This Is What Democracy Looks Like: Iain Duncan Smith Election Challenger Arrested Over Alleged Sticker

lisa-mckenzie-arrestLisa McKenzie, who is standing for Class War  against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford, was arrested last night in the latest petty police attack on the group’s election campaign.

Lisa was accused of putting a small sticker on a wall two weeks previously and thrown into the back of a van, hand-cuffed and held for hours.  She has been charged with criminal damage. The arrest took place at last night’s Poor Doors demonstration, the weekly picket of the luxury tower block in Aldgate where tenants in social housing are forced to use a different door to the rich.  According to one onlooker police insisted her arrest was nothing to do with the election campaign against Iain Duncan Smith.  They must think we are fucking idiots.

When Lisa and Class War recently went on the campaign trail in Chingford they were followed by police, repeatedly harassed and threatened with arrest.  Class War candidate for Croydon South, Jon Bigger, was recently followed around the constituency by up to a dozen coppers just for handing out leaflets.

At previous Poor Doors protests police arrested high profile Class War supporter Jane Nicholl, threatening her with ludicrous arson charges after somebody allegedly burnt a small effigy of Boris Johnson.  At a later demonstration police seized a Class War banner they said had a rude word on it and arrested the person holding it.  One of Class War’s founders, Ian Bone, has also been arrested at the protests for equally trivial reasons.

Both the Poor Door’s protests and Class War’s election campaign have been boisterous, but peaceful.   The only violence has come from jumped up twats in uniform doing the bidding of the likes of Iain Duncan Smith. This is what fucking democracy looks like when working class people use their system to fight for our interests.  Petty arrests, police violence, censorship and harassment replace televised debates and election hustings.  Class War’s slogan ‘by the brick or the ballot paper’ has never seemed more apt.  The bastards will come for you whichever you choose if they don’t like what you say.

Lisa Mckenzie, who was recently described as the living embodiment of class hatred by former Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, has vowed this arrest will not silence her.  Following her release she said “if they want to shut me up they will have to kill me”.

The Poor Doors protests continue, every Thursday, 6pm, 1 Commercial Street, London E1.

Visit Class War’s website for the latest news on the campaign: http://www.classwarparty.org.uk/

Above pic from Class War’s facebook page.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action Against Soaring Homelessness: Support The March For The Homeless On April 15th

march-for-homelessSupport the March for the Homeless.  April 15 2015, Whitehall SW1, 6pm.

On last Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show Iain Duncan Smith said that homelessness had not risen since he implemented savage Housing Benefit cuts like the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap.  Even for a politician this was a breath-taking lie.

Every possible measure of homelessness has risen since the current Government weren’t elected.  The number of homeless families has soared by 27% and charities say the problem is far greater than even this, attacking the figures as no longer reliable.  The number of people sleeping on the streets has leapt by 50% and is now at the highest ever recorded level.  It is shocking that a Secretary of State can so openly attempt to deceive the public and astonishing that a highly experienced poltical interviewer like Marrs would let him get away with it.

According to a recent report produced by charities working on the front line, Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are driving the rise in homelessness.  Perhaps of most concern is that just one in ten  local authority homelessness managers who were surveyed for the report believed that the impacts of benefits cuts had largely ‘run their course’.  Most believed things are set to get worse over the next two years.  Soaring rents, shrinking benefits and the threat of further cuts to come could yet create a homelessness crisis on a scale rarely if ever seen before in the UK.

On Wednesday April 15th a March for the Homeless will take place in Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada and the USA.  In London a mass rally will be held in Whitehall from 6pm with music, speakers, a free shop, street kitchen  and more.  Please help spread the word, for more info visit: http://streetskitchen.co.uk/?p=2072

For news of what’s happening in other cities join the facebook page or visit their website.  Campaigners are using the hashtags #NoMoreDeathsOnOurStreets and #March4Homeless

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

ids-anyonecanlivePart-time workers could face a benefit sanction for going to work under draconian new rules which force claimants of in-work benefits to constantly look for more, or better paid work.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) Jobcentres will have the powers to dictate how many hours a claimant should be working to remain eligible for what are now called Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Those without children, who do not have a health condition, will be required to spend up to 35 hours a week either working or taking part in work related activity such as looking for additional work or even attending workfare.  Failure to comply will result in a sanction.

The implications are chilling.  Under the new rules part-time workers will have to attend a job interview with just 48 hours notice  or their benefits will be stopped.  This is likely to mean someone required to take time off their existing employment – at short notice – to attend a job interview somewhere else.  If they go to work instead of the interview they could face a sanction.  As anyone who has ever had a real job will know, this will place claimants in an impossible position forcing to them to make the choice between risking being sacked or sanctioned.  And unfortunately their boss will probably find out they are looking for a new job  whatever they do because part of their work related activity may include being mandated to set up an online profile to “draw attention to their availability” for alternative employment.

Claimants should not face a sanction if they can demonstrate a ‘good reason’ (pdf) for not carrying out work related activity such as attending an interview.  But no-one is likely to tell them this.  Anyone who thinks that these new rules will not lead to people being sanctioned for going to work has not seen the ever growing lists of sanctions handed out to claimants for petty, inappropriate and sometimes even bizarre reasons.  Not being able to carry out work related activity because your boss makes it impossible is not even mentioned in the decision maker’s guidance, the rule book for the faceless back office Jobcentre staff who impose sanctions.

Ministers had said that people would not face a sanction if it means giving up a part-time job to attend a temporary position with longer hours.  But even the guidance on this is vague.  Decision makers are advised that someone should not be forced to leave their job to take up a fortnight’s full time temporary work but beyond this it is left to them to take a “common sense approach”.

It is astonishing, and horrifying that Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with benefit sanctions could now actually cost people their jobs.  It is what will happen to those who are sanctioned however that reveals the breath-taking cruelty behind this policy.

Somebody working 16 hours a week on minimum wage and paying £90 a week in rent (around the average Housing Benefit award) will receive £104 a week in wages and £111 under Universal Credit, a total of £215.  If they are sanctioned they will lose the equivalent of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, currently £72.40, for each week the sanction remains in place.  Depending on where they live they will almost certainly have to pay some Council Tax from that sum, around here that would be £8 a week for someone living in the cheapest band.  After paying this, and their rent, the claimant will be left with just £44.60 a week to pay for food, clothes, bills and fares to work.  This sum will be enough to disqualify them from claiming Hardship Payments or any other form of additional help.

It is difficult to imagine how someone could maintain the level of health and hygeine necessary to hold down a job on such a paltry income, unless they stop paying their rent.  Homelessness or unemployment will be the stark choice facing sanctioned working claimants – although if they leave their job they will be sanctioned again, or possibly disallowed any benefit completely.  Even if they are able to increase their hours it will barely make a difference.  For every pound they earn they will lose 65p of what little benefit they have left whilst their Council Tax liability may also rise as they earn more.  Working another four hours a week would still not give them an income above £50 a week according to the turn2us benefit calculator.  There will be no escape.  People who are working will be condemned to desperate poverty and the longest sanctions can last for three years.

All of the main political parties support the principles behind Universal Credit, even if they are sceptical about whether the IT necessary for the system is genuinely achievable.  Few of them seem to have looked into the details of what they are supporting – and what will happen to people who are self-employed is even worse (watch this space).  These rules are aimed at people with jobs, not the unemployed.  The DWP is out of control under Iain Duncan Smith and the suffering that is yet to come unless someone puts the brakes on will dwarf anything we have seen so far.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

From Tragedy To Farce, How Universal Credit’s Work Related Activity Is Beyond A Joke

zac-videogames

Someone buy Zac a pint.

The rules on what constitutes work related activity for those claiming Universal Credit would be laughable if they were not backed by sanctions that can plunge people into destitution for up to three years.

As part of Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with forcing unemployed, sick and disabled people into ever more irksome and pointless activity, unemployed claimants are now expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for a job.  The guidance for Jobcentre decision makers gives an example of a typical day:

“Dave is in receipt of UC. His expected number of hours of work are 35 a week. “On a typical day, Dave spends
1. two hours on-line looking through recruitment sites
2. one hour reading the “situations vacant” pages in the press (local papers,
national papers and trade journals)
3. one hour and a half completing a job application and covering letter
4. half an hour reviewing and updating his CV
5. half an hour pursuing further information on suitable advertised vacancies
6. half an hour speaking to friends, family and former colleagues about possible employment opportunities
7. one hour researching the possibility of setting up in business as selfemployed.”

Under the rules Dave is supposed to do this every single day or face his benefits being stopped.  That means updating his CV – every day.  Looking at the same job vacancies in the press and on the internet, every day.  Boring his friends and family by asking them about employment opportunities.  Every day.

It is beyond a fucking joke.  You can imagine the conversations in Jobcentres:

“Well I spent an hour yesterday researching becoming a self-employed plumber”

“Very good, what did you find out”

“I can’t plumb”

“Oh.  Try researching becoming an electrician tomorrow”.

Of course ask them to send you on a training course to become a plumber and you’ll be cleaning the bogs on workfare somewhere before your Work Coach has had chance to stop laughing.

These ludicrous rules come with one vital caveat, and it’s one the Jobcentre doesn’t want you to know about.

“J3075 There will be times where a claimant has spent less time on work search than their expected hours of work. In such cases, where a claimant has taken all reasonable action to find paid work, then the work search requirement is satisfied1. What all reasonable action will be will depend on the claimant’s circumstances.”

There are more and every claimant should read the guidance on Work Related Activity which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/409855/admj3.pdf

DWP rules change frequently, visit this page for the most up to date information.  Always try and speak to a welfare rights advisor such as Citizen’s Advice if you are having problems.  Claimants acting collectively has been used to successfully challenge Jobcentre decisions, contact your local claimant’s group and if there isn’t one think about starting something up.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Current Benefit Sanctions Policy Is Bonkers Says Workfare Industry’s Top Spokesperson

sanction-sabs3Aspects of Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal benefit sanctioning regime are bonkers  according to an astonishing diatribe from the workfare industry’s top spokesperson Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of the  Employment Related Services Association (ERSA).

ERSA are the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work companies like A4e and G4S who hold lucrative contracts to run workfare and forced training schemes.  In a frank statement on their website McHugh says that the use of sanctions is based on sending political messages rather than evidence of what works and that a more humane system is needed.

According to McHugh, current rules which mean welfare-to-work companies have no choice but to refer people for a benefit sanction for not carrying ‘mandated activity’  are ‘bonkers’ and that this causes inappropriate sanctions to be applied.  She also backs the recent call for an urgent review of the sanctions regime made by the Work and Pension Committee saying that current policies have been introduced “without a huge amount of reflection”.  This is about as close as an industry spokesperson can come to calling Iain Duncan Smith a fucking idiot without losing their job.

Claimants should not be fooled, ERSA have not suddenly developed a conscience, this is about money.  According to McHugh, ERSA still believe sanctions “play an important role” although this is based on a “hunch”.  What the welfare-to-work industry wants is the power to make sanction decisions themselves, along with new rights to snoop on medical information the DWP hold on those in receipt of sickness or disability benefits.  This is a cynical power grab from an industry that has realised the more adminstrative roles they can seize from Jobcentres then the greater the prospect of the entire social security system ending up in private hands.  Their hands.

There is another reason however why these companies are now lobbying for a less draconian system – and McHugh even suggests a voluntary approach might be more appropriate for some claimants.  Welfare-to-work companies get paid when someone finds a job.  People who are hungry, anxious, or can’t afford to maintain personal hygeine do not perform well at job interviews.  McHugh’s comments are an admission that sanctions harm rather than help people’s prospects of finding work, something that has long been obvious to claimants themselves.  That it is now being said by workfare companies, who were previously Iain Duncan Smith’s best friends, is a damning condemnation of the coalition government’s bungled welfare reforms.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Government Statistics No Longer Reliable Say Charities As Homelessness Epidemic Gets Even Worse

cause-of-homelessness

How private sector evictions are driving homelessness. AST stands for Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Graph from Crisis.

Figures showing that statutory homelessness has soared in England by 27% since this government weren’t elected do not even scratch the surface of the desperate homelessness epidemic.

53,250 families were accepted as homeless in 2014, up from 41,780 five years earlier and the latest official homelessness statistics uncover some stark facts about those without a home.  There are now twice the number of families living in B&Bs than in 2010 and the number who have been there over six weeks has leapt by an appalling 500%.  This is a practice which had almost died out, but as demand for temporary housing has risen over the the last five years there are no longer enough hostels, refuges and other forms of emergency accommodation for the growing numbers of homeless families.

These statistics come after last month’s rough sleeping estimate which showed that there are now more people sleeping on the streets than since official records began.  But neither of these sets of government approved figures come close to telling us the true extent of the homelessness crisis.

In February the Homelessness Monitor report was relased.  This is an annual study commissed by charities which looks at the impact of government policies on homelessness.  It makes for horrifying reading.

Changes introduced in the way homelessness is managed by local authorities mean that many councils are now using ‘informal’ measures to help homeless families which are not included in official statistics.  According to homelessness charities this means that “the bottom line is that we can no longer rely on these figures to show national trends”.

The report points out that “there were some 280,000 ‘local authority homelessness case actions’ in 2013/14, 9% up on the previous year”.  In other words many cases of homelessness were swept under the carpet with families often fobbed off into precarious private sector accommodation.  And of course as word gets round that all the council will do is send you off to your local slum landlord if you approach them for housing assistance then less people are likely to ask for help.

The majority of homeless people are not included in any figures, anywhere.  Local authorities are only duty bound to help people judged to be what is known as in ‘priority need’.  That means people with children, those over pensionable age, or people with serious health conditions or disabilities.  If you are single, under 65 and not seriously ill then you will be left to fend for yourself.  Should you end up on the streets then you may eventually get picked up by a charity outreach worker and offered a place in a nightshelter or hostel.  But turn up at the council saying you have nowhere to go that night and most will do little more than shrug their shoulders.

There are around 40,000 single people in Engalnd who are living in hostels or nightshelters –  sometimes in dormitory style accommodation.  They are not recorded in any formal homelessness statistics.  Nobody knows how many people are living in squats, vehicles, campsites or in unregistered providers of temporary housing like grotty B&Bs and backpacker hostels.  Then there is the largest group of homeless people by far, the hidden homeless sleeping on a friend’s sofa or in over-crowded family accommodation.  The Homelessness Monitor says that an astonishing 2.23 million households contain what they call ‘concealed’ single people in addition to a hidden 265,000 couples or lone parents.

Whilst the true scale of homelessness in England can only be guessed at there is one thing that is certain.  Every form of homelessness that is formally recorded is rising sharply, from the (widely believed to be fixed) count of how many people are on the street to the number of homeless families approaching councils for help.  Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are directly responsible according to homelessness charities, with benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and the benefit cap identified as doing the most damage.

David Cameron has pledged to introduce a further benefit cap within weeks of being re-elected whilst both parties appear to favour regional benefit caps.  The truth is that benefits have always been capped, currently at £72.40 a week for single unemployed people. What Cameron really wants are caps on Housing Benefit, the government subsidy paid out to landlords which swallows up the largest part of the UK’s benefit’s bill.  The result will be more evictions as people are unable to  pay their rent whilst more landlords will decide, possibly illegally, not to accept any tenants on benefits at all.  As the graph above shows, it is private sector evictions that are driving rising homelessness.

Both parties are committed to so-called affordable rents which barely anyone can afford.  In the capital affordable rents on even a modest property can cost more than the total someone would receive working full time on the London Living Wage.  Affordable housing means housing for middle class people not the working class.  Real council house provision at social rents is being quietly eradicated.  Labour have not said they will reverse Right To Buy policies.  The Tories say they will extend the great council house sell off to housing association properties.

It is as tragic as it is shocking that so many people should be without a home in one of the richest countries in the world.  That not one politician of any main party takes this seriously is the real scandal however.  You will barely hear a word about homelessness in the run up to the election.  MPs are far more interested in lining the pockets of landlords and property developers than helping homeless people.  Many of them are landlords themselves.  Almost all have lived such pampered lives that the only time they are likely to set foot in a homelessness hostel or housing office is to have their fucking photo taken standing next to some poor people.  They think homeless people are the people you step over when you come out of the opera.  

That is why soaring homelessness, which destroys lives, does not even register with the politicians paid and elected to represent us.  It will never happen to them so they couldn’t give a fuck.

Support the March for the Homeless on April 15th in London, Glasgow, Hull, Newcastle, Manchester, Huddersfield, Norwich, throughout Ireland and across the world.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Fight To Save Social Security Won’t Be Over Whoever Wins The Election, Come To The Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May

welfare-action-flyerfrom Boycott Workfare

Saturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm, London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:

  • Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
  • Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
  • 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
  • ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
  • Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
  • Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
  • Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
  • Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!

This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s a day for people at the grassroots to get together and work out how we can support each other, defend our rights and continue successfully to campaign against workfare and sanctions.

Organised by Boycott Workfare with Haringey Solidarity Group. Workshops and contributions from other groups are very welcome!

Want to come? Please register your interest now: info@boycottworkfare.org

Will you need help with travel costs? If you are in a local group where people support each other and take action on welfare or housing (or plan to start one), we should be able to help with your travel costs. Please help by booking travel early and accessing other sources of funding if you can. Get in touch as soon as you can to sort travel costs out.

Access info: Please get in touch if there are ways we can help make the event accessible to you. The venue is wheelchair accessible however one workshop room unfortunately is not. If you are a wheelchair user, please contact us in advance to let us know which workshops you’d like to attend, and we’ll make sure they are scheduled on the ground floor.

Want to organise something similar near you? We’d love to help if we can. We especially want to support another gathering in the North in Autumn/Winter 2015, but would need a local group to take the lead on organising it. Please get in touch.

For more details and a list of the workshops organised so far visit Boycott Workfare’s website.

Join the Facebook event and invite others to come too!

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid