Tag Archives: unemployment

A New Direction From Crabb And The DWP: Outright Fucking Lies

crabb-resignUnemployment has risen in the last three months but you wouldn’t know that from today’s gushing press release from the Stephen Crabb and the DWP.

There were 21,000 more unemployed people in the latest period and, in further bad news for the government, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose by just under 7000.  Neither of these key facts are mentioned on the DWP websites and it is only by digging into the Labour Market Release produced by the Office for National Statistics that this information is available.

Previously the DWP has sulkily acknowledged any rise in unemployment whilst pointing out how wonderful everything else is.  The truth is that the Labour Market Statistics contain a huge amount of information and normal fluctuations within the figures mean that they can usually be cherry-picked for both good and bad news.  Stephen Crabb does just that today by claiming that a small fall in the number of people who are economically inactive is a huge triumph.  This by the way is always a sign of desperation.  A fall in economic inactivity can mean a massive amount of things, from variations in the number of those who are long term sick to a drop in the number of people taking early retirement.  In the latest figures it largely represents a fall in the number of students and of those taking time from work to look after the family home.

Crabb is also celebrating a tiny rise in the total number of people with jobs with the DWP claiming this is driven by those entering full time work.  But even this is hugely misleading.  Population increases combined with a just about growing economy mean that there are almost always more people in work than ever before.  The question is whether the rise in the number of jobs is keeping pace with growth in the working age population.  This month that didnt happen.  The number of working age people rose by 27,000 in the latest three month period, but the working population grew by just 22,000.  And whilst there was an increase in full time work as Crabb claimed, this was only amongst those who are self-employed.  The number of people working full time for an employer fell by 34,000.

These figures don’t matter much unless we see them repeated over the coming months.  What is critical is the way they were, or in most cases werent announced by the government.  Departmental communications are bound by rules intended to ensure both impartiality and objectivity. Yet today’s press release from the DWP was an attempt to deliberately mislead the public about the true state of the UK’s labour market and that’s called lying.  Even Iain Duncan Smith didn’t try and pull this sort of shit.  Not that often anyway.  Stephen Crabb is moving in a dangerous direction.  Don’t believe a fucking word he says.

Image above from the recent protest in Wales calling on Crabb to resign from his local Mencap branch over supporting cuts to disabled people’s benefits.

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Deconstructing The So Called Jobs Miracle And Why It Has Nothing To Do With Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan SmithRepeatedly over the last few months the Tories have cheered that there are more people working than ever before as if this was some kind of fucking miracle.  In truth it is exactly what you would expect in a growing population.  Unless the economy is in the grip of recession there are almost always more jobs than ever before.  More people means more jobs.  They all have to shop.

According to the Office for National Statistics the total size of the UK’s workforce – which means all of those working, unemployed, or economically inactive, such as long term sickhas grown by 2.6 million since 2010.  In that period the number of people in work has grown by 2 million.  The disparity is partly down to the rise in women’s pension age, a bodge in how the figure are recorded means that all women under 65 are now included in the workforce, even if they are retired.  Previously only women under 60 were included.

The Employment Rate, the percentage of people in work, has only shifted upwards by about a percentage point, from 72.1% to 73.3%.  That’s around half a million people, which is just under the growth in the number of people who have become self-employed since 2010.  How many of them are making any money is anyone’s guess, but we do know that average earnings from self-employment are plummeting.

One of the reasons for the growth in both population and new jobs is migration.  In an astonishing fact, curiously ignored by the Tory press, there are one million more people in employment who were not born in the UK than in 2010.  That’s over half the growth in jobs during the current administration.*

What those million new workers tell us – and some will be UK citizens who happened to have been born overseas – is that most of the growth in jobs has fuck all to do with Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms.

To look at the impact of social security policies means delving into the unemployment figures, and crucially long term claimants.  Figures quietly released last week showed that the number of people who had been on benefits for three out of the last four years has fallen by just 91,000 since 2010.  This is despite economic growth, the Work Programme, mass benefit sanctions and the country recovering from a deep recession.  And even this figure is likely to be revised down as more data comes in.

There were just over 600,000 fewer unemployed people recorded in the latest figures than there were in the last period of the previous Government, and there are still almost 2 million of them.  Most of the jobs the Tory’s are claiming have been created have not gone to people who were unemployed.  And the quality of these jobs is also relevant.  People can be included as offically in employment if they are on workfare for example – although there are currently less people on unpaid work schemes than during the Labour administration.

As well as the growth in self-employment, nearly half a million of the new jobs are part time.  You only have to be working a few hours a month to be classed as employed.  The growth of zero hours contracts is well documented.  The quality of most of these new jobs is shit.

The Labour Market Statistics, on which all this information is based, are messy, not least because they are based on a survey.  What they suggest however is that unemployment has fallen, but not by that much, and that many of the new jobs are part time or low earning self-employment.  This is hardly a great fucking success story for a country emerging from a recession.

Perhaps a better guide to what is really going on are the Housing Benefit statistics.  This is an exact figure and reveals the number of people who need help to pay their rent.  The only two criteria for claiming Housing Benefits are a low income and low or no assets.  By the very nature of the benefit, everyone who is claiming it is poor.

There were 4.751 million people claiming Housing Benefit in May 2010.  In November 2014, the latest month for which figures are available, there were 4.883 million claims.  More people are poor now than before the Tories weren’t elected, despite the so-called jobs miracle   And that is the figure on which Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms should be judged.

*Before anyone starts feeling all UKIP remember this is not a one way street.  A study released last year found that up to 70% of graduates are planning to fuck off soon in the search of somewhere less shit.  For every Polish builder who turns up we might soon lose a marketing graduate from Surbiton.  On balance we’ve probably got the better end of that deal.  Whatever your views on immigration policy, the very worst thing that could happen is for working class people of different nationalities to be be tricked into fighting each other over the scraps they hand down.  The capitalist class of Europe – the bankers, property developers, business owners and landlords – are united.  We need to be as well.

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Shock Fall In Number Of Employees As Self-Employment Soars

workfare-isnt-workingDespite Tory claims that unemployment is falling, the number of employees fell this month by 60,000 people according to the latest Labour Market Statistics.

Overall unemployment has fallen over the most recent period, but this seems largely down to huge leap in the number of people who are self-employed.  A whopping 211,000 more people became self-employed over the last three months – with the total number now hitting 4.46 million.

It is impossible to know whether these newly self-employed people are actually making any money or have simply switched their claim over to Working Tax Credits.  Companies running the Work Programme are known to coerce claimants into self-employment, which not only means they are taken off the unemployment figures but also that those running Government welfare-to-work schemes can claim huge job outcome payments.

If just one in six self-employed people are failing to earn any real income then the true number of unemployed people in the UK is close to 3 million!  This would explain the so-called productivity riddle which shows that despite more people being in work, less work overall seems to be being done.

With the number of people in real, verifiable jobs falling it is becoming clear that things are far less healthy in the jobs market than the Government are currently pretending.  The unemployment rate – the percentage of the workforce without jobs – stayed at 7.2%, maintaining the rise from 7.1% which was recorded in the last month’s figures.  The number of people out of work for over two years also rose, by 6000 people.

For a long time now workfare, zero hours contracts and self-employment have masked the true nature of unemployment in the UK.  Yet even this can’t hide this month’s fall in employees, which is so far being ignored by much of the media who can’t be bothered to read past the latest DWP press release.  With hundreds of people chasing every job in some parts of the country, it is unemployed people themselves who seem to be the only ones who know what is really going on.

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No Matter How You Spin The Figures There’s Still No Fucking Jobs

war-on-the-poorNo matter how much DWP Ministers try to spin the figures there is still a desperate shortage of jobs.

It is simply not known how much of this month’s fall in unemployment is down to zero hours contracts, or how many of the 4.36 million people now working self-employed are dependent on Working Tax Credits and not making any real money.

Although this month shows a welcome drop in the use of workfare, this also distorts the true picture of the labour market. Unpaid workers on Jobcentre schemes are conveniently disappeared from the official tally of the unemployed. Benefit sanctions, which have risen sharply, can also lead people to abandon benefit claims and drop out of the figures – often to disappear into the black market or become dependent on the charity of friends, families and foodbanks. No-one is counting how many people are now living like this.

Whatever the true rate of unemployment one thing is certain. There are currently 2.32 million officially unemployed people and just 569,000 vacancies. Even if all those vacancies are filled by someone unemployed tomorrow, there will still be approaching two million unemployed people.

But this still doesn’t tell the whole story. Even in a time of full employment (stop laughing) there would still be a significant number of vacancies, as people changed jobs, retired, went on maternity leave etc. Ignoring the self-employed, there are around 25 million people in employment. If as few as one in fifty people is currently working out a notice period then that would create half a million vacancies. In other words, there is no room in the system for unemployed people, who must desperately compete with people already in work for a tiny number of vacancies.

For those who are highly skilled, or recently unemployed that might not be so bad. But people who are long term unemployed, have health conditions which limit the work they can do, children to work around or criminal records can face a gloomy future.

And this is why the current attacks on people claiming out of work benefits are beneath contempt. It is a bullshit that people are unemployed because they are lazy. There are not enough jobs to go round – by about 2 million – and this doesn’t include people on sickness and disability benefits or lone parents with young children. Add them and the UK’s job shortage is closer to five million.

No amount of bullying or harassing claimants will change this fact. No amount of workfare, of any form, will create a single job, and common sense suggests it will do the opposite. All benefit sanctions do is demolish people and make them less likely to find work than ever.

It is hard to imagine a more inhuman system than one in which there will never be enough jobs to go around, yet those without them are shamed and attacked, over and over again. It is beyond horrific, like making ten people fight for seven meals and then blaming the people going hungry for the fact that there wasn’t enough food. It is as absurd as it is cruel and it’s time to grow the fuck up and accept the reality of the jobs market in the UK.  Only then can an honest debate take place about what a humane welfare state would look like.

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Work Programme Still Worse Than Doing Nothing At All

WorkFare-not-workingToday’s Work Programme performance figures reveal that the bungled scheme is still performing far worse than if the Government hadn’t handed approaching a billion pounds to welfare-to-work companies.

For those claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – the benefit for people who are sick or disabled – just 5.3% of people found jobs which lasted over 3 months.  This is against the DWP’s own minimum performance figure of 16.5%.

As the name suggests, the minimum performance figure is not a target.  It is a contractual requirement set 10% higher than the rate of people who would have been expected to find jobs under their own steam with no intervention whatsoever.  This means that had the Work Programme not existed then the number of people who would have come off sickness benefits and found work would have been expected to be three times higher.

Failure to meet the minimum performance figures should mean contracts being pulled and the DWP has already warned this might be the case saying today that:  “Performance Improvement Notices have also been issued for 12 contracts where providers must show significant improvement over the next four months or face the contract being terminated.”

Yesterday George Osborne warned of a “a hard-headed assessment of under-performing (DWP) programmes”.  If contracts are pulled later this year, and not replaced, then this will be the surest indicator yet that the Work Programme is being quietly abandoned.

The figures for those claiming Job Seekers Allowance also failed to meet the minimum contractual standards.  The performance level for claimants under 25 was 31.9% against the minimum of 33%, whilst for those over 25 it stood at 27.3% against 27.5%.

Whilst this is marginally over the number who would have found work without the Work Programme, it is still below the very minimum expected of the welfare-to-work companies.  These money grabbing poverty pimps have been paid hundreds of millions of pounds for virtually nothing at all – a handful of extra jobs for those who are easiest to help into work.  It would have been cheaper to bury money in the ground and pay unemployed people to dig it up.

In total, after two years of the scheme, just 13.4% of all claimants have found jobs which lasted over six months, or three months in the cases of those on sickness or disability benefits.  Overall this is still less than the number who would have been expected to find work without the Work Programme, yet the DWP are today trying to tell us what a wonderful success the whole sorry farce has been.

In a gushing press release the skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban even makes a rare appearance with the astonishing claim that the Work Programme is giving “taxpayers a far better deal than previous schemes.”  Almost a billion pounds has been squandered and nothing has been achieved – and Hoban thinks this is a good deal.  No wonder he was so happy to spend £35 quid of our money on a fucking bog brush he could have picked up on the market for less than a fiver.

In truth all the DWP can really say is that these figures are better than the last ones – something which would be entirely expected for two reasons.  The first is that they could hardly have been worse, but also, as people have been on the Work Programme longer, the number of people finding work has risen.  Someone is more likely to find a job in a two year period than they are in just a year.  That is why the minimum performance levels have also risen.

One indicator of the Work Programme’s failure which isn’t included in today’s statistics is soaring long term unemployment.  The number of people out of work for over one year has risen almost every single month since this Government weren’t elected.  The vast majority of claimants are referred to the Work Programme after a year on benefits.  With the number of people unemployed for over one year soaring, this suggests that the tiny number of people who have got jobs on the Work Programme have got those jobs at the expense of people not yet referred to the scheme.  It is unlikely one single job has been created by the Work Programme.

This is because you can’t fix unemployment with crude attempts to fix unemployed people.  There are no fucking jobs.  It doesn’t matter how many billions of pounds are handed to vile scum like A4e to bully and harass claimants, there will still be no fucking jobs.  It’s about time politicians of all parties grew up and accepted the real, brutal and unequal nature of the capitalist economy that they all think is so wonderful.

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More Spent on Bombs and War than Disability Benefits: The True Legacy of the Paralympic Games

Given that it is simply common fucking sense, it should go without saying that in any society a certain number of people will be disabled and some will be unwell.

Some people will be so unwell they are unable to work at all whilst others will be hugely disadvantaged in the employment market.  The same applies to disabled people.  No matter how much fake healing takes place in Atos assessment offices, no amount of DWP miracles are going to facilitate wheelchair users working as scaffolders or people with visual impairments driving buses.

Wheelchairs cost money, as do carers, specialised transport, and other equipment – all of which is vital for disabled people to be able to function in society, whether in work or not.

This leaves society with a decision to make.  We can either spend that money, or let disabled people, or those who are unwell, die of hunger, neglect or suicide.  Since most of us are likely to experience disability or severe ill health at some point in our all too terminal lives, then it is perhaps in our own self interest that we spend the money.

The only exception to this is the very rich who have the resources to support themselves should they become unable to work due to illness or disability.  This represents a tiny percentage of the population, probably less than 5%.  Unfortunately these bastards are in charge.

Luckily there are lots more of us than them.  Something they are all too aware of no matter how much they pretend otherwise.  The rich have been murdered in their beds more than once in history after all.

This leaves an uneasy stalemate in the class war, which in the UK is known as the Welfare State.

The Welfare State is good value for almost all of us, but it is bad news for the rich.  The rich get most of their money from the work we do.  The less they pay us, the more money for them.  Therefore the rich need to increase the social and economic penalties for people who are unemployed, disabled or unwell.  This will increase competition for jobs, which means they can pay us less.  As well as this, the creation of a huge market in health, disability or income protection insurance is good news for the rich.  The main reason the rich object to the Welfare State is that they see it as an obstacle to making even more money out of us.

It is therefore in the interests of the rich to dismantle and privatise as much of the Welfare State as possible, and that is what is taking place now.  To stop themselves being murdered in their beds however, the rich need to convince us it’s a good idea.  Because the cost of the Welfare State is socialised – meaning we all pay even though it only really exists to stop the rich getting murdered in their beds – the rich can use this against us.  They can tell us that welfare spending is out of control.  That benefit claimants are scroungers or frauds.  That anyone can work if they just pull their finger out, even people without fingers.

This kind of of propaganda has now reached grotesque levels.  Whilst employers (the rich or aspiring rich) regularly report in surveys that they wouldn’t employ someone with, for example, a severe disability or mental health condition, they still demand that those people work.  If you can tweet you can work said one rich MP and former employer, as if there are thousands of tweeting jobs available to disabled people.

Welfare spending is not out of control.  The UK does not spend more on sickness, unemployment or disability benefits than other economically comparable countries.  Unemployment and disability benefit rates are miserly and often barely meet the cost of living.  The UK spends more on defence than it spends in total on out of work benefits whilst coppers cost more than the total spend on Job Seekers Allowance.

It is peculiar that whilst the rich constantly strive to remind us of the importance of competition or the wonders of the free market and privatisation, only the most swivel eyed cranks believe it would be a good idea to privatise the police or the army.  Coincidentally these are the two institutions the rich are likely to depend on for protection should things get fruity.

The rich never say that defence spending is out of control, even though it costs almost twice as much annually as the amount spent on working age disabled claimants.  This spending is not just about the rich hoping to prevent themselves being murdered in their beds one day.  They own or invest in the arms companies after all.

The truth is that whilst the rich don’t like the Welfare State they love unemployment.  Full employment would be  disaster for the rich, meaning wage demands would soar.  If those demands were not met then the workers might start getting ideas about taking over the workplace themselves.  This would never do for the rich.  That might mean they wouldn’t be rich anymore.

Every cut  to disability, sickness or unemployment benefits is another step forward in the drive to dismantle the Welfare State.  Yet the rich know they are playing a dangerous game. They are gambling their very lives on the belief that working class people are so divided, alienated and beaten down by relentless capitalism and media bombardment that we will not rise up against them.  But just in case, they would far rather spend our money on bombs, bullets and prisons than disability, sickness or unemployment benefits.

How This Government Will Stop the Music

Last Sunday night’s bland middle aged love in at the Olympics closing ceremony painted a bleak future for the British music industry under this Government.

Despite a brief appearance by Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz, along with stage school kid Jessie J (whose claims that it’s not about the money are looking increasingly dubious), the vast array of music on offer was performed by middle aged, verging on geriatric, or in some cases dead relics from the past.

British music, which led the world from sixties boy bands, to punk, ska, the rave explosion, Brit Pop and the final emergence of a credible UK hip hop scene has started to look like it might finally have run out of ideas.  One of the reasons for this may yet prove to be the draconian welfare regime for the young, which began under last Government and has been escalated by the current one.

When Tony Blair’s New Deal was launched – the first large scale workfare scheme – the music industry rose up in protest.  Ably led by now defunct Creation Records, the label which could count Brit Pops giants like Oasis and Primal Scream on their books, the industry warned of the chilling effect on British creativity if young people were to be forced into endless workfare style schemes.

Blair had made much of ‘Cool Britannia’ and Brit Pop, famously inviting the Noel Gallagher to Number Ten shortly after his election win.  Fearing his fake trendy image was under threat he hastily made concessions to his workfare plans and the ‘New Deal for Musicians’ was born.  This scheme allowed young musicians to pursue a career in the music industry without the risk of being sent to work in a charity shop for no pay, or forced onto the notorious Environmental Task Force to dredge canals and pick up litter.

The rest of the New Deal collapsed as private sector parasites like A4e failed to find enough workfare placements for the hundreds of thousands of young people referred to the scheme.  The New Deal for Musicians however did have some limited success with Brit award winning James Morrison and Mercury Prize nominees The Zutons just two examples of well known artists who emerged from the scheme.

Despite this the New Deal for Musicians was merged with the Flexible New Deal in 2009, and the Tories have now abandoned support for young musicians completely under the Work Programme.  Instead young benefit claimants are forced onto endless workfare schemes, working 30 hours a week in charity shops and supermarkets.  The impact on the ability of young, working class people to devote time to a career in music or the other creative industries will be unprecedented.

The list of musicians who cut their teeth whilst claiming benefits is impressive, including not just punk, hip hop, rave or rock icons, but even the likes of Tom Jones who was notorious for actively avoiding work according to his Jobcentre records.

It is somewhat ironic, that one of David Cameron’s pretend favourite bands, The Smiths, would very likely have never happened had Morrissey and Johnny Marr been sent to work in Tesco for no pay instead of pursuing a career in music.

Big British artists, whether Dizzee Rascal or the Rolling Stones, do not emerge in a vacuum.  For every successful act there are many who don’t achieve the same level of fame, although many may end up working in other roles in the music industry.

There also exists an army of promoters, venue managers, DJs, small time band managers, fanzine writers and producers, all of whom have allowed the British music industry to prosper and many of whom have cut their teeth whilst claiming benefits.  Without this wider support the more successful acts would never emerge.  It took more than The Beatles to make The Beatles.

The festival industry, worth hundreds of millions and which draws visitors to the UK from around the world, emerged from a free festival scene in which many people were claiming benefits.  Had this meagre financial support not been available then events such as Glastonbury Festival may never have been born.

Music is not the only art-form which has benefited from the Welfare State.  Both Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst spent time on benefits.  Elsewhere a struggling single mum on benefits was quietly creating the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter.  Under this Government’s plans for single parents, JK Rowling would have been on workfare rather than creating some of the most successful characters in children’s literature in history.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent £7 billion in 2010/11, significantly more than the entire budget for Job Seeker’s Allowance which stood at £4.5 billion.  Barely any of this money, if any at all, goes to grass roots working class musicians, one of the greatest sources of this country’s cultural heritage.  Toff’s hobbies like the National Opera, or Oxbridge luvvies at the BBC, hoover up the bulk of the money.  The benefits system, which some have dubbed the unofficial arts council, has delivered far more in both economic and artistic success then other state funded institutions could ever dream of.

It shows just how far propaganda aimed at eroding the welfare state has come that less than 15 years it was successfully argued that young, creative people deserve the support of the benefits system.  Now we are fighting for people with serious disabilities or health conditions to receive the life saving support they need under what’s left of the Wefare State.

But we should not ignore the devastating effect on culture that the demolition of the Welfare State will bring.  Some of the greatest British exports of the last 50 years started out as benefit scrounging scum.  With young people to be forced into endless workfare if they are unable to find a job then a career in the music or other creative industries will become a preserve of only the rich.  If you want a vision of the future of the British music industry imagine a posh kid singing Coldplay songs, forever.

The Baseless Smears and Vile Propaganda of Channel 4’s Dispatches

Yesterday’s Dispatches documentary turned out to be both an attack claimants and Jobcentre staff with little provided in the name of balanced journalism.  Along with embarrassing attempts to prove how easy it is to ‘beat’ the system, the programme also revealed the stunning revelation that Jobcentre’s are a bit shit when it comes to actually finding people a job.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s claimed benefits over the last few decades although it is apparently big news to the latte slurping Tarquins at Channel 4, most of whom have probably never done a real job in their lives.

The first half of the programme included the laughable paint sting, in which a man with paint on his clothes went to sign on and, in Dispatches’ view, was not adequately interrogated about why he had paint on his clothes.

This followed the intrepid documentary team inserting a line of text into someones CV which wasn’t immediately spotted by Jobcentre staff and the outrageous scandal of someone not filling in their job seeking activity record properly.

The rest of the programme was largely devoted to publicly humiliating a Jobcentre Plus manager who seemed to have little idea of what is actually going on at the front line in Jobcentres.   Channel 4’s sleuthing will however have come as little surprise to Jobcentre staff, who yesterday were on strike over oppressive working conditions and unrealistic target setting.

Whilst the programme heavily featured the Jobcentre’s inability to provide claimants with decent CVs, it completely overlooked the companies involved in the £5 billion Work Programme, who’s job it is to actually help people find work.

Despite the Work Programme proving to be a hugely expensive failure, with job outcome rates currently less than would be expected if claimants were left to their own devices to find work, this very real scandal was completely ignored by the programme.  As was the fact that half a million benefit sanctions were handed out by Jobcentres last year for precisely the kind of breaches of job seeking activity that the programme attempted to reveal is widespread and unchecked.

The views of Jobcentre staff, under increasing pressure to harass and sanction claimant’s were completely ignored.  The PCS Union, who have long complained about the horrendous pressure their members are under to strip claimants of benefit, were also not given any space to air their views.

The whole dire affair appeared to be laying the ground for privatisation of benefit services, with a handful of recruitment sector spivs brought in to show how much better they would be at the job.  What the programme didn’t say is that Jobcentre staff deal with hundreds of claimants a day unlike the cosy one to one sessions that the private sector pretended they would offer.

The blame for the shambles at the Jobcentre lies directly Government Ministers like Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling.  Shamefully they got off scott free in the documentary which instead preferred to blame claimants and front line workers for the problems caused by this Government.

The PCS Union and their members deserve full support in their struggle to end the culture of harassment of both benefit claimants and Jobcentre staff at the DWP.  It is true that not everyone has a great experience at the Jobcentre, which all too often resembles an organisation tasked with policing and sanctioning claimants rather than actually supporting them into work.  But it is equally true that this is not the fault of front line workers, a significant number of whom have previously been claimants themselves.

Whilst the DWP have pretended to be upset at Channel 4’s desperate attempt at muck raking, the likes of A4e and G4s will once again be laughing all the way to the bank as they eye yet more lucrative Government contracts.  The entire Dispatches team should hang their heads in shame for producing such shoddy sensationalist garbage which will no doubt result in yet more baseless abuse aimed at both unemployed people and public sector workers.

Channel 4 are today boasting that 2 million people watched the programme, which was endlessly trailed before the show with lurid trailers featuring the ‘tricks of the benefit cheats’.  In contrast last week’s documentary on the brutal health assessments sick and disabled claimants face, which have driven people to suicide, was buried in the middle of the Olympics with no such extensive pre-publicity.  Channel 4 have shown quite clearly whose side they are on, and it ain’t ours.

Poverty is Caused By The Rich Not The Poor

The Post Office is so crowded that the queue reaches out of the door.  All ages and all races stand patiently to await their turn with the harangued but always polite counter staff.  A couple of kids run in and out of the queue, playing harmlessly and drawing affectionate smiles from those waiting.

One man is holding up the queue, arguing furiously and desperately at the window.  His benefits haven’t arrived.  The clerk tries to explain patiently that it isn’t the Post Office’s fault, but he is more concerned with how he will eat that day.  Another older man, with his head half shaved, starts to emit a low tuneful moaning, as if praying to some imagined God.  As he grows progressively louder the prickles of annoyance can be felt amongst those around him.  This is not a place where people are afraid to speak up.  However since he is obviously not very well, his strange singing goes without comment.  There is a strong tolerance here amongst those of us who really are all in it together.

I’m relieved to see a smartly dressed woman, obviously on her lunch break, withdrawing six pounds in cash and then quickly leaving.  I’m glad I’m not the only one who has too little in the bank to use the cash point.  There is a strange kind of shame in standing in a queue for twenty minutes to take out the last couple of pounds in the bank.  It is relieved a little by not being the only one in that position.  The clerk doesn’t even raise an eyebrow as I ask for my three pounds.  I suppose it’s not uncommon.

In the supermarket immaculate young mums, more stylish in Primark and budget cosmetics than those from the leafy suburbs, push around Argos buggies as they check the price of every item of value food.  One woman is singing softly to her giggling toddler.  Almost everyone who passes them smiles at the happy little girl.  People chat at the check out.  There is no division between those serving and those being served.  The rain is a widespread source of disappointment.  That and the ever increasing prices.

The Big Issue seller, soaking wet as he is, wishes everyone a nice day as they leave the store.  Occasionally someone, who obviously doesn’t have much themselves, buys a copy.  Almost everyone returns his greeting.  Some people stop to stroke his dog.

Outside the charity shop are several bags of old clothes, left in the rain, which the store have so far failed to notice.  Already a small number of people cautiously begin examining the bags.  No-one pays them any heed as they sift through the now sodden clothing.

The Pound Shop is packed with people buying everything from boxes of cereal to  cheap shampoo.  I spot a toy I think my son might like, but on closer inspection, realise it would break like almost everything else they sell.  The shoppers in here are resourceful, examining every item in detail.  Some people in the queue have baskets piled high, others stand in line to purchase just a pack of baby wipes or box of cheap washing powder.

Just six months ago this soulless shop full of plastic tat was an indoor market.  The Council closed it quickly and ruthlessly, giving the stall holders barely any notice that their livelihoods were about to be destroyed.  Another piece of the community wrenched away to be replaced by corporate poverty pimps, staffing their shops with workfare and minimum wage casual jobs.

There’s a small crowd outside the Jobcentre, smoking and sharing cigarettes.  “There’s never any fucking jobs in there” says one disgruntled youth to his friend as he leaves.

Further down the road a young black boy has been stopped by police.  He barely looks sixteen.  He is obviously irritated, but stays calm.  I hang around outside the caf’, watching.  I’m not the only one.  People keep an eye on the police round here.  Everyone knows what they are like.

The pair of coppers is eventually joined by a van containing several more.  They don surgical gloves as they prepare to search the young boy in full view of the busy street.  He seems resigned to this.  It has no doubt happened many times before.  The boy stands defiantly as the men in uniform rifle his pockets and stick their hands down his trousers.  They find nothing.  He is sent on his way and the police fade away, laughing and joking amongst themselves.

I buy a cup of tea from the caf’, and sit outside to smoke even though it’s too cold really.  I’m so joined by two men, probably in their early fifties.   We talk about the football.  England managed a draw with France in the opening match of the European Cup.  This is roundly seen to be a good result, although there is no optimism about the tournament.  One of the guys starts winding up the Turkish Cafe owner who had been predicting a 3-1 victory to France.  The banter is good-natured, as the cafe owner concedes he lost a bet at the bookies on the result.  No-one mentions the Olympics, the Jubilee, or any of that crap.

One of the men leaves, with a bulging bag of clothes.  “I’ll get this started shall I?”, he says to the other.  I realise he is heading to the launderette next door and that they are sharing the machine.  At three and a half quid a time that makes a lot of sense.

There are problems around here for sure.  The main one being no-one’s got any money.There are a residual group of street drinkers, who look battered and twice the age they probably are.  No-one envies them.  Some of the kids round here can be a nightmare.  There is nowhere for them to go.  And there are villains, neglectful parents, drugs users and drug dealers, just like any corner of the UK.

But they are the minority.  There are few parents round here who would leave their eight year old child in the pub, forgotten in the haze of drink.  The drugs round here are no different to the ones that this country’s Prime Minister nearly got expelled for taking in the privileged corridors of Eton.  Unlike the Bullingdon boys of Oxford University, the vandal youth pay for their crimes with Community Service and prison, not platinum credit cards.

But there is more humanity and tolerance in this small part of London than the millionaires in Government could ever understand.  People with nothing look out for each other, speak to each other, care for each other and help each other in ways the grasping businessmen who sneer at the poor would consider completely alien.  Selfishness and greed are not virtues here.  Yet these are the people that odious government ministers blame for their own poverty, ignoring the fact that the thieves in the city have stolen the entire world.  Whether working for a pittance, or unemployed, whether single parents, disabled, unwell, or with poor mental health, people round here, and in thousands of other deprived areas of the country, survive despite the onslaught against the poor.

There is little round here that couldn’t be improved with more money.  The opposite is happening as libraries close, rents soar, wages stagnate and benefits are cut.  The very poorest pay everyday for the crimes of the rich.  Those who are in debt owe money to legal loan sharks, like the spiv who recently wrote a report advising the Government to make it easier to sack people.

The stream of lies that come from government – that the poor are poor because they are feckless or lazy – just reveals the cossetted world they were brought up in.  Their view of the very poorest is driven by poverty porn television shows or right wing tabloid newspapers rather than any direct experience of the people they would no doubt step over in the street.  They cut and cut and drive people further into homelessness, poverty and despair, but still we survive.

The poor are poor because the rich take more and more.  Greedy landlords push up rents whilst greedy bosses force down wages.   Unemployment and workfare is used to undermine the few improvements people have fought for.  Land is sold off to build yuppy flats no-one round here can afford, and supermarkets strangle the few remaining locally owned shops.  Whilst pensioners freeze in their homes and worry about surviving the winter, energy company bosses and hedge fund managers fly around in private jets paid for by profit stolen from those with almost nothing.  Sick and disabled people, many of whom may have worked hard for years, see benefits they were promised and had paid for, slashed to fund tax cuts for millionaires.  It was bankers, not benefit claimants, who broke the economy.

The ferocity of our children’s anger, as flawed and often tragic as it was, has already been displayed.  That rage is not confined to just the young.  Every pale faced shyster in Saville Row suit who lectures us about our lives from their suburban mansions only fuels the fire.  As the hundreds of thousands with nothing left to lose turn into millions, that rage may yet come to the front doors of the pampered elite.  One day we will take this world back.