Monthly Archives: May 2012

The End of the Deserving Poor

The recent hounding of a working single mum on Newsnight by an odious tax payer funded journalist reveals a new current that is emerging in austerity Britain.

Shanene Thorpe was interrogated by two-bit hack Allegra Stratton on Newsnight after being invited to give an interview about her experiences as a Housing Benefit claimant.  Shanene has rightly taken Newsnight to task for attempting to portray her as a ‘benefits scrounger’ and conveniently ignoring the fact she is working.

It is a shameful indictment of the ugly society that is emerging that to be compared to a benefit claimant is now seen as a gross insult.  It harks back to the Victorian ‘back to basics’ morality the Tory Party once loved so much. The hard working poor are idealised whilst the unemployed, or all but the most severely sick or disabled people, are seen as feckless architects of their own misfortune, the undeserving poor and only fit for the workhouse.

But Shanene has missed a trick if she thinks that being employed will get her off the hook.  The Tories are all too aware that huge numbers of Housing Benefit claimants are working.  This has not stopped the rhetoric one jot.  They should be forced to move say the braying toffs, giving up work if need be, to a poorer part of the UK where they will no longer be a drain on the public.

Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit is just as squarely aimed at those in part time work, or self employed on a low income, as it is at anyone without any work at all.  Part time workers will be forced to seek out ever longer hours or face what meagre benefits they receive being stripped away.  Those in self-employment will be bullied onto workfare as punishment should they not  quite earn the minimum wage.  Already part time workers can be sent on Mandatory Work Activity in their spare time should they have the gall to claim some kind of benefit.

Meanwhile no disability is enough to garner sympathy.  Nadine Dorries MP recently called on her constituents to report anyone they suspected of claiming benefits whilst using twitter.  If you can tweet you can work was the clear message.

It matters not that rents are out of control, food prices soaring and families find themselves unable to heat their homes.  Whether unemployed, disabled or simply on a low wage, your poverty is your own fault.  We are all the undeserving poor now.

The only deserving poor left are the squeezed middle.  People like Allegra Stratton forced to live with her in laws despite her huge salary.   Or the wretched souls on £45k a year who simply can’t afford a second holiday if child benefits are cut.  The leafy suburban voters, who have been undoubtedly hit by the recent financial crisis, but cannot, by any leap of imagination, be considered poor.  Only they, and of course millionaires, are worthy of tax cuts and financial support.

It no longer matters how hard you work, how sick or disabled you may be, how many mouths you may have to feed or even how you got there.  The message from this toff Government is clear.  If you rely on benefits to survive in any way, then it’s your own fault, and we are coming for you.


British Heart Foundation – The Charity at the Heart of Workfare

A recent High Street investigation by Boycott Workfare has unveiled several new workfare sharks operating under our very noses.  Fake hippies Bodyshop, temporary shoe retailers (they fall apart) Shoezone, and Dorothy Perkins are all revealed to use, or to have used, forced labour in their stores.

Dorothy Perkins in particular is interesting as their owners, the Arcadia group, has previously denied any of their stores being involved in workfare.  Surely the huge retailing chain owned by tax dodging bastard Philip Green wouldn’t be lying to us, would they?  This leaves Top Shop, British Home Stores and other Arcadia chain stores with some questions to answer.

Boycott Workfare also single out known workfare exploiters, the British Heart Foundation, as deserving a special mention for their sheer enthusiasm for forced labour.  According to Boycott Workfare, “The manager boasted that 5/6 people will work 30 hour weeks at any one time, with workfare provider Seetec sending fresh replacements at the end of each month!”.

When the workfare row blew up at the beginning of the year many charities issued furious, if not quite honest denials, abut their involvement with the scheme.  Some, such as Shelter and Marie Curie, very publicly distanced themselves from the scheme.  British Heart Foundation (@TheBHF) however remained silent throughout.

From the investigation by Boycott Workfare, it would appear the charity are involved in the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.  This is four week block of forced labour handed out to unemployed people who aren’t deemed to be trying hard enough to find work.  It effectively operates as a system of Community Service for the unemployed, many of whom may have health conditions which might mean full time work is unsuitable.

Some, like Stephen Hill of Derbyshire, may even have serious heart conditions.  Mr Hill tragically died of a heart attack a month after being found fit for work and ineligible for sickness benefits.  Had he lived he might have found himself forced to work in a British Heart Foundation charity shop for no pay.

British Heart Foundation are also known to have used workfare in Edinburgh where they have already faced at least one occupation (pic above).  The charity are the biggest charity retailers in the UK and earned a whopping £31 million in profit last year.  It’s clear that not paying staff is good business.

BHF charity boss Peter Hollins is one of the UK’s highest paid charity bosses.  The latest publicly available figures show he earned a staggering £153,000 way back in 2008.  Predictably he is an Oxbridge toff.

British Heart Foundation have a forum on their website should anyone wish to discuss the organisation’s use of forced labour.  They are on twitter @TheBHF and facebook at:

The Government are now refusing to tell us which charities and companies are using workfare.  Boycott Workfare have some tips on their website of how to track down workfare exploiters.  If you know of any organisation using workfare, or are on workfare yourself, please contact them and help keep the direct action target list up to date:

The Real Face of Mandatory Work Activity – Shocking Videos Emerge

Two videos have emerged on youtube which appear to represent the reality of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme which Chris Grayling this week announced is to be extended to tens of thousands more unemployed people.

In the two part video diary, the claimant films aspects of the work he has been sent to take part in by the Welfare to Work company Working Links, who are currently mired in fraud investigations.  The work involves tree brashing, a laborious task which involves stripping lower branches from trees in heavy forest growth.

Astonishingly, according to the video, the person concerned was provided with no protective clothing or equipment and was even required to provide his own saw.  He was also left to work alone and completely unsupervised, despite the potentially dangerous nature of the work.  It also highlights the fact that his transport costs to the job had not been met in full and that Working Links suggested he take a 90 minute bus journey followed by a five mile walk to his place of work each day in order to keep his costs down.

On Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) claimants are sent to work for 30 hours on a range of ‘community’ projects for no pay for four weeks at a time.  The scheme is used as Community Service for unemployed people deemed not trying hard enough to find work by Jobcentre advisors.  Failure to attend MWA leads to punitive benefit sanctions which leave people in dire poverty and facing possible homelessness.

There is nothing in the videos which suggests they may be inauthentic, but even if they were to be an elaborate hoax, they represent far from the worst case scenario that some benefit claimants now face.

All of the allegations made in the videos are perfectly consistent with the rules of Mandatory Work Activity.  In some cases the scheme could be even more punitive.  The person who made the videos appears relatively young, healthy and able-bodied.  Due to the brutal assessment regime for sickness benefits,  huge numbers of sick and disabled people have now been bullied onto Jobseekers Allowance.  Jobcentre staff, most of whom have no training in sickness or disability issues, can now send sick and disabled people on this scheme where they too could be sent to work in the forests of Scotland,  carrying out hard manual labour for the pittance of £67.50 a week.

As noted on the Black Triangle Campaign’s website this week, the Social Security Advisory Committee warned that people with  ‘invisible’ disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorders or those with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable to being referred to Mandatory Work due to the nature of their conditions.

Previous workfare schemes have usually come with a small top up to benefit payments to help meet the costs of being in full time, unpaid employment.  These payments have all been scrapped by the current Government.  As the videos point out, substantial costs can be incurred when carrying out physical work, including the simple fact you need to eat more and take more baths.

This is the stark reality of this Government’s welfare reforms.  People with serious and life threatening conditions can now be sent to carry out hard physical labour whilst they are barely given enough to pay for food.  If the video is to be believed, and there’s no reason not to, they may not even be granted safety clothing, equipment or adequate supervision.

Tragically an increasing number of people have taken their own lives due to the brutality of the current welfare reforms.  With Mandatory Work about to be increased on an industrial scale, it is only a matter of time before there are even more deaths due to unscrupulous employers – many of whom are charities – forcing people into unsafe and unhealthy working conditions under threat of benefit sanctions.

The first of the two videos is below, the second can be watched on youtube.

The maker of the video diary recommends those facing unpaid labour find out their rights by visiting the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty website or

Chris Grayling – Lie Watch

Chris Grayling is set to give a speech today celebrating the disastrous Work Programme, despite the flagship initiative fast becoming a somewhat tragic laughing stock.

The latest performance figures suggest that the scheme is actually performing far worse than if the Government had simply done nothing at all.  As ever Chris Grayling will ignore the facts and lie through his teeth that all is well with the multi-billion pound farce.

Grayling will even have the audacity to claim that the scheme is over performing in some areas, with a bold statement that for those easiest to place in employment the figure is “well above 26% in much of the country”.

Of course there is no way to check the truth of this statement as the Government are refusing to release performance figures on the Work Programme.  The recent figures announced by the private Welfare to Work industry claimed that only 22% of people were finding work through the Work Programme and raised concerns that many of these jobs were temporary.

This suggests that Grayling is once again being less than honest if he says today, as reported he will, that it is “clear from feedback from the front line that a substantial majority are staying in work once they get there”.

Even if the 26% figure is true, which it isn’t, it would represent a disaster given that officials have claimed that 28% of all groups, not just the easiest to help, would be expected to find work without any ‘help’ from the Work Programme at all.

That only last year bold claims were being made that 36% of people would find long term employment due to the Work Programme (in itself a less than impressive figure) seems to have conveniently slipped Chris Grayling’s mind.

Grayling appears to be so out of touch that he doesn’t know that actually people find work everyday without the help of profit making sharks like A4e.  Unlike his toff chums in the cabinet, most of us do not rely on our parents or the old school tie to find work, but fill out job applications, send out CVs and attend interviews without any so called support from Welfare to Work companies at all.

The vaguely defined ‘easiest to help’ may in fact represent the people who got jobs themselves before even really starting on the Work Programme .  At the recent Public Accounts Committee hearing into the fraud infested Welfare to Work industry, MP Margaret Hodge related stories of people being bribed to fill out paperwork so that Work Programme providers could claim fat job outcome fees for those who had only just started on the programme.

That this is common practice in the industry was clearly shown by the internal memo that A4e managed to leak on their own website.  This instructed staff on how to claim up to £13,000 from the government in cases where someone found a job before being fully inducted onto the Work Programme.

According to the Mail, even some of the poverty pimps so eager to profit from unemployment, are considering pulling out of the Work Programme.  Spinning ever more wildly Grayling will claim this is a huge success that shows that  competition in the Welfare to Work industry is working.  Grayling will say that “competition means that if you’re not coming up with the results, someone else will”.  Except no-one else is.  With many major charities having already abandoned the scheme, and the Welfare to Work sector considering pulling out, then the question arises exactly who will Grayling hand Work Programme contracts to next – Gok fucking Wan?

Ever the opportunists, Labour have used today to point out that despite the wonderful Work Programme, the cost of Job Seekers Allowance is set to cost around a billion a year more than the Government had accounted for.  This represents an increase in spending of around 20%, whilst the cost of Housing Benefits are also set to soar by over £4 billion above projections.

Grayling’s most blatant lie of the day is dismissing claims that this is down to rising unemployment as ‘nonsense’ and pretending the higher figures represent the recent small rise in meagre benefit payments.  In April benefits and pensions rose by 5.1% in line with inflation, a figure which doesn’t appear to account for a 20% rise in expenditure.  In any event, you would have hoped that the Government might have accounted for inflation in their spending plans.  In contrast to Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit has actually been subject to brutal cuts, yet still the cost is rising.

Yet again a speech from Chris Grayling brings yet another avalanche of spin, distortion and outright lies. The compulsive liar at the heart of Cameron’s Government is out of control, but there seems no mood for Number 10 to intervene.  Osborne has threatened to cut yet a further £10 billion from the welfare budget.  Five billion of this could be easily found by scrapping the farcical Work Programme and bringing Chris Grayling’s delusions to a swift conclusion.  That George Osborne would rather force people from their homes and drive children into poverty, rather than confront the lying bastard Grayling and the fraud ridden Welfare to Work sector, tells us everything we need to know about the contemptible toffs in this Government.

Week of Actions Against ATOS in Manchester

Manchester Coalition Against Cuts  and Manchester Against Benefit Cuts are organising a week of action against changes to disability living allowance and the role of ATOS in carrying out “evaluations” for fitness to work which have been linked to over 1000 deaths  (see press coverage). Please help spread the word!

Details of week of action
31 May, 12pm: Protest march from Albert Square to ATOS “assessment” centre at Albert Bridge House

6 June, 7pm: Public Meeting at Friends’ Meeting House on building resistance against ATOS

9 June, 11am: Petition and stall, Market Street

Manchester Against Benefit Cuts Facebook page

Workfare Isn’t Working So Grayling Plans More Workfare – This Time It’s For Charity

Chris Grayling is once again depending on charities to prop up his Government’s exploitative and fraud ridden workfare schemes with the announcement that tens of thousands more benefit claimants are to face unpaid labour.  Grayling is planning to hugely extend the Mandatory Work Activity scheme in a desperate attempt to claw back some credibility for his shambolic welfare to work policies.

Whilst sanctions have temporarily been removed from some workfare schemes, they are fundamental to the Mandatory Work Activity schemes.  Sources have claimed that this scheme is used when claimants refuse to ‘volunteer’ for one of the other, currently non-mandatory,  workfare schemes.

The Mandatory Work Scheme was introduced last year despite the warning of the Social Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) who claimed the scheme could be racist in practice, open to wide scale abuse and will leave no time for unemployed people to actually look for a job.  The SSAC, who are an independent body whose role is to advise Parliament on welfare,  issued a stark warning that the scheme should not go ahead.

Under the scheme claimants can be ordered to carry out 30 hours unpaid work for four weeks at a time.  Despite Grayling claiming the scheme is ‘popular’, the mandatory nature of the scheme reveals it’s true purpose.  It is effectively a punishment for those that Jobcentre staff have deemed aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  After completing four weeks workfare there is nothing in the rules to stop claimants being re-referred straight back onto the scheme for another month.  In fact there is nothing in the rules to stop this happening indefinitely.  Claimants can be referred from the first day of their claim and face vicious benefit sanctions should they refuse.  Should whoever they’ve been forced to work for dismiss them for any reason they will also face benefit sanctions.

120 hours is three times the minimum Community Service (now called Community Payback) sentence that can be handed out in the courts.  Those convicted of sexual assault, Actual Bodily Harm or burglary could face a less stiff sentence than those forced onto Mandatory Work Activity because they missed an appointment at the Jobcentre or simply because their Jobcentre Advisor has taken a dislike to them.    There are no checks and balances in the system to ensure that harassment of claimants is not occurring and no right of appeal.

The Government were expected to publish figures this week outlining whether the scheme has actually helped anyone into work.  It now appears they have changed their mind. Just like their refusal to publish performance figures for the Work Programme, the largest shambolic Welfare to Work scheme, it seems the DWP are once with-holding information because it might embarrass ministers and reveal the scheme to be yet another expensive disaster.

Welfare to work company A4e were recently stripped of their Mandatory Work Activity contract in the South East due to concerns about fraud in the organisation.  Allegations of fraud at other welfare to work companies are now beginning to emerge.  An upcoming court case brought by Cait Reilly, forced onto workfare under another scheme, may yet rule that workfare is illegal.

Despite all of this, Chris Grayling, the minister just about in charge of the DWP, is to announce a huge expansion of Mandatory Work this week.  It appears to be this Government’s policy that when they find themselves in a hole they should start to dig furiously.  Austerity has plunged the country into the most prolonged recession in living memory so the Government has pledged more austerity.  When voters in the recent local elections rejected this Government’s right wing policies, for which they have no electoral mandate, the Tory’s answer was to move even further to the right.  And as workfare is revealed to be a dismal failure that may even be increasing long term unemployment, the answer from Chris Grayling is more workfare.

Astonishingly Grayling will be depending on charities to provide placements for those bullied onto Mandatory Workfare.  Despite the likes of Tesco pulling out (sort of) from the Government’s workfare schemes, huge numbers of charities are only to happy to profit from forced labour on an industrial scale.  Claimants on Mandatory Work will be sent to charity shops and other community organisations , many of whom are no doubt household names, to serve their sentences.

The DWP are so concerned that the image of those benefiting from this scheme may be tarnished that they are now refusing to reveal details of where people on Mandatory Work are actually being sent.  Previous FOI requests, which named some of the organisations so quick to benefit from this and other exploitative workfare scheme, have now disappeared from the DWP’s website.

Charities have fallen over themselves to pick up lucrative workfare contracts under which benefit claimants can face crippling sanctions which have forced people into poverty and homelessness.  The response to criticism of their involvement in these brutal schemes has been little more than pathetic.  Disability charities have claimed it’s not their fault people get sanctioned, it’s the fault of the DWP.  This is despite the contractual arrangements which demand charities reports ‘compliance breaches’ to the DWP. A compliance breach may mean not turning up for workfare under the Mandatory Work Scheme, or missing a meeting or training session for those on the Work Programme.  These sanctions can even be applied to sick or disabled claimants, and in fact almost 10,000 sick or disabled claimants faced sanctions last year and the number is expected to soar.  Many of these sanctions have been directly due to the actions of the charities involved in the various schemes.

The hypocrisy from charities has been even more staggering.  Mental health charity MIND have said they will not use forced labour in their charity shops, but were quite happy to profit from a scheme in which participants could be sent to carry out forced labour in other people’s charity shops.  Substance misuse charity Addaction recently condemned benefit sanctions for those with drug or alcohol dependencies, yet are one of the largest Work Programme sub-contractors.  Addaction are contractually obliged to refer their own users for sanctions, despite their Chief Executive recently saying that benefit sanctions “can severely damage someone’s chances of beating an addiction and recovering”.

A piece recently published on Disabled People Against Cuts’ website contains inside information from a charity worker who calls his employer’s  involvement in these schemes ‘disgusting’. and reveals: “I remember one client with severe psychosis. He didn’t know what day of the week it was—but he was about to lose his benefits because he had missed his appointments.”

After the private sector rejected workfare as unethical, Chris Grayling needs charities and community organisations to force tens of thousands more claimants into unpaid work.  There should be no squeamishness about holding these charities to account for their actions.  Organisations that depend on a fluffy public image at their charity fun runs and galas should not be surprised if they face protests, pickets, boycotts and direct action.  Charities like Addaction, Mencap, Scope, The Salvation Army and many more are all conniving with this toff Government in a brutal and unprecedented attack on the very people they claim to support.  If they are to happy to profit from Tory attacks on the sick, disabled and the unemployed, then they should be prepared to face the consequences.

If you are currently on, or about to be sent on any of the Mandatory Work schemes please get in touch with one of the many organisations campaigning against them such as Boycott Workfare .  We urgently need to know exactly who is profiting from forced labour and the government is trying to keep it secret.

UK Uncut Make It Personal

The NHS and Welfare State are being destroyed and the people doing it have names and addresses.  One of those people is Nick Clegg, who lives in Parkfields, a leafy street in Putney, SW13 (no 2, if his ‘terrified’ neighbours are anything to go by, many of whom were all too ready to grass the slimy lying wanker up and reveal his address to protesters).

Yesterday’s street party outside Nick Clegg’s house was one of several actions around the country staged by UK Uncut.  Clegg’s constituency office in Sheffield was also a target.  The protests were billed as ‘Great British Street Parties’ a reference to the fawning display of deference set to sweep the country over next weekend’s jubilee.

Despite Clegg’s claim that his neighbour’s children were scared by the protest, many in the community actively joined in the party with a couple of local kids even producing an impromptu anti-cuts banner.  It’s clear Nick Clegg is as unpopular in his own neighbourhood as he is in the rest of the UK.

I have to admit to feeling a little underwhelmed on arriving at the protest.  Despite a good attendance of around 200 people, and a heroic action from Disabled People Against Cuts, who chained wheelchairs together in order to block the road and secure the space,it was about as un-threatening as you could get.  One person described it as a very fluffy picnic.  Reclaim the Streets it was not.

But whether it was down to the sun or the beer I changed my mind.  All in all it was a fun day out, and with bunting, cake, music and dancing it was exactly what it said on the tin.  UK Uncut were right to pick a target that was both achievable and well directed.  By all measures it was a huge success for the direct action group and lays the foundation for bigger and more ambitious action in the future.

The over the top reaction from the Tory twitter trolls was just the icing on the cake.  Grinning idiot Louise Mensch sounded like she was back on the charlie as she frantically denounced the protest and furiously retweeted anyone who agreed with her bizarre view that targeting a politician’s home is unacceptable.

Thousands of people are currently losing their homes due to Clegg and Cameron’s cuts.  For those made homeless, this Government’s assault on the very poorest is as personal as it gets.  And their children genuinely go to bed frightened by the actions of Nick Clegg and his millionaire chums in the cabinet.

Why should Nick Clegg rest easy in his sleep when by his actions he is condemning swathes of the country to poverty and homelessness?   UK Uncut’s street party was a well aimed tactic to hold millionaire Clegg accountable for his actions.  If they come for our homes, then we should come for theirs.