Benefit Claimants Fighting Back

The Welfare Reform Bill is back in the Lords today which may yet result in some more tinkering with this desperate piece of legislation.  However the main thrust of the bill, enshrining as it does Universal Credit, benefits caps, mass health and disability testing programmes, workfare and the slashing of benefit for 20% of disabled people, is all firmly established and will become law.

That ermine clad  toffs had no more understanding of the intricacies of the benefits system then Oxbridge MPs is of little surprise.  Few, if any, would have any experience of signing on.  That’s how, based largely on rumour, prejudice, Daily Mail headlines and bad arithmetic, this car crash of a bill came about.  The very mechanisms it enshrines are already failing.  The Atos system of computer based health to tests to establish benefit eligibility is in a shambles, running 80% behind target whilst the appeals system is in melt down.  Major retailers, such as Sainsburys and Waterstones are pulling out of workfare, with more set to follow them.  DWP sources have claimed the idea that Universal Credit will be ready to roll out on time next year is ‘pie in the sky’.

It is in the implementation that this Bill will come apart at the seams, and that is where it has always been most vulnerable.  Eighteen months after the non-election of this government, the fight to save the Welfare State is just getting started  New groups are springing up around the UK to resist the all out assault on the very poorest and after over a year of action claimants aren’t going anywhere just because Cameron has bullied this Bill through the Lords.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was formed after the 2010 anti-austerity protests outside the Conservative Party Conference and has been at the forefront of the struggle against the Welfare Reform Bill since the beginning.  Recently, along with UK Uncut and others, they helped bring traffic in the West End to a standstill for two hours after wheelchairs users chained themselves together and blocked Oxford Street.  More action has been promised, you can visit their website at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/ or find them on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/DPAC2011/

Also increasingly active, are the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights, who attended at Oxford Street and have been involved in organising against welfare cuts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Dundee.  They are on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/blacktriangle11?sk=info

Benefits Claimants Fightback began as a facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/116432071735566/) back when the onslaught against claimants first began under Labour and aims to be a meeting place and online organising tool for all benefit claimants.  A website of the same name attempts to keep track of action against benefit cuts at: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Boycott Workfare has organised actions and protests and is maintaining a register of organisations who refuse to support the government’s forced labour scheme.  The next action is on 3rd March which has been called as  a National Day of Action Against Workfare, with other resistance already planned in Liverpool and Brighton.  They have a new facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Workfare/222201111204955

A Boycott Workfare group has also been established in Birmingham, whilst last weekend Brighton Benefits Campaign held a picket of Poundland in protest at their use of workfare.  The word on the street is that Brighton Poundland will no longer be accepting workfare placements.  This shit works.  Brighton also has a DPAC group on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/BrightonDisabledPeopleAgainstCuts/

Other regional groups include the Crutch Collective in Glasgow who will be continuing their houding of the local Atos sharks with a picket outside their offices on Friday 17th February.  The long established Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have organised countless protests and actions and have a wealth of information on their website at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/

Winvisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities) and Single Mother’s Self-Defence have long been involved in supporting claimants and organised the recent series of lobbies and vigils outside the Lords where the debate was taking place, as well as helping co-ordinating the joint letter to the BMJ and RCN expressing disgust at the activities of Atos Healthcare.

The Spartacus Report was compiled by disabled activists and highlighted the shoddy consultation and inhumane changes implicit in the move to Personal Independence Payments.  Several authors of the report blog at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and they can be found on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/wearespartacus/

Also on facebook is the busy Disability Defence page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/#!/groups/disabilitydefence/  whilst After Atos Alliance provides support and discussion for victims of the Atos testing regime at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/afteratos/

Other groups on facebook opposing the benefit cuts include the Social Welfare Advocacy page at: http://www.facebook.com/SocialWelfareAdvocacy  and Respect for Unemployed and Benefit Claimants: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Respect-For-the-Unemployed-Benefit-Claimants/128136787240200

Elsewhere online, the Atos Register of Shame, DWP Examination, Work Programme and Watching A4e are just some websites keeping track of the assault on welfare and those, like A4e and Atos, who are making a fortune from the changes.

Pat’s Petition against the benefit cuts now has nearly 30,000 signatures, you can sign it at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

Sol Fed, UK Uncut, Anarchist Federation and Right To Work are other groups that have been supportive and helped organise action, whilst support has come in the political press from Freedom, Schnews and the enduring Morning Star.  Union support has come from the PCS at national and branch level and the RMT.

It would be impossible to list all of the groups, websites and organisations involved in challenging the Welfare Reform Bill and vast apologies to all those that have been missed in this list.  Please post links in the comments to any and all groups fighting to retain a system where losing your job, becoming sick or disabled, having children, or being low waged, does not mean a life of poverty, homelessness and state harassment.

Please also share groups on facebook, post links to organisations, tweet and help make sure that every last one of the millions of claimants set to be devastated by the upcoming benefit changes has access to local support, and more importantly the chance to organise and take action.

We will not stop, we will not die, escalation is called for, let’s watch them crumble.

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20 responses to “Benefit Claimants Fighting Back

  1. Hell yes!
    ESA was all over the place when it first came out (i know from firstahdn experience dealing with a call centre DWP team leader with no idea of her own job proceeding vehemently to critically misinform me and nearly kill the claim before it even started). Universal Credit, which is much bigger, is going to be not just a headache but it will, make no msitake, leave a lot of people up shit creek for a long time. right when the claimant count is increasing. IDS is not only an idiot, but a dangerously zealous one.

  2. wishface I agree my only hope is that successful legal action is taken before more people die because of this.

  3. brilliant piece, as ever.

  4. Why is there a link to guido fawkes on this website? He’s an appalling right wing bullshitter; the sort that’s responsible for the sort of crap the unemployed have to face!

    • A hangover from the early days of political blogging when it was all about getting Blair and a brief period of non-partisanship flourished. Thanks for the timely reminder that the links have barely been updated in over five years, that will be sorted out soon. In the meantime guido’s gone.

      • Appreciate the response. It’s your site so you can link to what you want of course, but I find the guy very unpleasant and a complete troll. In my not so humble opinion of course (i’m sure the feeling would be mutual :D)

  5. Keep up the hard work. We have a long way to go.

  6. i think the really scary part is, the fact it was the Labour party that suggested an ammendment to the £26,000 max benefits clause, to change it from a national average to a local average.

    £26,00 pa in London may be nothing but out here in the sticks it is a fortune, to give an example a grade 5 nurse gets about that and there is no way they are anywhere near the average, in edinburgh, the average is £14-£15 K and we are regarded as a rich town, if dole here was dropped to that, we’d be as screwed as the london bods.

  7. When U.C. comes in it will be ‘digitized’,i.e. call centres etc.,. No chance of ANY face to face queries. So it will be loads of,” Computer says no…”
    Job Centre staff will be minimal numbers of hard-faced bastards directing you/me to banks of phones,showing you what local Macjobs are on offer,or telling you which work camp or re-education centre to attend. Any argument and you’ll be ejected and/or arrested. And they’ll be administered by private security freebooters.
    Welcome to the visionary Claggeron nightmare.

  8. Its pretty much like that now, I was trying to get back to work and was in seeing my DEA, with my CPN riding shotgun and because i am relatively screwed up, i needed to be assigned to a specialist employment service (Into Work) as the standard run of the mill disabled scheme company couldn’t deal with my needs.

    So, I’m sitting there listening to this guy telling me, he had to send the request to the Glasgow office, which was the head office for the region, to see if i could get permission for the funding to get me sent there and i completely lost it, there in the office, which was quite an acheivement, considering my med load at the time and the 2 security guys, who felt the need to ‘restrain and eject me for unacceptable behaviour’ were prosecuted for assault.

    the best part of all, was in court, when i was asked what my recollection of events was, i said ‘I have no idea, i have an accquired brain injury and have to take fuck loads of drugs, i’m the last person who knows’

    My cpn then stood up and said, ‘axel cannot be a credible witness, this is why it is me who reported the events, as i was there, as his carer and i am here now to make sure his best interests are served’

  9. Pingback: Scab or starve – why workfare is an attack on us all. | Cautiously pessimistic

  10. I was told to visit Rushden A4e today – what a shock ! I was instructed to sign a waiver for my private information,The bottom of the form – quite rightly stated that this is optional and in no way affects your rights to the work program. However the ‘Lady’ I saw stated ‘unless you sign it I will phone the jobcentre and stop your JSA !’ I need a rep to go with me – if there are any further meetings with them.
    Chris – 40 years continuous employment.

    • this is just DPA stuff and in this case no big deal, it only means they can do stuff [put you whatever schemes or placements] with what you have put on the form, if they want access to other databases [tax, national insurance and however many databases you exist on, in the NHS], they need to get you to sign a statement for each one

      since you have not signed the document, they cant do anything with you, via their databases and since their databases are at the core of their operation……

      • Firstly it is illegal to force someone to give free access to their personal details – secondly no one has the right to illegally stop my benefit – am I missing something here ?
        -If it is no big deal then why was I excluded from my right to enter the work program ?

        • when i say ‘no big deal’ i mean the only info they can use, is the info you gave them already, on the form but since you haven’t signed, they cant use it

          i assume the dole office sent you, under duress, to sign on with A4E, if you dont ‘let them use, the data yiou have given them’ you cant sign on with them, so the bod behind the desk, calls your dole office and says, ‘chris did’nt sign up’ and the dole office does their bastard job on you

          ‘excluded’–unless they have your information and can use it, they cant let you on the course

  11. the private information they are talking about, is the private information on the form you filled in

  12. Pingback: Grayling Lies Will Come to Haunt Him | the void

  13. Fantastic list – I’ve pulled feeds from most of those together into a Google Reader bundle so anyone can add them all with one click: http://helpmeinvestigate.com/welfare/communities-campaigning-against-welfare-changes-the-void

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