Category Archives: Poverty

Shades Of The Workhouse, Lord Fraud Hints At Mandatory Jobs Training In Hostels And Women’s Refuges

lord-fraud-freud1People fleeing domestic violence, care leavers and those who are homeless could be required to take part in ’employability courses’ as a condition of accessing supported housing Lord Fraud has hinted today.

The Minister for Welfare Reform was giving a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing discussing upcoming changes to funding for the supported housing sector.  George Osborne has previously announced that the upcoming Benefit Cap will apply to those living in supported housing, meaning Housing Benefit payments will be slashed.  Currently this benefit is used to fund the additional costs of providing this kind of accommodation such as staff and security costs.  Homelessness charities have warned that almost half a million homes could be at risk when the cap on these payments is introduced.

In response the DWP have agreed to postpone the cap for one year whilst a review of supported housing funding is carried out.  And whilst there were no clear policy announcements in Lord Fraud’s speech, the direction of travel is clear.

Whilst praising the work of many larger supported housing providers, Fraud says he want to “root out sub-standard treatment” on the “rare occassions” it exists hinting that for the first time that the government plans to meddle in service provision – and use funding cuts as a weapon.  He also said that reforms offer an opportunity to think about a “quality and an outcomes focus” suggesting some form of performance related model, similiar to the disastrous Work Programme, is being considered.

Perhaps most chillingly Lord Fraud praised the work being done by the Bromford housing association that requires tenants to agree to a package of training and support as a condition of their tenancy.  Fears have been rightly raised that this training could include unpaid work experience, raising the prospect of forced work in return for housing. According to the minister “Bromford are using their relationship with tenants to get them ready for the world of work and away from benefit dependency.”

Fraud also heaped admiration on known workfare exploiters the YMCA who he says “award points towards moving into a self-contained flat for engaging with education, training and employment.”

A report is soon to be published which will give us further indication of the government’s plans for supported housing.  The DWP’s intentions are clear however.  In the conclusion to his speech Fraud spoke of the his department’s determination to bring about a “lower welfare society” and that people should be given tools and support, but also ‘incentives’ to find and stay in work. For those on out of work benefits these incentives usually mean sanctions and workfare.

Lord Fraud talks a lot of shit and it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions about the government’s plans.  But it is not difficult to imagine what any future reform might look like.  Hostels given job outcome targets and the power to compel residents to attend work related activity – which could include workfare – as a condition of being given a bed looks like one likely scenario.  The workhouse grows ever closer.  Any attempt to introduce some form of work related activity or compulsory training as a condition of accessing supported housing must be fiercely resisted.

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To The Streets! Support The Cleaners Striking Against Corporate Property Vultures @CBRE

united-voices

The jumped up little scrotes who have used the referendum result as an excuse to racially abuse and attack people need to be exposed and dealt with like the stain on our class that they are.  Whether you are Remain or Leave, don’t know or don’t fucking care, it has rarely been more important to unite behind migrant communities, to confront racism and ensure that the (barely) organised far right are not able to profit from recent events.

Another future is still possible in the wake of the chaos the referendum has brought.  But it will not be achieved by a working class at each other’s throat.  As the parliamentary Labour Party embarks on the longest suicide note in history then it is down to all those who want a better UK, for everybody who lives here, to act.

That means solidarity and class before whatever country someone happens to have been born in.  It means claimants, disabled people, migrants, tenants, low paid workers, students and all those fucked over by five years of austerity escalating the fight against the pampered rich to the point where that is the fucking story that is dominating the front pages.

The campaign by cleaners, currently on permanent strike after facing redundancies and poverty pay at offices managed by one of the world’s richest companies, is a good place to start.

The cleaners work at 100 Wood Street in the City of London, a plush office block housing corporate giants like JP Morgan and Schroders.  The building is managed by global real estate firm CBRE who recently contracted Thames Cleaning and Support Services Limited (Thames) to take over cleaning the offices.  According to grassroots union United Voices this led to several staff being illegally sacked.  To make up for the lack of workers the existing cleaners will be expected to put up with an ever more punishing workload.  The company also refuses to pay the London Living Wage.

In response the cleaners have gone on permanent strike which is now entering its fourth week.  Several lively demonstrations have also been held.  Thames, who have blamed building managers CBRE for the shit wages being paid, took out a £20,000 injunction to try and prevent cleaners from protesting or picketing outside the building they work in.  Funny how there is always enough money to attack the poor when they protest but never enough to stop them being poor.

Another demonstration is being held tomorrow, Wednesday 29th June, at 5pm to defend the strike.  Meet at 100 Wood Street EC2V, just round the corner from St Paul’s tube.  Many of the cleaners are migrants and along with their union are fighting for better wages and conditions for all those in low paying sectors.  This is what united working class resistance looks like.  They urgently need support.  If you can’t make the protest please share the facebook event and you can tell CBRE what you think at: @CBRE

United Voices have also put out an emergency appeals for funds to help support the strike – donate at: http://www.uvwunion.org.uk/emergency-appeal/

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The Future Is There For The Taking, Now Is The Time To Wage Class War Against The Rich

class-war-500The pampered middle classes of the so-called left are furious.  “Racists” they spit from their white only enclaves whilst Eastern Europeans on the minimum wage clean up their shit in the background.  How dare the poor not vote the way the privileged demanded.  What betrayal, they rage, that those with nothing might have put house prices, foreign holidays and cheap au pairs at risk.

The likelihood of course is that none of those things are will be significantly  affected.  There will certainly be no forced deportations or militarised borders.  The negotiations to leave the EU will be a swamp that may yet end more political careers. Up to two million UK citizens living in the EU is a big bargaining chip for the Brussels bureacrats.  No dramatic change is coming overnight.

But even the merest chance that that just for once politics might actually affect them is enough to send the metropolitan elite into meltdown. Now we will see the nasty side of the latte slurping lefties who pretended to be on our side.  The contempt for the most marginalised that has simmered for generations is already on full display.  They will  gloat to the thick racists that King Boris is coming with the most right wing administration in history.  They will secretly cheer if more cuts are announced.  And they don’t even seem to have noticed that the leader of  a government that has attacked the working class like never before has just resigned in humiliation.  David Cameron – the pig-fucking posh boy has gone.  No matter what your views on the referendum if that isn’t a reason to raise a glass then you have no soul.

To believe this vote was purely about immigration is a comfortable deception for the privileged.  Better that than it representing a war cry from the powerless and a plague on all elites, left or right.  It is true that migration has hit working class wages in some sectors and placed pressure on housing and services in some areas* whilst the only response from those unaffected – or who have benefitted – has been disdain.  But it is equally true that if people got paid properly, if the social security system had not been demolished, if the NHS were adequately funded and there was a council house for everyone, then few would really give that much of a shit about immigration policy.  This referendum was the result of all out class war waged on those with least that has driven millions into insecurity and often desperate poverty.  And the poorest, the ordinary, the forgotten and the dismissed have fought back in the only way that was possible.  The working class fucking bites.  Get used to it.

Because what is now needed is escalation on all fronts. It’s time to move beyond marching or empty speeches, and to forge a struggle that makes the ruling class tremble.  To not allow racists, or fascists, to exploit this result, but to take, and keep the political initiative.  To show any Tory or Labour politician who thinks this result justifies more attacks on the poor that they are as out of touch as ever. The EU, an institution that is neo-liberal to the core and an austerity machine, has been defeated in the UK.  The architects of cut throat capitalism are in disarray.  There will never be a bigger opportunity, the future is there for the taking and we have more power than we ever dreamed of.  So let’s put aside any differences the last few weeks have created, and start to fight, really fight for a country that is actually worth living in.  For everybody, no matter where they came from.

*This sentence was amended slightly as it was too broadly drawn. and that affected the tone of the piece.  Sloppy writing, sorry.

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Shocking New Figures Reveal The Collapse Of Social House-Building In London

mayfair

London’s housing crisis is set to escalate even further as figures show the construction of new socially rented homes in the capital is collapsing.

Statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government reveal that the number of new socially-rented homes that began to be constructed in the city fell below 5000 in the most recent year for the first time in over a decade.  There were just 4,790 new social home-build starts in 2015/16 compared to 7,860 in 2010/11.  London’s population soared by around half a million in that period.

The figures for the most recent quarter are especially troubling, recording just 660 new starts in the latest period, a fall from over 2000 in the first quarter of 2015/16.

As alarming as these statistics are, they only tell half the story.  Many of these new homes will be ‘affordable’ rather than priced at social rents.  This means that rents could be as high as 80% of those in the local private sector, whilst they may also be let on fixed five years tenancies.  Some local authorities are now prioritising these homes for what they call ‘key workers’ – meaning teachers, coppers and social workers.  This is not social housing in a form that anyone would recognise.

Astonishingly London borough’s are also selling off social housing stock leading to a loss of 4000 homes in 2014/15, many due to Right To Buy.  The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham flogged 418 social houses between 2010 and 2015 and replaced them with just 170 new homes.  Construction did not begin on one single socially rented home in this borough in 2015/16, and the same applies to Kingston Upon Thames, Harrow and the City of London.

Homelessness is soaring in the capital with the number of people sleeping on the streets at record levels.  Appallingly the number of empty homes has also hit a seven year high, no doubt due to luxury flats being built as investments and then left unused.  And what are our elected officials doing about this crisis?  If they were doing fuck all that would be bad enough.  The truth is most of them, Labour or Tory, are making things worse.

Next week will see Labour councillors joining the the Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis to suck up to property developers and estate agents at the London Real Estate Forum.  The event is backed by the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and is being held in Mayfair – the multi-millionaire’s ghetto where the rich live in total isolation of the chaos they are creating in the lives of many Londoners.  They will not be there to discuss growing homelessness, soaring rents or the demise of social housing.  Instead they will be discussing how to further lines their pockets from the carnage.  Every fucking vulture in the world has their eyes on London’s last remaining social housing estates.  Deals will be done, the right people paid off, and our communities will be smashed up even further.  It is vital that these parasites are opposed.

A day of protest against the event is emerging beginning with a morning demonstration outside at 8.30am.  Then at 1pm Class War are calling for revenge with a mass noise protest outside the forum in Berkeley Square.  If you want your kid to have somewhere to live when they grow up then be there.  If you would like to be able to retire in the city you have lived in all your life be there.  If you are worried your council home is under threat or are sick of paying eye-watering rents to private landlords, be there.  If you just hate fucking toffs, be there.  Advance to Mayfair.  Bring the fucking noise.  Spread the word – June 14, 1pm Berkeley Square.

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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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