Category Archives: Poverty

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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What Do We Want? More Fucking Money. Vote Class War To Double The Dole!

ClassW-War-double-doleOver the last couple of decades a warped consensus has emerged, shared by politicians, think tanks and even anti-poverty charities, that the very worst thing you can do for someone who is poor is give them what they need – which is more money.

The belief is that giving people money will dis-incentivise them, make them lazy, trap them in dependency to languish on benefits or discourage them from taking up all of the wonderful opportunities capitalism provides to work in a shit job on the minimum wage.  And it is this last reason that lies behind the ideology.  Bosses are worried that if people were paid decent unemployment benefits then then they would want more money for working.  Wages and working conditions have become so atrocious that they are right to be worried. If benefits were increased then wages would have to rise.

Increasing benefits would be easy.  The main unemployment benefits costs just over £4 billion a year.  The DWP spends nearly twice that on admin and salaries, with much of that money going to private companies paid to harass unemployed people by forcing them onto workfare schemes.  One report found that if the rich were actually to pay all the tax they dodge then it would raise £122 billion a year – enough to double both in and out of work benefits without a single tax rise.  Soak the rich who do bother to pay tax as well and doubling both state pensions and the dole would be a piece of piss.

It is astonishing and shameful that as figures show one million people were forced to depend on foodbanks in the last year that not one of the main political parties is calling for more money for the poor.  Only Class War, whose Westminster candidate Adam Clifford gave a fine interview on the Daily Politics show today, have promised to increase all benefits and pensions by doubling them.

If we have to live under this shit state of affairs, where the rich reduce our lives to near servitude with shit jobs, paltry benefits and soaring rents, then we should fight for every last penny we can take.  Until we are strong enough to take it all.  We want more fucking money – in wages, pensions and benefits.

Follow @ClassWar2015 on twitter and spread the word about Mayday’s Reclaim The Beats event outside the poor doors at 1 Commercial Street.

Class War are fielding seven candidates, including Lisa Mckenzie who is standing in Chingford against Iain Duncan Smith.  Visit their website for more details.

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Brixton Rises Up As Rage Against The Rich Explodes Across The Capital

reclaim-brixton1On the Sunday Politics show yesterday Labour’s Tessa Jowell admitted that her party’s proposed three year tenancies are voluntary.  Tenants will be able to ‘negotiate’ a three year contract but landlords will be under no obligation to provide one.

What a fucking joke, and one that shows the Labour Party are every bit as out of touch as the chinless toffs they pretend to oppose.  According to one property firm there are currently 5 tenants chasing each private rental property on the market across the UK and in London that jumps to 8 people desperately competing for every home.  If Jowell thinks that tenants have any bargaining power at all when the odds are so heavily stacked against them then she is living in a dream world – or at least a world where she doesn’t ever have to worry about having no home.

When one of our most basic human needs, like a securing a place to live, is an impossibility for millions of people then society has broken down.  Every measure of homelessness is rising whilst those in both the private and social rented sector are facing eye-watering rent increases.  Private sector tenants can be evicted on a whim by landlords with just two month’s notice.  There will be no homes at all for the millions of children growing up in London and other larger cities where housing demand is at its greatest.

It is in this context that upmarket estate agents Foxtons getting their windows stoved in at Saturday’s Reclaim Brixton protest should be viewed.  This was not an act of mindless violence as some sections of the media have claimed.  Nobody got hurt.  Foxtons was closed for the day in case anybody was worrying about estate agents cowering behind their desks as their office was ransacked – as if anyone would worry about that.  This was a fucking intervention.  Few things are more symbolic of a housing market designed for profit, not people, than the leeches at Foxtons.

Thousands of people were out onto the streets in Brixton on Saturday for one of London’s biggest ever anti-gentrification protests.  At one point hundreds of people mobbed the town hall with many fighting past police lines to gain entrance to the building.  Traffic was brought to a standstill as people danced in the streets to a soundsystem taking over the road for several hours.  A march through Brixton led by London Black Revs was received with cheers and applause as it passed the railway arches where long standing local businesses have just been told they face closure.  Brixton Village, once a well loved part of Brixton Market and now an ethnically cleansed yuppy dominated enclave of over-priced bars and restaurants, was briefly occupied.  Even the police station was attacked.  And the Jobcentre got their window broken.

The mood was angry and defiant, but positive.  Reclaim Brixton followed the hugely successful March for the Homeless just two weeks ago and the mass action at the vile Property Developer’s awards last week.  At every housing protest the number of people attending is growing.  London has had enough.

One of the reasons that London’s housing market has turned into a licence to print money for the global super rich is that the city has what investors judge to be a favourable political climate towards the very wealthy.  Clowns like Boris have welcomed the influx of luxury developments with open arms.  London’s paper, the Evening Standard fawns over the rich, running pieces on divorce settlements amongst Chelsea millionaires or banker’s boardroom squabbles as if they were real proper news.  Two-bit confidence tricksters peddling get rich quick schemes like Grant Shapps are hailed as wealth creators by their fellow politicians.  And Labour’s bogus housing policies show that should they be elected then it will still be business as usual for the corporate vandals ransacking the capital.

But the mood is changing.  People are fucking sick of the rich and they are starting to show it.  What happened in Brixton – and is happening on estates across London where tenants are taking direct action to protect their homes – is just the beginning.  When people have little left to lose they will fight fucking hard.  Be ready, and be out on the streets, because political change can happen in a heartbeat.

Class War are holding a Fuck Parade on mayday in protest at the Poor Doors in the luxury tower block at 1 Commercial Street London E1.  Please spread the word and join/share the facebook page.

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Deconstructing The So Called Jobs Miracle And Why It Has Nothing To Do With Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan SmithRepeatedly over the last few months the Tories have cheered that there are more people working than ever before as if this was some kind of fucking miracle.  In truth it is exactly what you would expect in a growing population.  Unless the economy is in the grip of recession there are almost always more jobs than ever before.  More people means more jobs.  They all have to shop.

According to the Office for National Statistics the total size of the UK’s workforce – which means all of those working, unemployed, or economically inactive, such as long term sickhas grown by 2.6 million since 2010.  In that period the number of people in work has grown by 2 million.  The disparity is partly down to the rise in women’s pension age, a bodge in how the figure are recorded means that all women under 65 are now included in the workforce, even if they are retired.  Previously only women under 60 were included.

The Employment Rate, the percentage of people in work, has only shifted upwards by about a percentage point, from 72.1% to 73.3%.  That’s around half a million people, which is just under the growth in the number of people who have become self-employed since 2010.  How many of them are making any money is anyone’s guess, but we do know that average earnings from self-employment are plummeting.

One of the reasons for the growth in both population and new jobs is migration.  In an astonishing fact, curiously ignored by the Tory press, there are one million more people in employment who were not born in the UK than in 2010.  That’s over half the growth in jobs during the current administration.*

What those million new workers tell us – and some will be UK citizens who happened to have been born overseas – is that most of the growth in jobs has fuck all to do with Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms.

To look at the impact of social security policies means delving into the unemployment figures, and crucially long term claimants.  Figures quietly released last week showed that the number of people who had been on benefits for three out of the last four years has fallen by just 91,000 since 2010.  This is despite economic growth, the Work Programme, mass benefit sanctions and the country recovering from a deep recession.  And even this figure is likely to be revised down as more data comes in.

There were just over 600,000 fewer unemployed people recorded in the latest figures than there were in the last period of the previous Government, and there are still almost 2 million of them.  Most of the jobs the Tory’s are claiming have been created have not gone to people who were unemployed.  And the quality of these jobs is also relevant.  People can be included as offically in employment if they are on workfare for example – although there are currently less people on unpaid work schemes than during the Labour administration.

As well as the growth in self-employment, nearly half a million of the new jobs are part time.  You only have to be working a few hours a month to be classed as employed.  The growth of zero hours contracts is well documented.  The quality of most of these new jobs is shit.

The Labour Market Statistics, on which all this information is based, are messy, not least because they are based on a survey.  What they suggest however is that unemployment has fallen, but not by that much, and that many of the new jobs are part time or low earning self-employment.  This is hardly a great fucking success story for a country emerging from a recession.

Perhaps a better guide to what is really going on are the Housing Benefit statistics.  This is an exact figure and reveals the number of people who need help to pay their rent.  The only two criteria for claiming Housing Benefits are a low income and low or no assets.  By the very nature of the benefit, everyone who is claiming it is poor.

There were 4.751 million people claiming Housing Benefit in May 2010.  In November 2014, the latest month for which figures are available, there were 4.883 million claims.  More people are poor now than before the Tories weren’t elected, despite the so-called jobs miracle   And that is the figure on which Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms should be judged.

*Before anyone starts feeling all UKIP remember this is not a one way street.  A study released last year found that up to 70% of graduates are planning to fuck off soon in the search of somewhere less shit.  For every Polish builder who turns up we might soon lose a marketing graduate from Surbiton.  On balance we’ve probably got the better end of that deal.  Whatever your views on immigration policy, the very worst thing that could happen is for working class people of different nationalities to be be tricked into fighting each other over the scraps they hand down.  The capitalist class of Europe – the bankers, property developers, business owners and landlords – are united.  We need to be as well.

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare and Benefit Sanctions beginning on April 26th.

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Here Comes The Forced Labour Party – Massive Extension Of Workfare And Benefits To Be Slashed

all-fucking-wankersSo finally we have the truth, or at least some of it.  Pensioners, sick and disabled people, the young unemployed and the poorest families will all face unprecedented attacks should Labour win the next election.

In their election manifesto released today Labour have pledged to scrap benefits completely for 18-21 year olds by introducing some form of mass YTS or workfare scheme.  They will force huge numbers of older unemployed people into compulsory training – by which they probably mean workfare – and the rest into their shit workfare plus a sandwich scheme.  They also want to lower the benefit cap in some parts of the country, meaning that the soaring homelessness caused by the policy in London will be extended to other cities.

They will keep the despised Work Capability Assessment, possibly making it worse with the ominous threat of it becoming even more work focussed.  This will come with a new, no doubt mandatory ‘support programme’ for sick and disabled claimants – by which they probably mean workfare.  There are no plans to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund, reverse the atrocious reforms to Council Tax Benefits, scrap or even reduce benefit sanctions and they think Universal Credit is a good idea in priniciple.

Benefit spending overall will be capped.  Child Benefits will face a real term cut and some pensioners will lose winter fuel payments.  The pension age will be raised even further meaning more people working till they die.

This is the fucking Labour Party in 2015.  Every bit as intent on punishing the poorest as the Tories.  If the Labour Party win next month then don’t be ordinary, don’t be young, don’t fall ill and don’t be old.  Because Ed Miliband could not give anymore of a shit about the poor than Iain Duncan Smith.

You can read the manifesto at: http://www.labour.org.uk/manifesto

Above pic from Class War, standing 8 candidates, who want to double the dole and pay for it by soaking the rich.  Who would you rather vote for?

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions beginning on 25th April.

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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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Behind The Benefit Bashing Headlines Lies A Nasty Ideology That Is Not Confined To The Daily Mail

mustard-tree-protest

A protest was held outside Manchester homelessness charity Mustard Tree yesterday over their involvement with workfare. (h/t @gajagwyn)

There was a time when policies to send sick or disabled claimants on workfare, or sanction the benefits of lone parents, would have been met with horror by the electorate.  There have always been grumblings about the social security system, as with any other institution, but unemployment was once seen as a personal tragedy caused by wider economic failings, not a personal failing caused by laziness or the wrong attitude.

This change in public opinion did not happen by accident.  Just like immigration can be used to whip up and divide sections of the population, so can the social security system.  The implanting of the idea that somebody is getting something you aren’t, even if this isn’t really true, is an age old technique.  The grass on the other side of the valley is probably not greener, we learn that as children, but are still deceived by it.

You can see this at work in the comments made online during the broadcast of programmes like Benefits Street: “look, he’s got a chair, I work 4000 hours a week and can’t afford a chair.  Bastard.”  Of course this can’t be true.  It is virtually impossible to be better off on benefits than in work and most people understand this really.  People may appear jealous of those with a life so broken they find themselves queuing outside the off licence first thing in the morning, but they don’t generally want to trade places with them.

Behind the benefit bashing headlines however much more insidious ideas have been at work that have not come from the front pages of the Daily Mail.  The flawed notion that work is always good for you, in almost any circumstances, has become a medical consensus despite the evidence that shows that it isn’t true.  The belief that young people are idle and unemployable, and that only unpaid or forced work experience will fix them, is just as embedded within the Labour Party as on the Tory front benches.  The debate about poverty is no longer about reshaping society, but about reshaping individuals to teach them not to be poor anymore.  And work, meaning waged work for an employer, because all other forms of work no longer count, is now seen as the end point of any treatment or social care programme.

Without these shifts in attitudes amongst charity bosses, trade union leaders, so-called intellectuals and liberal journalists, then the scrounger rhetoric would have collapsed at the first suicide linked to benefit cuts.  The cartoon headlines have been matched with equal relentlessness by endless reports from anti-poverty charities and pious newspaper columns about how to fix the poor.  Foodbanks that come with conditions to attend bogus self-help schemes are cheered by the liberal press as innovative solutions, when the truth is that they are businesses hoping to profit from poverty.  Bosses of homelessness charities team up with coppers and Tories to warn people not to give money to beggars because it will only encourage them to be poor.  Disability charities and trade unionists alike rub shoulders with filthy profiteers like A4e and G4S at conferences and award ceremonies.

Of course these Ned Flanders wannabes line up to condemn the coarseness of the tabloid attacks on those receiving benefits.  Yet they reproduce the exact same ideology everytime they open their mouths. As such they are equally, if not more dangerous than any acid-tongued viper at the Daily Mail.  They have built the foundation upon which the rest of the poison depends.  A collective delusion has developed amongst the mainstream liberal left that the very worst thing you can do for someone in poverty is to give them money.  No wonder George Osborne has got a smile on his face.

A protest was held outside the Manchester based homelessness charity Mustard Tree yesterday over their involvement in workfare. Please help keep up the pressure online @themustardtree and on facebook.  You can also sign and share the petition.

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