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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New Disability Tests Are Even Worse Than First Feared, Join The Fightback On July 13th

crapita

Disabled people have called a day of action against notoriously crap Capita on July 13th

Vital benefits – designed to meet the additional costs of living with a disability – have been stripped away completely from over 120,00 people DWP statistics revealed this week.

Over a quarter of those previously claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) have lost their benefits after being re-assessed by a private company as no longer having sufficient care or mobility needs to qualify for help.  Savage new benefit eligibility tests have been introduced as part of the switch to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which is gradually replacing DLA.  So far 27% of those facing this re-assessment have lost their benefit with hundreds of thousands of people still to be tested.  Originally the government claimed 20% of people would lose their benefits due to the change-over.  Chillingly it now appears it could be much worse.  For newly disabled people the situation is even more dire, with only 48% of new claims for PIP being successful.

The shocking statistics come after disabled people announced a day of action against Capita, one of the companies who administer the tests – the other being the despised Atos.  Disabled People Againsts Cuts (DPAC)Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Winvisible have joined forces to call for demonstrations in towns and cities across the UK on July 13th aimed at bringing these vile assessments to an end.

In London demonstrators will gather outside Capita’s offices at 71 Victoria Street, SW1 from 13.15.  An online protest will also be held on the day.  Please join and share the facebook page for the latest details of all events.  As the protesters say:

“ATOS and Capita are making a killing from conducting sham PIP assessments which are seeing thousands of legitimate claimants having their benefits reduced, their incomes slashed and their motorbility cars removed.”

It is time to up the struggle and to demand that the corporate assessors #DoNoHarm”

The latest PIP statistics can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/personal-independence-payment-april-2013-to-april-2016

This blog is likely to remain sporadic until after the referendum, and possibly a bit after that.

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How Eric Pickles Acted To Protect The Empty Penthouses Of The Global Super Rich

real-estate-forum

Join Class War, 1pm, 14th June, Berkeley Square outside the London property developer’s forum.

Imagine if there was a law that prevented the rich from leaving luxury properties empty as investments.  Even better, imagine if this law ensured that if a home was left vacant for over six months then local authorities could take over the management of the property and use it as part of their own housing stock to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people.  That would be a good fucking law, and that’s a rare thing.  And it is a law that the Labour Party accidentally introduced, although their target was not the rich, but squatters and those they claimed were involved in anti-social behaviour.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) came into effect in 2006 to tackles the problem of empty homes which the government said were “magnets for vandals, drug users, squatters and even arsonists”.  They operated exactly as described above, with powers for councils to take over vacant properties and rent them out to those waiting for permanent housing.  Of course this being Tony Blair’s Labour Party the new powers were awash with bureacracy and caveats to protect the rich.  Second homes were to be sadly exempt from the legislation, as were many other empty properties such as holiday homes.  Councils would have to make legthy application to a tribunal and property owners were given wide-ranging rights of appeal.  This didn’t stop the right wing press going into meltdown over the legislation with The Sunday Times declaring Britain had become a communist country.

In the end just 43 EDMOs were issued between 2006 and 2010.  The great expropriation had not happened and the rich continued to horde land and housing as much as ever.  This didn’t stop Eric Pickles rushing to change the laws within months of the Tory’s stealing power in 2010.

Pickles, who was Communities Secretary at the time, announced in early 2011 that he was bringing to an end these ‘heavy handed’ rules.  This news was barely reported at the time.  Now EDMOs can only be issued if a property has been empty for over two years, and more importantly only when local councils can prove the property is being used for anti-social purposes.  Pickles said he did this to protect civil liberties.

There seems little doubt that EDMOs could have been issued against rich investors who buy up luxury properties and leave them empty – a phenomena that is now extending to other cities besides London.  It would have been difficult, and might not have worked – oligarchs have good lawyers – but it would have been worth a try for an imaginative local authority facing growing homelessness.  But now that option has been shut down, to protect the civil liberties of the global super rich who see the booming housing market in the South East as nothing more than an exclusive casino where they always get to win.  And so the number of empty homes in London is now back on the rise despite a desperate housing crisis and record numbers sleeping on the streets.  That’s what this government calls freedom.

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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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Social Cleansing In London Is All Too Real, To Deny It Is Irresponsible

social-housingSome things need nippng in the bud.  So here’s a long and probably quite boring explanation of why Dave Hill’s recent claims in the Guardian that social cleansing is not taking place in London are a load of bollocks.

Hill based his recent piece on research carried out by the New Policy Institute think tank which examined the number of moves made by housing benefits claimants both within the capital and from London to other parts of the UK.  It found that the number of London claimants who moved house has changed little between 2010 and 2015.  As such the report’s authors conclude that housing benefit cuts have not caused the social cleansing of the city that many feared.

This led the Hill to declare that we should forget about social cleansing and instead focus on the poverty that has been caused by housing benefit cuts, saying that households had not been forced out of London but were staying put and making up rent shortfalls themselves.  To some extent this is true, many Londoners are now living in desperate poverty due to soaring rents and benefit cuts.  But to dismiss social cleansing, on the basis of this report, is a big mistake.

The first significant error in this research is that it examined all of those on housing benefit, not just those in the private sector.  Almost 70% of London housing benefit claimants are in social housing and unlikely to be subject to the benefit cap due to much lower rents.*  This means that large chunks of their data could be meaningless when analysing the impact of cuts on private sector tenants – and they don’t know which chunks.

There are many reasons why tenants might not move in such a brutal housing market.  With the number of London landlords who will accept those claiming housing benefits growing ever smaller, the sensible thing to do if you have found somewhere is to stay put.  Some social housing tenants may be hoping to buy eventually –  especially now that right-to-buy is being extended to Housing Association properties.  This could impact on the number of social housing transfers to outside the capital.  These factors would both offset any exodus due to benefit cuts.  But these assumptions, like the conclusions of the report, are speculation.

A further error in the research is that it treated claimants as one never-changing mass rather than examining flows on and off benefits.  This means that if someone comes off housing benefits as a result of moving to a cheaper area they will not be included in the figures. The report fails to show whether the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants is falling or rising in any given area.  This leaves the question of whether people moving are being replaced by someone in similar economic circumstances.  You would expect this if the number of poor people was not decreasing overall as the researchers claim and you can find out by looking at the Housing Benefit caseload statistics.  They tell a very different story to the one told by the New Policy Institute.

The social cleansing of London did not begin when the Tory government first stole power in 2010.  Gentrification had already hollowed out much of inner London with both rents and house prices soaring even in once largely working class areas such as Hackney and Lambeth.  In more prosperous boroughs the eradication of the poor was almost complete except for those in social housing.  There were just 7,790 private sector Housing Benefit claimants in the City of Westminster in 2010 – and Westminster is big, with a population almost as large as Hull and with areas which would not have been described even as middle class a couple of decades ago.

According to the most recent figures, the number of Housing Benefit claimants in Westminster now stands at 5,001, a drop of over a third since 2010.  This trend is repeated throughout inner London – both the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Islington have also lost around a third of private sector housing benefit claimants. In Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham and Southwark the number has dropped by around 20%, whilst Lewisham, Lambeth, Wandsworth and Tower Hamlets have all seen over 10% of private sector housing benefit claimants disappear.  In the largely uninhabited City of London there were 100 private sector housing benefit claimants in 2010 and now there is only 20.  The only inner London borough during the period to see a rise in this claimant group was Newham, by far the poorest and the least central borough.  In total there are over 11,000 less private sector housing benefit claimants in inner London since 2010, and there weren’t many to start with.  In many ways the Benefit Cap was simply a mopping up exercise, driving out the hangers-on that gentrification hadn’t yet managed to displace.

Despite plummeting number of private rented sector claimants in inner London the reverse is taking place further afield.  Almost every outer London borough saw a rise in the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants between 2010 and 2016, with only Waltham Forest, Merton and Richmond seeing a fall – and the last two are both posh.  The main reason for this is soaring rents and a huge rise in the number of people in work who are claiming Housing Benefit.  The overall number of Greater London Housing Benefit claimants, including social tenants, is higher now than in 2010 despite falling unemployment.  The overall number of inner London claimants has fallen however.

The trend is plain to see. The richer and more central a borough is, then the more likely it will have seen a drop in the number of private sector housing benefit claimants.  In outer boroughs the opposite is happening.  London’s poor are being displaced to the margins

In some boroughs, such as Westminster, the process of social cleansing is near complete for almost all those without social housing.  And for those clinging on the situation is chilling. Westminster spent around £3 million on Discretionary Housing Payments in 2014/15 specifically to mitigate the impact of the Benefit Cap.  Assuming an average award of £50 a week – and this is a guess, there are no available figures – that’s enough to pay for over 1,000 of Westminster’s dwindling private sector claimants to remain in their homes.  These are emergency payments, which can be withdrawn at any time, and will eventually stop.  These households have simply been given a stay of execution.

In addition to this Westminster has 2,435 households who are homeless and in temporary accommodation.  Around half of this number have been relocated outside the borough.  Those still in Westminster will be in some form of private accomodation, whether that’s a hostel, B&B or in a temporary placement with a private landlord.  They are also likely to be claiming Housing Benefit.  So of Westminster’s 5000 private sector Housng Benefit claimants up to a quarter could be homeless, and possibly another fifth are receiving Discretionary Housing Payments which will eventually be stopped.

The Benefit Cap is just one, very small part of what is driving social cleansing.  London’s failure to build enough social housing is also displacing the poor from the capital.  Despite a population increase across Greater London of almost half a million between 2010 and 2014, the number of new social houses was just 7,455.  Housing stock estimates from the Department of Communities and Local Government show that Islington, Camden, Kensington & Chelsea, Wesminster and the City of London have all seen a reduction in the number of socially rented homes since 2010.  As numerous campaigners around the capital will tell you, they are now coming for the housing estates as well.

It seems astonishing that there would be those who refute that London’s poor are being gradually forced out of the city when the evidence is so visible.  Take a walk round Hackney and you will see streets that have been not just socially, but also ethnically cleansed.  This is not to undermine the sufffering of those still living in the capital who have been forced into poverty and  destitution.  That is part of social cleansing too, as the poor are sliced out of civic, economic and social life, even if they manage to cling onto their homes.  Those that are left become as invisible as the departed.  With further benefit cuts on the way and the near eradication of social housing it is irresponsible, and just plain inaccurate to deny what is taking place.

*this post was corrected on 28/5/16 due to previously saying social housing tenants are exempt from the Benefit Cap.  This was a daft mistake, they are not exempt, but due to much lower rents in social housing then very few claimants are affected.  H/T  @nearlylegal who pointed it out.

Above pic from Turbulent London

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