In his 2009 speech to Green Party Trade Union group fringe, Peter Allen (Advice Worker and a member of UNISON) advocated Green Party members holding something like 'advice surgeries' for economically vulnerable people, to help inform them of their rights. (Post title Welfare Rights and Advice, Friday 27 March 2009 (1) Further video parts at that Green Party Trade Union Group blog post, which is on the old Green Party Trade Union Group blog. The videoing was done by Peter Murry [no 'a' in the spelling of his surname] of Neasden.)
Since then, against a backdrop of ever greater Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) nastiness against benefit claimants, there has been an upsurge of self-help groups offering advice and advocacy to benefit claimants and others. These include the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG) in North London and the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network (SUWN). (2) (3) The advertising 'strap line' of the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group is, "Never attend anywhere official alone," and that imperative has certainly helped validate claimant's vulnerability when they attend disability benefit assessments. KUWG is affectionately known as 'Kwug' and its caseworkers — through diligent persistence and becoming informed — have helped people get the benefits to which they are entitled.
Too often, the stage at which people have come to Kwug with their cases have already been turned down for the disability benefit for which they have applied — and they have not been accompanied in their original benefit assessment 'medical', nor received proper advice about what documentation to supply in making their claim. The more 'lead time' between their appeal to a Kwug meeting for assistance and their assessment or tribunal, the greater their chances of a successful outcome, generally. Partly for that reason, Kwug meets every Thursday a community centre that is very accessible.
What happened to state benefits after someone who did not even do a Google search for 'Incapacity Benefit test' declared the majority of Incapacity Benefit claimants bogus?Tony Blair appointee 'welfare reform guru' and former investment banker David Freud's February 2008 ill-informed and badly researched statements about 'benefit fraud' seem to have signposted the 'norms' by which the DWP cuts benefits by cutting the number of disability benefit claimants and more perceived to be 'legitimate'. Then head of Child Poverty Action Group Kate Green — now a Labour MP — observed that Freud had clearly not done a Google search on 'Incapacity Benefit test'.(4) He is now installed in the House of Lords as Conservative Welfare Reform Minister and benefits sanctions often hit very vulnerable people who are not only not fit for work, but also unfit for the Jobseekers Allowance 'conditionality' that being turned down for Employment & Support Allowance has forced them into.(5)
The conditionality attached to 'entitlement' for benefits is now extremely hard and demeaning as blogger and NUJ member Kate Belgrave | 'Talking with people dealing with public sector cuts' has discovered through talking to and accompanying benefit claimants.(6) The extent of benefit sanctions and the way that they have been administered without the decision maker facing the claimant have been highlighted respectively by U. Glasgow Law Professor Dr David Webster and by Kate Belgrave.(7) (8) "Those who give the order seldom see the mess it makes" and the DWP clearly do not want the public to know that mess and how it was caused.(9)
DWP on the hunt for much needed welfare advocates — and not to give them paid work doing what they do so well!
Now, it is not just claimants as claimants that the DWP is attacking, it is also the advocates of DWP claimants that they are attacking, as evidenced in the case of Tony Cox of the SUWN, as outlined at The Crown versus Tony Cox — and welfare activists everywhere: Part 2, Round 1.(10) Observing and listening to Tony Cox's input at a meeting served as part of screenwriter Paul Laverty's research for Cannes Film Festival Palme D'Or winning film 'I Daniel Blake', directed by Ken Loach.(11) (12)
I believe I am not suited to doing the direct advocacy stuff, but have empathy in talking to fellow claimants and an understanding of what they are subjected to. That and Internet and writing skills help me blog while I have never been successful at jobsearch enough to get more than 'precarious' positions from the time I became a jobseeker in 1977 till the time I claimed ESA in early 2009 — which I later won through tribunal in December 2009. The extent of 'precarity' in people's socio-economic status has now become so widespread that Prof. Guy Standing has declared 'the precariat' a 'new dangerous class'.(13)
As a jobseeker with an invisible disability, I was all-too-frequently timed out of what 'supports' were available to disabled jobseekers even before these much harsher times. Through all those years of diligent jobsearch and skill building — largely without official support and much official hindrance by ignorant government employees — my sum total of waged employment amounted to a grand total of 17 months, the last 11 months of which was so part time that I was still claiming Jobseekers Allowance and submitting part-time earnings forms at the jobcentre at my fortnightly signing sessions. The stinginess of the '£5 earnings disregard' badly impacted on me in those 11 months.(14) Stress led to weakening of my immune system to the point that I suffered cellulitis in my legs and became increasingly forgetful at just 52 years old.(15) (16)
As a result of Kilburn Unemployed blogging, I have been able to observe a huge interest in the case of Tony Cox. Since I uploaded a blog post on Thursday 17 June in the evening about Tony Cox and welfare advocacy, that blog post has attracted enough viewings to make it the #5 in the 'All Time (May 2010 to June 2016) Most Viewed' blog posts of the Kilburn Unemployed blog.(17)
The price of liberty is constant vigilance!
Amendment to the above regarding sourcing of viewings forThe presupposition of the author is at fault in identifying the source of viewings for Roll up at Kilburn Jcp on Thurs 23 June, 09:45 to 10:45 in support of Tony Cox and welfare activists everywhere as based on Internet searches. Internet searches have indeed sourced most of the viewings for Kilburn Unemployed blog posts in the previous six years of this blog, as this 'All Time Stats' copy and paste illustrates:
Traffic Sources (May 2010 to June 2016)
A look at the viewing sources for the blog as a whole reveals a break in that trend not only for the past week but also for the past month:
Traffic Sources (24 May 2016 to June 2016)
That revelation, however, does not invalidate the importance of supporting Tony Cox and welfare advocates everywhere. There has been a huge take up of viewings from one Facebook source.
- http://theonlygreenroom.blogspot.co.uk/2007/10/benefit-claimants-need-firmer.html Title: Benefit claimants need firmer safeguards, not tougher sanctions