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Friday, 14 November 2014

Benefits sanctioned? Take mass action! Write your MP!

Even if you don't yet know your MP's name, read on!

A letter from a constituent means far more than dry statistics

By Dude Swheatie of the KUWG

In February this year it was revealed that the number of benefits claimants sanctioned had increased dramatically to an average of 356 Londoners per day. (100s of London jobseekers sanctioned daily.) Given that that London has 73 parliamentary constituencies, that is an average of 1736 constituents per parliametary consituency sanctioned each year. (List of Parliamentary Constituencies in London fromWikipedia.)

What if every benefits sanctioned Londoner wrote their Member of Parliament?

In the 1980s when I was a respectable anti-nuclear weapons campaigner alongside being an unsuccessful and undersupported disabled jobseeker, I was advised on the anti-nuclear weapons and anti-armaments-trade campaigning sides that MPs regarded letters from consituents very seriously. That was because it was reckoned that MPs regarded a letter from a constituent as representing the views of hundreds of constituents who felt the same way but did not get around to writing. (Besides, how many constituents know the name of their MP even?)

One possible impact of everyone who has been benefits sanctioned in each parliamentary constituency writing their MP could be that the MPs concerned could be highly alarmed if their 'postbag' and/or Inbox revealed a greater than average number of constituents who have been sanctioned personally. (This author does not believe that all Tories are fundamentally evil. Bear in mind also, that in the catchment area of most jobcentres and private companies exploiting — and more profusely sanctioning — benefit claimants, it is generally the least literate benefit claimants who are usually picked on as priority 'fair game'. Those sanctioning benefit claimants are themselves being bullied.) And if the MPs are highly alarmed, what sort of state would jobcentre managers be left in should they be contacted by the local MP to explain their actions?

Further, the nasty 'North Kensington Jcp' [sic] that KUWG has recently been focusing on in its leafleting and bullhorning for awareness-raising and self-help support has a catchment area that takes in the constituency of at least one Tory MP. (One of the potentially most dodgy practices that some jobcentres such as North Kensington Jcp practice is bullying claimants into disclosing their Universal Jobmatch password, and threatening them with sanction if they do not comply with that demand. While UJ password-related bullying is beyond the specific scope of this blog piece and would require a separate blog piece, your MP could be alerted to the fact that that specific kind of bullying is going on, probably in defiance of what the DWP has agreed with UJ database provider Monster Jobs.) 

Whatever the reason of your sanction, tell your MP about it and how vulnerable that makes you!

Now, consider the arguments of some senior Tory figures in right wing tabloids that the rise in use of food banks has absolutely nothing to do with the impact of government policies regarding benefits sanctions. It is much easier for retired electoral electoral representatives such as Edwina Currie to makesuch claims than it is for current representatives to do so. (How much is she paid to tell such untruths?) Current Tory MPs are likely to have to face at least a few constituents at their 'surgeries' once those constituents have been sanctioned. And with a General Election due in about six months time, even Tory MPs in 'safe seats' are more likely to want to intervene to help the constituents in distress.

Making it easier for you to write your MP

For people who are online, 'having access to the Internet as the world's largest library', it is easier to write your MP than it was in the 1980s and you don't have to pay postage. That's if you know where to look for the necessary contact details, that are listed.
Write to Them —  Email your politicians, local or national, for free: https://www.writetothem.com/
    Over 200.000 messages sent last year
Contact your local MP — UK Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/
     Our Find your MP service can help you to find out who is your Member of Parliament and their contact details.
Writing to Your MP — How to write all kinds of business....: http://www.letterexpert.co.uk/WritingToYourMP.html
     How to write to your MP about a matter of local or national concern. Highlighting relevant issues that are of importance to you and how you might get your MP to take ...
Letter writing - ORG Wiki: http://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Letter_writing
      Writing a letter to your MP is a great way to get our message across. For every constituent who makes the effort to write a letter, MPs often assume there are many....
Emailing your local MP might increase the overall size of an MP's correspondence account on this matter. So, maybe a handwritten letter might be rated more highly by the MP than an emailed one and definitely more valued than a 'form letter' as supplied by a campaigning group. I suppose that much depends on how good your handwriting and grammar are, if you have access to this article and its linked contact details.
Exert pressure on your oppressors!

But if you've been benefits sanctioned, think of your writing your MP as a means of scaring your oppressers into changing their plans. And as we in KUWG know of at least one person from various jobcentres writing their MP about the way that they have been mistreated, you will be strengthening the case of those who are already writing their MP.

Hear some inspiring words on the power of one and one and one and one engaged in the same activity. They are from the preamble to the constitution of the United Mineworkers of America, so Dude Swheatie once read.

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