Category Archives: DWP

Week Of Action Against Workfare And Sanctions Begins Tomorrow: Events Announced So Far

Boycott-Workfare-action No workfare. No sanctions. Whoever wins we will resist!

Latest details at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4239

25th April, London – Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice Shops: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4298

25th April, Chingford – IDS – the Butcher of Benefits must go! DPAC action: https://www.facebook.com/events/630040803794662/

25 April, Leeds – Leeds Welfare Fightback will be out in Briggate throughout the week with stalls and leaflets.
https://www.facebook.com/events/695030883952537/

29th April, Edinburgh – Demonstrate at High Riggs Jobcentre, by Tollcross, Edinburgh: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/165

1st May, Bristol – Bristol May day demo – Combat Workfare: https://www.facebook.com/events/1578782925705919/

2nd May, London – Sanction the Salvation Army: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4281

Daily leafleting in Haringey, London: email info@haringey.org to get involved

Actions in the Netherlands: http://www.doorbraak.eu/25-april-to-2-may-international-week-of-action-against-workfare-and-sanctions-come-join-us/

Disabled People Against the Cuts have called for a “Revenge Tour” in the same week: https://www.facebook.com/events/726806607436136/

Please share, tweet, blog and help spread the word about all events!

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How Lord Fraud’s Benefit Rules For Self-Employed Workers Will Mean The End Of Enterprise

lord-fraud-freud1Fuck entrepreneurs.  Seriously.  Fuck them.  Most of them are are chinless jumped up idiots squandering their trust funds and boring everyone shitless with their latest wacky idea for raspberry fucking flavoured baked beans.  Or online spivs like Grant Shapps ripping off the public with fake websites and get rich quick schemes.

If you’re poor then the local entrepreneur is likely to be the person people buy their smack from, or your landlord, or someone you borrow fifty quid off knowing some bastard with a baseball bat will probably turn up if you can’t afford to pay it back on time.

Having said that, millions of people are now scraping an income as self-employed workers.  Whether being shafted by online micro jobs that pay 50p for an hour’s work, or working on building sites and forced to register as self-employed to save their employer money, a casualised, insecure and poverty paid working life is the reality of modern capitalism for many.

In his Autumn statement Geroge Osborne announced that from April this year self-employed people claiming Working Tax Credits will have to prove that their self-employment is genuine and likely to pay them the equivalent of 24 hours a week at the minimum wage.  This is called the Minimum Income Floor and when Universal Credit is introduced (stop laughing) it will increase to 35 hours for those without young children or a significant health condition.  A sinister bunch of ghouls called Concentrix have already been hired by the DWP to hound self-employed people claiming Working Tax Credits.  Thousands of people have received letters demanding they prove their self-employment is genuine or accusing them of fraud and expecting them to prove their innocence.

There is no easily found information on Government websites explaining when and how changes to Working Tax Credits for the self-employed will be introduced.  Not for the first time when it comes to Iain Duncan Smith’s shambolic welfare reforms, nobody, including claimants themselves, has a clue what is going on.

What we do know however is that the changes that are planned under Universal Credit will prove devastating for many self-employed people.

Claimants who want to register as self-employed will first have to pass a DWP Dragon’s Den style test with Jobcentre busy-bodies and persuade them that their self-employment is ‘gainful activity’ and expected to make a profit.  Just think about that for a second.  Imagine trying to explain a business concept like facebook or instagram to a DWP Work Coach who can barely work a smart phone.  The Mark Zuckerberg’s of the future will probably end cleaning the bogs in Poundland on workfare schemes rather than creating innovative online products.  Good.  Fuck entrepreneurs.

But think about people working in the creative sector, freelance journalists, actors or musicians.  Or those in the sex industry, or other fringe sectors which are not easily understood by Jobcentre Work Coaches.  Can we really trust that these groups are likely to be considered gainfully self-employed and granted the 12 month start up period during which claimants are exempt from the Minimum Income Floor?  And this is only the start of the bodged process set to be inflicted on the self-employed.

Once the initial 12 month start up period is over then the DWP wil assume earnings of 35 hours a week at the minimum wage when calculating benefits, including Housing Benefit.  That’s 35 hours every week.  No holidays, or periods of sickness will be considered in calculations.  If you have a bad month then the DWP will make it even worse by not paying you enough Housing Benefit meaning your home will be at risk.  It won’t take much.  An illness, personal crisis, a downturn, some shyster not paying on time, and people could be driven onto the streets.  How many people are likely to take that risk, when they could get more benefit by abandoning self-employment altogether and signing on the dole?

On top of this the amount of red tape is breath-taking.  Self-employed people, desperately trying to meet their Minimum Income Floor, will have to waste time sending the Jobcentre details of their income and expenses every single month.  This is in addition to their tax return.  Expenses or income cannot be carried over, so whilst if someone has a good month their benefits will be reduced, if they have a bad one then they will not be increased.  A single claimant who earns nothing in a month will have to find up to £950 to be able to pay their rent and survive for that period.  Or go on the dole.  That’s assuming the DWP will let them and don’t disallow them from benefits completely for giving up ‘gainful self-employment’.

It is genuinely astonishing that such a vicious attack on self-employed people is being launched by the party which once claimed to represent entrepreneurs and small businesses – and fuck small businesses as well, bunch of UKIP gobshites who pay their workers less than Tesco.*  These policies can only really be understood once you discover they were largely drafted by comedy toff and Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Fraud.  Out of touch ex-bankers like Fraud don’t really believe working class people can run their own businesses.  They’d far rather we were all working for people like them.  They have no concept of what life is like for low earning self-employed people scrabbling around trying to gain an income wherever they can.  And they don’t care if their welfare changes could leave someone with no money at all, even to pay their rent.  Serves them right for not working hard enough that month they will chuckle to themselves.

Nobody knows how much of the so-called fall is unemployment is down to people registering as self-employed and claiming Working Tax Credits.  What we do know is that some of them will have been bullied into this option by grasping Work Programme companies who can claim a huge job outcome fee everytime someone becomes self-employed.  Hundreds of thousands of people could be hit by these changes and many could be left with barely any money at all to survive on.  They haven’t done anything wrong.  They are both working and claiming a much lower rate of benefit than Jobseeker’s Allowance.  They just aren’t earning enough so the government is intent on making them even poorer.  The less you have the less you get, which just about sums up the last five years of Tory Government.

There’s still more to come on this.  Meanwhile see what will happen to part time workers on Universal Credit: It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

*Fuck Tescos as well.

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DPAC – The Revenge Tour From April 18th

revenge-bannerDisabled People Against Cuts have called a Revenge Tour beginning on April 18th and including visits to the constituencies of Esther McVey and Iain Duncan Smith.  Please help spread the word.  From their website:

A fortnight of Fight Back and telling politicians throughout the UK what we think of them and what they MUST do if they want our votes.

Everywhere from April 18th – May3rd. Select your favourite politician or issue to campaign on.

Some funding is available for travel bursaries with priority given to members.

April 23rd (Thursday) National DPAC will be going to Wirral West constituency to visit Esther McVey. Meet noon at the Job Centre, Market Road, Hoylake.

Esther’s constituency is very marginal and at the moment she looks set to lose her seat. We want to help facilitate that.

April 25th (Saturday) National DPAC will be going to Chingford to visit Iain Duncan Smith. Meet 2pm outside Chingford Rail station. Trains from Liverpool Street.

Please get in touch with us at mail@dpac.uk.net to let us know if you want to go to one or more of these events or would like help with travel costs.

Please also arrange your own events and send us details.

Join and share the facebok page.

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It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

ids-anyonecanlivePart-time workers could face a benefit sanction for going to work under draconian new rules which force claimants of in-work benefits to constantly look for more, or better paid work.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) Jobcentres will have the powers to dictate how many hours a claimant should be working to remain eligible for what are now called Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Those without children, who do not have a health condition, will be required to spend up to 35 hours a week either working or taking part in work related activity such as looking for additional work or even attending workfare.  Failure to comply will result in a sanction.

The implications are chilling.  Under the new rules part-time workers will have to attend a job interview with just 48 hours notice  or their benefits will be stopped.  This is likely to mean someone required to take time off their existing employment – at short notice – to attend a job interview somewhere else.  If they go to work instead of the interview they could face a sanction.  As anyone who has ever had a real job will know, this will place claimants in an impossible position forcing to them to make the choice between risking being sacked or sanctioned.  And unfortunately their boss will probably find out they are looking for a new job  whatever they do because part of their work related activity may include being mandated to set up an online profile to “draw attention to their availability” for alternative employment.

Claimants should not face a sanction if they can demonstrate a ‘good reason’ (pdf) for not carrying out work related activity such as attending an interview.  But no-one is likely to tell them this.  Anyone who thinks that these new rules will not lead to people being sanctioned for going to work has not seen the ever growing lists of sanctions handed out to claimants for petty, inappropriate and sometimes even bizarre reasons.  Not being able to carry out work related activity because your boss makes it impossible is not even mentioned in the decision maker’s guidance, the rule book for the faceless back office Jobcentre staff who impose sanctions.

Ministers had said that people would not face a sanction if it means giving up a part-time job to attend a temporary position with longer hours.  But even the guidance on this is vague.  Decision makers are advised that someone should not be forced to leave their job to take up a fortnight’s full time temporary work but beyond this it is left to them to take a “common sense approach”.

It is astonishing, and horrifying that Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with benefit sanctions could now actually cost people their jobs.  It is what will happen to those who are sanctioned however that reveals the breath-taking cruelty behind this policy.

Somebody working 16 hours a week on minimum wage and paying £90 a week in rent (around the average Housing Benefit award) will receive £104 a week in wages and £111 under Universal Credit, a total of £215.  If they are sanctioned they will lose the equivalent of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, currently £72.40, for each week the sanction remains in place.  Depending on where they live they will almost certainly have to pay some Council Tax from that sum, around here that would be £8 a week for someone living in the cheapest band.  After paying this, and their rent, the claimant will be left with just £44.60 a week to pay for food, clothes, bills and fares to work.  This sum will be enough to disqualify them from claiming Hardship Payments or any other form of additional help.

It is difficult to imagine how someone could maintain the level of health and hygeine necessary to hold down a job on such a paltry income, unless they stop paying their rent.  Homelessness or unemployment will be the stark choice facing sanctioned working claimants – although if they leave their job they will be sanctioned again, or possibly disallowed any benefit completely.  Even if they are able to increase their hours it will barely make a difference.  For every pound they earn they will lose 65p of what little benefit they have left whilst their Council Tax liability may also rise as they earn more.  Working another four hours a week would still not give them an income above £50 a week according to the turn2us benefit calculator.  There will be no escape.  People who are working will be condemned to desperate poverty and the longest sanctions can last for three years.

All of the main political parties support the principles behind Universal Credit, even if they are sceptical about whether the IT necessary for the system is genuinely achievable.  Few of them seem to have looked into the details of what they are supporting – and what will happen to people who are self-employed is even worse (watch this space).  These rules are aimed at people with jobs, not the unemployed.  The DWP is out of control under Iain Duncan Smith and the suffering that is yet to come unless someone puts the brakes on will dwarf anything we have seen so far.

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They Are Coming For Our Pensions … And This Is How It Begins

work-till-you-dieUnpaid work experience and apprenticeships for pensioners could soon be on the way as a report released earlier this month lays the groundwork for an attack on pensions.

The report, entitled A New Vision For Older Workers, was produced by Dr Ros Altmann, a former banker who is occassionally on television.  To anyone who has followed the ongoing destruction of an adequate benefits system for sick and disabled people it is chillingly familiar.

“Encouraging and enabling those who want to work longer is an idea whose time has come” the report declares before trotting out the exact same assumptions that were used to justify the introduction of vicious assessments – and eventually forced training, job search and workfare – for sick and disabled claimants.  Older people want to work according to the report, and of course, work is good for your health.  It then goes on to make dire predictions about the future of the economy as people live longer than ever before – presumably because retiring is also quite good for your health.

The truth is that the research this report was based on shows that most people are pretty much happy to retire at 65, although some would like to work part time for a period first, and a much smaller number afterwards.  Only 10% of people wanted to work full time over the age of 65, whilst 26% would like some part time work.  The main reason people didn’t want to give up work was because they were worried about money.  Only 9% of people questioned said they wanted to stay in work because they liked their job.  Just 22% of retired people said they missed work, and of those most of them missed the money.  People like money, and they like retiring.  This is not a big fucking surprise.

It is also not what Ros Altmann, or the DWP wants to hear.  The report says we need to ‘rethink what retirement looks like’ and goes on to propose measures such a government funded Apprenticeships for older workers.  It also calls for similar ‘work placements’ to be made available to those inflicted on young people such as the unpaid Work Experience and Sector Based Work Academy schemes.  Despite spending much of the early section of the report arguing that more measures to keep older people in work will not affect youth unemployment she says that employment schemes aimed at the young disadvantage older workers.  She thinks pensioners should have the right to work in Poundland for no pay as well.

The report is discussing all workers over the age of 50, and Altmann doesn’t seem to know that older unemployed people can be sent on workfare right up until they draw a pension.  This doesn’t mean that pensioners are off the hook however, the report is adament that “age should not be a barrier to training opportunities”.

It is important to point out that Altmann talks about encouraging people to work longer or take up an apprenticeship, not forcing them.  They are not yet that confident. But this is exactly the kind of smiley faced rhetoric that was eventually used to justify workfare and benefit cuts for sick and disabled people.  Altmann even proposes an Age Confident campaign, modelled on the DWP’s current Disability Confident initiative, the shoddy PR programme introduced to provide soft cover for cutting disabled people’s benefits.

Workfare for your pension may be some way off but that is no reason to be complacent.  Reports like this are how it begins.  Encouraging people to work longer is presented as helping them, or ending age discrimination.  Liberals will cheer, the Labour Party will applaud.  Charities for older people will start thinking about all those juicy contracts to train pensioners in how to write a CV that might be on the way.  Middle-class professionals, who earn more in an hour than some do in a day, will think it’s just common sense to do a few hours work after you retire – as long as the money’s right of course.  And slowly those who choose to retire at 65 will be start to be criticised for not taking up all the exciting opportunites now available to work for the  minimum wage until the day you die.

Eventually anyone who doesn’t want to be worked to their death will be a scrounger and a drain on society.  They will need to be punished, by stopping their pensions to help ensure they make the right choices and that the system is fair.  Sounds far-fetched doesn’t it?  Yet that’s how people with cancer, MS, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and other serious and sometimes terminal health conditions are treated every day by the DWP.  Who would have predicted that a couple of decades ago?

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Iain Duncan Smith’s Plan To Privatise … Everything?

iain-duncan-smith-image-2Plans are underway to place up to one trillion pounds of public spending in the hands of investment companies and bankers.

Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech at the Social Investment Conference last week discussing how Social Impact Bonds are “transforming the whole culture of public spending”.  These bonds are the latest way to funnel tax payer’s money into the private sector by allowing investment companies to hand out contracts to run public services on a payment by results model.

The way it works is simple.  A bunch of city spivs and social enterprise bosses get together and decide they can fix a social problem such as street homelessness.  A list of ‘outcomes’ are drawn up, such as the number of homeless people they think can place in accommodation and the government agrees to give them lots of our money if they are successful.  The spivs then either lend or provide the upfront funding whilst all the social enterprise has to do is cook the books and make sure that these outcomes appear to be achieved.  If they are then the spivs get a juicy return on their initial investment.

According to Iain Duncan Smith a pilot scheme based on this funding model has already helped to cut rough sleeping in London by 30%.  This is a boringly transparent lie, street homelessness in London has almost doubled under this Government.  What he was referring to was a project run by two charities, St Mungos and Thamesreach, which focussed on 831 ‘entrenched’ rough sleepers*.  The most recent evaluation of the scheme says that one of these charities failed to meet their target to reduce rough sleeping and that performance overall was ‘mixed’.

On the Work Programme the payment by results model has led to perverse results, such as those who are most in need of help being ‘parked’, or abandoned, because they are not deemed profitable.  The ruthless benefit sanctions required to underpin the scheme, as no-one would volunteer for such a shoddy service, have led to desperate suffering.  The impact on long term unemployment has been virtually non-existent – the latest figures show that those who have been on the programme for two years are slightly less likely to have had a spell in work than if no scheme had existed.

This is the type of funding model that Iain Duncan Smith wants to introduce across public services, except instead of being in hock to the government then service providers will owe a debt to shadowy investment cartels.  These are not people who care about public services, all they care about is money, in fact that is the point.  The neo-liberal belief that greed is good means that greed should be introduced into every sector of our lives from social care to healthcare to education.  What they don’t seem to understand about greed –  or perhaps they do and don’t care – is that the instinct of the greedy is to do the least possible work for the most possible money.  If it is easier to cook the books than achieve genuine outcomes then that is what they will do.  If people are damaged in the process they don’t care.  If actions taken today lead to a greater cost tomorrow then that is not their problem. To allow this culture to take hold in public services is a toxic recipe for corruption and cost-cutting at the expense of care.

There should be no doubt in the scale of Iain Duncan Smith’s ambition.  At his speech last week he announced that the ‘first trillion’ of potential investment money had been identified, adding ominously “that’s what it cost to deliver our health and education systems for the last 5 years.”  Remember that.  This Government wants to privatise everything.  And so will the next one whoever is elected.  Social Impact Bonds were yet another Labour invention that Iain Duncan Smith has claimed as his own.

*Amusingly this is more rough sleepers than actually exist in London according to the latest figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government which claim only 742  people are currently sleeping on the streets in the capital.  This disparity comes from the annual street count, which is widely believed to be fixed and shows just how easy it is to generate any so-called ‘outcome’ you want even when there is no profit motive involved.

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RIP Julia Kelly: Another Tragic Suicide After DWP Threats

julie-kelly1A woman who founded a charity to help people suffering with chronic pain committed suicide after a battle to claim disability benefits ended with the DWP demanding that she repay £4000 in backdated payments.

Julia Kelly was just 39 when she took ker own life at the end of last year.  In an  inquest into her death the Northampton Chronicle reported that the coronor believed the “upset caused by the potential withdrawal of her benefits had been the trigger for her to end her life.”

According to a statement made by her father at the inquest, Ms Kelly had attended three tribunals in her attempts to gain disability benefits.  Mr Kelly said he “firmly believed” correspondance from the DWP triggered her death adding:

“Not to be believed by the DWP that she was suffering chronic back pain and also to be accused of wrongdoing and be told her payments might be stopped – we believe she snapped and could not take it any more.”

Despite this the DWP made a nasty statement which attempts to suggest she had thousands of pounds and was therefore not eligible for out of work disability benefits.  According to a spokesperson for the department “If a claimant exceeds the threshold with thousands of pounds in savings, they may no longer be entitled to the benefit.”  It would not take three tribunals to establish how much someone had in savings.   There is far more to this than the DWP are suggesting.

The news of the inquest into her death comes on the same day that Iain Duncan Smith said that stopping people’s benefit is ‘compassionate’.

The charity founded by Julia Kelly, which her father has said he will continue, can be found at: http://www.awaywithpain.co.uk/  Please support them if you can, they are also on twitter @awaywithpain

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