Tag Archives: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Sanction Low Paid Worker’s Benefits To #solveukpoverty Say The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

jrf-in-workNowhere in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest stupid report do they ackowledge the real cause of poverty – which is the relentless theft of our labour and land by a capitalist class whose wealth and power grows ever greater.

In fact this atrocity, which condemns us to a lifetime of drudgery, servitude, poverty and need, is presented as a perfectly natural, and even desirable state.  Which of course it is if you’re some chinless wonder paid a fat salary to toss yourself off at some liberal think-tank all day whilst the people you write reports about do the work that makes your lifestyle possible.

If JRF were serious about ending poverty they would not asking employers to try not to use zero hour contracts quite so much, or pay the living wage – just if they can afford it of course.  They would be throwing every resource they have into supporting those working class people fighting back, whether that was the recent Deliveroo strikes, or the bold, and successful actions taken by grassroots union United Voices of the World.

They would not be asking faith groups, and social entrepreuners, and housing associations to all have a big think about how to help the poor.  They would be calling for rent strikes, and occupations, and mass direct action to force concessions from the parasitic rich.  Because it is only through determined, collective and bold acts that the poor have ever won any significant changes in their lives.

Of course you’re not going to get that from the bunch of Ned Flanders wannabes at the JRF.  But you might have hoped, at the very fucking least, that they would not support solutions which will make people even poorer.

The support for ‘in-work conditionality’ is perhaps their biggest treachery.  This means the lowest paid workers facing brutal benefit sanctions if they do not constantly search for more or better paid work in the hours they are not working.  JRF may say that non-financial sanctions should be used first, whatever that means, and that they should be less severe.  But they are fully behind using poverty as punishment to incentivise low paid workers to try harder to stop being so poor.

It is no longer acceptable to be a part-time cleaner, care worker or labourer and to expect decent pay for that work, even if that is the only work available.  You must now work “as much as society expects” according to the JRF.  How much that is they don’t tell us.  The working class weren’t invited to that meeting.  But you must do it, and more importantly you must constantly compete and be punished if you don’t.  And if the jobs you are competing for don’t even really exist it doesn’t matter.  Benefit sanctions and enforced competition are the method, the object is to change the soul.

It is these toxic assumptions that have created the conditions where ever more poverty – where hungry children and suicidal disabled people – are normalised and accepted.  The belief endures that it is the poor, really, who are to blame.  That if everyone just passed their GCSE’s and tidied up their CV then low pay, exploitation, slum landlords and criminal bosses would all disappear.  The poor would have enough to eat, the rich would keep getting richer, everyone would know their place and the people running the JRF could stop feeling so guilty next time they shell out the price of a normal family’s annual food budget on some voluntary sector vol-au-vent munching piss up.  Or a conference as they are known in the industry.

Astonishingly the JRF do not even call for the scrapping of many of the recent social security cuts that have created such a crisis amongst those with the lowest incomes.  Instead they demand some minor changes, such as an exemption from the Bedroom Tax for those with special housing needs who want to move but cannot due to a lack of suitable properties.  And whilst there are calls to reverse cuts to Universal Credit, slightly raise Jobseeker’s Allowance rates and delay the upcoming slashing of sickness benefits, there is no substantial objection to many of even Iain Duncan Smith’s most vicious welfare reforms.  What a difference five years makes.  The Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap are the new normal, even the UK’s leading anti-poverty think-tank is too craven to call for them to be scrapped.

Instead what we are left with in this report is the usual tinkering round the edges backed by a delusion that these recommendations will fix poverty at a time of cut-throat capitalism.  That a prosperous neo-liberal paradise is just around the corner, we just need to upskill, work hard, and do the right thing  And if we all do our bit then surely bosses, bankers and landlords will agree to do the same.   Because that is how capitalism works in the minds of those at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  All of us working together to help the rich stay rich, in the hope of a pat on the head one day from the powerful.  It’s just like a big cuddle really, now stop complaining and fill out those job applications.  You fucking mug.

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How The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Tory Party

war-on-the-poorYesterday the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who claim to be an anti-poverty think tank, held their annual lecture.  Coming at a time of soaring homelessness, brutal benefit sanctions and more cuts on the way you might have expected this event to discuss how to best resist, or at least mitigate the impact of what is to come.

You might have expected that.  What happened instead was a speech by the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Ruth Davidson during which she set her stall out as a Tory who pretends to care about the poor in advance of the Scottish parliament elections in May.  She was warmly received by the small gathering of poverty professionals who bothered to turn out for the lecture.  She should have been fucking lynched.

Davidson began her speech with a frank description of how most in the Conservative Party view the poor – in essence that as long as markets are free and state support kept to a minimum then people only have themselves to blame if they fail to thrive and end up in poverty.  But she is different she claimed.  She understands that not everyone is born equal, that the free market is actually rigged in favour of the rich from the day they are born and that some people might struggle to prosper under cut-throat capitalism.  The conclusion to be drawn from this is clear – poverty does not happen because poor people are somehow deficient human beings but because disadvantage and inequality are structural consequences of the current economic system.

Of course then she launched into a gushing rant about all the wonderful charities she has visited and what wonderful work they are doing fixing poor people.  She wants to see lots more of this she declared as her concerns about structural poverty vanished into thin air.  She wants more funding for do-gooders, not more money for the poor.  No wonder the assembled voluntary sector managers gave her such a welcoming reception.

One of her big ideas is more mentoring schemes, echoing David Cameron’s pledge to create a new generation of mentors as part of an “all out assault on poverty”.  Mentors have long been seen as the magical fix for the alienated youth ever since The Karate Kid was first released in 1984.  It is an idea that chimes perfectly with the assumption amongst the wealthy that all poor people need is to meet someone rich who will teach them not to be poor anymore.  They imagine sharp suited business people high-fiving inner city urchins over a Mcdonalds Happy Meal and dazzling them with tales of aspiration and entrepreunership.  The reality is some golf club nonce sleazing round the local youth club for a while and then getting bored and giving up when they don’t get either a blow job or an MBE in the first fortnight.  No mentoring scheme has ever worked and everyone in the anti-poverty industry knows it, but hey, it’s a funding stream, the gravy train must stay on track.

Davidson barely received a word of criticism for her views when questioned by the assembled delegates and JRF’s head toff Julia Unwin.  But sadly this is of little surprise.  These are the kind of modern, dynamic wankers who can drop long held principles at the drop of a hat.  Fighting against the Bedroom Tax, workfare or benefit sanctions is so last year.  Now it’s all about in-work progression and better targeted ‘support’ for the so-called hardest to help. Benefit sanctions in other words, for everybody.  That’s why the JRF recently invited Tory stooge Matthew Oakley to write a report discussing the best way to introduce in-work sanctions to encourage people with jobs to strive harder.  That’s the same Matthew Oakley who once worked at the Treasury helping to design Universal Credit, before moving to the right wing Policy Exchange think tank.  Now he’s being paid by an anti-poverty organisation to come up with new ways to make people poorer.  To help teach them not to be poor.  It’s a fucking joke, and not a very funny one.

The benefit sanctioning regime which forms part of Universal Credit is horrifying.  Those in and out of work alike will soon be condemned to survive on just a few pounds a week if they fail to meet endless Jobcentre demands to constantly look for more or better paid work.  Those with jobs could see benefits intended to help with housing costs sanctioned for the first time.  These sanctions can last a punishing three years and are not just aimed at the single unemployed but many on sickness benefits as well as those with young children.  For some they will be a death sentence.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation are intensely relaxed about all of this though.  They have a whole section on their website where grinning latte slurpers warn that Universal Credit must come with ’employment support’ – the latest euphemism for workfare, benefit sanctions and Jobcentre harassment.  Not one of these clowns will ever face the nightmare they have now decided to enthusiastically embrace on our behalf.  Quite the opposite in fact.  They are currently advising for a position that pays £75,000 a year, and that’s not even to be the boss.  There’s good money to be made out of poverty for everybody except the poor.

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