get back to, or stay in, work.”  And that is why the project was recently visited by not just Iain Duncan Smith, but the former DWP Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper.  They must think we are fucking idiots if they expect us to believe this is all just some big coincidence.

The protest was called by the Mental Health Resistance Network, whilst campaigners were also present from Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Boycott Workfare and Disabled People Against Cuts.  Those speaking at the protest warned this was just the beginning.  Forced treatment, of any kind, for anybody, will be ferociously resisted.  And therapists, charities and mental health workers should get the fuck out of Jobcentres and refuse to participate in DWP attempts to rebrand unemployment as a psychological defect.

Boycott Workfare will be back on the streets tomorrow for the day of action against workfare exploiters B&M Stores, check their website for details.

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Unemployment Is Not Caused By Unemployed People: Keep The Psychocrats Out Of Jobcentres

When I click my fingers you will wake up, and all your benefits will have been stopped.

When I click my fingers you will wake up, and all your benefits will have been stopped.

There are some things which need nipping in the bud.  Forced psychological treatment for unemployed people is one of them.  As is the attempt by the DWP to reframe unemployment as a psychological defect or the result of a ‘negative’ attitude.

Unemployment is caused by a lack of jobs.  According to the Office for National Statistics, there are currently 1.81 million unemployed people of working age.  In addition to this there are 2.34 million people who are economically inactive and want a job, but do not meet the strict definition of unemployed.  This just means they either haven’t actively looked for a job in the last four weeks or would be unable to start a job within two weeks.  There are also 1.44 million people who are working part time because they could not find a full time job.  That’s over five and a half million people who are under-employed or out of work completely.

Even this doesn’t tell the full story.  There is a growing number of people on sickness or disability benefits, as well as lone parents with children under 5, who are expected to prepare and look for work.  There are people over pensionable age who are looking for jobs, as well as college and even school students.  There are those who’ve dropped through the gaps altogether and neither feature in the counts of people claiming benefits or are likely to fill in the Labour Force Survey from which the unemployment figures are drawn.  There are 86,000 prisoners,  waiting to join the dole queue on their release.

Equally importantly there is now a European wide labour market.  This does not necessarily decrease the overall supply of jobs – immigration also creates jobs, you only need to step into a Polish supermarket to see that.  But it does mean that the millions of people in the UK looking for jobs are joined by many more from overseas.  There is ample evidence of greedy employers only advertising jobs in Eastern Europe as they know they can get away with offering lower wages.  Despite triumphant Tory claims that there are more people in work than ever before, the number of people born in the UK with jobs actually fell slightly in the latest quarter.

All of these people, millions in the UK alone, are chasing just 734,000 vacancies – and the number of  jobs available also fell during the last period.  Of course people in work, who are looking to change jobs, are also chasing those vacancies.  To suggest, when work is so scarce, that unemployment is caused by unemployed people, is offensive and absurd.  The truth is that the tiny minority who don’t want a job, who may be carers, volunteers, artists or just too ill to work, are doing everyone else a favour.  If you don’t agree then why not give up your own job so someone unemployed can take it.

On Friday a demonstration is due to be held in Streatham where mental health workers are to be brought into the Jobcentre.  The Government aplans to introduce Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) therapists into 350 Jobcentres as well providing online Cognitive Behavior Therapy to unemployed, sick and disabled people.  They announced before the election that they soon intend to force some claimants to undergo psychological treatment or their benefits will be stopped.  This will require significant changes in the law and a Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech.  This is not a done deal, there is still time to fight it, and that fight begins on Friday.

Please help spread the word about this protest and come if you can.  Already happy-clappy DWP managers are turning Jobcentres into cults, wittering on endlessly about being positive whilst actually making everyone feel like shit.  Behind the scenes shadowy ‘behavioral insight’ teams are dreaming up yet more harassment of unemployed people based on the flimsiest of evidence.  The rise of the Psychocrat, using psychological therapies to control, not cure, must be halted.  A defiant and well attended demonstration this Friday is vital, to show the DWP that this is a line we will not let them cross.

The facebook page for Fridays protest is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1632671646970164/  Please share, tweet, blog and make sures everyone knows this is taking place and why.

An important paper by Dr Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn has also recently been published which explores the role of coercion and psychology in welfare-to-work and workfare schemes, you can read it at: http://mh.bmj.com/content/41/1/40.full

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Shameless: Charity Bosses To Gather In Luxury Hotel For £715 Homelessness Conference

£715 will pay for a room for a charity chief executive in a top hotel for just one night.  Please give generously.

Sponsor a room. Just £715 will pay for for a charity chief executive to stay in a top hotel for two nights. Please give generously. You fucking mug.

Charity Chief Executives and so-called housing experts are gearing up for this year’s homelessness industry conference which is due to be held at a four star hotel with ticket prices as high as £715!

Next month’s Under One Roof conference is organised by charity umbrella body Homeless Link and provides a chance for homelessness experts to talk about homeless people without any actual homeless people being present.  This year’s swanky bash is being held at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire where according to Homeless Link  “Delegates staying overnight are also entitled to complimentary use of the leisure club facilities, which include a heated indoor swimming pool, fully equipped gym, sauna, spa, steam room and solarium.”

Were somebody who is homeless wishing to access this event they would be forced to pay the non-member rate of £320 just for one day, and they don’t even get to stay in the hotel for that.  For the entire two days, plus accommodation, then the bill rises to over £700 – around ten times  the weekly Jobseeker’s Allowance payment many homeless people survive on.  Homelessless charities who run hostels evict residents for running up smaller service charge arrears than that every day of the week.

When not swanning around by the pool, or enjoying the promised slap up meal, delegates to this year’s conference will attend workshops held by ‘industry experts’.  Experts like Jeremy ‘send ’em back’ Swain of charity Thamesreach who will lead a discussion on whether it is ‘counter-productive’ to carry on working with destitute migrants.

Other hot topics will include, predictably, fundraising, crowdsourcing, and “how to pool resources to enable you to bid for contracts that would otherwise be out of reach”.  Those four star hotel bills won’t pay themselves you know.

It will not be front line homelessness workers attending this event of course, but middle managers, ‘professionals’ and charity bosses – the kind of people who could afford to pay for their own fucking hotel.  Instead well meaning charity donors, homeless hostel residents and of course tax payers, will fund this lavish and drink-soaked skive.  And drink-soaked it will be, after the arduous day of workshops the organisers promise a drinks reception, followed by a conference dinner – with entertainment provided by a top magician (perhaps he can magic up some fucking housing) – and then another drinks reception.  These are the same charities that run nasty campaigns telling people not to give money to homeless beggars because they will only spend it on booze or drugs.  Give your spare change to a homelessness charity instead they say, so highly paid Chief Executives can spend it on fine wine, magicians  and posh hotels.

Apologies for the slow down in posts.  Things might remain a bit sporadic here until September when a shit storm is coming.

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Priti Patel Hands Award To Poverty Pay Employer That Pays Just £2.68 An Hour

priti-deathThe DWP’s new Minister of Death Priti Patel last night handed out an award to a company who pays just 11 pence an hour more than the minium wage to staff in a supervisory role whilst retail staff on Apprenticeships earn just £2.68 per hour.

Patel was the main speaker at the annual awards ceremony held by the Employment Related Service Association (ERSA), the trade body established to lie of behalf of the welfare to work sector.  Every year the likes of G4S and A4e gather for a slap up meal at a luxury London venue to celebrate another year of fleecing the tax payer and dole out awards to employers who have helped them gain ‘job outcome’ payments.

This year’s Large Employer of the Year award went to Poundbakery, a not very large employer who run a chain of bakery shops.  Accrding to ERSA, this was for demonstrating “exceptional commitment in creating opportunities for disadvantaged and long term unemployed jobseekers.”

Some of those ‘”fantastic and rare” opportunities involved working in one of their shops on the Apprenticeship scheme for as little as £2.68 p/hr for 24 hours a week.  These apprenticeships could last for up to two years, reflecting the length of time it takes to train people to sell loaves of bread rather than just being an excuse for the company to dodge minimum wage laws.  Or at least that’s what grasping employers claim to ensure this grotesque exploitation remains legal.

Other vacancies for the company ask for people with “ideally some retail management experience” to work as supervisors for the princely sum of £6.61 an hour, just 11 pence more than the minimum wage.

You might have thought that the welfare-to-work industry would want to give awards to ethical employers, who pay at least the Living Wage, but sadly this is far from the case. Previously the Large Employer award has gone to companies involved in unpaid schemes such Greggs and B&M Stores who will be the target of workfare protests later this month.  It is unclear whether Poundbakery also making use of Jobcentre programmes providing free labour, but with their retail assistants working for the pittance of £64 a week, they hardly fucking have to.

Poundbakery are on twitter (and facebook) if you want to ask them to pay their workers properly: @poundbakery

Bakers everywhere can fight for better wages by contacting the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union

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