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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Dates for your diary

From Argotina Schmurgle

Sunday 29th March This Sunday: Annual Tony Benn memorial 7pm Seven Dials Club 42 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LA, Tickets (expensive) available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/annual-tony-benn-memorial-tickets-15632992702

Monday 30th March Sweets Way vs Annington Properties Ltd! Barnet County Court, St Marys Court, Regents Park Rd, London N3 1BQ

31st March – action at Kilburn Jobcenter 10.30 – 11.30

4th April WaveOfActionUK ANTI FASCIST Protest - Celebrating A Year Of Action! 13.00, Trafalgar Square. Starts with a 100 guitar event, and coincides with world Pillow Fight day also in Trafalgar Square at 3pm. This is happening the same day as German neo Nazi group Pegida to target London on the 4th April Easter weekend and we will join any counter march at 4 http://edlnews.co.uk/…/german-neo-nazi-group-pegida-to-tar…/

Tuesday 7th April – Nygell Ferminger commemoration, 32a Cambridge Ave, 9.45 – 10.30
7th April action at Kilburn Jobcetre

25th April - 2nd May – Week of Action against Sanctions

1st May protest against sanctions and workfare?

Saturday 30th May Boycott Workfare National welfare action gathering, London Welsh Centre, Grays Inn Rd 10.30Aam to 5.30pm. Register your interest at : info@boycottworkfare.org

20th June 12. noon 'End Austerity Now' national demo at the Bank of England organised by the Peoples Assembley

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

JSA earnings disregards and GEs

Earnings disregards for Jobseekers Allowance claimants compared to outcomes of General Elections

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Over the past five years there has been an upsurge of Government-promoted stories about generations of families who have never worked, while the Department for Work & Pensions has itself admitted:
“Information on the number of children growing up in families where their parents and grandparents have never worked is not available, as there is no suitable data source which would allow us to produce a robust and representative estimate of this persistent multigenerational worklessness.”
 Of course, all this has been in the context of an increasingly right wing mainstream political 'consensus' that I would describe as a highly blinkered fixation regarding a 'need to lower the benefits bill'. That consensus/fixation has reached the point where Labour's Work & Pensions Spokesperson Rachel Reeves has proudly boasted that Labour does not represent the unemployed. All these stories that seek to lower out of waged work benefits and basically hound people out of Social Security conveniently ignore successive UK governments' negligence regarding how best to support disabled jobseekers when successive UK governments have consistently failed to acknowledge how many claimants of Unemployment Benefit — now 'Jobseekers Allowance' or JSA — have a disability.

I was a disabled jobseeker for many years before claiming Employment & Support Allowance. I have also met other claimants and ex-claimants of JobSeekers Allowance and its Unemployment Benefit predecessor who have done truly voluntary work for charities rather than the more modern 'work for your benefits within 90 minutes single journey of your home' regimes. And from 1988 the 'earnings disregard' on Unemployment Benefit — now JobSeekers Allowance — has remained at £5 per week for a single, childless claimant. That means that if the claimant's weekly earnings amount to less than the £70+ that is their JSA rate, their JSA top-up will leave them just £5 a week richer before travel-to-work and other such expenses, if the DWP does not screw up on calculating the earnings from part-time earnings forms submitted when signing on.

Questions arising from the above

  1. How many General Elections and terms of UK Government have passed without the 'earnings disregard' for Unemployment Benefit/JSA claimants being increased in line with inflation?
  2. What impact does this 'earnings disregard' have on teachers, lecturers and care workers who are only paid 'contact time'?
  3. The 'permitted work' earnings disregard for people on disability-related 'out of work benefits' working 16 hours or less per week has risen from £66 a week in 2002 to £93 per week for 'Contributions-Based' ESA claimants in 2010, to £104 a week for ESA claimants on Supported Permitted work at current rates. Given the DWP's consistent record of failing to recognise the plight of disabled JSA claimants while making the system for vulnerable benefit claimants ever more punitive, can the upwards shift in 'permitted work' earnings compared to JSA's stagnant 'earnings disregard' be considered a 'honey trap' to wean people off ESA that takes no consequence of the short-term nature of many 'Supported Permitted Work' projects?
  4. How much worse can the chaos regarding 'earnings disregards' get when Universal Credit claimants on fluctuated work hours have to wait six MONTHS before the amount of housing-related support they get can be worked out?
  5. Should not the BBC questions emanating from David Cameron's announcement that he does not intend to remain in Prime Ministerial office be more geared to the questions raised above than to the agenda of a man who will be living off 24/7 at armed policing at taxpayers' expense after just one term of office?
  6. What questions would you ask arising from the above?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Manipulable rubber stamp for CEO?

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Residents confront Cllr Muhammed Butt outside Willesden Magistrates
Members of KUWG and others confronted Brent's council leader in March 2014. Photo: Kilburn Times

Brent Council has decided on over £50m cuts for the coming financial new year 2015/16. Now it is advertising for an axeperson or Chief Executive to replace the one they sacked a while ago.

What kind of qualities would such a post holder need? Bear in mind that when people's homes and livelihoods are at stake with such savage cuts, council staff's prospective plea of, "I/we was/were only following orders" is not as good a defence as, "I refuse to carry out inhumane orders that sacrifice lives to the false god of 'austerity'."

As Wembley Matters blogger Martin Francis says of the way that the 'fit' between the current Council Leader's profile and what the Chief Executive needs to be like,
So much emphasis on the 'leader' and his qualities suggests an expectation that Muhammed Butt will be around for a while yet... 
 And all this job pack stuff suggests how much more friendly Brent Council is to global corporations than it is to vulnerable families, adults with learning difficulties and adventure playgrounds as seed beds for true community.
The job ad posted on the Brent Council website

I don't think anyone from Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group will be applying, except possibly as a 'filler' for the stupid quotas of numbers of jobs to apply for each week so as not to be sanciloned.

Friday, 20 March 2015

United against Benefit Sanctions

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group yesterday took part in the national 'NO SANCTIONS' jobcentre action that was organised by Unite the Union Community Section.

Our 'pitch' was outside Willesden Jobcentre in Neasden Lane where it was very difficult to take photos in the face of moving traffic, but not as difficult as it is for JSA or Employment & Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group claimants to avoid being sanctioned for the IT failings of the DWP, etc.
United against Universal Credit outside Willesden Jobcentre in Neasden Lane. Photo by Kate Belgrave
 The group photo above shows members of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group and Brent Housing Action outside the Willesden sanctions centre in Brent. There we were joined by a Labour councillor, Rita Conneely also of Brent Housing Action whose views differ from those of Labour's Work & Pensions Spokesperson Rachel Reeves. Rita works for a youth charity.

Solomon Hughes in the Morning Star writes:
RACHEL REEVES is what happens, I think, when bankers are in charge of the Labour Party.
What would happen if youth workers had a greater holder on European politics?

The statement shown above on KUWG's alternative Budget Box states:
Sanctions fodder face huge deficits!
The Government is addressing the youth claimant count by applying benefit sanctions to youth with great intensity. What a way for young workers to start in life!
Another KUWG Budget Box statement: "Sanctions lower claimant count." Photo by Kate Belgrave
 (Universal Credit legislation will extend benefit sanctions-proneness to claimants of Working Tax Credit for skinflint 'blue chip' companies and housing benefit claimants in even 'affordable housing' who are in waged employment. Yet the offshoring of the Universal Credit database and the IT-only dominance of applying for Universal Credit will make it more necessary for claimants to have casework supports such as those given by Kwug members, and to take photos of jobcentre window-dressings.)

Later that day, we had our weekly business meeting while some members attended the 'no sanctions' event outside DWP HQ at Caxton House, SW1. And we were joined by a Unite member who signs on at Shepherds Bush Jcp and was horrified at the level of claimant and public ignorance he witnessed there to the coming of Universal Credit.

So the following minute was passed unanimously while it emerged that Brent Council seems to have not given enough information to the housing benefit claiming public. 
“The Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group thanks Robin (Sivapalan) for all his work in Unite Community especially regarding the No to Sanctions Day, and TUC Welfare Conference, with lead-up-to and follow-up meetings he has also  planned. This is in response to finding claimants ignorant of Sanctions and Universal Credit being introduced, and Robin via Unite Community is greatly helping claimants be informed, which they need to be.” It was agreed to put this statement on our Blog." 
See also:

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dude Swheatie's Budget Box messages

Sanctions fodder face huge deficits!
 Stopping the benefits of vulnerable people to cut public spending sets up spirals of debt that amount to abuse of vulnerable people. People are harmed economically, domestically and socially by sanctions, more than the rise of food banks suggests.
Sanctions lower claimant count
It is fraudulent to confuse the claimant count — those "unemployed and receiving benefit" — with numbers of unemployed. Over how many dead bodies has the reduced claimant count been achieved?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Demonstrate 19/03/2015 vs benefit sanctions

From Unite the Union Community Section

More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. OveNo Sanctions logor 2 million people have had their money stopped in the past 2 years.

That’s 2 million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?

Benefit sanctions must be fought against

These sanctions are cruel and handed out for ridiculous reasons such as:
  • Arriving minutes late to a meeting 
  • Not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job!
  • Missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close family member.
This has to stop
Up and down the country on Thursday 19 March we will be protesting against the cruel use of sanctions.

FOUR ways to get involved
  1. Join an event near you on Thursday 19 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.
  2. Sign our petition calling on the government to stop using sanctions.
  3. Share your story – we are looking for people who have been sanctioned to tell their story.
  4. We want to show the reality and impact on people’s lives - show your support - share on Twitter and Facebook #No2Sanctions  Like us on Facebook.

City Tower
West Tenter Street, Whitechapel
Chequers Lane Dagenham, Essex
86-96 Uxbridge Road
West Ealing
34 Windmill Hill, Enfield Chase
10 Montague Road, Hounslow


307 Burdett Road
United Kingdom
Shepherd's Bush
176-180 Uxbridge Road
Shepherd's Bush
7-13 Westbury Road
Jessica House
Red lion Square
191 Wandsworth High Street
(in Neasden Lane)
Chancel House, Neasden Lane

  No More Deaths by Sanction 3pm —DWP HQ

Tothill Street, Westminster, SW1H 9NA. Postcode map
Lay flowers to remember those no longer with us

DPAC manifesto for GE2015

Extract from Disabled People Against Cuts website

Who 2 Vote 4 Logo

The UNCRPD [United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities] and our human and civil rights must be fully implemented, promoted and enforced.

Disabled people are affected by the cuts 9 times more than everybody else. The most severely disabled people are affected by the cuts 19 times more than everybody else. This discrimination against disabled people must end.
Disabled people are affected by the cuts 9 times more than everybody else. The most severely disabled people are affected by the cuts 19 times more than everybody else. This discrimination against disabled people must end.

Manifesto Pledges we are seeking from Parties


Welfare Support :  

There must be a publicly run welfare system and an end to paying private firms massive amounts of public money to carry out disability assessments badly. Instead that money should be invested into providing decent, liveable benefit levels.

An end to the Work Capability Assessment which is too flawed to amend.

An immediate end to benefit sanctions which have led to deaths and increasing poverty. Ensure that there is no conditionality of JSA or ESA WRAG on seeking treatments and no linkage with treatment and receipt of benefits.

Engagement with any back to work services must be optional for all claimants.

An end to replacing Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments which even now is in complete chaos.

A total rethink on any move to Universal Credit and instead serious consideration to be given working with disabled people and DPOs to a move to a single system of welfare support based on the concept of a disabled person’s citizens income.
Policy recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system....

More at

Hampstead & Kilburn hustings at Tricycle Theatre, Tuesday 24 March 2015 @ 7:30pm

Note that questions must be submitted in advance

From Tricycle Theatre website

Hampstead & Kilburn Hustings
hosted by the Tricycle and Age UK (Brent & Camden)
Tuesday 24 March 2015, 7.30pm
Parliamentary candidates for the Hampstead & Kilburn constituency debate issues and policy affecting children, young people and older people in the area and answer questions from constituents.
Questions must be submitted in advance to creativelearning@tricycle.co.uk, or in person on arrival at the event.
Chair: Geoff Martin, Editor in Chief, Ham & High
Confirmed candidates: Dr Rebecca Johnson (Green), Simon Marcus (Cons), Maajid Nawaz (Lib Dem), Tulip Siddiq (Lab), Magnus Nielsen (UKIP)
This hustings is free to attend, and it is primarily intended for residents in Hampstead & Kilburn constituency.
BrentAgeUk CamdenAgeUK
Tricycle Readers
Give your brain a treat with Tricycle Readers, a literary pick-me-up and a way of kicking away Monday evening blues. Story and poem readings from local author Shyama Perera is followed by lively analysis of with a diverse and lively group of fellow Londoners. If you’re nearby why not join us?
Weekly, Mondays, 6.30-8.00pm. Everyone welcome. FREE – no need to book, just turn up.
Tricycle Readers is part of the Royal Literary Fund’s Reading Round project. For more details visit www.tricyclereaders.com.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tues 16/03/2015 demo supports supported housing workers

From Unite Community, London & Eastern Region

Protest Against the Eviction of Family Mosaic Staff from Their Jobs and Homes

Unite's Housing Branch is currently campaigning against Family Mosaic, a giant housing association that is threatening to evict three of its staff from their homes. These staff live in tied accommodation due to the work that they do. Please could you come along to the protest and let others know too. 
Protest at the Homes For Britain event on Tuesday 17th MarchMeet at Westminster tube (exit 4) at 12.45.
Over 2,000 people are expected at the event and our protest is therefore likely to have an impact if we can gain a bit of visibility. Please do share as widely as possible.


As part of its response to cuts in funding from Hackney Council the association has told staff they may lose their homes by April.
Unite Regional Officer Adam Lambert has said “We have real fears that the actions of Family Mosaic could make people homeless. We have been seeking assurances for our members and have thus far been disappointed that the employer has not felt able to give staff clarity and security. We would have hoped that Family Mosaic would take more care to examine alternatives before booting people out of their homes in the current economic climate.”
Unite members are clear that cutting these posts will have a serious and detrimental effect on the lives of vulnerable people who will lose the regular, face-to-face contact with support tenants who are employed to assist them. Removing support tenants would increase the pressure on mental health and generic health services, increase the workload for already overloaded social work teams, and would lead to increased isolation and problems such as debts and benefit problems.
We are protesting because giant housing association Family Mosaic is holding the threat of homelessness over the heads of its staff who work as support tenants and reside in Family Mosaic accommodation.
Unite is calling on Family Mosaic to take stock and rethink their plans, retaining these vital roles in recognition of the valuable service they provide to the local community.

Private legal safeguarding of vulnerable people?

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

The following is a response to Kate Belgrave's blog piece about a Disability Employment Adviser shouting at a disabled jobseeker with learning difficulties after she had sentenced him to attend a course while realising that his failure to comply with course obligations could get him sanctioned. Shouting at a person — especially a vulnerable person — is emotional abuse; while placing that person at risk of financial harm is negligence.

Negligence fees, legal aid cuts, government budgets and safeguarding of vulnerable people?

Hi, Kate

I complained about underprovision of Disability Employment Advisers way back in about the year 2001. I was an ex-Lib Dem and conferred by email with the office of then Lib Dem Work & Pensions Secretary Steve Webb — especially after Labour's DWP Secretary Alistair Darling had spoken of calling all Incapacity Benefit claimants into jobcentres for 'all work test' interviews. So Steve Webb raised a question in Parliament to which the Employment Minister Nick Browne [with an 'e'] came back replying that no figures existed on a jobcentre-by-jobcentre basis of recruitment and retention of DEAs existed. (My then DEA was a Computer Science MSc working with the DWP who'd got drafted in, then with unsuitable training levels had been on sick leave for 6 months.) However, national figures, he reported, showed that there were around 650 DEAs for the whole of the Jobcentre Plus network and that figure had remained virtually the same for 10 years. Webb was still Lib Dem Spokesperson in 2010 before getting drafted in via coalition government to be understudy to IDS. ('Minister of State for Pensions', to be precise.)

Time for a little deviation

Now in 2015, legal aid has been cut and 'no-win, no-fee' 'ambulance chasing' law firm ads subsidise much of the daytime TV that now Welfare Reform Minister David Freud said in 2008 he does not want benefit claimants to watch. Advertising on TV is expensive but seems to be worthwhile for those 'ambulance chasing' law firms but the fact that the NHS has set aside 1/4 of its budget for covering medical negligence costs suggests to me that Government is more keen to sponsor daytime TV than resourcing the NHS to the point that staff receive sufficient training, back up and rest to the point that the managerial negligence that promotes 'medical negligence' is minimised. The Telegraph reported on 9 February 2015:

NHS sets aside quarter of its budget for medical negligence claims

The health service has set aside £26bn to cover medical negligence claims against NHS hospitals, it has emerged

Perhaps if benefit claimants and jobcentre workers made sick by workplace stress sued the Government and its jobsworth managers for negligence and abuse, there might be a greater realisation of the hidden costs that never having bothered to monitor services for disadvantaged jobseekers have led this society to — costs far too often borne by the vulnerrable people and their families financially?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Value your vote!

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Those who prefer the policies of the smaller political parties are often told, "Don't waste your vote. They'll never get in! Go for the safer option that is backed up by the opinion polls."

Well, if you don't like the impact of opinion polls that say opposition parties must kowtow to 'get tough on claimants' ideology, and you barely have enough money to bankroll your own campaign to live more fully — eg, eat a healthy diet and keep abreast with your rent payments, 'bedroom tax', etc. so that you don't get kicked out of the place you live in — there is still a value in voting for policies you believe in. The more votes an opposition party gets in a General Election, the more chance it has of doing something more financially than keeping the deposit money that candidates have to pay in order to stand for election in a parliamentary constituency. (They have to get at least 12.5% of the vote to retain their deposit.)

Pardon the pun, but while you may be 'short on cash', you can still help to finance your favourite political party with your vote. 'Short money' is a long way from the kind of reform to this country's politics that proportional representation could bring about, but it can help fund your favourite political party.

Find out more on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia article Short Money (Parliament U.K.).

How mean can 'welfare reform' get?

From Benefits and Work Publishing

What's in Benefits and Work Publishing's latest newsletter?

In this edition we reveal that on 30 March a change in the law makes it much harder for people to reclaim employment and support allowance (ESA) after being turned down.

In addition, we learn about the claimant sanctioned again because his first sanction had left him starving and the claimant sanctioned for spending the night in intensive care with his newborn baby.

And we ask for your views in our survey on claimant sanctions and deaths.

TUC Welfare Conference 27 February 2015

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

11.00-11.30 am:  

We were welcome by Kevin Flynn, Chair Trade Union Congress NCCUW (National Coombine for Centres for Unemployed Workers?)
  1. Introduction of Helen Flanagan (PCS): Vice President of the DWP Group of Public & Commercial Services Union who is responsible for Jobcentre issues.
  2. Introduction of Eleanor Firman (Disabled People Against the Cuts) who is a member of  the DPAC Steering Committee and Unite Community.

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 groups:

1-Sanctions, 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, 

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).

13.30. Lunch

After lunch pictures were taken from the group in front of TUC offices with the banner against benefit sanctions.

14.15: Plenary.

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):

  1. Unconditional income that hasn’t been defined completely

  2. Banned sanctions for good
  3. £10 hourly work rate ('Living Wage')
  4. Jobcentres should advise the claimants. (This advisory role should not be surrendered to an external agency.)
  5. Workfare that is mandatory should be banned
  6. Free Education and proper training
  7. Only doctors, specialists and the claimants should be involve in assessing ESA and other health benefits not ATOS or MAXIMUS.
  8. 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.

17.15 The End.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Act on Climate Change

From Brent Fightback

For a report on the Council's Budget setting meeting where all the cuts were agreed, see http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/butchery-at-civic-centre-as-labour.html?spref=fb and many bitter comments on the Brent Fightback Facebook page.
There was a small protest outside the glittering Civic Centre and a few Fightback supporters took the protest inside, but the butchery continued.

Brent Fightback and Brent Trades Council support the Trade Union Campaign Against Climate Change: here is news on the National Climate March on Saturday March 7th

One week to go! And we are free from one major worry, since the authorities, under considerable public pressure, have agreed to close roads for us after all! Many thanks to all who supported us on that, but keep your eye out if you are concerned about rights to protest - there is no guarantee that other protest marches in the future will facilitated in this way.
We're still looking for a few more stewards on the day - the best way to sign up is using the stewards volunteer form but if you have any problems with that, contact timetoact2015@gmail.com
The bloc map went up today, to help everyone find their friends and fellow campaigners on the day.
Still time to publicise the march - invite your friends to join up on Facebook, by email or help us get the final batch of flyers out. And check www.timetoact2015.org for updates
See you there!
Claire, Lindsay and all at the Campaign against Climate Change

Next Tuesday, March 10th, there will be a London wide Rally in Defence of the NHS. It's organised by London Keep Our NHS Public and Defend London's NHS with local campaigners demanding a halt to any further cuts to services at Charing X and Ealing Hospitals. BTUC and Brent Fightback support this campaign. Here is part of their latest newsletter:
Please could local campaigns or groups let us know any campaigning activity you are planning so that we can do a round up to publicise at the Rally
Please send through as soon as possible

Action to Defend London’s Health Service
Vote for the NHS
 Doors open 7pm for Exhibition and Stalls

Organised by London Keep Our NHS Public Coordinating Committee 
Hosted by Save Our Hospitals (Hammersmith & Charing Cross)  

Dr Sandhu Ealing consultant
Andy Slaughter Labour Party MP
Dr Jillian Creasey Green Party Health Spokesperson
Dr Jackie Turner Save Our Surgeries Campaigner
Dr Louise Irvine NHS Action Party
Owen Jones columnist/campaigner

Collect your postcards
A London wide and North West London version are available.
Please email to arrange collection

Leaflet and Poster available here

Make a donation
Campaigns and organisations are asked to make donations towards the cost of the publicity (£15 per thousand)
Donations to Account No 90585518 Sort code 60 10 22 or cheques to London Keep Our NHS Public c/o 32 Savernake Road NW3 2JPS

'Savings' for taxpayers - who pays?

The following poster picture and screenshots were received via the PCS Twitter feed following broadcasting of the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Britain's Benefits Clampdown.

Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour leaders on that documentary trumpet being hard on benefit claimants. Those same 'leaders' elsewhere proclaim the virtues of the UK having 'free speech'. Exposure of these documents helps point to these leaders' hypocrisy. Who gives the orders? Do they give a damn what happens to claimants dispossessed  by their sanctions and clawbacks?
Jcp staffroom poster 'Benefit Savings from Sanctions' — charted against claimant age-band and sanctions duration
'Team manager' email exorting 'team members' to issue more sanctions — aka 'DMA referrals'
Email from manager expresses 'disappointment' at [only] 7 DMA referrals (across all areas)
Manager 'very pleaed to see perfomance has increased across the team' [but disappointed at those that 'have not sent any DMA referrals'
Managers are under pressure in a chain of bullying

The ex-jobcentre staff interviewed in the programme state that management policy was the key driver of benefit sanctions. The above images substantiate that claim.

Let us ensure that it is not only the secretly funded taxdodgers' alliance (sorry, Tax Payers Alliance [sic]) who are interviewed on the programme that have a voice. Some of us receive 'silent screams for help' via frequent phone calls from vulnerable claimants.

While maintaining confidentiality, we can help to get the voting public and at least some parliamentary candidates to think how they would respond to having money clawed back out of their bank accounts, leaving them in over £300 rent arrears in very little time as the jobcentre tells the council's housing benefits people to stop sending the claimant HB on account of their 'change'. Such claimants feel extremely frustrated by processes of 'mandatory reconsideration' and the 'top down' nature of telephone contacts with the Department for Work & Pensions.
They are not statistics or percentages. They are human beings and should be treated as such,
— Dispatches: Britain's Benefits Clampdown 
as Gill Thompson, the surviving sister of deceased JSA sanctions fodder claimant David Clapson, says; and a mother who was sanctioned says in the same programme:
I don't think pregnant mothers should be sanctioned, because it's not just you it's affecting, it's an unborn child.
"An unborn child" — into what sort of world and what sort of distorted 'public opinion'?

See also:

Monday, 2 March 2015

Making life difficult for disabled people

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Kate Belgrave wrote:
"Eddie’s ... mother used to work with employers to find him jobs. As a result, he had work for many years as a general kitchen and hotel assistant. But his mother died about ten years ago and he was made redundant a few years after that. He’s never found another job. He had a support worker a couple of years ago, but that person simply stopped turning up. Eddie was never sure why and he didn’t really know who to check with, or how to chase the person up."

That echoes with my own experience both as a disabled person myself and as a former paid care worker to adults with 'mild learning difficulties' [sic].

Notes from a former paid care worker's notebook

In 2005-2006 I was a paid care worker to a guy with learning difficulty in his forties who had recently been completely orphaned. (As online self-help network for family-based carers CarerWatch has long reported, UK society's support networks for people with disabilities and debilitating health problems do not support families to support themselves. Thus most family-based carers are in meltdown from a structures that do not enable. I would not be surprised if the average age of adults with learning difficulties etc at parents' deaths is not much greater than those in the general population.)

Grief at the loss of a parent can be stressful for anyone and result in dysfunctional behaviours. But what of the parent with a learning difficulty that makes communication difficult for them except with people who have the special skills and patience to help work out what the person is saying? One day a casual contact said to the guy I worked with, who I'll call 'Owen', "Hello! How are you?" but did not wait to properly decode the response before saying, "Ah, that's great! You must be really proud of yourself!"

But what had 'Owen' actually said? "My mum's just died."

So, little wonder that he started on spending sprees, "trying to recoup what could never be regained," as a psychotherapist might say. We care workers in his team did what we could to support 'Owen' in 3 hour shifts. How would care workers and 'service users' or clients cope with sessions lasting just 30 minutes or even less? And that was against the backdrop of his not having to sign on for stigmatising sessions at a jobcentre!

Notes from a disabled jobseeker's notebook

 Before that job, as a disabled jobseeker I had been known as an 'overstayer' at the jobcentre and on New Deal; and it had taken me much longer to learn on jobcentre-funded courses, before and after I had 'under-performed' as a mature undergraduate in the mid-1970s. It had been through determination and post-funded support that I got my NVQ Level 1 in Information Technology with Camden ITeC in early 1978, nine months after I had started on the course with a total eighteen month 'funded period' and sympathetic course leader. (That was when jobcentres were not so insensitive to their 'clients' and I had established contact with a Disability Employment Adviser.) When I tried to go beyond Level 2 at the same provider, the then 'Training & Enterprise Council' refused me the go-ahead, saying that for me to stay with the same provider, that could be regarded as my going for too cushy an option!

Yet in a bid to further my grounding in Information & Communication Technology I got a place funded by the same Training & Enterprise Council at a much worse provider called Direct Computer Training that channelled four classloads through the same 'machine room' for 2-hour sessions each day, with 2 hours per day 'talk and chalk' elsewhere, and the remaining half-day shift assigned as 'open learning' that was mainly in pursuit of "minimum 16 job leads per week." That did not really progress my learning positively nearly as much as continued contact with Michélé Galluccio of Camden ITeC whose letter-of-recommendation-of-best-way-forward support helped me to a home computer paid for by my mother.

So in 2004 I evolved into an adult with learning difficulty, basic computing skills, an NVQ Level 2 in Teaching Adults, and the ability to pass on those skills with patience to other slower learners with the help of a jobsearch coach from a charity paid for by the Disability Employment Adviser's account at the jobcentre. That was time-limited to a few months but he managed to negotiate that I had an extension of that support. That support got me through to the stage of being interviewed by an employer linked to the charity with which I had volunteered, but really did time out before I was actually taken on months after Criminal Records Bureau check hiatus had been resolved.

In conclusion, all this illustrates for me how adults with learning difficulties are really disabled by inadequate support in a world where there are organisations such as Direct Computer Training and Maximus really creaming off the taxpayer and adults with learning difficulties are disabled and disheartened by the message of 'time out'.

Post Script

 I wrote the above in between my return home from the Maximus demo and going out to an evening demo against Brent Council's further slaughter of public services, omitting a crucial detail in the tale of 'Owen'.

The story of the person who 'got the wrong message' from what Owen had said had not come to me from direct conversation with Owen but from another member of Owen's support team who I'll call 'Graham'. My 'ear' for what Owen said was not nearly as finely tuned as Graham's and I confided to Graham: "I'm amazed at the warmth in the way Owen greets me, bearing in mind how little of what he says I decipher correctly at the end of a 3 hour session."

"The thing about you, 'Swheatie'," Graham said, "is that you care. The trouble with so many agency carers [contracted at a moment's notice when a regular worker reported in sick] is that they marshall Owen about, giving him orders and not listening to what he has to say."

Sounds like those 'agency' workers would feel very much at home in current Jcp culture that seems dedicated to making benefit claimants feel out of place, does not it?

Brent Fightback vs budget cuts 6:30pm Mon 02-03-15 at Brent Civic Centre

Brent Fightback leaflet outlining what's at stake

Post code map of Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ
How to get there by public transport

Dude Swheatie's placard ideas for the occasion

Placard: Freedom of speech vs 'austerity'
Brent Council pays consultants' fees. It would pay democracy in LB Brent for the Council to act upon the wishes of the people of Brent.
Placard: A&E meltdown is just a symptom
 Vulnerable people denied proper services have been blamed for A&E meltdown. Hospital closures and insufficient community supports are really to blame for the problem.
Placard: Quality services combat inequality
 An excellent example of a quality service is the Council-funded Over 50's Fitness (Free and Fun) class. Such services help keep people independent for longer. Brent needs more such services, not less. And cutting youth services sets people up for failure.
Placard: Quality services, not 'pee and feed' care
 Care shifts for vulnerable people at 30 minutes per shift are already demeaning and inadequate for both 'service users' and paid carers and give family careers no real respite. (Paid carers are only paid for contact time with 'service users' or clients, and do not get paid travel expenses or for the time taken to get from one shift to the next. Meanwhile the agencies involved get about as great a portion of what they charge the Council as the care worker gets in gross pay.)

And Butt's budget would cut the contact times to 15 minute sessions.

Placard: Brent's 'savings' slaughter services
 'Austerity' is not in the public interest. In 1979 the Thatcher Government was brought in on the back of 'Britain is not working!' dole queue posters from Saatchi & Saatchi. More recently, long queues outside Citizens Advice Bureaux have witnessed central and local government attacks on poor people. More recently still, CABx have closed, removing that evidence of system failure from clear public view.

And Brent's closure of Stonebridge Adventure Playground that serves the whole borough and day centres for adults with learning difficulties would leave even more people's silent screams for help unanswered. And that is even befor the impact of the so-called 'Universal Credit' hits Brent!

Kate Belgrave gives a prime example of how adults with learning difficulties are already treated at jobcentre: Jobcentre to man with learning difficulties: Do as we say, or we'll make you sign on more often!
Placard: Stop cuts budgets here!

Placard: Land sold off, secure tenants sold out!
Perhaps Butt's cuts budget will only serve offshore landlords who are keen on using former council housing stock as gambling chips?
Placard: Cancel 'austerity' — not tenancies!