Never Trust A Landlord. How Housing Associations Are Teaming Up With The Workfare Industry

workfare-gravy-train-largeThe National Housing Federation (NHF), the umbrella body which represents housing associations, are quietly teaming up with the fraud-ridden welfare-to-work sector in a bid to monetize ‘workless’ tenants in social housing.

Tomorrow the NHF will hold a joint event with the notorious Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the trade organisation established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work industry.   The Housing and Employment Forum will allow housing associations to discuss how they can further collaborate with sanction-happy workfare exploiters like G4S, Serco and the shadowy US conglomerate Maximus.  To look at the website of the National Housing Federation however you would never know this event is happening, despite them being the joint organisers and chairs.  They are right to be ashamed of their dirty little workfare secrets.

ERSA themselves are also remaining tight-lipped about the forum which is only open to ERSA members and details of which – such as where it is – are not available.  Claimants and housing association tenants themselves are obviously not welcome.

Several housing associations already hold Work Programme sub-contracts, although many pulled out when they realised that they weren’t making enough money out of the mandatory scheme.  In a renewed effort to get their snouts in the welfare-to-work trough they are now not just sucking up to ERSA but also lobbying the DWP directly to get their hands on some of the workfare cash.  Over 40 housing associations are now members of the Give Us A Chance (GUAC) consortium which was formed in 2011 to try and hoodwink the government into giving them some juicy welfare-to-work contracts.  The Give Us Some Money consortium would be a more accurate name.

According to their literature, GUAC are being advised by Jonathan Shaw, the former Labour Minister for Disabled People who helped oversee the introduction of the despised Atos fitness for work tests.  Housing Associations who join GUAC are also being offered free automatic membership of ERSA.  They have even released a joint manifesto (pdf) with the workfare industry in which they ominously call for more data sharing powers between social housing providers, Work Programme companies and Jobcentres.  Who better than a landlord to be the ever-watching eyes of the DWP.

Don’t be in any doubt that this is about anything other than fucking money.  It’s not like housing association tenants are crying out for more CV workshops or mandatory work placements.  Billions of pounds is being doled out by the DWP to organisations prepared to bully and harass unemployed people and housing associations have no intention of missing the gravy train.  Don’t expect them to actually build any houses with all this cash though.  Those six figure Chief Executive salaries won’t pay themselves you know.

Above pic from the SchNews archive.

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How The DWP Is Drafting In Doctors To Promote Iain Duncan Smith’s Warped Ideology

fit-note-guidanceAre you working hard enough?  Are you sure?  What if you get sick, or have an accident?  Are you prepared to go to work anyway, even if you don’t think it would be good for your health?  What if your doctor and boss agree you could do something other than your usual job instead of malingering at home?  Like making cups of tea all day, or cleaning the bogs, or any form of work your empoyer can dream up to force you not to take time off.  Because that is now the chilling reality as the DWP attempts to inject Iain Duncan Smith’s warped ideology into the NHS.

Last week the DWP issued patronising new guidance to GPs on when they should issue a Fit Note.  Doctors are warned of the dangers of ‘worklessness’ and told they must consider “the vital role that work can play in your patient’s health”.  According to the department, “the evidence is clear that patients benefit from being in some kind of regular work”.

This is an outright lie.  What the evidence says is that on balance most people might be better off working but the beneficial health effects depend on the nature and quality of that work.  In the report on which the DWP’s claims are based – a paper incidentally commissioned by the DWP themselves – the authors actually warn that “a minority of people may experience contrary health effects from work”. 

This study – called Is Work Good For Your Health and Well Being (pdf) – has formed the basis of government policy ever since the Labour administration launched the despised Work Capability Assessment for out of work sickness benefits in 2008.  It features a reasonably wide-ranging review of the evidence of the health risks and benefits of work and concludes that work, on balance, is better for most people’s health than unemployment but with important caveats.  These findings have been consistently misrepresented by politicians who have used them to claim that any kind of work is good for health, and that this applies to everybody.

The study found that in some cases – possibly 5-10% – unemployment can lead to improved health and well being.  It warns that negative health impacts of unemployment are “at least partly mediated through socioeconomic
status” – meaning it is not work that is good for you, but poverty that is bad for you.   The review points out that whilst the evidence is conflicting, shift work and long hours could have a weak negative impact on health.  It also finds that school leavers who move into ‘unsatisfactory’ employment can experience a
decline in their health and that economically secure people who retire early may experience beneficial effects on their health.   Even if this report is taken at face value – and it comes loaded with assumptions about the social and moral imperatives of work – all it shows is that work can be good for your health – but only if it’s a good quality well paid job.

If you are in low paid or insecure work then what your GP should tell you – based on the existing evidence – is to take a few days off if you aren’t happy or feel unwell.  Perhaps they should warn that you might be one of the 5 or 10% of people who are healthier if they are unemployed, despite the loss of income.  A more recent study carried out in Australia, and quoted on The Conversation, found that people “who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.”

What the new guidance to GPs is intended to do is impose workplace dicipline via the healthcare system.  Much like a seven day NHS is a health service for bosses, not patients, and likely to lead to pressure on workers not to book medical appointments in working hours, the Fit Note scheme is designed to bully people into the workplace even if they are sick.  That is why the guidance states that if GPs consider their patient could do any work at all, regardless of their usual job, then they should tick a box suggesting amended duties, or workplace adapatations rather than issue a full Fit Note.  And if doctors are too squeamish to treat patients this way then they are instructed to refer them to Maximus – the shadowy US conglomerate brought in carry out health assessments under the new Fit For Work scheme.

To help doctors decide what is best for their patients, or more correctly their patient’s employers, the new Fit Note guidance features case studies, with recommended courses of action that GPs should take.  They include an example of someone diagnosed with anxiety disorder who says that her work in customer services is giving her panic attacks and that she is too distressed to carry out her duties.  According to the DWP her doctor should first warn her that working is important for her mental health and “remind her that there are still other things that she can do – for example, physical tasks or back-room duties.”  This will help her feel more positive according to the department.  Then she should be referred to Maximus who will develop  a plan with her boss, such as sending her on a course to learn coping techniques, or doing quieter shifts.  And of course bosses, being always right and always reasonable, will not abuse this new power to force sick employees into the workplace.

Yet even the most bullying of bosses are to be accommodated according to the DWP.  Another case study features someone – a woman again – who complains that a poor relationship with her manager is causing her severe stress.  She says the manager has been ‘really horrible’ to her and she feels unable to cope.  Rather than raise any concerns about what seems to indicate workplace bullying however, her doctor is instructed to declare she does not have a health problem and she should speak to her human resources department, or union rep.  She should not be issued with a Fit Note and her GP should explain that they are “acting with her health interests in mind.”  It is better for her health to be bullied and abused in the workplace than be workless, even for a short while, according to the DWP.

The introduction of this guidance makes it clear that the scroungers vs scroungers narrative is now impeding on healthcare even amongst those who are not on benefits.  It is not hyperbole to suggest that the credibility of doctors is now at stake.  For too long the entire healthcare sector has remained silent whilst scientific evidence is distorted to further the ideology of modern capitalism and increase the power of employers over their staff.  Any GP who believes in evidence over rhetoric should tell Iain Duncan Smith to stick these guidelines up his fucking arse.  Anything else is a betrayal of the role of doctors as guardians of our health and well being.

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Workfare Week Gets Worse! Work For Up To A Year Without Getting Paid Says #WEWeek2015


A government funded so-called charity is today encouraging employers to break minimum wage laws and hire unpaid interns with “no financial obligations in terms of salary”.

The advice is being offered by Fair Train who last year were paid £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes and workfare.  The organisation are currently holding a Work Experience Week with a different form of unpaid work celebrated everyday.  Yesterday it was the turn of unpaid – and soon to be mandatory – Traineeships.  Today they have decided to focus on internships, with their official guidance (pdf) suggesting they need not be paid and that a placement could last up to a year.

In almost all cases unpaid internships are illegal.  According to the government: “An intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker.”  What this means is that anybody who actually does some work for an organisation, unless they are a charity volunteer or it is part of en educational study programme, should be paid at least the minimum wage.  This specifically applies if this work is done for a “benefit in kind, eg the promise of a contract or future work.”  Astonishingly Fair Train even seem to be encouraging employers to offer exactly this, saying that: “Many employers use internships to train and evaluate potential new recruits before offering them permanent employment, creating a win:win situation for both the young person and the employer.”

Several companies have been taken to court and forced to backpay wages due to hiring unpaid interns.  Fair Train don’t mention this in their guidance.  In fact they don’t mention interns getting paid at all, even as a recommendation.  It is not even a requirement to qualify for one of their bogus Work Experience Quality Standard awards which they say exist to ensure unpaid work placements are of a high standard.  It appears that a company could qualify for a Gold Level Quality Standard award and still be flouting the law by using unpaid interns.  What a joke.  Just watch them fucking wriggle now.

You can tell @FairTrainOrg what you think of their promotion of unpaid work on twitter using the hashtag #WEWeek2015.

You can report unpaid internship at:

To join the fight against forced unpaid work visit Boycott Workfare’s website or follow them on twitter @boycottworkfare.

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It’s Workfare Week! Tell The Bastards What You Think On #WEWeek2015


Workfare industry bosses react with delight to news David Cameron intends to attend their next conference.

The vile welfare-to-work sector are teaming up with a DWP controlled front organisation this week to hold a celebration of all the money they are making out of unpaid work.

The inaptly named Fair Train are funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a government body under the control of both the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Iain Duncan Smith himself.  Despite their name, this so-called charity exists to promote unpaid Work Experience schemes, by flogging off dubious Quality Standard awards to workfare exploiters.  In 2013 they were paid a whopping £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes.

Week Experience Week is part of this gushing celebration of exploitation, so it is no suprise to see ERSA, the trade body established to lie on behalf on the welfare-to-work sector, joining in the festivities.  Fair Train say that want others to get involved with Work Experience Week, with aim of encouraging as many companies as possible to stop paying wages and start using workfare.  You can let the bastards know what you think on twitter using the hashtag #WEWeek2015.

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Fixing Poverty Is Simple: Poor People Need More Money and Homeless People Need Homes


In the UK today the poor are a commodity and poverty is big business.  That’s why the homelessness industry can afford conferences in luxury hotels, with slap up meals and drinks receptions.  It’s why charity chief executives earn such eye-watering sums, or business empires like the Big Issue can be built beneath a charity facade.  And these are the fuckers who are supposed to be helping.  Alongside them lie the vultures of the welfare-to-work companies like Serco and G4S – a £20 billion industry designed to punish the poor with benefit sanctions and forced work schemes.

At no point in this elaborate system of so-called support, incentives and sanctions will the people who are poor be given what they need – which is more money.  In fact much of the help is designed to do the opposite as it attempts to  create behavior change by inflicting more poverty.  Benfits are cut to ‘incentivise’ people to find a job whilst charities run advertising campains further stigmatising beggars to encourage them not to be homeless.  Other anti-poverty organisations demand that the price of cheap alcohol is raised to stop people being alcoholics and call for bans on handing out free food to make life difficult for those on the streets.  As these demands grow ever more shrill, the number of genuinely affordable homes and jobs that pay an adequate income shrink, alongside already meagre benefit payments. Yet because of the wonderful support the poor are offered – and all that money being spent – when people keep getting poorer then frankly, even most charity bosses think, it’s probably their own fault.

It is fucking grotesque.  What poor people need is more money and what homeless people need is homes.  As well as being glaringly obvious, this is also what the evidence shows.  A study was featured in the Washington Post this week which tracked the personalities of 1,420 low income children in North Carolina over a period of 20 years.  By pure chance during this period about a quarter of the children’s families received a windfall due to being part of a Native American tribe whose land had been used to host a casino.  This led to the families receiving annual payments of around $4000 and meant that the researchers could measure the impact of this small rise in income on the children’s personalities.  The results were clear – according to the researchers “there are large beneficial effects of improved household financial wellbeing on children’s emotional and behavioral health and positive personality trait development.”

The study also found that relationships between parents improved, family arguments decreased, and siginifcantly parents who had more money tended to use drugs and alcohol less.

Back in the UK, in 2010 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an anti-poverty think tank, carried out an experiment with some of the ‘hardest to help’ rough sleepers.  What they did was simple; they identified 15 people who had been sleeping on the streets for a minimum of fours years, they asked them what they needed and then they bought it for them.  Seven of the original fifteen had moved into stable accommodation when the project was evaluated with two more making plans to pove off the streets.  Some participants reported improved mental and physical health, and several said their drinking had reduced.  Three people started educational courses whilst the one individual involved who had a serious drug problem had begun treatment and was on a methadone programme.  Despite the success of this approach it has not been adopted by the UK’s homelessness industry.

Something else which remains largely ignored in UK housing policy is the success of the Housing First scheme at reducing homelessness in the US.   This model simply acknowledges that homeless people need to be given a home before other issues such as substance misuse, unemployment or mental health are addressed.  This approach has been successful in cutting homelessness amongst US army veterans by 30%.  A small pilot project is now being carried out along these lines in the UK, but don’t expect significant change yet.  Much of the homelessness industry still believes that homeless people need to be somehow ‘fixed’ with an approach that dangles the possibility of secure housing at some distant point in the future as a reward for good behavior whilst arresting people in the present if they sleep rough in city centres.

This weekend World Homeless Action Day will feature two events in the UK aiming to promote the Housing First model and protest against the growing criminalisation of homeless people.  In Manchester campaigners are organising a sleep out on Saturday night (10 October) to raise awareness of the problems facing homeless people in the city.  In London there will be speakers and music outside Euston Station on the same night before activists head out on mass into the city to distribute food and supplies to the homeless.  Other events are also planned, please share the facebook page, spread the word and come if you can.

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How George Osborne’s Minimum Wage Rise Will Mean Brutal Benefit Cuts For The Self-Employed

gideon-osbornePlans to raise the minimum wage will mean a brutal benefit cut for the lowest earning self-employed workers due to complex changes to in-work benefits.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) then anybody who is self-employed will be subject to the ‘Minimum Income Floor’.  What this means is that when calculating in-work benefits, such as Tax Credits and Housing Benefit, the DWP will assume a level of income regardless of how much the self-employed worker is actually earning.  For most people this means that the rate of benefits they receive will be based on them earning the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week.  This will apply even if they earnt nothing at all that month, potentially plunging people hundreds of pounds into rent arrears just because they’ve had a bit of a slow period.

So, as George Osborne is well aware, any rise in the Minimum Wage will prove devastating for the self-employed if they are not able to constantly improve their earnings to keep up.  Instead of it being an employer’s duty to pay the Minimum Wage, for the self-employed at least, it will be the worker’s duty to earn it.  Failure to do so will mean an effective cut to vital housing benefits as well as the replacement for Tax Cedits.

For five years the Tories have been happily encouraging low paid, precarious self-employment, not least because it helps bring the unemployment figures down.  Companies running the Work Programme have been handed pay-outs worth thousands of pounds in some cases everytime they encourage someone on the dole to become self-employed.  And now, having used a bogus fall in unemployment to help them win an election, the Tory Party are setting out to destroy this socially engineered entrepreneurship.

The median self-employed income in 2012/13 was £207 a week.  When the Minimum Wage rises to £7.20 these people will be assumed to be earning £252 a week for benefit purposes, leaving a huge shortfall unless they can increase those earnings.  Every time the Minimum Wage goes up again, they will be forced to try and keep up or face being unable to pay their rent.  For most, going onto unemployment benefits will be preferable to this kind of imsecurity.

Only the Tory Party could have produced a draconian system that means a rise in the Minimum Wage will prove devastating for the lowest earning workers.  They may talk the language of aspiration, but what they do shows a very different intention.  Rules are planned which will force social housing tenants to pay eye-watering rents if their earning rise above a certain amount.  Further Benefit Caps are on the way to force the poor out of big cities where the best jobs are.  Huge student fees and the abolishing of the Educational Maintenance Allowance have devastated the opportunities of the poorest youth.  And now they are coming for the self-employed, who are struggling to stay afloat, let alone prosper in an ever-more insecure jobs market.

George Osborne wants to put the working class back in their place, just like his idol Margaret Thatcher.  Unless you come from the gilded elite then don’t think about ever owning a house, getting an education, or setting up a small business.  Don’t get on your bike and look for work alongside the newly graduated rich kids in cities like London or Edinburgh.  Stay in your box.  Don’t complain.  Doff your fucking cap.  Stay poor. That is the real goal of Tory Party policy.

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What A Wanker, No Poverty In The UK Claims Alan Fucking Sugar


He dresses like a tit as well.

If you ever wanted proof that making lots of money turns you into a wanker then just spend some time listening to Alan fucking Sugar.  Just days after a Kensington millionaire newspaper columnist declared there is no housing crisis in the UK, Sugar has gone one step further and said there’s no poor people as well.

The reason for his insight is that some people have mobile phones and microwaves and this means they can’t be really poor, like he was before these things were invented.  Which is like somone from the middle ages saying that Alan Sugar can’t have been properly poor growing up because his house was made of bricks.  It’s a fucking stupid thing to say but then what do you expect from a demented cumstain in a posh suit who sits behind a desk too big for him all day doling out what he thinks is wisdom and gets paid, by us, for doing it.

You can buy a mobile phone for two quid on ebay.  Give the Jobcentre enough shit and they’ll probably buy one for you*.  It doesn’t mean you’ll be able to afford any credit for it and actually be able to use it.  But it does mean you’re not poor anymore according to Baron fucking Sugar.

Sugar made his comments on ITV’s This Morning where he said that he was properly poor growing up because you needed to put a shilling in the electric meter.  Yet there will be children in cold and dark flats right now because the pre-pay meter has run out, and unlike in Sugar’s day, it now costs the best part of a tenner to get the heating back on.  These out of touch comments are an obscene insult to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been left with little more than nothing after over a decade of social security cuts, soaring rents and shrinking wages.  In 2013 the number of households claiming housing benefit – paid only to tenants with a low income whether in work or not – hit five million for the first time and it has more or less stayed there.  There are more people who are poor in the UK now than at any point since before the war.  Sugar grew up in an age that was far from perfect but there were more jobs, houses were cheaper, benefits more generous and higher education was free.  It is unlikely a young person today from his background would be able to save the £50 (£810 in today’s money) that he claims he used to set up his first business.

People who have had their benefit sanctioned are expected to survive on Hardship Payments of just over £40 a week, and that’s only if they qualify and someone at the Jobcentre bothers to tell them they exist.  These payments are now being converted into loans meaning sanctioned claimants have no money at all, just an ever increasing debt.  You can’t really be poorer than that Alan.  You fucking tool.

Like many of the super rich Alan Sugar mistakes people sucking up to him for admiration when in fact they just want some of his money.  That’s why he thinks he’s so clever.  He has no idea that most people think he’s a dick because no-one ever tells him he’s a dick.  At least not anybody he considers worth listening to, and the only people he thinks are worth listening are the people who suck up to him because they want some of his money.  He’s no different to the deluded, self-important knobends he humiliates on The Apprentice.  Who also just want some of his money.

The capitalist class would have us all behaving like those on his television show, fucking each other over in the hope of a pat on the head from the rich.  But who really wants to be like those wankers?  Why should we tolerate a world in which the only route to any kind of prosperity is to either be born with a silver spoon in your mouth or to spend your life exploiting the people you were born and brought up with.  Greed, selfishness, arrogance – are these really the values we want to base our society on?  They are the values of cunts.

The tragedy is that due to technology we could all live in the world Alan Sugar has invented in his head.  There is no reason at all for poverty in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter.  It is not that there isn’t enough to go around, there is more than plenty.  It is that some people have too much.  People like Alan Sugar.  So the very least he could do is keep his pampered fucking mouth shut.

*blaggers take note – the key words are Flexible Support Fund.

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