Important Information: DWP Finally Admits To ESA Sanction Safeguarding Policy

esa-sanctionsSickness benefit claimants with a mental health condition who have been forced to attend the Work Programme should not have their benefits sanctioned without a face to face meeting first the DWP have finally admitted.

This important clarification, which could mean many people have been wrongly sanctioned, was finally published in an amendment to the Work Programme Provider Guidance.  This is the rule book that companies running the Work Programme must follow and last week a new chapter was added detailing the procedures for safeguarding so-called vulnerable claimants.

According to the guidance, claimants of the main sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance only, who have “mental health conditions or learning disabilities or conditions affecting communication/cognition” must not be referred for a sanction without safeguarding activity being carried out.  This means a home visit if necessary to establish a face to face conversation to ensure that the participant understands the reason they have been sanctioned.  If this face to face contact does not happen, or if the Work Programme provider believes the claimant did not understand the requirement to carry out mandated activity, then a sanction referral must not take place.

These rules, which also apply to Jobcentre busy-bodies hoping to sanction sick and disabled people’s benefits, are not newHowever they were previously only published in internal Jobcentre documents and only came to light due to a Freedom of Information request.  It is likely that this is the first time many Work Programme providers have even heard of them.  Anecdotal evidence has repeatedly warned of people only finding out they have been sanctioned when they check their bank balances and find out they don’t have any money.  The number of sickness and disability claimants who have had their benefits sanctioned is soaring, with almost 125,000 sanctions applied since new rules came into place.  Some of those sanctions should not have been applied.  How many is anybody’s guess.

Whilst these safeguarding rules will mean it is now harder for Work Programme companies to sanction people’s benefits, many claimants will not relish the prospect of some A4e dickhead turning up at their front door to interrogate them about why they didn’t attend workfare.  The best piece of advice?  Never answer the fucking door to any cunt with a clipboard.

You can download the safeguarding rules at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/427708/wp-pg-chap-4b-v1.pdf

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Austerity Might Be An Opportunity Says Welfare-To-Work Boss As She Eyes Up Jobcentres

Pauline could be heading for a P45 if ERSA get their way

Pauline could be heading for a P45 if ERSA get their way

Further austerity and welfare reforms might be seen as an opportunity says the chief spokesperson for the welfare-to-work sector Kirsty McHugh.

McHugh is Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade body established to lie on behalf of grasping welfare-to-work  parasites like G4S and Maximus.  In a blog post published after the election McHugh warns that some in her sector may view further austerity with trepidation, but points out that others may see it as an opportunity.

The reason for this optimism is because many of the leases for Jobcentre Plus offices are up for renewal over the next five years.  This could mean, according to McHugh, the possibility of out-sourcing Jobcentre services.

This is the long term ambition of the welfare-to-work sector, to take over Jobcentres completely.  Already ERSA have accused the current benefit sanctioning policy of being ‘bonkers’ and lobbied for Work Programme companies to be given a role in deciding whether to stop someone’s benefits.

This slow power grab has been ongoing for over a decade.  The DWP spends billions on salaries and admin costs and ERSA would like to see those billions going towards the companies they represent.  Of course this will mean tens of thousands of Jobcentre workers becoming unemployed (stop laughing).  But it will also mean the removal of any last lingering traces of humanity in the social security system as unemployed, sick and disabled people are transformed into nothing more than human commodities to be bought, sold and destroyed for profit.

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It’s Time To Learn From History, Direct Action and Disobedience Is What Brings Governments Down

matadoscloak

In February 2003 over one million people marched in opposition to the invasion of Iraq.  The mass protest, one of the largest in the UK’s history, was peaceful but determined and organised in full co-operation with the authorities.  An army of stewards prevented sit down protests on the march and ensured that the huge crowd was ushered, efficiently and without incident, into a pre-arranged rally in Hyde Park.   Here trade union bureacrats, Labour MPs and z-list celebrity left-wingers made fiery speeches promising this was just the beginning of a militant peace movement that would stop the war.

A month later US and UK forces began a series of devastating air strikes on Iraq.  The war had begun, and it would kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Marches against the Iraq war continued, organised by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), which was now little more than a front for the Socialist Worker’s Party.  The protests became smaller and smaller as the war continued.  At one point, troubled by ever declining numbers, the Stop the War Coalition promised direct action – finally it seemed an acknowledgement that it would take more than marching to end the war.  With a renewed enthusiasm they built a statue in Trafalgar Square of American president George Bush.  Then they knocked it down.  The war raged for another half decade.

Astonishingly those behind the Stop the War Coalition are now trying to re-write history and claim that the anti-war movement which emerged in 2003 was a huge success.  Try telling that to someone who lives in Baghdad.  The reality is that a lack of imagination, a dogged opposition to any form of real civil disobedience or illegal activity, and a ruthless top down leadership turned a movement a million strong into a handful of stragglers.

So far resistance to Tory austerity has not followed the same disastrous path.  The student movement became an inspiration across the world when the Tory Headquarters at Millbank was stormed in 2010.  The ferocious protests which followed may not have stopped student fees, but they won concessions and are one of the reasons for the downfall of the Liberal Democrat Party – once the third largest force in UK politics.  The students are as strong as ever, several universities have recently gone into occupation whilst some students at UCL are currently on rent strike.

UK Uncut, whose occupation of Fortnum & Mason’s in 2011 resulted in mass arrests, managed to force all political parties to at least pretend to take tax-dodging by the rich seriously.  The Occupy protests shone a spotlight on the financial alchemy and greed that dominates the City of London in a way not seen before.  London’s growing housing crisis has caused a wave of occuptions, squatting and direct action which has halted evictions and even forced greedy property developers to sell their investments in the case of the Poor Doors protests and the New Era Estate.

Resistance to Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms has thrown his policies into disarray.  Mass workfare has been halted by repeated pickets and boycotts of businesses and charities who use forced unpaid workers.  The vile welfare-to-work sector, the companies paid to run workfare schemes, has been repeatedly under attack leading to their spokeperson eventually conceding that the current benefit sanctioning policies are ‘bonkers’.  There are now less people on workfare schemes than there were at the end of the last Labour Government.

Disabled People Against Cuts, and other disabled people’s groups, have changed the conversation abut benefits and disability in the UK.  The disabled people’s movement is now a potent political force, repeatedly coming back time after time, blocking roads, causing disruption and even occupying the DWP.  Claimants and disabled people have recognised that a government that privatises everything creates weak spots.  The militant campaign against Atos, who carried out the despised assessments for out of work sickness and disability benefits, forced the company to eventually withdraw from the scheme.  In May 2010 60% of people who went through these tests were found ‘fit for work’.  By June 2014 that had dropped to 21%.

We know what works.  Direct action, civil disobedience, disruption and defiance. That does not mean that marches are always a waste of time, but if the last five years tells us anything it is that a diversity of struggle is required – including online action which has proved powerfully effective against workfare.  New times and new technologies need ever evolving tactics.  Tactics which cost them money and frighten them.  Not the same old stale methods of the past from a redundant left.

The People’s Assembly demonstration called for June 20th originally seemed to be on the right track.  The venue, outside the Bank of England, is the kind of precision targeting that is required.  It provides space for other groups to use other ways to resist in the heart of global capital, the City of London.  Unfortunately it now seems the People’s Assembly want us to march away from the bank, to an as yet unspecified rally.  This mirrors the doomed approach of the Stop the War Coalition who in 2003 marched away from Parliament, to gather safely tucked away in Hyde Park.

This is not the only similarity to the failed anti-war movement.  Throughout the fight to end the Iraq war, those not aligned to the StWC were repeatedly frustrated by attempts by the Socialist Worker’s Party to dominate any resistance to the invasion.  When anyone attempted to hold a protest or meeting without StWC approval, they would try and organise a bigger one, on the same day, with Tariq Ali, or George Galloway, or some other boring hasbeen they hoped would draw a crowd.

Almost immediately after the election both Class War and the student group National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), announced protests on the day of the state opening of parliament – although there is some confusion about when these should begin (with the smart money being on 11am when the actual opening of parliament is taking place).  Shortly afterwards the People’s Assembly also announced a march, leaving at the same time, and from the same place, that the students had planned to meet.  Except that their event isn’t really a march at all, it’s a short walk down Whitehall to an indoor rally.  This could be coincidence, it could just be carelessness.  But it will come as no suprise that some of the individuals behind the Stop the War Coalition have now assumed roles as unoffical leaders of the People’s Assembly.

There is some fantastic work being done by campaigners involved in the People’s Assembly around the UK, and the spate of protests in towns and cities hastily organised after the election is a more than  encouraging sign.  But we do not need leaders, we need a fucking mob.  What takes place over the next five years cannot be a repeat of failures from the past.  The People’s Assembly must resist the temptation to use their muscle – in the form of links with the Labour Party and main trade unions – to monopolise resistance to both Tory rule and the neo-liberal cuthroat capitalist agenda that all of the main political parties support.  And we must not let them because that means certain defeat.  That doesn’t mean we have to have a big row.  It just means people organising themselves, to do what they want, without interference from those who say they are on our side.

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And The Minister For Housing Is … A Fucking Landlord

landlord-jailedThe interests of tenants and landlords are in direct opposition.  Tenants need secure homes with low rents and which are well maintained.  Landlords however want to charge the highest possible rent for the least possible work and be able to throw a tenant out of their home the second they get a better offer.

This means that you cannot claim to support both tenant’s rights and landlord’s profits.  You have to pick a side.  And we know which side the new Housing Minister Brandon Lewis is on because the register of MP’s interests tells us.  He’s a fucking landlord.

Lewis was first appointed as Minister of Housing in June 2014, replacing parliament’s nastiest, slimiest MP Kris Hopkins.  He was re-appointed by David Cameron last week where he wil continue his work ensuring the UK has one of the most expensive and least regulated private rental sectors in the world.

One of his first moves has been to introduce legislation banning local authorities from introducing licencing schemes for landlords – such as the one recently developed by Liverpool Council.  In future any council which wants to introduce a scheme that affects more than 20% of privately rented homes will be forced to go crawling to central government for permission.

It is astonishing that you need a licence to drive a mini-cab, open a pub or work as a security guard, yet any old crook can set themselves up as a landlord.  The only entry requirement is money.  These are bastards who have a key to our homes, and whose actions, or lack of action can devastate our health and even place our lives at risk.  Is it any wonder that landlord abuse, from sexual harassment, to violence, to illegal eviction to simple neglect, is rampant in the UK?

According to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis only a small minority of landlords are ‘rogue operators’.  Yet almost anyone who has rented privately will have tales to tell of bullying, theft, discrimination, harassment and often criminal negligence.  Even landlords who remain within the law can hike rents, evict without reason or charge eye-watering fees and deposits which exclude many people from any housing at all.   The private rental sector is broken beyond repair and Lewis has no plans to change that.  In fact he intends to continue making money from it.

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Minister for Disabled People’s Cosy Relationship With Mayor Sacked In Disgrace For Disability Hate Comments

tomlinson-martinNew Minister for Murdering Disabled People Justin Tomlinson refused to condemn his long-standing colleague Mayor of Swindon Nick Martin who was forced to resign after making vile comments about disabled people.

Martin was forced put of his position in 2014 after he was heard asking “”Are we still letting mongols have sex with each other?” at a council meeting.  Despite initially denying making the comments he eventually resigned after he was found guilty by the Council’s Standards Committee of making abusive and insulting references to disabled people.

Throughout the affair, Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, refused to condemn his long-standing colleague for the remarks.  This prompted local Labour Party parliamentary candidates to issue a public letter to Tomlinson asking whether they supported Nick Martin remaining a councillor and member of the Conservative Party.  Tomlinson apears to have simply ignored this letter.

The truth is that Tomlinson and Nick Martin go way back.  As recently as last week the new Minister spoke warmly of how Martin introduced him to local politics over 15 years ago after he had contacted him about an overgrown hedge.  As can be seen above, Tomlinson and Martin remain facebook friends.

Nick Martin will be grateful for his colleague’s lack of condemnation, he was re-elected as a Councillor at the local elections last week.  And Tomlinson went off to the DWP for his new job designing and implementing disability strategy.  His voting record on matters that concern disabled people already speaks for itself.  But if you can judge a person by the company they keep, then Tomlinson’s cosy relationship with the former Mayor of Swindon tells us everything we need to know about his true attitude towards disabled people.

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The Worst Of Margaret Thatcher Meets The Worst Of Tony Blair, We Need To Fight These Bastards Like Never Before

five-more-years-no-wayWhen the richest 20% of people vote to attack the poorest 20% – a crude but not unfair summary of what just happened in the election – then any talk of democratic mandates or majorities is redundant.  What we are left with instead is human decency – do we want to live in a society where diabetics die because they cannot afford the electricity to chill their medicine?  Or where children are socially cleansed away from their schools, friends and families because neither benefits or wages are enough to pay soaring rents?

Do we want to live in a country where strikes are virtually banned, or where dissidents can be targetted by the full force of the state even when they have committed no crime?  And if anyone complains they will be smeared as thugs by the bullying right wing press and told they have no right to protest?  Are these the so-called British values that created the welfare state, won votes for women and the working class, or defeated Fascism both in Europe and on our own streets?

If the answers to these questions is no then there is really little choice left.  We need to fight these bastards like never before.  Parliamentary democracy has failed to curb the most repugnant excesses of the rich.  No political party is riding over the hill to save us, this went beyond labour vs tory a long time ago.  The fight for the soul of this disunited kingdom will now take place in the streets and workplaces, or wherever we can wedge a spanner in the works.  No-one can stand idly by now, not unless you want to see a country in which millions suffer poverty and those who object get a truncheon in the face.  Or a bullet depending on the colour of your skin.

We are witnessing the emergence of a government that seems intent on combining the worst of Margaret Thatcher’s ideological greed with the petty control-freakery of Tony Blair.  It is the worst of all political worlds, the ultimate neo-liberal triumph combined with an attempt to crush any last trace of dissent

But do not believe the fucking hype.  Most people did not vote Tory.  The working class vote for UKIP does not represent a significant rise in racism or bigotry – go to any working class area and see people of all races working and living together, fucking and loving each other.  That’s not to deny there is work to be done.  But you don’t see that in Surbiton or Chelsea.

For many who voted UKIP, and Green and SNP, their vote was for a plague on all their houses.  A vote that we have had enough of the rich run rampant and politicians that either couldn’t give a fuck about us or outright despise us.  This Government is as weak as any that has come before, they know it and they are terrified.  That is why they are shouting so loud.

What is now needed to be done will not be easy.  It will be frustrating and frightening, exhausting and even boring at times and we will need to keep coming back, over and over again.  It will mean protests that don’t ask for permission in advance, civil disobedience on a scale not yet seen, real strikes not flimsy one day gestures and a movement that is prepared to defend itself.  One that doesnt get drawn into lazy tabloid stereotypes of good and bad protesters, or distracted by careless graffiti, or even gives a flying fuck what the Daily Mail and the wealthy they serve thinks and says about us.

A diversity of tactics is vital, there is no pure method of achieving radical change.  We should work together where we can and part as friends when we cannot. We are all on the same side, they made sure of that centuries ago.  They started class war when they threw us off our land, forced our children into factories, sent our young to die in their wars and now want to strip away everything those returning heroes won for working class people.  It’s time we fought back like never before.  All of us, united, against the fucking rich.

There are upcoming protests in Glasgow, Peterborough, Manchester, Sheffield, Cardiff, Winchester, Newcastle, Leeds and many more to come – please feel free to leave details of upcoming events, protests or actions in the comments.

Class War and the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) have both called a protest in Central London on the day of the state opening of Parliament, May 27th – keep it free.  Class War will be meeting at 11am, keep an eye on their facebook page for more details.

UK Uncut have called a day of action on Saturday May 30th, which coincides with a protest against scrapping the Human Right’s Act.

A massive demonstration wil be taking place in the City of London on the 20th June.

Please help spread the word about all events and let’s make them huge.

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Over 4 Million People Who Want Jobs: Is The So-Called Jobs Miracle Shuddering To A Halt?

work-or-riotNewly appointed Minister of Death, Priti Patel, was allowed to write her first DWP press release this morning as labour market figures showed there were just 35,000 fewer unemployed people in the last three months.  This is the smallest quarterly fall in unemployment in nearly two years, and it is not the only bad news for the DWP – amongst those born in the UK the number of people with jobs fell slightly.

Youth unemployment, for people between 18 and 24, also rose in the latest period, for the second quarter running.  As did the number of hidden unemployed – people without a job who want one but are classed as ‘economically inactive’ rather than officially unemployed – which now stands at 2.298 million meaning the true number of unemployed people is 4.129 million.

The Claimant Count, which means the shrinking number of unemployed people who are still entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance, fell by just 12,600, the smallest drop since March 2013.  The ‘experimental claimant count’ however, which also includes unemployed people transferred onto Universal Credit, fell by just 6,500.  The number of people claiming out of work sickness benefits rose by 5000 in the same period.

As ever, a large number of people who are officially employed are working part time – and the number of part time workers who want a full time job also rose in the latest period.  There are also 105,000 people on “government supported training and employment programmes”, better known as workfare, who are classed as employed in the official statistics.

The s0-called jobs miracle on which the Tories based much of their election campaign was always largely a myth that was more down to a growing population that Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms.  Today’s labour market figures suggest that even this may be coming to an end.  What they also show, beyond doubt, is that with over 4 million people chasing 750,000 vacancies, there are still no fucking jobs.

You can view the latest Labour Market Statistics on the ONS website.

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