Thursday, 31 July 2014

KUWG weekly attendance for 2nd quarter of 2014 shows growth

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group meetings held between 3pm and 5:30pm each Thursday indicate that people keep coming back to us for more at Kingsgate Community Centre, 107 Kingsgate Road, London NW6 2JH. (There was no meeting on Thursday 22 May because Kingsgate Community Centre was being used as a polling station on that date.)

Graph showing weekly attendances by adults


To find out why, why not attend?

Response to CarerWatch from Paul Burstow re LibDem policies for carers

Recently CarerWatch posted a response relating to a manifesto promise for carers from the LibDems.  You can read it here
We received wide spread support for the post, and also exchanged tweets with Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam. As a result we contacted Mr Burstow asking if he wished to respond more fully to our comments.  (Many carers are tied to the home and engaging online is their only way of engaging with politicians.)
You can read his reply below........
Feel free to add comments/questions. We will be sending copies to Mr Burstow, along with politicians from other parties.  Any replies will be posted in the open again.

A few weeks ago Nick Clegg announced the first of a series of policies for carers.  The Carer’s Bonus, £250 paid annually, on top of the Carers Allowance, for the carer to use as they see fit.  The proposal sparked a lot of debate, and CarerWatch posted a strong critique of the plan.  I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.
Caring responsibilities can come at any time in a person’s life and can exact a heavy price in both health and wealth. About 6 in 10 of us will become carers at some point in our lives, and 45% of carers have given up work to care.
The bonus idea was developed by the Liberal Democrats Ageing Society Working Group, which I chair, as part of our Age Ready Britain policy paper.
The bonus would be paid annually to Carers to use as they see fit, for example as a contribution toward extra costs such as taking a break. To start with it would be set at £125, doubling to £250 no later than 2020. The Bonus is more like a direct payment to contribute to things like respite care. It is not intended to be an answer to all the financial challenges faced by Carers.
This would put extra money in Carers’ hands to make their own decisions about how it can best support them.  The Carer’s Bonus marks out our commitment to promoting the wellbeing of carers and is the first of a number of proposals aimed at better supporting carers that we spell out in our policy paper Age Ready Britain which will be published in September.
The £250 payment would be available to around a million people based on underlying entitlement to the benefit. So, for example, pensioners who are eligible for Carers allowance but because of overlapping benefit rules do not receive it would receive the Bonus.  It would start at £125 and increase year on year to £250 no later than 2020.
The proposal builds on measures we have taken in Government like investing £400mn in NHS funded respite breaks, or new rights for Carers in the Care Act and Children and Families Act, and rights to flexible working.
I agree with the comments about the earnings disregard and the withdrawal of the benefit when engaged in education and these are issues we address on Age Ready Britain.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Paul
* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

News from Benefits and Work Publishing

The last Benefits and Work Publishing Newsletter before September 2014 can be found here.

The whereabouts of compassion and true social justice within heartless Government that is willing and able to waste £ billions of taxpayers money to hide the truth from voters until after the next General Election is not so easy to identify.

The DWP as a law unto itself

Why the DWP’s costs for fighting Judges' decisions will never be known

In recent months, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has fought a fierce legal battle to prevent the publication of the risk register into Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit scheme, along with other documents into concerns and problems with the plan. The information commissioner ruled it should be released, minus the risk register. A tribunal agreed, but wanted the risk register published too.

The DWP fought the case tooth-and-nail but lost. It appealed and lost that too, this time with a venomous response from a judge who could see "no support for the argument" and pointed out that the department had not "provided any persuasive evidence". The DWP asked for permission to appeal again and has been granted the opportunity to do so at an oral hearing in a few months.

How much is all this costing, you might wonder? Well wonder all you like, because you'll never find out.

Ian Dunt’s FOI to the DWP asking for costs came back recently with a flat refusal, as he expected. "The department does not keep a record of the time its staff spend on particular Freedom of Information case work so the information you seek is not held," it said. The full cost to the public purse would have involved the costs of the DWP, the Treasury Solicitors Department and the Information Commissioner's Office, but even this small piece of the puzzle was considered confidential.

These legal cases are not small fry. The grade of barrister involved in them usually cost £3,000-plus a day and countless government appeals mean they go on for months, even when the judge's disparaging remarks have already made clear they have almost no chance of success.

Read the full article in Politics.co.uk
Our thanks to Jim Allison for spotting this for us

Real people's stories testify to housing crisis

(You probably wouldn't get any of these stories from Zoopla or RightMove!)

  1. The housing problem — 2 children in one bedroom, 11 and 7 years. I give up bidding, I have 388 points, when I nearly reached 600 they took it off me. I try with a swap — they didn't accept me, comething about data protection. Exhange — people don't like the estate, 3rd floor.
  2. Would want to live here, own flat, we live an a very small flat, in the long term for a bigger place — hit barriers, housing pricess... in a way it's good if you own — property prices going up... those schemes that can assist those who do earn... will drive out diversity if only rich can afford to live here.
  3. One thing: the cuts to local government — council tax benefit — that affects my mum — it's talking money out of other things she needs, my sister has diabilities.
  4. Housing issues — for a young man, is very hard, I'm at my parents. You should be offered something especially if you're working. They could build affordable council housing.
  5. I don't realistically earn enough to live where I am... I wouldn't want it to get much more expensive round here, I hope people can still afford to live round here... a lot of the lawas for social housing are being dodged... It's a London-wide problem, it's a higher level problem, we need a new government, need Tories out, Lib Dems turned out useless, I voted for them. The vast majority of developments ave not much social housing — I read Private Eye, how they fudge the figures bout how much social housing. They don't think bout how it's going to be, even if you have more expensive restaurants, who's going to work there, people are having to travel further to work, pay more for travel. My brother and sister are caretakes for an estate that's empty, that's the only way they can live there.
  6. Policies needs to be put in place... policies about rent control... a small proportion will stand to gain from gentrification. You can put on as many community shows, or entertainment and events and projects, but it doesn't mean shit if no one can afford to live here. A short-termism
  7. Trieds to ask the landlord about damp — the council said, NW6 can easily find someone to replace you. — the landlord can send in environmental halth but there's no safeguard against not renewing contract or raising rent.
  8. There's gentrification, landlords, no housing stock around here, might want to start a family, a terrible fear you won't get the diversity of classes, inocme bands... everything I love about this area would be destroyed.
  9. I used to live here, now I live in Cricklewood, this was a small flat — had to go to Cricklewood to get a bigger one... Council would have to wait long... housing project build compounds.
  10. 1 bed flat, 5 kids, me and husband didn't give any points, health and safety, kitchen and sitting room together.
  11. If I could afford to buy a house here I'd stay; got the theatre, cinema, etc; don't know what else I'd want
  12. Get a camera, do a documentary about homeless people — more and more people bing kicked out.
  13. I have been threatened with evictions, the stress, amount of work to find new accommodation, it's too much, it disrupts the rest of your life. Your work.

Meet in August to address the Housing Crisis in Kilburn and London

A daytime strategy meeting to address the Housing Crisis in Kilburn and London

Called for by Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Supported by KUWG, Unite Community membership, and Community Organisers.

Everyone is now aware of the dceepening crisis in Housing in London and its impact on local residents and ourcommunities. Over the last two years the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group has been dealing with — and campaigning on — more and more housing cases in the wider area.

We want to bring together people from across our community for a more united and sustainable response:
  • Individuals (especially those with housing problems)
  • Tenants and Residents Associations
  • Housing and advice workers
  • School, community and council rerpresentatives
  • Trade Unions and political organisations.

We want to hold an inclusive, participatory strategy meeting so we can begin to:
  • share experiences about the housing challenges faced by people in Kilburn and build connections
  • help each other cope and find solutions; make our voices heard
  • develop and campaign collectively around policies which would begin to meet real housing needs in the area

WE HOPE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ATTEND AND PUBLICISE THIS MEETING TO OTHERS WHO MAY WANT TO BE INVOLVED:
11AM-1PM, WEDNESDAY 13 AUGUST 2014 @ CASA LATINA

Priory House, 10 Kingsgate Place, London NW6 4TA


(Some of) what's happening now:

  • .... Housing insecurity and homelessness; inflated rents and house prices; huge shortage of social housing; overcrowding, disrepair, evictions... displacement
  • ... reduction in the Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit for private accommodation), the benefit cap, 'Bedroom Tax', charging Council Tax on Benefits, "Affordable" rent being defined as 80% of the market rate [on a London that is becoming a global billionaires' Monopoly board], spike in benefit sanctions...
  • ... Cuts to legal aid, advice, support and language services; no security of tenure in private and social housing; exploitation, bully and victimisation, ...
  • ... Low pay and 'zero hour contracts', rogue landlords, loan sharks...

 KUWG is part of the Unite Community and the London Coalition Against Poverty and campaigns with Social Work Action Network, Brent Housing Action, Housing 4 All, and the London Radical Housing Network.



Sunday, 27 July 2014

Motivated to work with and for the UK's poorest citizens

Guest blog piece by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Myelin and Deep Practice are good, but question CBT

Daniel Coyle's 'The Talent Code' has some useful ideas but should not be a blueprint for education, says Swheatie of the KUWG


I took good advantage of my recent break from London and from Internet by gaining some perspective on things regarding personal development and what I had learnt through life and am learning. 

The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown'

 
In the Monday-14 July to-Sunday 20 July lead up to my departure and up till Wednesday morning 23 July, I was reading 'The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown' by Daniel Coyle. (I ordered that through my local independent bookshop.) My cue for ordering it was a reference on youtube where a musician was talkingabout the importance of 'deep practice' as emphasised in 'The TalentCode'. The book talks about the newly emerging scientific understanding of myelin as an insulator of skill-related circuits in the brain, and its role in people developing 'automaticity' through hundreds of hours of practice. 'Deep practice' is where, say, a musician goes through a piece they have already practised, and takes each phrase and slows it down to a point where they no longer make errors. I have also found deep practice to be very helpful in, say, my:
  • silent explorations from string to string of baritone ukulele, acoustic guitar and classical guitar, so that I could, say, more clearly identify the string my parallel fretting fingers were on by the gauge of the string under those fingers
  • going beyond the physical motions of following the musical tadpoles with hand-eye-coordination, to developing a greater capacity to 'hear the notes' in my head and mimic them with my voice
  • etc.
Coyle's book emphasises the perspective that there is no such thing as an 'overnight success' and that talent is developed through hours and hours and months and months and years and years of practice, and that practice leaves its mark in the brain's development of myelin to insulate skill circuits: “Skill is insulation that wraps around neural circuits and grows according to certain signals.”

I took my baritone ukulele away with me as a more portable travel companion than either classical guitar or acoustic steel stringed guitar. The first four strings of the baritone ukulele are tuned the same as the first four strings for either guitar. I also took with me the self-reappraisal that I am a persistent person with a learning difficulty rather than an unmusical person.

Where it comes to my musical development that perspective adds to my drive to practice. Re myelin, ageing and skill development, Coyle notes, "As one neurologist pointed out, the mantra 'Use it or lose it' needs an update. It should be 'Use it and get more of it.'"

Michélé Gallucio, my Information and Communication Technology (ICT) course leader at the now defunct Camden Itec noticed my persistence as a learner in 1997/98 as I went beyond the jobcentre-funded period totalling 18 weeks, to complete my NVQ Level 1 in a total of nine months with continued help from Camden Itec, before I went on to a more frustrating time at a more robotised establishment called Direct Computer Training when the local Training and Enterprise Council refused me further funded training at Camden Itec. (They said that they did not want learners to become 'institutionalised'. While TEC and jobcentre practice was to reward profiteers who short-changed learners, I say that the local TEC could not stand the idea of learners taking real charge of their learning and rewarding excellence.) Thus through maintaining my connection with Michélé, I got his support in writing a letter to my mum to help persuade her to buy me a PC on which I could further my study of ICT.

Thus I am transferring what I have learned through self-directed learning with the guidance of training manuals on a home PC that I would not have been able to afford on Jobseekers Allowance. From 1998 to 2011 I consolidatied my ICT skills learning through self-directed learning projects and through teaching [other] slower learners very basic computing skills. Learning guitar and musicianship via self-directed learning with manuals and half-hour per week, one-to-one tuition with a patient guitar teacher. In my 61st year I now have a goal of attaining some sort of Grade 1 certificate in guitar within a year.

Cause for concern

In some ways though, I find Daniel Coyle's book deeply disturbing for the wrong reasons. In the early chapters there is a hint of the potential of this new science of myelin in exploring the biological basis of certain impairments/diseases/disabilities. And yet in all the stories of the 'talent hotbeds' the author has visited, the intricacies of involving disabled fledgeling talents is never really considered.

Further, I find the chapter 'How to Ignite a Hotbed' more disturbing than inspiring. I take the viewpoint that the so-called 'Knowledge Is Power Program' is, as its critics have stated, more 'Kids in Prison Program' in that it does not really encourage independent thought and veers instead toward robotising children through a 'college is all that there is' view of life's goals. Instead it uses group coercion as I witnessed on 'New Deal Intensive Activity Programme' at A4e Holloway in 2008. Thus it is little wonder to me that “KIPP received a $15 million donation from Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of the GAP clothing store.”

In the 'Epilogue: The Myelin World' chapter, Coyle goes on to venerate Albert Ellis and his 'Cognitive Behavioural/Behavioral Therapy' (CBT) at the expence of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Thus he limits the scope for examining, say, the impact of physical, economic, and social structures that turn a person's impairment into a disability. A psychoanalytic approach would also help to reveal why something is important to a learner, especially an introverted learner who does not merely take on board the values of the social matrix into which they are thrown. I also point out that some people, through devoting far too long in the scale of things to their chosen discipline, have become unhappy and frustrated in other areas of their lives.

The dodgy well-springs of the rationale behind neo-liberal welfare reforms

I have already expressed concern on this blog regarding 'Happiness guru' Lord Layard's delight in CBT and his view that 'work makes free'.

And above I have pointed to Coyle's failure to address the matter of accommodating disabled learners in 'talent hotbeds'. Yet I am reminded with the references to CBT, that there is a dodgy rationale behind the 'Work Capability Assessments' used by Atos Healthcare for the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK and formerly used by another 'disability denial factory', the American disability insurance company Unum. That is known as the 'bio-psychosocial model' and has been swallowed wholesale by investment banker turned Tony Blair's 'welfare reform guru' who is now the Tory Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud. That 'model' conveniently overlooks matters of social class that allowed, say, Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill to accomplish what poorer disabled people would not. Beyond this blog piece, you can read about the 'bio-psychosocial model' and how it compares with the Social Model of Disability here.

About the authors:

Swheatie of the KUWG is a lifelong learning disabled adult. He has recurring nightmares of 'lagging behind in coursework on courses that are not sufficiently welcoming to learning disabled people, due to lack of investment in disability equality.

Four years on from 2009 publication of 'The Talent Code' and eight years on from being ghost writer for Tour de France cycling champion, Lance Armstrong, in 2013 Daniel Coyle went on to publish a book about the cycling hero's drug taking practices.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Spirit Level Trailer — and latest from Tax Justice Network

Guest blog piece by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

The Spirit Level - Trailer


Down load. listen and follow! Paul

from Literally Films PRO 1 week ago NOT YET RATED


The Spirit Level tells the story of how the gap between rich and poor has risen to unprecedented levels, under our noses. But does it matter? We've be interweaving stories from across the globe to examine how it impacts on all our lives.
We have conducted in-depth research, both of the data and on the ground, identifying the personal stories that bring to life the bigger picture. We're thrilled to have completed filming across the US and UK, and to be taking the film into the edit.
We need your support to help us continue with the project and realise it's full potential. Please visit thespiritleveldocumentary.com to find out how.
Spirit Level
 
TAX JUSTICE NETWORK - latest podcast - TAX HAVENS CAUSE POVERTY

In the July 2014 Taxcast: what really happened at the Google shareholder meeting vote on a proposal for ethical tax principles? Plus: we discuss; 

1.what the new tax haven-friendly EU Commission President might do (or not do),

2. anti-democratic moves in Hong Kong from the big four accountancy firms, and:

3. forget the OECD's global tax reform - developing countries can and are doing it for themselves. But will the new BRICS Development Bank do any better?

And much more...

Join us Tax Justice Network on facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/TaxJusticeNetwork


Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road, 
Tottenham, 
London N17 0BF
0208 3765455
07961 177889
also at www.z2k.org 

Please sign our petition celbrating Martin Luther King
Parliament is asked to debate the speech made by Martin Luther King 50 Years ago in Washington USA on the 28 August 1963 and to note that it can be applied to circumstances in Britain in August 2013. He said “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments – Work and Pensions Committee Report

Guest blog piece from Carer Watch:
 
This is what multi party Select Committees were invented for. As a safety measure for situations exactly like this – when the main political parties cause a disaster and then gang up and turn their faces to the wall and refuse to see the enormous harm their misguided policies are causing.
Work and Pensions Select Committee
 
This report has been written by MPs who actually understand what is happening to sick and disabled people on the ground.
***********************************************
Work and Pensions Committee
Select Committee Press Notice
AN06 2014-15
22 July 2014
Under embargo until 00.01am on Wednesday 23 July 2014
Report: Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessmentsread report here
List of conclusions and recommendations here  
Employment and Support Allowance is not achieving its aims and needs fundamental
redesign, say MPs

The flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply “rebranding” the assessment used to determine eligibility for ESA (the Work Capability Assessment (WCA)) by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published today.

The Committee calls on the Government to undertake a fundamental redesign of the ESA end-to-end process to ensure that the main purpose of the benefit – helping claimants with health conditions and disabilities to move into employment where this is possible for them – is achieved. This will take some time, but the redesign should be completed before the new multi-provider contract is tendered, which is expected to be in 2018.

In the meantime, the Committee recommends a number of changes which should be made now, to help ensure that claimants receive an improved service, and that the outcomes for claimants are more appropriate.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:

“Many people going through the ESA claims process are unhappy with the way they are treated and the decisions which are made about their fitness for work. The current provider of the WCA, Atos, has become a lightning rod for all the negativity around the ESA process and DWP and Atos have recently agreed to terminate the contract early.
     “But it is DWP that makes the decision about a claimant’s eligibility for ESA – the face-to-face assessment is only one part of the process. Just putting a new private provider in place will not address the problems with ESA and the WCA on its own.”
     “We are therefore calling for a number of changes which can be made to improve ESA in the short-term, while also recommending a longer-term, fundamental redesign of the whole process.”
     “We hope that the new Minister for Disabled People, who was appointed last week, will respond positively to our constructive recommendations for improving the ESA process.”

One of the key issues which the Report identifies is that ESA is not achieving its purpose of helping people who could work in the short to medium term to move back into employment.
One of the reasons for this is that the outcomes of the ESA claims process are too simplistic. Claimants can be found “fit for work” and are then ineligible to claim ESA. Claimants found to have such limited functionality that that they cannot undertake any work-related activity are placed in the Support Group, where they are subject to no work-related conditionality. This leaves a large and disparate middle group of claimants who are not yet fit for work, and may even have a deteriorating condition, but who are required nonetheless to undertake activity which is meant to help them find work in the longer term. These claimants are placed in the Work-related Activity Group (WRAG). The WRAG covers too wide a spectrum of claimants with very different prognoses and employment support needs.

Redesigning the ESA process

The Committee recommends that the ESA redesign should aim to ensure that the process properly identifies claimants’ health barriers to employment and the particular support they need, so that the conditionality that they are subject to and the employment support they receive can be tailored more closely to their circumstances. For claimants in the WRAG, proper account needs to be taken of where they are on the spectrum of readiness for work, given the wide range of conditions and disabilities which the WRAG encompasses, and the different impacts these have on an individual claimant’s functional capacity.

The descriptors used in the WCA process should also be reviewed as part of the redesign, as concerns about their effectiveness, and the way they are applied, remain, despite the recent review commissioned by DWP.
Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:

“ESA is not properly joined up with employment support because an individual’s health-related barriers to working are not being properly assessed as part of the process. We recommend that the Government reintroduces a separate assessment of these barriers, along the lines of the Work-focused Health-related Assessment – the WFHRA – which it suspended in 2010.”

Shorter term measures to improve ESA

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:
 
“We know that the redesign can’t happen overnight, but the current system needs to
be improved now, because it is clearly causing claimants considerable distress and
anxiety.
     “The re-letting of the contract provides an opportunity to address some of the
problems. The new contract needs to set out robust and clear service standards on
the quality and timeliness of assessments and the reports produced by the
contractor, and for the way claimants are dealt with.”
     “DWP has acknowledged that this will cost more money, but this is justified if the
service provided by the new contractor is better. To ensure this is the case, DWP
needs to rigorously monitor the service standards to ensure they are being met and
to take immediate action, including imposing penalties, if they are not. This has
not always happened with the Atos contract.”
     “The changes we recommend include ensuring that, where possible, paper-based
assessments are used to place people in the Support Group, rather than requiring
them to go through a WCA, where their health condition or disability clearly has a
severe impact on their capability to work. Unnecessary and too frequent
reassessments should also be avoided.”
     “DWP should also improve the way it communicates with claimants – at the moment, the
letters that are sent to claimants are too technical and complex. They need to be in
plain English and avoid using jargon. The terms “limited capability for work” and
“limited capability for work-related activity”, which are currently used to categorise claimants, are too confusing and DWP needs to find more meaningful alternatives.”

The Committee recommends that DWP implements a number of other changes in the shorter-term to ensure better outcomes and an improved service for claimants. These include:
  • DWP taking overall responsibility for the end-to-end ESA claims process,
    including taking decisions on whether claimants need a face-to-face assessment,
    rather than this decision being made by the assessment provider.
  • DWP proactively seeking “supporting evidence” on the impact of a
    claimant’s condition or disability on their functional capacity, rather than leaving
    this primarily to claimants, who often have to pay for it. DWP should seek this
    evidence from the most appropriate health and other professionals, including social
    workers and occupational therapists, rather than relying so heavily on GPs.
  • The “descriptors” used to assess functional capability in the WCA being
    applied more sensitively.
  • Placing claimants with a prognosis of being unlikely to experience a
    change in their functional abilities in the longer-term, particularly those with
    progressive conditions, in the Support Group and not the WRAG.

Mandatory reconsideration and appeals

The Report also considers the impact of the introduction of mandatory reconsideration (MR) of ESA decisions, and the appeals process. MR has the potential to be beneficial, if it leads to fewer decisions being taken to appeal, and therefore reduces both stress for claimants and the cost to public funds.

However, the Committee calls on the Government to set a reasonable timescale for completing reconsiderations, rather than leaving it open-ended, and to end the current illogical situation of claimants being unable to claim ESA during the reconsideration period.

It is also important that both DWP and the assessment provider learn lessons from the feedback which the Tribunals Service now gives in the summary reasons for its decisions, so that more initial decisions are “right first time”.

–ENDS-

Notes to Editors:
1.    Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the benefit paid to people who are unable to work because of ill health or disability. It was introduced by the previous Government for new claimants in 2008. Existing Incapacity Benefit claimants began to be migrated to ESA in 2011.
2.    Most claimants are required to undergo a face-to-face assessment of functional capability carried out by a private sector provider (currently Atos Healthcare) under a contract with DWP.
3.    DWP has agreed with Atos that it will exit the contract for delivering the WCA 6 months earlier than planned. A new provider is expected to take over sole delivery of the WCA in February 2015, with a new contract involving multiple providers expected to be tendered in 2018.
Committee membership:
Dame Anne Begg MP (Chair) (Lab, Aberdeen South),
Debbie Abrahams MP (Lab, OldhamEast and Saddleworth),
Graham Evans MP (Con, Weaver Vale),
Sheila Gilmore MP (Lab,Edinburgh East),
Glenda Jackson MP (Lab, Hampstead and Highgate),
Kwasi Kwarteng MP(Con, Spelthorne),
Nigel Mills MP (Con, Amber Valley),
Anne Marie Morris MP (Con,Newton Abbot),
Teresa Pearce MP (Lab, Erith and Thamesmead),
Mr Michael Thornton MP(Lib Dem, Eastleigh),
Dame Angela Watkinson (Con, Hornchurch and Upminster).

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Update on anti-fascist demo in Cricklewood

by Abby, by e-mail

It's just been posted on facebook that the S.E.A. fascists are assembling at 11.30 at Kilburn and we should be at Cricklewood in as great numbers as we can by 11.00 if possible. It wasn't possible to 'share' the post on our facebook page. Just thought I'd spread the word. See you later!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Taxpayers Against Poverty: DWP reports bedroom tax is forcing poorest citizens into unmanageable debt

DWP reports bedroom tax is forcing poorest citizens into unmanageable debt

Guest blog piece by Revd Paul Nicolson of TAP

Bedroom tax is forcing poorest citizens into unmanageable debt but 
the DWP is not the only government department knowingly engaged in such oppression.  


It is no surprise to read in Patrick Butler's report (Bedroom tax has forced tenants to cut back on food, 16 July) that the Department for Work and Pensions now finds that 523,000 tenants have been unable to meet rent arrears due to housing-benefit caps. It was predicted in all the debates about the Welfare Reform Act 2012 in parliament but ignored by the coalition. For example, Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association, said: "A £500 cap will plunge a family with three children living in Hampstead into poverty, with only, in this example, £150 per week left for food, clothing, ever-rising fuel bills and the rest, instead of more than £300 as at present. It is not their fault that rents are so high in much of southern England."

Additionally, since April 2013, 244 councils have demanded between 8.5% and 20% of council tax from the poorest households. Inability to pay the tax can lead to magistrates triggering the council's powers to enforce the arrears, adding court costs of up to £125, and bailiffs may be sent in, adding their extortionate fees of up to £420.

The DWP is not the only government department knowingly oppressing the poorest citizens of the UK with unmanageable debt. The Treasury, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Communities and Local Government pile in with equal callousness.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

For the record Tottenham magistrates issued 18,571 liability orders to Haringey Council in 2012/13, and 22,152 in 2013/14, all at £125 a time, after they had imposed 20% of the council tax on benefits in April 2013,  Applications are still being processed by the Tottenham magistrates 1000s at a time. Haringey sent 14,569 cases to the bailiffs in 2012/13 and 12,484 in 2013/14. I have asked Haringey to check these figures as I would have expected them to be the other way round.  All this information is in answers to freedom of information questions. 

--


Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road, 
Tottenham, 
London N17 0BF
0208 3765455
07961 177889
also at www.z2k.org 

Please sign our petition celbrating Martin Luther King
Parliament is asked to debate the speech made by Martin Luther King 50 Years ago in Washington USA on the 28 August 1963 and to note that it can be applied to circumstances in Britain in August 2013. He said “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

 
Swheatie of the KUWG adds: See also Camden New Journal for a demonstration of how out-of-touch and unfit-for-government the current Secretary of State for Work & Pensions is.

Iain Duncan Smith rejects claim that London faces benefit ...

www.camdennewjournal.com/.../iain-duncan-smith-rejects-claim-london...
May 21, 2014 - WORK and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has poured scorn on claims that people are being driven out of Camden by caps to welfare ...

KUWG's commitment to community cohesion

KUWG's commitment to community cohesion

"Actually the article is not just about property prices but the local economy and fostering local community so it has a wider political significance," wrote Waltham Forest resident Steve Lambert who is spouse of London MEP Jean Lambert. He was referring to a newspaper article that Swheatie had forwarded to him, 'Why is everybody moving to Waltham Forest?'. And that set Swheatie to thinking, "Isn't community cohesion what Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group is really about?"

We are not only about standing outside jobcentres, talking to people who are desperate and giving them hope and practical advice and guidance through their attendance at our meetings. In that way though, we help build up a community that stretches between both the Camden and Brent sides of Kilburn and even further afield. And through involving people in our meetings, we realise matters of a wider political significance.

Our members have been active in opposing the evictions of vulnerable people against the practices of landlords and so-called 'social landlords'. We are also becoming increasingly involved in alerting the public to the child snatching practices of local authorities' social services departments while those departments are apparently more committed to building and maintaining budgets and disempowering the vulnerable. Some of our members are such parents, others members of Social Work Action Network that brings together social work practitioners, service users, academics and students to make social work more conducive to community cohesion.

We are developing a range of housing matters meetings dealing with people's cases, and also workshops. These include a strategy meeting to address the housing crisis in Kilburn and London, to take place at Casa Latina, Priory House, 10 Kingsgate Place, NW6 4TA from 11am till 1pm on Wednesday 13 August.

Our members are standing out against fascism in their local communities and attempting to make 'public consutations' more genuine as per articles below. And no, we are not scroungers. By our sense of community we become known more widely.

PS: The new KUWG mobile phone numer is 07724 843 973.  That contact detail will soon appear in a revised version of the KUWG 'masthead' that appears at the top of this blog.



Brent consultation on draft development management policies - please share

Brent consultation on draft development management policies - please share

By Giselle of the KUWG

The Development Management Policy Document guides the council on planning applications. It is crucial for the building (or not) of housing, and for what types of housing can be built and where. Also what parcels of council owned land can be sold off.
 
Brent is doing one of its classic 'consultations'.  As info on this may not have reached many people, I'd be grateful if people could forward this onto other lists of local concerned groups.
 
I found 2 women chatting to eachother  in front of a poster and handing out questionnaires - if you asked for one - at Sainsburys Willesden Green on Monday. They were there from 4 - 8pm only, just that day.  (If I hadn't been heading for the Evening Standards I wouldnt even have noticed them, I'd already walked past them twice) You can also view the draft plan at the Brent Civic Centre this Saturday between 12 - 3pm. According to their questionnaires, this appears to be the full extent of their public outreach.
 
I managed to get hold of half a dozen of these questionnaires, which devote almost as much space to intrusive personal questions (name, address, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc) as they give space for any responses. The deadline for returning these is 31st July. I will bring some to the KUWG meeting on Thursday.
 
You can see the draft development management policy document in Brent libraries (if you already know to ask for it)  and here:
 
They write:
 

How to have your say

During the consultation period you can complete our online comment form.
You can also email ldf@brent.gov.uk or write to: Planning Policy and Projects Team, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 0FJ.
The deadline for receiving your comments is 5pm on 31 July 2014.

I went to a local Connections meeting a couple of weeks ago and do not recall this consultation being mentioned even there, although my recall is not 100% reliable.

The deadline is very soon, and the more people that put in some sort of reply now, the more likely it is that there will be an extension so as to make it a more-representative-of-the-community community consultation

Giselle

 Swheatie adds: For more on this matter, see also

Brent Council consults on new Local Plan and development management

and

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group supports anti-fascist demo in Cricklewood

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group supports anti-fascist demo in Cricklewood


KUWG support tomorrow's North West London United demonstration in Cricklewood for community cohesion against fascism. We leafleted in support of this demo on Tuesday with members of North West London United, and as Wembley Matters blogger Martin Francis has noted on his blog:

North West London United  has called for supporters of Cricklewood's diverse but united community to assemble at 113 Cricklewood Broadway from noon tomorrow. [Update from Abby on Kilburn Unemployed Google Group: It's just been posted on facebook that the S.E.A. fascists are assembling at 11.30 at Kilburn and we should be at Cricklewood in as great numbers as we can by 11.00 if possible. It wasn't possible to 'share' the post on our facebook page. Just thought I'd spread the word. See you later!"]

The community is opposing a demonstration by a small extreme right-wing group, the South East Alliance, who are returning to the area after their failed march several weeks ago. The SEA Alliance recently took down their Facebook page which had much evidence of their Islamophobia in comments and photographs and have started a new sanitised page.

Opponents remain in no doubt of their true nature and are determined that they should not disrupt and divide our community.

And at yesterday's KUWG meeting, it was acknowledged that the more people that take a stand against these fascists, the less likely it is that violence will occur there, both this Saturday and in the future.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Swheatie of the KUWG questions the wisdom of 'happiness Guru' Lord Layard

Swheatie of the KUWG questions the wisdom of 'happines Guru Lord Layard

Chris Blackhurst in Monday's 'Independent' praises economist turned 'Happiness Guru' Lord Layard — Richard Layard: "Money is not the only thing affecting people's happiness." Layard reportedly has the backing of multi-millionaire and Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet I believe that this is a key quotation of that economist-turned 'Happiness Guru' who seems even more of an economist in his pursuit of 'happiness':
"In the 1980s, I worked with Stephen Nickell on employment. There was complete confusion about unemployment, its extent and its effect. My best book was Unemployment, which said you could have lower unemployment if you gave more help to unemployed people to get them into work, and made that help conditional on them trying to get work. That became the basis of the European 'Welfare to Work' approach, and Labour's New Deal."
I also reckon that Layard has an obsession with what is measurable. Measurable by whom and on what terms? He loves CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapay] because it is so 'measurable' in terms of its 'success'. But CBT is very superficial and does not really address the deep underlying issues involved in a person's distress, a close friend who is now a retired psychoanlaytic psychotherapist and who I once accompanied to her signing-on at the jobcentre or unemployment benefit office in the days of the Thatcher Government. She knows that a lot of 'standard' value jedgements are baised by the economic privilege and, say, sexual orientation of their creators or progenitors.

The interplay between society's non-understanding and failure to accommodate a person's impairment[s] can also lead to the distress of the person living in a disabling society. (That awareness is the basis of the Social Model of Disability.) 

Personal distress can lead us to seek creative outlets for what we are feeling/expereiencing even while a coercive and disabling society tells us to get on with 'business as usuall' so as not to be 'a burden upon others'. (People who 'step out of line' regarding the 'conditionality' of 'welfare to work' approaches are now increasingly subject to punitive and debilitating benefits sanctions that can do little to improve their mental health. Does Richard Layard stop to consider that in his equations?) I believe it is a mistake to think that artists undertake their projects simply to 'make ends meet' financilally and/or satisfy an external 'audience'.

Too much of Layard's rationale comes down to a 'cost/benefits analysis', I would argue, while he does not seem to recognise that being unwaged is distinctly ifferent from being 'unemployed'.

But for me, this life peer lost a lot of credibiity when he was so hopeless at answering my question at a TUC/Guardian conference about economic justice a few years ago that he was greatly relieved when the person chairing that session — who happened to be the Guardian's Economics Editor — gave short shrift to that question. The question was about the mental health of full-time family carers committed to a minimum 35 hour week for £53/wk Carers Allowance as carer to a person on middle or higher rate Disability Living Allowance. See, eg, Gary Vaux' criticism of 'the Cinderella benefit'.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Justice for tenants impoverished by welfare "reform"

Justice 
for tenants impoverished by welfare "reform"

 

Guest blog piece, reproducing a letter published by the Church Times this morning - good wishes - Paul

 

From the Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

Sir, - I live on my pension in Tottenham. Thanks to Queen Anne's Bounty, a generous laity, and taxpayers through Gift Aid, plus the skilled exploitation of a free market by the capitalist Church Commissioners, I am secure till the end of my life, paying 25 per cent of my gross pension to them for a two-bedroom terraced house.

The bishops and clergy of the diocese of London live in church property rent- and council-tax-free. We are surrounded by insecurity of tenure and the innocent suffering of the tenants of local councils and social housing. The injustice is self-evident.

Typical cases are a single mother with two young children placed in sub-standard private temporary accommodation in Tottenham; the flat is damp. The ceiling falls in on her child's cot, mercifully not on the child. Her doctor tells the council that the family's health is at risk from the damp flat. Haringey moves her to a flat in the borough of Enfield; it, too, is damp. She does not know that she has to reapply for her council-tax benefit; so Enfield charges her account with £900 of council tax. She is therefore in arrears; they summon her to the magistrates' court, adding £70 court costs to the arrears for a liability order, putting her at risk of a very expensive visit from the bailiffs. She brings her child back to school in Tottenham every day.

Another single mother with two children has been in temporary accommodation since 2002. She has been moved eight times by Haringey Council in and out of the borough, twice into bed and breakfast in a hotel. She, too, has struggled to keep her children at the same school as their friends.

We should be protesting from our comfortable rooftops, if not on the streets. But there is a lack of formal public engagement, at every level of our diocese of London, in the suffering of the poorest London tenants. It is created by the lack of both adequate incomes and affordable housing, as well as the unlimited access of national and international speculators to London property in short supply, which forces up land values and rents, and leaves properties empty.

There are no signs of any national or local policies, from any political party, that will improve the circumstances of the poorest London tenants. Inadequate incomes, unaffordable housing, council tax, and its enforcement are creating malnutrition, hypothermia, and debt-related stress. There is a known connection between mental-health problems and debt.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus: "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
 

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19.39-40).

PAUL NICOLSON
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"Universal Credit" as a current 'hot issue'

"Universal Credit" as a current 'hot issue'

By Swheatie of the KUWG

Cued by an alert from a KUWG colleague/comraded, I have just got these links re "universal credit" from BBC website:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era

Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era

Guest blog piece by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

Just Fair has set out the devastating cumulative impact on disabled people of the coalition's so called welfare reforms in the context of human rights. Their analysis and recommendations are also relevant to every one impacted by what is more accurately named welfare abolition since 2010.

TAP (Taxpayers Against Poverty) includes in our aims and objects Article 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
http://just-fair.co.uk/hub/single/dignity_and_opportunity_for_all/

May I add,  three Taxpayers Against Poverty members have added to my submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty.

Mike Shaw a small holder, on the contribution small holding in the UK could make to the UK food chain saving expensive imports of food.

Alan Wheatley, on the way a landlord profited from his benefit income by installing a pre-payment meter in his flat.

Dr Carl Walker on the link between mental and physical ill health and debt among benefit claimants and others.

The photo of mothers leading the 1000 Mothers March in Tottenham is on the front cover of the my TAP submission.

They have all been accepted by the group as formal submissions to their thinking.

Monday, 7 July 2014

CarerWatch response to LibDems manifesto promise for carers

CarerWatch response to LibDems manifesto promise for carers

by carerwatch
Guest blog by CarerWatch
According to Mr Clegg, some carers experience 'an unbearable burden'. As such, under the LibDem election promise, they will receive a 'reward' paid annually to allow them to have a break. This 'reward'? £125 a year paid to those who receive carers allowance only. He suggests that ' Some carers might use the money to hire a care assistant to help them out for a week'

How out of touch are the Lib Dems?


Mr Clegg, have you ever tried to employ a care assistant for £125 a week? 
Mr Clegg, have you ever tried working 24/7 and only having one week a year off? (Many carers get no breaks at all)
Mr Clegg, are you aware that many carers are not entitled to Carers Allowance
Carers do not want you to 'show our thanks and ease the pressure the nation's carers face' by giving some of us a paltry £125 a year.
pennies
Carers Allowance is paid at a rate below that of all other income replacement benefits. Consequently any annual uprating has a minimal impact and does not reflect the rise in the cost of living, reducing carers spending power year on year and increasing the income gap between carers and the rest of society.
Carers in receipt of other income replacement benefits are excluded from claiming Carers Allowance due to the overlapping benefit rule.
Carers who have previously been entitled to Carers Allowance find that this is removed on reaching retirement age causing distress and anger, this can be after decades of caring for a sick or disabled relative.
The current £102 earnings limit at which Carers Allowance is withdrawn is a disincentive for carers who could combine work and caring to contemplate work or, for those in part-time employment, to increase their hours.
The withdrawal of Carers Allowance when a carer embarks on an educational course at college or university that entails more than 21 hours study per week acts as a barrier to carers wishing to engage in education and training in order to update their skills with a view to entering or re-entering the workplace. Many financially-assisted educational courses do not have Carers Allowance on their list of qualifying benefits for reduced fees, making engaging in education unaffordable.
Correction added, thanks to Charles47  ( The blog has a mistake: the 21 hour rule is notional. If the course is for (example) 10 hours only, but the college or university calls it a full time course – you lose your Carers Allowance. So for many carers, there’s no incentive to train.)
For many carers, caring is a full-time occupation. In order to qualify for Carers Allowance, either paid or underlying,  a carer must spend a minimum of 35 hours caring per week, many carers care for substantially more than the minimum 35 hours. Although not perceived as such, caring is a full-time job and can involve meeting physical needs, psychological needs and social needs, supervision, prompting, dealing with health and care services, managing finances, medication, cleaning, shopping, virtually every aspect of daily living.
Carers have no regular hours of work, have no entitlement to breaks, days off, holidays or sick leave, they are not covered by health and safety legislation and frequently suffer injury as a consequence of caring. For the majority of full-time carers employment is not an option, for those they care for, being left with strangers is not an option.
Scissors
The real term reductions in Treasury funding for local authorities has resulted in tightening eligibility criteria, the closure of day centres and increased care costs, reducing the number of people able to access or afford social care. Family carers are increasingly providing the care that would have been previously been provided by the State.
All governments, past and present, have demonstrably failed to meet the financial needs of carers who do not have the option of taking up employment.
CarerWatch members believe that family carers are not an optional extra to be added on as an after thought.  ALL political parties need to amend their attitude towards family carers and make some speed in deciding how to adequately fund family carers.

To this end, we strongly advise Mr Clegg and his party to go back to the drawing board.

Carers do not need half baked promises/policies that will bring about so little change for so few carers.

Leaders-debate-002

Time will tell what manifesto promises Labour and Conservative parties bring forth. We remember well the hustings of 2010.

Carer issues were aired more than ever, and yet there has been NO real improvements.

Watch this space



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carerwatch | 6 July 2014 at 18:03 | Tags: Carers, carers allowance | Categories: Carers | URL: http://wp.me/pHmFD-14R
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