Tag Archives: Lords debate

Benefit Claimants Fighting Back

The Welfare Reform Bill is back in the Lords today which may yet result in some more tinkering with this desperate piece of legislation.  However the main thrust of the bill, enshrining as it does Universal Credit, benefits caps, mass health and disability testing programmes, workfare and the slashing of benefit for 20% of disabled people, is all firmly established and will become law.

That ermine clad  toffs had no more understanding of the intricacies of the benefits system then Oxbridge MPs is of little surprise.  Few, if any, would have any experience of signing on.  That’s how, based largely on rumour, prejudice, Daily Mail headlines and bad arithmetic, this car crash of a bill came about.  The very mechanisms it enshrines are already failing.  The Atos system of computer based health to tests to establish benefit eligibility is in a shambles, running 80% behind target whilst the appeals system is in melt down.  Major retailers, such as Sainsburys and Waterstones are pulling out of workfare, with more set to follow them.  DWP sources have claimed the idea that Universal Credit will be ready to roll out on time next year is ‘pie in the sky’.

It is in the implementation that this Bill will come apart at the seams, and that is where it has always been most vulnerable.  Eighteen months after the non-election of this government, the fight to save the Welfare State is just getting started  New groups are springing up around the UK to resist the all out assault on the very poorest and after over a year of action claimants aren’t going anywhere just because Cameron has bullied this Bill through the Lords.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was formed after the 2010 anti-austerity protests outside the Conservative Party Conference and has been at the forefront of the struggle against the Welfare Reform Bill since the beginning.  Recently, along with UK Uncut and others, they helped bring traffic in the West End to a standstill for two hours after wheelchairs users chained themselves together and blocked Oxford Street.  More action has been promised, you can visit their website at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/ or find them on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/DPAC2011/

Also increasingly active, are the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights, who attended at Oxford Street and have been involved in organising against welfare cuts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Dundee.  They are on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/blacktriangle11?sk=info

Benefits Claimants Fightback began as a facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/116432071735566/) back when the onslaught against claimants first began under Labour and aims to be a meeting place and online organising tool for all benefit claimants.  A website of the same name attempts to keep track of action against benefit cuts at: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Boycott Workfare has organised actions and protests and is maintaining a register of organisations who refuse to support the government’s forced labour scheme.  The next action is on 3rd March which has been called as  a National Day of Action Against Workfare, with other resistance already planned in Liverpool and Brighton.  They have a new facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Workfare/222201111204955

A Boycott Workfare group has also been established in Birmingham, whilst last weekend Brighton Benefits Campaign held a picket of Poundland in protest at their use of workfare.  The word on the street is that Brighton Poundland will no longer be accepting workfare placements.  This shit works.  Brighton also has a DPAC group on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/BrightonDisabledPeopleAgainstCuts/

Other regional groups include the Crutch Collective in Glasgow who will be continuing their houding of the local Atos sharks with a picket outside their offices on Friday 17th February.  The long established Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have organised countless protests and actions and have a wealth of information on their website at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/

Winvisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities) and Single Mother’s Self-Defence have long been involved in supporting claimants and organised the recent series of lobbies and vigils outside the Lords where the debate was taking place, as well as helping co-ordinating the joint letter to the BMJ and RCN expressing disgust at the activities of Atos Healthcare.

The Spartacus Report was compiled by disabled activists and highlighted the shoddy consultation and inhumane changes implicit in the move to Personal Independence Payments.  Several authors of the report blog at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and they can be found on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/wearespartacus/

Also on facebook is the busy Disability Defence page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/#!/groups/disabilitydefence/  whilst After Atos Alliance provides support and discussion for victims of the Atos testing regime at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/afteratos/

Other groups on facebook opposing the benefit cuts include the Social Welfare Advocacy page at: http://www.facebook.com/SocialWelfareAdvocacy  and Respect for Unemployed and Benefit Claimants: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Respect-For-the-Unemployed-Benefit-Claimants/128136787240200

Elsewhere online, the Atos Register of Shame, DWP Examination, Work Programme and Watching A4e are just some websites keeping track of the assault on welfare and those, like A4e and Atos, who are making a fortune from the changes.

Pat’s Petition against the benefit cuts now has nearly 30,000 signatures, you can sign it at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

Sol Fed, UK Uncut, Anarchist Federation and Right To Work are other groups that have been supportive and helped organise action, whilst support has come in the political press from Freedom, Schnews and the enduring Morning Star.  Union support has come from the PCS at national and branch level and the RMT.

It would be impossible to list all of the groups, websites and organisations involved in challenging the Welfare Reform Bill and vast apologies to all those that have been missed in this list.  Please post links in the comments to any and all groups fighting to retain a system where losing your job, becoming sick or disabled, having children, or being low waged, does not mean a life of poverty, homelessness and state harassment.

Please also share groups on facebook, post links to organisations, tweet and help make sure that every last one of the millions of claimants set to be devastated by the upcoming benefit changes has access to local support, and more importantly the chance to organise and take action.

We will not stop, we will not die, escalation is called for, let’s watch them crumble.

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Iain Duncan Smith Attacks Christian Values

Has there ever been a more odious immoral cunt in British politics than Iain Duncan Smith?  Not content from stripping benefits from people with terminal illnesses and disabled people he is now turning his attention on some of the UK’s poorest children.

Fake Christian Smith has today attacked Bishops who plan to vote against the benefit cap in the Lords tomorrow saying:

“I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this. Where is the bishops’ concern for them?

“It’s all very well for the bishops to express a political opinion, but I would love them to ask about the poor people on low incomes who are working hard, whose families share rooms, who are doing the right thing.”

What Iain Duncan Smith doesn’t say (but knows) is that many of those hard working families are exactly the people who will be forced into homelessness by the Housing Benefit caps which have already come into force in London this month.

Smith and his cronies have lied and lied again about families living it up in plush London houses which hard working families couldn’t afford, just like he lies above about hard working families forced to share rooms.  IDS knows full well that the children of Housing Benefit claimants are also expected to share rooms.

Housing Benefit is an in work benefit and only 1 in 8 claimants are unemployed.  Any working low income family could have lived in London and claimed housing benefit and in fact tens of thousands did.  When calculating the benefit the only factors taken into account are income, the amount of rent due and whether you have savings of over £16,000.  Whether the claimant is in work or not does not enter the equation.

The constant portrayal of benefit claimants being offered properties that low waged earners couldn’t afford is even enshrined on the DWP’s website:

“The measures announced will provide a fairer and more sustainable Housing Benefit scheme by taking steps to ensure that people on benefit are not living in accommodation that would be out of the reach of most people in work, creating a fairer system for low-income working families and for the taxpayer.”

In London a salary of over £30,000 a year could still have been topped up with Housing Benefit in some areas – meaning that these properties were absolutely in reach for most people in work.  This is not a distortion by Smith and the DWP, this is not an exaggeration, it is a Government Department and the Secretary of State telling a bare faced lie to the public.

So when heathen Smith lectures the Bishops he is actually instructing them to feel sorry for the people on considerably better salaries than the people at the very bottom, rather than extend their piety towards those on low wages, who are unemployed or unable to work due to disability or illness.  You don’t need to believe in sky pixies to know this is the exact opposite of Christian charity.

Smith has even made the ludicrous claims that the benefit cuts will help the poor.  It seems when you take money away from tax payers they deserve Christian pity, when money is taken from the very poorest you are doing them a favour.

The situation will be devastating for many families who aren’t in work if the benefit cap of £500 a week is introduced.  Whilst this sounds like a large sum what is rarely mentioned is that the bulk of it is paid to landlords.  This is actually another attack on Housing Benefit which was designed to ensure that those on low incomes are actually able to afford a roof over their children’s heads.  It is not the fault of the poor that housing has become unaffordable in vast swathes of the country.

As the cap on Housing Benefit is currently at £400, then this will leave larger families who have done the ‘right thing’, and moved to the few areas of outer London and the Home Counties where a 3/4 bed property can be found for that figure with just £100 a week to survive.

Take a family of four with both parents working.  Even if they spend considerably less than average on gas and electricity, meaning their children go cold in the winter, it’s safe to assume that £20 a week of this is likely to be spent on energy.  A further £10 can reasonably assumed for water and the most basic landline telephone package.

With transport fares soaring it is not unlikely that travel to school could eat away another £20 a week of the families income.  This would leave a family of six with just £50 a week, just over a pound a day each to buy food.

This of course does not include other expenses such as clothes, stationary, household costs, toiletries, washing, school uniforms, replacement of household items etc.

Forget Sky TV or broadband, so far this family can’t even afford a television licence.  As for days out, pocket money, Christmas and birthday presents, not a chance.  We are also assuming that this family are not in any debt.  Finally these calculations also don’t take into account one of the more insidious aspects of Welfare Reform, which will see local authorities able to scrap the bulk of Council Tax Benefit.  As if these people aren’t poor enough already, their council are likely to hound them for what little scraps they have left if this bill goes through.  It is not inconceivable that by the time some low income families have paid their rent, council tax, fares and bills that they may found themselves with more going out than coming in before such luxuries as food and clothing are taken into account.

This is third world poverty being introduced in British cities.

Of course Smith would claim the parents should find work, but with unemployment sky rocketing this may not be possible for some people.  High unemployment’s like that, it means some people can’t get jobs.  So now, the children of the unemployed are to be punished for the government’s trashing of the economy.

For those in central London facing homelessness a low waged job won’t help anyway since the introduction of the Housing Benefit Caps will still mean their rent is unaffordable.

Perhaps they should move claim the tories.  But rents are rising across the South East and the upcoming influx of benefit claimants into the Home Counties is only likely to exacerbate that.

Possibly Smith’s vision is that the poor will all move up north where they can be subject to the kind of ‘managed decline’ that the tories planned for Liverpool in the 80s.

It remains to be seen if the Bishops will remain true to their faith and block this part of the Welfare Reform Act in the Lords tomorrow.  But it should be made very clear, any who do not may well find that places in their imaginary heaven  are not allocated to those who would abandon the poor and vulnerable so callously.

Which means they will burn in hell along with Duncan Smith and the rest of the godless tory vermin.

A Vigil and Lobby will be held on Monday and Wednesday this week and Tuesday 31st January as the amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill are debated in the Lords:  http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/welfare-reform-bill-vigil-and-lobbies/

There will be further action opposing the bill next weekend: http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/message-from-the-invisible