Kwug was there!
From a Star Blogger in the Making (She has been tentatively dubbed 'Can-Do Cat Woman' though she claims that she has no idea what her 'byline' should be.)
Welfare conference at Trade Union Congress on Friday 27 February 2015 — Outline Summary
We were welcome by Kevin Flynn, Chair Trade Union Congress NCCUW (National Coombine for Centres for Unemployed Workers?)
- Introduction of Helen Flanagan (PCS): Vice President of the DWP Group of Public & Commercial Services Union who is responsible for Jobcentre issues.
11.30 am: Workshops:
KUWG members who assisted at the Welfare
Conference were Alan, Ben, Gisele, Joan, Abby, Liam, Leigh and
Pauline. (Robin was one of the organisers.) There were about 100
people who attended the conference and these were divided into four
Conditionality and Work Capability Assessment.
In this group people shared their experience on how to challenge sanctions and the reasons behind sanctions. A jobcentre’ Adviser apologised for the inhuman application of jobcentre policy.
People present included among others,
- DPACactive members,
- Boycott Workfare
Coalition Against Poverty (Mohammed),
some members of PCS,
- a disabled claimant and
- similar group as ours and many more.
2- Contribution or a right? Who gets what benefits, when and why?
The group looked at contribution schemes and debated on unconditional basic income. How can we achieve real economy and social equality? People on the whole have accepted that there should be a safety net for everyone.
3- Work: Workfare, internship, apprenticeship and traineeships.
The group looked at the government workfare which exploits and undermines employed workers. They also debated on how we could challenge such procedures, the defending of workers' rights and free education. Everyone agreed that volunteering and training should be voluntary and proper jobs should be paid, with over 100 charities signing against mandatory workfare.
4- Equality: Making it a reality in Welfare.
They looked at the Increase of discrimination and multiple problems that have been created through the stigma that politicians and the media have brought up around benefit claimants. And how it resulted for the most vulnerable in losing touch with services and other issues such as socialising (being marginalised).
They concluded that we should implement services to help with more complex needs especially for those who can’t communicate or are unable to move because of their physical disability.
12.45: Feedback from workshops with what should be included in the DWP legislation (the combination of all the above workshops).
After lunch pictures were taken from the group in front of TUC offices with the banner against benefit sanctions.
Short history of the UWC (Unemployed Workers Centres) movement by Alec McFaden. I missed the talk. At lunchtime there was so much food left over.I put all the sandwiches in bags and ask Tom Mellish “the organiser” to give me a hand to bring them to St Mungo's. He helped me to carry the food to St- Mungo.
14.25: Richard Exell (TUC)
Richard is the TUC’s Senior Policy Officer responsible for work and on Employment and social security, writing and commissioning TUC guides and reports. I missed the talk part of the talk but I do remember hearing that the sanctions were there to foot the bill for Tax Credit instead of asking the employers to offer decent wages. They take the money from the claimants to pass it onto the underpaid.
14.45 Ideas sessions. Mapping a welfare system.
Discussion in mapping a Charter (more or less):
Unconditional income that hasn’t been defined completely
- Banned sanctions for good
- £10 hourly work rate ('Living Wage')
- Jobcentres should advise the claimants. (This advisory role should not be surrendered to an external agency.)
- Workfare that is mandatory should be banned
- Free Education and proper training
- Only doctors, specialists and the claimants should be involve in assessing ESA and other health benefits not ATOS or MAXIMUS.
- Financial Help for families’ carers.
16.15. Report back and brain storming from ideas above.
A final Charter will be revised and published in later date.
Liane Grove spoke about what Unite is doing. Her own experiences and the hard work that the group is contributing to in changing the policies of this government through workshops like this one.