Kilburn unemployed fightback
Glenn McMahon, Reporter
Sunday, 26 December, 2010
English Karate champion kicked off JSA despite looking for work
A GROUP of unemployed workers braved freezing conditions to demonstrate outside a job centre they accuse of unfairly stopping their benefits.
Members of the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group say the sanctions have left members unable to pay for food or bills and at risk of losing their home.
John Tymon, chair of KUWG, said claimants are being treated worse than criminals who are assured hot food and a roof over their head while in jail.
Mr Tymon said: “I have been shocked to here jobseekers saying they would be better off in jail, even in this weather. But in jail people get three hot meals a day, a warm room and bed, hot water to bathe, television and other activities.”
He also warned that people could be forced into crime just to eat, something magistrates look sympathetically upon, he said.
Hatem Aly, from Kilburn, a karate instructor who represented England in the world Karate championships, had his benefits stopped without reason by an advisor at Kilburn Jobcentreplus, in Cambridge Avenue, Kiburn, despite applying for dozens of jobs, taking courses and being a finalist in an entrepreneurs’ competition.
He said: “I was sanctioned for no reason. They never even contacted me, I found out when I saw I had no money in the bank.
“I am looking for jobs every day, go to interviews and do voluntary work so I was shocked and surprised when they sanctioned me.
“They are supposed to help people get work but they don’t. I’m looking for teaching jobs now. I’m just waiting for a CRB check to work at Brent Homeless Users Group.
“I just couldn’t believe the way they treated me; if they only knew.”
Mr Aly, who is a black belt fifth dan Karate expert, said he had to wait two weeks for a hardship loan.
Benefit advisors subsequently told him to apply for a crisis loan which he learned is not available to sanctioned claimants.
After appealing the decision, Mr Aly was told the reason for his sanction he had not been actively looking for work.
Mr Tymon said he suspects job centre advisors are being put under pressure to sanction claimants as the government looks to cut its welfare bill.
A Department and Pensions spokeswoman denied there were any targets however she refused to say what the government’s guidelines were on how people should survive if they are unexpectedly kicked off benefits.