Category Archives: Fighting Back

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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The Biggest Attack On Wages Yet, Sectors With High Vacancies To Get Thousands Of Workfare Workers

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

The Government is claiming that up to 100,000 unpaid jobs are set to be created over the next year in a hand out to the corporate sector worth up to a billion pounds.  Astonishing some of these work experience positions will be targeted in areas which already have high numbers job vacancies making a mockery of the claim that these schemes are intended to reduce unemployment.

According to a recently updated document, produced to explain the various workfare schemes to the first victims of Universal Credit, the DWP are claiming that “An extra 100,000 work experience and sector-based work academy places have been made available between April 2015 and March 2016 for 18 to 24 year old jobseekers.” 

These are the corporate workfare schemes which have already seen almost half a million young people bullied into working for the pittance of benefits often for large national employers. This huge extension of the two schemes is being carried out at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling and this shows the real motivation for the extension of unpaid work.

In 2011 lying bastard Chris Grayling, then the Minister for Employment, launched Sector Based Work Academies, saying that they would be targeted at “sectors with high volumes of current local vacancies”.  You read that right.  Not areas of high unemployment, but the opposite, places where there are already lots of jobs.  Sector Based Work Academies can involve up to six weeks full time unpaid work and do not come with a guarantee of a job on completion.  So in sectors that are doing well, and that can afford to employ staff, the Government is encouraging employers to take on workers for free instead.  Workers that are funded by the tax payer and expected to survive on the pittance of benefits, just £57.90 a week for under 25s.

There has rarely been a more transparent measure to force down wages.  If greedy employers were expected to live by the same free-market principles inflicted on everyone else, then when demand for workers went up, they would have to provide better training and higher wages.  But the government are saying save your money, have a load of tax-payer funded free workers instead.  Britain’s biggest benefit scroungers are not the poor, but high street names like ASDA and Poundland.

Unpaid work for private companies is officially voluntary, and even illegal under minimum wage laws unless organised by the DWP.  But those who refuse corporate workfare face being sent on other mandatory forced work schemes for so-called community organisations.

It is unclear where these 100,000 new placements will come from, particularly as plans are being drawn up to force everyone under 21 into permanent workfare if they have been unemployed for over six months.  Many of the UK’s largest companies have withdrawn from unpaid work schemes completely after their carefully crafted corporate reputations disintegrated following protests from Boycott Workfare and others appalled at this grotesque exploitation of young workers.

Those protests are set to continue, with a day of action called against B&M Stores who in 2013 were even named workfare exploiter of the year by the vile welfare-to-work industry.  For more details visit (and share) Boycott Workfare’s website.

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Black Cap Occupied, Camden Is Rising, Thank Fuck For The Fuck Parade

camden-fuck-parade

Politics doesn’t have to be boring.  It doesn’t have to be endless A to B marches, dreary rallies full of power-hungry hasbeens or soulless celebrity benefit gigs that cost half a giro just for a ticket.

That’s not to say it’s always going to a barrel of fucking laughs.  Standing outside a Maximus assessment centre with a banner in the freezing cold or getting up at 5am to join a picket line is desperately important.  But a political movement that does not inspire or exhilarate will eventually run out of steam.  And the bastards are not going away any time soon.  We must not run out of steam.

Sometimes, by defying their rules, and acting collectively, we get to see a glimpse of what our lives could really be like – and that is a world worth fighting for.  We should chase those moments because they provide the strength to do the hard stuff, which for a sadly increasing number of people just means staying healthy and alive.

Summer is coming. They can’t take that away from us.  There is no better time to be out on the streets, and with anger against the Tories spreading throughout the UK there will be no lack of opportunity.  The Daily Mail wants a Summer of Rage it would be a shame to disappoint them.  But not on their terms.  It should be a summer of having a fucking laugh at their expense as well.

Every time the rich see us weep they crack open another bottle of champagne.  They want us starving if we don’t have a job, and miserable and worked half to death if we do.  It is not just that they want to take away the health service and the welfare state.  They want to turn our streets and cities, pubs, clubs, football grounds, anything they can find into their playgrounds and price us out.   This enclosure of human pleasure means that joy can no longer be free, it is just for the rich now, or at least only those who can pay.   Glastonbury Festival can only survive with a fence, security guards, coppers and eye-watering ticket prices because there isn’t a better festival down the road without all those things.  Margaret Thatcher made sure of that 30 years ago this week.

So let’s start taking it back.  All of it. The occupation of the Black Cap in Camden, one of London oldest gay cabaret venues and recently closed to make way for yet more luxury flats, is a fantastic start.  The upcoming Central London demonstration on June 20th does not have to be a soul-destroying display of obedience and quiet acceptence, it can be as spiky and fun as people make it.

In just over a month Class War are holding a Fuck Parade in Camden where rampant gentrification is destroying what was once a thriving cultural, and largely working class corner of London.  The event takes its name from an annual event in Berlin which sees thousands take over the streets to party and protest against the commercialisation of the city.  Just like in Berlin, London’s history and culture are being destroyed in the name of greed. 

According to one blogger, who reviewed last year’s event, the Berlin Fuck Parade “shatters the silence of all the newly-finished luxury blocks that dot the city’s streets, forbidding to the average Berliner despite being nearly empty.”  The same shit is happening everywhere.  Our resistance is global.  Etc (puts the spliff down).

For full details of the Fuck Parade, being held on July 11th from 7pm outside Camden Tube, please join (and share the fuck out of) the facebook page.  Or info here for non-facebook users.

The campaign to Save The Black Cap, which is not (yet) affiliated to the squatters are also on facebook and are holding a weekly vigil outside the venue on Saturdays from 1pm – 4pm.

A group has also formed to support Camden’s last remaining alternative venues by getting pissed in them – join the next Reclaim Camden pub crawl.

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We Deserve Queen’s Award For Industry Says Housing Boss Currently Evicting The Sweet’s Way Families

sweetsway1Housing activists fighting evictions are ‘ludicrous’ and ‘we shouldn’t worry too much about them’ say out of touch housing association bosses defending regeneration schemes which are forcing people out of their homes.

The astonishing comments form part of a feature on London’s growing housing movement which Inside Housing published on their website last week.  The largely positive piece highlighted the anger created by the desperate shortage of social housing in the capital and told the stories of the tenants, homeless people, squatters and frontline housing workers who are fighting back.

Unfortunately it also featured outbursts from whining housing association bosses who complain that social media means that they are now being held accountable for the things that they do.  It’s not fair they say, with the boss of  Notting Hill Housing Association, Kate Davies, even claiming they deserve a ‘pat on the back’ and the ‘Queen’s award for industry’ for all their tireless work decanting and evicting families from their homes.

Davies is in charge of the Sweet’s Way housing estate in Barnet where, as Inside Housing point out, 142 former military homes now mostly containing low income families are being replaced by a redevelopment in which just 59 new properties will be ‘affordable’.  And affordable means rents that could be as high as 80% of those in the private sector, meaning few can really afford them.  None of the new homes built will be available for ‘social rent’, the kind of low but still substantial rents that used to be normal in housing association and council properties.  The current residents who are set to lose their homes have launched a furious fight back but Davies implies she doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  She must think we’re fucking idiots.

Simon Dow, boss of the Guinness Partnership, is equally unrepentent.  He concedes his organisation has some responsibility to explain to current tenants ‘where they fit into’ regeneration plans – yet the reality, and problem, is that many don’t fit into these plans at all, such as the Guiness tenants on the Loughborough Estate in Brixton who are facing imminent eviction.  But Dow says he is ‘less interested’ in the views of those not from the estate, meaning the housing campaigners who have worked alongside those facing the loss of their homes to try and stall and prevent evictions.  It is this kind of social solidarity that concerns Dow who concludes that if this militancy amongst tenants spreads throughout the sector then they might have to worry about whether what they are doing is a good idea.

And one of the things they are doing is paying themselves huge sums of money.  In 2012/13 Simon Dow was paid over a quarter of a million pounds.  You read that right – a quarter of a fucking million pounds.  Enough to buy a new home every year.  Kate Davies, of the Notting Hill Housing Association was paid just short of £200,000.  Is it any wonder that they are so out of touch and aloof from the people they are paid with both tax payer’s and tenant’s money to house?

If Davies and Dow actually lived on the estates they are currently demolishing then they might have some understanding of the utter devastation that eviction, homelessness or forced relocation can cause to the lives of already struggling families.  They might realise that one fucking eviction is one too many, and that the chronic lack of social housing means the situation is now at breaking point.  Instead they whinge about government funding cuts whilst still drawing huge wages and complain about tenants being too uppity and not understanding the challenges poor housing bosses face.  Their only glimmer of dissent has been to team up with the other villains in this story – property developers – to join the Homes for Britain campaign, a shoddy front aiming to use the housing crisis as an excuse to build more houses for rich people.

If you find yourself calling riot police on housing campaigners, or using bailiffs to violently evict families from their homes, then you are on the wrong fucking side.  A five year could could tell you that.  The kids currently living in shitty temporary accommodation miles from friends and families know that.  There is no room for argument.  If housing association bosses really don’t like what the government is doing then good, it’s time they did something about it.  Whether that means getting out on the streets, or not co-operating, or even just paying themselves a bit less and paying a few people’s bedroom tax instead, is for them to decide.  Or perhaps they could get out of the way altogether, and let tenants, not highly paid bureacrats, manage the homes and communities they live in.

Visit the Radical Housing Network’s event calendar for details of upcoming protests, action and meetings and keep July 11th free for when Class War’s anti-gentrification Fuck Parade takes to the streets of Camden.

Class War will also be out on the streets tomorrow (Wednesday 27th May) on the state opening of Parliament.  Meet at 11am prompt in Parliament Square.  Later in the day the National Coalition against Fees and Cuts have called a march from 5pm – assemble in Trafalgar Square.

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