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Monday, 18 July 2016

Benefit claimants require firmer safeguards, not tougher sanctions

The blog post below was written nearly nine years ago by the current administrator of the Kilburn Unemployed before the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group was formed, and hosted on the blog of London Green Party member Noel Lynch at a time when the Green Party Press Office was underresourced(1) Noel is a great friend and a great antidote to the idea that people engaged in polititics — by definition, 'politicians' — are 'only in it for themselves'; thus it was that that motivated him to publish that original blog post of mine and one or two others besides.

What motivated me to write it can be summed up in words of Victor Frankl from his book Man's [sic] Search for Meaning.(2)
"It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand against those conditions."
In republishing that blog post here, I have changed one word in the title: 'Benefit claimants need firmer sanctions' becomes 'Benefit claimants require firmer sanctions'. Disability Equality Trainer Michèle Taylor has said that the word 'require' infers more than 'need': it infers also both rights and responsibilities. It is on that basis that it appears here with the title, 'Benefit claimants rquire firmer safeguards, not tougher sanctions'.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

*Benefit claimants require firmer safeguards, not tougher sanctions

"Benefit claimants require firmer safeguards,not tougher sanctions" by Alan Wheatley.

David Cameron says that tougher benefit rules will help make the economy fairer. He says that jobseekers who turn down suitable offers of work should lose benefit.(3)

This panders to the tabloid exaggerated stories of abuses by benefit claimants. Do the tabloids ever report the dismal performance of Jobcentre Plus (JCP) call centres? Last year, JCP was criticised in Parliament for leaving 44% of incoming calls for the tax year 2004/2005 unattended; that was over twenty million calls.(4) Only 5% of calls to the help line for Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit were answered!

That state of affairs has been exacerbated by JCP's insistence that those making fresh claims for benefit must apply over the telephone.(5) I am really glad that when I started part-time cover-duties as a social care worker in 2005, I 'kept my claim fresh' by signing on each fortnight and submitting part-time earnings forms.

JCP, however, was so inefficient that I was left waiting more than two months on two occasions for Jobseekers Allowance top-up to my meager part-time earnings. The second of those occasions was after I resigned from the strain of JCP-inefficiencies and from lack of in-service training and other such circumstances; there was a 'sting in the tail' to my receipt of £500, mainly made up of annual leave accruals. In the time while I was waiting for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) to resume, Housing Benefits (HB) were told that I was no longer entitled to JSA and therefore not automatically entitled to HB. A telephone contact I had with HB at the Town Hall was not logged, and so in the months I was waiting for JSA to be resumed, the Council almost closed my HB file, believing I had not responded to their earlier communication.

Regarding those who gave up benefits in going into paid work, the tax credits debacle led many families to be dependent on help from famine relief charities.(6)

Further, I quote the following statistic:
Insecure at Work (7)

* Half of the men and
* A third of the women

making a new claim for JSA were last claiming the benefit less than six months ago. (These proportions are similar to a decade ago.)

Alan Wheatley
(Then) Green Party of England & Wales Disability Spokesperson

PS: The WEEKLY 'earnings disregard' on Jobseekers Allowance is now LESS than an hour of paid work on the statutory minimum wage. That 'earnings disregard' has remained at £5 since 1988!(8)

Link addresses

  1. http://theonlygreenroom.blogspot.co.uk/2007/10/benefit-claimants-need-firmer.html
  2. https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl
  3. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2007/10/03/david-cameron-vows-to-end-welfare-for-those-who-refuse-jobs/
  4. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2006/11/16/jobcentre-plus-poor-service-continues/
  5. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2006/07/20/jobcentre-plus-wrong-to-deny-use-of-paper-forms/
  6. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/search-results/?q=tax%20credits%20food%20parcels
  7. Original source seems to have been subsumed into a much longer-term paper at http://poverty.org.uk/57/index.shtml — "Throughout most of the last decade, almost half of the men, and a third of the women, making a new claim for Jobseeker's Allowance were last claiming this benefit less than six months previously.  In other words, almost half of men who lose their job, and a third of women, had had that job for less than six months.  This shows the short-term nature of the jobs that many unemployed people go into."
  8. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2006/06/23/why-people-work-informally-while-claiming-benefits-special-report/

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