Category Archives: Poverty

The True Horrors Of In-work Benefit Sanctions Have Not Yet Been Understood

sanction-sabsSo called hard-working people will soon be abandoned to unprecedented poverty when payments intended to cover housing costs are sanctioned for the first time under sweeping reforms to in-work benefits.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) part-time workers on a low income will be expected to constantly look for more, or better paid work as a condition of receiving vital in-work benefits.  Any failure on the part of claimants to prove that they carried out constant job searching in the hours they were not working will mean benefits are sanctioned.

For claimants who are unemployed the sanction system will remain largely unchanged under Universal Credit.  Those without health problems who are sanctioned will lose all of their personal benefits except what is required to pay for housing costs or children.  This will mean a childless claimant will have no money at all once they have paid their rent – although they may be eligible to apply for emergency Hardship Payments of around £40 a week.  It is this nasty regime that has led to the explosion in foodbanks and been linked to a growing number of suicides.

If this same claimant is in part time work then they may not receive any additional benefits other than the housing element of Universal Credit – the replacement for what is now known as Housing Benefit.  And so, for the first time, it is this benefit which will be sanctioned should they fail to carry out Jobcentre demands to look for additional work.

Working claimants who are sanctioned will lose the same amount as those who are unemployed  – the equivalent of a current weekly dole payment of £71.70.  That means if some is working on a low income and claiming help with their housing costs then £71.70 will be deducted from their benefit.  To see the full horror of how this will play out in some people’s lives then you have to do some sums.

Take a single, childless person in Bristol working at the current minimum wage for 20 hours a week and paying £120 a week in rent – the local housing allowace rate in the area for a claimant over 35.  Under Universal Credit this person will have a weekly income of £244 made up of £144 a week in wages and £100 a week in benefits.  Once their rent is paid this will leave them with £124 a week.  If they are sanctioned however they will lose £73.10 leaving them with just £50.90 a week to live on.  That’s over £20 a week less than the current dole and just £10 a week more than Hardship Payments.  Universal Credit will therefore not make work pay for those who have been sanctioned.  It will however make work compulsory.

The claimant will not be able to leave their job without risking a disallowance – meaning no benefits at all.  In the hours they are not working they will still be expected to carry out work related activity to look for a better job, which under current rules, could include some form of workfare.  The meagre income they receive means they will be unlikely to qualify for additional Hardship Payments.  And astonishingly they are also likely to have to pay Council Tax out of that sum.
In Bristol they would be expected to pay around £9 a week in Council Tax assuming they lived in the lowest possible band.  This brings their weekly income down to about £42 a week – and they are working.

A weeky bus pass in Bristol costs £23.80.  Claimants must be prepared to travel at least 90 minutes on public transport to their job so in most cases this will be a necessary expense.  This will mean hard working people surviving on less than £20 a week for food, clothes, basic hygiene costs and bills.  That of course assumes they aren’t subject to the Bedroom Tax in which case they will get no money at all in some cases, just a steadily increasing debt.

The only real option for most will be to dig into money intended to cover rent.  For working claimants a sanction will mean inevitable rent arrears – and as a sanction can last up to three years – for many it will mean homelessness.  And therefore eventual joblessness.  And with no benefits because losing their job will have been deemed to be their own fault.

This system is designed to ‘incentivise’ people to look for more, or better paid work.  So imagine, by some fucking miracle, that an in-work benefit sanction doesn’t destroy someone, it motivates them.  That they pull their socks up and by some other fucking miracle manage to find an additional job which doesn’t clash with their existing hours.  Let’s say they gain an additional 10 hours a week work on the Minimum Wage.  Will it make any difference?  Barely, because the sanction will still apply unless they have been working full time for a period of six months.

Much of their additional wages will be eaten up by housing costs as their already sanctioned claim is reduced the more they earn.  So somebody working 30 hours a week, with a sanction, in the cicrumstances described above, would receive a total of £207.68 a week in wages and no Universal Credit at all.  After rent and Council Tax is paid that will leave them with £77.  Less than a fiver more than the current dole.  For working 30 hours a week.

There is nothing particularly special about this claimant’s circumstances other than that they live in the south of England where rents are higher.  In London and other areas many will fare even worse.  There should be no doubt about what these sanctions are intended to do.  This is the bureacratic annihilation of an individual as a message to everybody else that if you do not comply – that if you do not constantly strive – the government will destroy you.  It is like nothing that has been seen in UK legislation since the horrors of the workhouse.

According to the DWP benefit sanctions are only used as a ‘last resort’.  There have been 1.6 million ‘last resorts’ since the system was toughened in 2012.  In work benefit sanctions are already being trialled in some parts of the UK with desperate results.  The extension of this brutal regime will create in-work poverty that has rarely, if ever, been seen before in the UK.  People working for pennies, with no quality of life at all. Those already living in the cheapest possible accommodation that can be found in most of the country facing homelessness.  Some of these people will be ill, wrongly found fit for work by Atos or Maximus.  Some will be left with no money at all depending on if they are subject to the Beneift Cap or Bedroom Tax.  Others will have debts they will never hope to pay back whilst sanctioned and so will just get bigger and bigger.

An in-work benefit sanction for many will be a life sentence, especially for those who are older and carry any debts incurred into retirement.  For others it will be a death sentence as the strain of extreme poverty, hard work and constant Jobcentre harassment pushes some over the edge.  DWP ministers are happy to accept this collateral damage as part of their attempt to dicipline the working class into accepting a life of hard-working drudgery for poverty pay.  The only question that now remains is will the trade unions, charities and others that have cowardly accepted vicious welfare refoms continue their co-operation when it is their own workers and members who are subject to this torment?

You can read the current rules for Universal Credit, and many other benefits at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/advice-for-decision-making-staff-guide

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Rage Against #topshopstyle After Cleaner Sacked For Protesting About Poverty Pay

top-shop-cops

Scores of police were drafted in to protect Philip Green’s profits at the last Topshop protest. Despite this he does everything he can to get out of paying tax. And they call benefit claimants scroungers.

The United Voices of the World Union (UVW) are reporting that a Topshop cleaner has been sacked in advance of national protests demanding the company pay their cleaners a real living wage.

According to UVW:

“Carolina (see picture), one of the “Topshop Two”, who is a single mother from Ecuador, has just been SACKED by Topshop’s union busting contractor Britannia Services Group. Her only crime was to join a union and protest her poverty wages.

In other words as Philip Green buys another £100 million yacht, one of his cleaners is sacked for asking for a living wage of £9.40 per hour.

Carolina and her colleague Susana, who together make up the Topshop Two, were both previously suspended. Susana remains suspended.”

At least 17 towns and cities in the UK and Ireland will hold demonstrations against Topshop this Saturday (14th May 16) as part of a long-running and militant campaign against the poverty wages and appalling conditions suffered by their cleaners.  In London protesters will head to their flagship store at Oxford Circus where  despite the cost of living in the capital cleaners are paid little more than the minimum wage.  Topshop are owned by vile tax-avoiding billionaire Philip Green.

Astonishingly Top Shop have tried to avoid responsibility for their cleaner’s pay by insisting it is nothing to do with them and they contract out the cleaning services.  Cleaners at the company are technically employed by Britannia Services Group, a company run by David Shaw.  Yet in 2010 Britannia lost an Employment Tribunal hearing after sacking a shop cleaner on the apparent insistence of Arcadia – Top Shop’s parent company.  The cleaner had denied allegations by Arcadia that she had engaged in abusive behaviour whilst working at the company’s Outfit Clothing Store, but she  was sacked anyway.  The tribunal found that Britannia acted unreasonably due to not asking Arcadia to reconsider their position after receiving the cleaner’s denial of the allegations against her.

It appears that Arcadia don’t want to take responsibility for their cleaner’s grievances, but are quite happy to put pressure on their contractors to sack people when it suits them.  Whether Arcadia have used similar pressure in the recent sacking is unknown.  Whatever the truth, if Topshop won’t pay their cleaners properly than let’s make make Topshop pay some other way.

Join the protests on Saturday 14th May and let’s start holding vile parasites like Philip Green to account.  In London meet outside Topshop in Oxford Circus from 5pm.  Demonstrations are also due to be held outside the store’s branches in Liverpool, Dundee, Edinburgh, Dublin, Loughborough, Norwich, Belfast, Bristol, Sheffield,  Nottingham, Taunton, Birmingham, Gloucester, Plymouth, Glasgow and Cambridge.

Please help spread the word and it’s not too late to orgainise a local protest.  This Saturday’s events are also supported by Class War, the Baker’s Food And Allied Worker’s Union and many more.

If you can’t make a protest (or if you can) UVW are asking people to tweet using hashtags ‪#‎topshopstyle‬ and ‪#‎boycotttopshop‬.  You can also sign the petition.

For all the latest details visit the facebook page for Saturday’s protest.

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Who Will Be Hit By Benefit Cap? People Like Stephen Crabbs’ Own Mother

crabb-cap2

An estimate of Stephen Crabb’s mother’s benefit claim were she raising children today.

New Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb would have faced possible homelessness and desperate poverty as a child if the benefit reforms he is introducing had been in place.

Savage new rules due to come into force in Autumn will slash social security to £20,000 a year for parents unable to work due to unemployment, sickness,  disability* or caring responsibilities.   This will leave many struggling families with just a few pounds a week to feed their children after eye-watering rents have been paid.  According to Crabb the caps on benefits are necessary to avoid ‘sky high’ payments and will incentivise single parents – even those with newly born babies – to get a job.  Yet the people who will suffer most from this cut will be lone parents just like his own mother.

Crabb has been all too happy to drag his family’s traumatic past into the spotlight when it serves his political needs.  He has spoken at length of the poverty his mother suffered when – in his words – she became “welfare dependent”.  In an interview with The Spectator he even admits to truanting from school so he could work on a farm to buy some trainers.  This was around the time his hero Margaret Thatcher claimed that “people who are living in need are fully and properly provided for”.  So fuck knows what he’s complaining about.  Perhaps he thinks children should have to work on farms so they can afford shoes.

Crabb says he was just 8 years old when his mother left a violent relationship with his father and took him and his two brothers to Scotland where they stayed in a spare room in his grandparent’s council property.  Of course this was before the Bedroom Tax intended to stop council tenants from having an extra room that extended families or grandchildren could stay in.  And this is far from the only protection that Crabb’s mother relied on that has been brutally dismantled by the current Tory government.

After returning from Scotland, Crabb’s mother was able to secure a council property in Haverdfordwest, the area of Pembrokeshire they had previously fled from.  Today chronic social housing shortages would leave Crabb’s mother abandoned to the far more expensive and insecure private rented sector – assuming she wasn’t forced into homelessness and sub-standard temporary accommodation.

The Tory government has already slashed housing benefit payments for private sector tenants by introducing  a four year freeze on payments regardless of how much rents rise.  They also introduced new rules to ensure that housing benefits would only cover the cheapest 30% of properties in the local area.  Whilst rents in Haverfordwest are far lower than many parts of the UK, a search of one of the largest property websites reveals there are only two 3 bedroom flats in the area which have rents low enough to be met by the £120.83 a week housing benefit rate for the town.

Her problems would not end there.  According to the government’s recommended benefits calculator an unemployed lone parent with three children would currently be entitled to £413 a week (plus Council Tax Support) in Haverfordwest .  This is too much according to Crabb who seems to be relishing the chance to lower the benefit cap to just £384.55 a week.  That’s nearly £30 quid a week Crabb is taking from people just like his own mother.

This is the reality of the modern Tory Party.  They are only too happy to take when it suits them.  Look at the number of Oxbridge MPs whose elite university education was paid for by the tax payer.  But they don’t want anyone else to have it.  The horrifying truth is that it is people exactly like Crabb’s mother who have been attacked over and over again by vicous social security reforms.  That doesn’t mean life wasn’t bleak in the 1980s for those on benefits.  But the toxic combination of housing shortages, benefit sanctions, workfare and successive cuts, caps and freezes to child benefits mean that many lone parents today face complete destitution.  And it’s about to get much worse.

If even mid size families in low rent South Wales are to be hit by the cap, the situation in many cities will be even more dire.  A family with three kids in Bristol –  assuming they can find a property at the local housing allowance rate – will be left with just over £200 a week.  In Brighton they will have just £154 a week.  In Hackney, in spite of the cap being slightly higher in London, they will be left with £88 – just £2.50 per person per day.  This will be Stephen Crabb’s legacy.  The re-introduction of poverty not seen in generations into the UK.

*The government are claming disabled people are exempt from the cap.  This is a lie, only the most severely disabled people are exempt.  Many claimants, including those with serious conditions such as cancer, MS or Parkinson’s Disease will be affected.

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Vile Tory Who Referred To Scummy Housing Estates To Speak At Workfare Industry’s Annual Meeting

frasernelson

Pub bore rants for hire, Fraser Nelson will speak at the workfare industry’s AGM.

A hard right magazine editor who once referred to ‘scummy’ Scottish social housing estates and cheered unemployed people being forced to sleep under a bridge has been invited to be to keynote speaker at the latest tax-payer funded skive for welfare-to-work bosses.

Fraser Nelson, who oversees the pub bore rants published in The Spectator, will be speak at the annual general meeting of the Employment Related Services Asscoiation (ERSA), the trade body established to lie on behalf of the workfare industry.  Nelson is an avid supporter of coercing people to work without pay and once claimed that those sent to sleep under a bridge before being used as unpaid stewards at the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations were being given an opportunity to show they were ‘dutiful’ workers.  According to Nelson forcing ‘suspected malingerers’ to work in return for benefit payments is ‘tough love’.  So tough, in fact, that it can kill, as the growing number of deaths linked to benefit sanctions and welfare reform reveals.

Nelson has previously faced protests after referring to the Glasgow districts of Castlemilk and Easterhouse as “beautiful names, scummy estates”.  When called on to justify these comments he launched into in a vile tirade about “drug-addled welfare ghettoes” where children play around broken vodka bottles and pubs were boarded up to save them from attack.

Nelson’s invitation to speak at ERSA’s annual meeting is a new low for the welfare-to-work sector that often attempts to hide behind a mask of caring for the poorest whilst demolishing their lives with forced work and benefit sanctions.  But with Iain Duncan Smith’s spending spree coming to an abrupt end the workfare industry will need hacks like Nelson to ramp up the rhetoric to justify ever more government spending to persecute unemployed and disabled people.  He will be happy to oblige.  Despite reams of evidence that unpaid work has little or no value in helping people into sustainable jobs and risks driving people into desperate poverty there are few bigger workfare cheerleaders than Fraser Nelson.

The event is being held this Wednesday at the swanky London offices of top law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, an understandable choice for the fraud ridden welfare-to-work industry. Keep your Tory friends close, but keep the lawyers even closer.

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If Anyone Is Guilty Of Disability Charity Hypocrisy It Is David Cameron Himself

All smiles for the camera has he plots to cut the benefits of those with epilepsy

All smiles for the camera as he plots to cut the benefits of those with epilepsy

It must take some front to vote to slash benefits to poverty levels for sick and disabled claimants whilst also acting as a patron or trustee for charities that claims to support them.  So it is good news that Tory MP Kit Malthouse has been forced to resign as patron of his local MS Society whilst Zac Goldsmith is also facing questions about his role as patron of a Richmond AIDS charity.  But this astonishing hypocrisy goes right to the top of the Tory Party.

David Cameron himself is vice-president of two major epilepsy charities, as well as two local cancer charities.  According to the register of minister’s interests the Prime Minister is vice-president of both the Epilepsy Society and the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy, as well as being a Trustee of Epilepsy Research UK.  He is also a patron of Versus Cancer and Cancer Research UK Relay for Life in Witney.

Cameron’s interest in epilepsy was no doubt sparked by the death of his son who suffered from the condition, and so unlike Goldsmith or Malthouse, his concerns would appear sincere.  That does not change the fact however that one of his adopted charities has been damning about his government’s welfare reforms.

In a recent submission to a Work and Pension Connittee inquiry the Epilepsy Society slammed current Jobcentre policies saying that benefit sanctions “contribute to social injustice and the removal of human dignity”.  The charity is also a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium who recently lobbied as hard as their dirt cheap wordpress blog would let them to scrap the upcoming cut to Employment Support Allowance which could see some disabled people lose almost a third of their income.

According to the most recent figures – and they are a few years old because the DWP has stopped publishing this information –  around six and a half thousand people were assessed for benefits and placed in the Work Related Activity Group due to a diagnosis of epilepsy between 2008 and 2011.  From 2017 any new claimants placed in this group – and all those who have a change of circumstances – will be forced to try and survive on just over £70 a week.  The government say this will incentivise them to find a job.  According to the Disability Consortium this cut will make it less likely disabled people will return to work.

The death of a child may be a tragedy but David Cameron can’t have it both ways.  If he genuinely supports the charity he is vice-president of then he opposes his own government.  Whether he is involved with this organisation for comfort or spin makes little difference.  So will the real David Cameron stand the fuck up and either scrap these nasty reforms or have the courage of his convictions and resign from organisations which oppose them?  Don’t hold your breath.  Ask @epilepsysociety to sack him instead.

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Flagship Troubled Families Scheme Slammed As A Fraudulent Scam By Social Worker

Royal family at Buckingham Palace

Everybody’s knows them. The parasitic families plaguing the lives of ordinary decent people. Parents on benefits, kids running rampant, a sense of entitlement passed down through generations. The kind of people who expect everyone else to clean up after them. But enough about her Majesty.

A front-line social care worker has accused the government’s flagship Troubled Families programme of being a ‘fraudulent scam’ that is subjecting families to ‘coercion and harassment’ and wasting public funds.

The comments have been published by respected research body the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies who last year also produced a report on the Troubled Families scheme.  This, and today’s front-line testimony, reveal a very different side of the programme that David Cameron recently announced will soon be extended to 400,000 more families.

Officially Troubled Families has been a huge success.  A dubiously huge success.  According to the government’s figures, of the 120,000 families referred to the scheme, 99% have had their lives ‘turned around’.  It is almost a fucking miracle. Despite claims these families were the so-called hardest to help, facing ‘multi-generational worklessness’ and causing a blight on communities, all it took was someone clipboard clutching bureacrat hassling them to get a job every other Thursday and poverty, crime and social exclusion have been almost brought to an end in the UK.  And all this has been achieved despite vicious cuts to social services departments, policing budgets and state benefits.  You almost wouldn’t believe it.  Don’t believe it.

What has actually taken place is a mass cooking of the books by local authorities that would have made even the fraud ridden welfare-to-work sector blush.

According to the social worker who spoke out today, many families were identified as ‘troubled’ based on out of date information and so had already been ‘turned around’ by the time the scheme began.  They were still recorded as positive outcomes however, as were families who had been helped by pre-existing multi-agency partnerships.  Some families were coerced into joining the scheme with ‘creative’ tactics to get the numbers up, whilst according to last year’s report many families would not even have been aware they had been designated ‘troubled’.

The Crime and Justice report suggests that instead of these families being genuinely helped what has often taken place is a data matching excercise.  In other words local authorities look at the families they have on their books and, as an example, if they notice someone got a job recently they sign them up as Troubled Family and claim a successful outcome.  Or they find a kid who had previously been truanting and has now stopped and so stick them on the Troubled Families programme so they can claim the credit for that.  Just like the Work Programme and other payment by results schemes, the Troubled Families programme assumes that nobody ever turns themselves around.  So when people do it must be the result of an ‘intervention’ even if no intervention ever actually took place.

Despite the inventive accounting, the real results for Troubled Families range from dismal to suspicious.  Just 10% of families entered work due to the scheme and most of the positive outcomes were due to a reduction in crime or educational related measures.  Yet according to the Crime and Justice report many of these families do not seem to have been particularly troubled.  Only 3% of families studied in an evaluation of the scheme had kids who had committed more than one criminal offence in the previous six months.  So a teenager nicks a chocolate bar, then doesn’t do it again – there’s an outcome.  If they keep on nicking however they are likely to removed from the Troubled Families programme because they are making the numbers look bad.

This is how your money is being spent.  Manufacturing evidence to make politicians look good with no thought at all for the real needs of families who are genuinely in trouble.  Who by the way mostly just need more money,

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Just One Room Available In Hackney For The Poorest Tenants – Say #YesDSS

landlord-772876A recent investigation of 50 estate agents carried out by Hackney based tenant’s group DIGS found that just one studio flat was available for people on benefits in the entire borough.

The phrase No DSS will be all too familiar to anyone on benefits who has tried to secure a home. It is a meaningless phrase, referring to a government department that no longer exists.  What it actually means is no Housing Benefit. and it is used to discriminate against the poorest tenants whether they be low paid, out of work due to unemployment, sickness or disability, are parents or pensioners.

In some cities wages for many full-time jobs do not come close to meeting ever increasing rents.  The so-called ‘Living Wage’ is not even enough to pay an ‘Affordable Rent’ in many parts of London.  Tenants who have to rely on Housing Benefit to pay some of their rent are increasingly being excluded from the private sector completely.

This is something many people do not understand.  It is hard to find a home if you are poor.  Even if you can raise the eye-watering deposits demanded by landlords, or pass their credit and reference checks, then if you need benefits to top up your rent you will be rejected.  These policies are a key driver of homelessness.  In the case of disabled people they are almost certainly illegal under the Equalities Act.  But still it continues as the private rental sector operates as an outlaw class, ignoring laws they don’t like, openly boasting of their discrimination on landlord’s websites and treating their tenants – the ones buying them a house in many cases – with complete contempt.

With social housing fast disappearing then it is time to consign this nasty bigotry to history.  A campaign launched by DIGS in response to their investigation is a good start.  As they say:

“At Digs, we believe that everyone should have a decent, secure and genuinely affordable home regardless of how much they earn. We also believe that people shouldn’t be forced out of areas like Hackney simply so that landlords and estate agents can make greater profits.

“We’re launching our #YesDSS campaign this month to put pressure on letting agents, landlords, mortgage lenders, councils and the government to make sure that no-one should be prevented from renting a property simply because they receive benefits.

“This is why we’re launching our #YesDSS campaign this Saturday (27th Feb), 11am outside Hackney Town Hall and ask you to invite all your friends and come down: https://www.facebook.com/events/183799625313280/”

Please spread the word!

Read their seven reasons why letting agents and landlords should say #YesDSS

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