Saturday, 30 August 2014

Westminster Govt vs social justice — Church of Scotland Leaders

By Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

LUS Claimants survey, July 10th and the Low/No pay connection

By Nick Phillips

London Unemployed Strategies Report to Southern and Eastern Region of the Trade Union Congress [SERTUC, that includes London in its catchment area]

1) CLAIMANTS SURVEY, JULY 10th THE LOW/NO PAY CONNECTION

I have been going through the 400 LUS surveys which claimants have filled in across London over the past few months.

The detailed findings will soon be publicly available. As they emerge, many things are perhaps sadly predictable. Key issues include:
  • The large number of claimants (around 40%) who feel they are treated with contempt by Jobcentre Plus and the Work Porgramme.
  • The even larger number (around 55%) who feel the Information, Advice and Guidance they get on careers, jobs and training is minimal.
  • The large number of older claimants (over 50s) who feel they are perceived as being 'on the scrapheap' by both JCP [JobCentre Plus] and employers.
  • The increased pressure, even on people who are older, highly experienced and qualified in specific fields, to take any job under any terms and conditions under threat of sanctions.

This information correlates strongly with the findings of the recent PCS [Public and Commercial Services Union] survey. This reported increasing verbal and physical attacks on PCS staff, coupled with a belief that the increasingly harsh sanctions regime instigated by the DWP [Department for Work and Pension]/JCP was a strong contributory factor.

Through exerting this pressure on claimants to take anything on offer, the DWP and Jobcentre Plus perpetuate the legitimacy and increase the number of zero hours contracts and minimum wage jobs.

This clearly embeds the issue of unemployment firmly within the TUC 'Britain Needs a Payrise' agenda and underlines the common cause of workers on low and no pay. This is why we involved unemployed workers in the July 10th strike day and were happy to march alongside the PCS banner to demonstrate our common cause.

LUS will continue to address the problems faced by claimants, JCP/housing benefits staff and others who are all suffering from the effects of the crackdown on access to decent benefits and other forms of support. To this end I shall be making further efforts to link up with the key unions, voluntary organisations and claimants representatives to see how we can take these initiatives further forward.

Swheatie of the KUWG comments:



Friday, 29 August 2014

More London councils consulting on kicking the fiscal boot in on the poorest

Swheatie is reminded in Government claims that they will protect the poorest people, of the phrase "sadism masquerading as compassion." And central Government's drive toward 'localism' is just another means of passing the blame on when it reduces overall support from central government funds to local government.

By Zacchaeus 2000 — Justice for vulnerable debtors

Waltham Forest and Barnet consult on increasing Council Tax for poor residents

No Poll Tax 2Waltham Forest and Barnet have joined Harrow in launching consultations on proposals to cut the level of Council Tax Support (CTS) available to their low income residents.

Barnet’s consultation proposes increasing their 8.5% minimum payment to either 15% or 20%. This could lead to a lone parent with two children in the borough facing a council tax bill of £210, more than double what they are currently expected to pay. Unlike other councils however Barnet does at least present maintaining the current level of support as an option and we hope that is what the majority of respondents will argue for. Continue reading  on z2k website→

A NEW POLL TAX?

Children's Society's 'Debt Trap' Campaign

From: Katie, The Children's Society
To: Swheatie of the KUWG


Supporter Care team: 0300 303 7000
supportercare AT childrenssociety.org.uk




 

Thanks for all your support for our Debt Trap campaign so far. Together we’ve already reached thousands of people to expose the devastating impact that debt has on children.
As one of our biggest supporters, we wanted to let you know the latest issue of our supporter magazine Voice is out now.
Read the inspirational story of Latasha and her young family, who with the right support have been able to start finding their way out of the debt trap.

View the magazine online, send it to your phone, tablet or e-reader, or download it as a PDF.

Many thanks for your continued support - without you, we couldn't give thousands of families like Latasha's the chance they deserve.

Katie Curtis, Campaigner, The Children's Society
PS. We hope you enjoy the new look magazine – let us know what you think of the new design.

The housing crisis facing disabled people

By Rachel Graham on Open Democracy website

Far too many disabled people are now being housed in entirely inadequate conditions, a situation exacerbated by government policies which in practice have had some incredibly cruel results.
Heygate estate, Elephant and Castle. Flickr/James Delaney
 
Being sick is no fun. We all know what it is like to be poorly, to have flu for a few weeks and feel horrendous. Luckily, most of us recover and get back to our lives. Similarly, some of us will have experienced a period where we struggled with our mobility. A broken leg or arm is not pleasant, but again, we know we will get better with time.

For many sick and disabled people, there is often no light at the end of the tunnel when they will suddenly recover. A large proportion of disabled people struggle with ongoing mobility problems, chronic health issues, pain, and discrimination. Their home should be the one place they can feel safe and live with dignity. Instead, many disabled people have to face the misery of substandard housing and increased poverty due to an onslaught of government ‘reforms’....

Continue reading at Open Democracy website

Careworker's and service users' lives made even less happy by Care UK

By Kate Belgrave

Doncaster careworker: I had to leave my flat because #CareUK wage cuts made paying rent impossible

 Have more to add to this, but here’s a short post for those who are wondering why it is becoming impossible to make a living at carework:

Today, I spoke with Doncaster careworkers, including Mags Dalton, 44, who were protesting outside Bridgepoint Capital about charming private firm Care UK’s massive cuts to Doncaster careworkers’ wages. The careworkers work with people who have learning difficulties. Bridgepoint is the private equity company that owns Care UK – Mags’ employer.
Mags has lost about £400 a month as a result of those wages cuts and has been on strike for days this year in protest. Now, she’s had to give up her flat because she couldn’t afford the rent any more. She will move back to Newcastle to live with her parents. She will start another job and try to save up to move into another flat of her own at some point.

Mags is one of a number of Doncaster careworkers who have (and are as we speak) taken lengthy strike action in protest at the pay cuts of up to 35% being forced through by Care UK. Careworkers were transferred from the NHS to Care UK when the service was recently outsourced.

True to private sector form, Care UK quickly turned its attention to careworkers’ wages and conditions – wages and conditions which were hardly generous in the first place....

Continue reading on Kate's blog

Swheatie of the KUWG and Social Work Action Network London adds

See also these Community Care magazine blog pieces that have been more easily  accessed via a 'site' search of the Community Care website than by way of a Google search launched on the Community Care website! I suppose that potential loss of advertising revenue from Care UK may have been one of the factors that led Community Care to abandon the Outside Left blog that was excellently written by Mike McNabb.

  1. www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/2010/03/...   Cached
    Those familiar with the line “because he’s worth it”will be interested in the windfall that is about to blow into the lap of Care UKchairman John Nash. Nash, as ...
  2. www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/2009/11/...   Cached
    In April, Care UK was the subject of an investigation into domiciliary care for BBC One’s Panorama, which pointed out that the plc’s operations in Hertfordshire ...
  3. www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/...   Cached
    Private provider Care UK may have been celebrating its rise in profits three weeks ago but this week marks the end of yet another contract, this time in Islington.
  4. www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/...   Cached
    Outside Left Weighing into the social policy debate. ... Even Panorama cannot hold back Care UK. By Mike McNabb on 19 November , 2009 in Domiciliary care, Older people.
  5. www.communitycare.co.uk/.../care-uk-loses-another-contract   Cached
    Private provider Care UK may have been celebrating its rise in profits three weeks ago but this week marks the end of yet another contract, this time in Islington ...
  6. www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/2010/05/...   Cached
    Outside Left Weighing into the social policy debate. Remove care home bedrails at your peril. By Mike McNabb on 11 May , 2010 in Adult care, Adults, ...
  7. www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-policy-blog/2009/12/...   Cached
    Outside Left Weighing into the social policy debate. Those CQC ratings are less than adequate. By Mike McNabb on 9 December , 2009 in Care Quality Commission, Local ..

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Free anti-dodgy trade deal poster if you order by 2pm Thursday, 28 August 2014 — 38Degrees

Swheatie of the KUWG apologises for short notice — and 38Degrees' request for a donation if you order one as he has just done. And Swheatie will have to do with displaying it in his back window, cos he lives in a rear flat rather than a house.

But 'Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership' is far more dodgy than that, and would remove the freedom of choice from voters and give it to global corporations. See Swheatie's previous postings on TTIP in this blog.

38 Degrees Logo

Momentum is building: on Saturday nearly 9,000 38 Degrees members will be out in the streets to raise awareness of TTIP, the dodgy trade deal between the EU and the US.

You may not be able to make it, but you can still get involved. There are 2.8 million 38 Degrees members across the UK. Can you imagine what our streets would look like if we each put a poster about TTIP up in our window over the weekend? The effect would be incredible - it’d be the most people-powered (and cheap) advertising campaign ever!

So will you join tens of thousands of other 38 Degrees members and put a poster in your front window?

Please click the link if you’d like one posted to you - the deadline to order one is 2pm today, Thursday 28th August, otherwise the post won't make it:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/ttip-poster


Please click the link to print off a poster:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/ttip-leaflet-print


Most people haven’t heard about TTIP yet - so MPs haven’t been feeling the heat. But MPs will decide what we sign up to as a country. Together, we can push the deal up their agenda.

If enough of us display posters, MPs won’t be able to miss them when they’re out and about in their constituencies over the next few weeks. And the 38 Degrees members delivering leaflets on Saturday will be able to see how many of us are standing behind them.

So can you pop up a poster in your window, or your car, or on a community board? Or all of the above - get creative!

Please click the link to print off a poster:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/ttip-leaflet-print

Please click the link if you’d like one posted to you:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/ttip-poster



Thanks for everything you do,

Amy, Nat, Blanche, Susannah & the 38 Degrees team

War preparations in themselves cost lives

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953
34th president of US 1953-1961 (1890 - 1969)

Swheatie of the KUWG writes:

President Dwight D Eisenhower — former WW2 Commander of American armed forces that he was — became cynical toward 'the Defence industry' during his Presidency of the United States. He referred to the dangers posed to society by a "militaryindustrial complex."

Now in the UK with a Cabinet of millionaires, there is a reactionary drive toward war while poor people are being blamed for their/our own poverty, and American left-wing luminary Noam Chomsky has referred to what Eisenhower called the 'militaryindustrial complex' as welfare for the rich.

Lobbying of government by megabucks corporations is one thing; public protest another. My knowledgeable friend Noel Lynch has told me that at the height of the Vietnam War, President Johnson admitted to the value of protest when he told his generals who wanted to 'nuke Hanoi', that demonstrators would respond to such a ploy by going from demonstrating outside the White House to climbing the walls.

The following comes from People's Assembly Against Austerity:

No to NATO protests

60 world leaders, including Barack Obama, meet in the UK for the NATO Summit on 4-5 September to plan their war on the world.
No to Nato

At this year's summit the US will be pressuring Western powers to increase their already huge military budgets at a time when poverty and inequality are soaring. The world's 85 richest people have as much as poorest 3.5 billion. Money into war is money out of our communities.

In the UK, 500,000 people had to resort to food banks last year. None of the cuts would be necessary if the sums Britain spends on its military and armaments were invested in social need instead of the war machine.

From 30 August protesters will flock to South Wales for international actions including a national demonstration, counter summit, and week-long peace camp. Transport is being arranged from across the country. Full details...

Fibromyalgia and government priorities

The Daily Mail is not known as the disability benefits claimant's friend, but the ME Association carries information from the Daily Mail that can be more illuminating than the 'Atos therapy' idea that fibromyalgia and such conditions are 'all in the patient's mind'.
Fibromyalgia is a painful condition affecting the muscles, tendons and ligaments – it occurs as a result of an abnormality in the patient’s central nervous system. There is no obvious physical cause – rather, the sufferer’s nervous system misinterprets pain.
Give most people a friendly prod and they’ll hardly notice it, whereas someone with fibromyalgia may well cry out in pain.
"Sometimes it feels like you’ve done a really heavy gym workout when you haven’t been for ten years – or it can feel like someone is stabbing all your muscles," says Sharon.
"Sometimes you can’t bear to feel the clothes on your body because your skin feels bruised and hurt. The worst part is the fatigue.
"It can come on suddenly, as if someone’s put a syringe into me and drained out my energy."
People with fibromyalgia also often find they rarely enjoy deep, refreshing sleep. About 2 per cent of adults – just under one million people in the UK – have the condition, says the self-help group Fibromyalgia Association UK.
 Of course, as the date information given in the above source points out, that piece from the Daily Mail was written before the 'Work Capability Assessment' administered by Atos came in on 27 October 2008 and Daily Mail etc delighted in publishing the figures of what Atos therapy regarded as the number of benefit fraudsters 'faking it'. And of course, by sad coincidence, the investment banker led bank collapse came in in October 2008, and £billions of taxpayers money went into salvaging investment banking. And disability benefit claimants etc got the blame for Britain's economic perils.

UK Government as it stands would rather blame people living with a condition for 'skiving' than dare to acknowledge that the person might be telling the truth. If Government admitted that the person might be telling the truth, that might imply a need to shift economic direction from applying Atos therapy or its successor from Crapita.

But what about you and your priorities, dear reader? How about asking or demanding that UK Government seek a real cure for fibromyalgia? The following is from care2 petitions website.

Care2 Action Alert
action alert!
Millions of people like me have fibromyalgia -- but the government is doing very little to help find a cure. I started a Care2 petition asking for better research for a cure. Will you sign it?
Please sign the petition today! Tell the Government to Fund Research for Fibromyalgia
Take Action
please share
it helps!
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Share via Email
My name is Diane Bradley, and I suffer from an illness called fibromyalgia. For me and the millions of other sufferers, it is a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. Every day we endure chronic widespread pain -- it feels like a flu that never goes away. And there is no help on the way.

I have been living with this illness for many years. I often wish that I could have my life back, but I have been told by several different doctors that there is no cure for this condition. They say that all they can do is try to relieve the pain, to make my life tolerable. I have tried many different medications and none of them have helped.

All I want is to make sure that someday there will be a cure to relieve this constant pain that so many people suffer from.

I have started a campaign, not just for myself, but for the millions of fibromyalgia sufferers out there. We get a really raw deal: the medical world and the government have basically turned their backs on us. We have to fight for every bit of help we get, whether that is medical or financial.

I know that many people will never understand the pain that we endure, but everyone can help us get the recognition and help we deserve. I want to make sure the government starts taking this disease seriously and invests in finding a cure. To get that we need research -- and the government needs to start funding that research so millions of people can get relief.

Please sign my petition to ask the government to give fibromyalgia the funding it deserves. If enough of us speak up, we can show them that this is an issue that people across the country care about.
Diane B. Thank you for taking action,

Diane Bradley
Care2 Member


PS. This message is from a Care2 member like you who started a petition. Click here to start a petition about something that matters to you.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Growing misery of UK poverty

Guest blog by Rev'd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

 
Meanwhile here is a letter of mine published by the Guardian on the 20th August, about the growing misery of poverty

 
Letter in The Guardian 20th August 2014, 
Strongly recommend a read of all the letters under the same heading. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/aug/19/familes-at-front-of-prime-ministers-mind-uk

FAMILIES AT THE FRONT OF THE PM's MIND

The dreaded Tina – “there is no alternative” – has spooked ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions into the mantra that the bedroom tax is absolutely necessary to get the housing benefit under control (Woman killed herself after worries about bedroom tax, 13 August). No matter that they were warned that the stress of demanding both bedroom tax rent up to £24 a week and council tax up to £8 a week from single adults receiving £72.40 jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA) or income support from April 2013 would lead to suicide.

During the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 they were sent a case reported by the local government ombudsman in 2001 of a single, semi-literate adult living alone in Southwark (and 30 other debt-related suicides). Jobcentre Plus mistakenly cancelled his JSA, so Southwark cancelled his housing and council tax benefits, creating arrears in both accounts. Southwark’s outsourced agent sent him a summons for unpaid council tax of £235.10, plus costs.

The summons (about 3m of which are dispatched a year) contains the following threats, in bold type and highlighted: “The council will be able to … instruct bailiffs to take your goods to settle your debt – this can include your car. You will be liable to pay the bailiffs’ costs which could substantially increase the debt. Instruct your employer to deduct payments from your salary or wages. Deduct money straight from your jobseeker’s allowance or income support. Make you bankrupt. Make a charging order against your home. Have you committed to prison.”

His body was found hanging in his flat. The police found the summons with him, paper littered with rough calculations and a note: “Dear … I at to do this I am in so much in Detr good By for ever Love …”


Liberation Thelogy and first world churches

Guest blog piece by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

LETTER IN THE GUARDIAN 27 AUGUST 2014

Written in response to a Guardian Leader on 24th August 

Christianity needs bishops who speak up for the poor and against oppression


• Liberation theology cannot be picked up from South America and planted in the UK. But its method of doing theology – from the perspective of the poor, studying the facts and being shocked by their circumstances – can be. Leonardo Boff, silenced by the Vatican in 1992, wrote: “The central question is how to exercise faith in the midst of social oppression. How should the ecclesiastical community interact with the political community?”
The short answer to Boff’s question (posed in an essay, The Originality of Liberation Theology, in The Future Of Liberation Theology: Essays In Honour of Gustavo Gutiérrez, published in 1989) is with and for poor people who suffer innocently. That is done out of the love inspired by the innocent suffering of our founder, who joined them on a cross.
Our first-world churches are complicit with extreme free-market politics and do not reflect, in the light of our faith, on the oppression done in the name of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Our ineffectiveness can be measured by the increasing oppression of the poorest citizens in the UK.
We desperately need bishops and archbishops who will interact with the political community and the public in the manner of Oscar Romero. He famously said: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist. When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980, the eve of the enthronement of Robert Runcie as archbishop of Canterbury.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Unreasonable enforcement of Magistrates Court fines ignores vulnerable situations, etc

Guest blog piece by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

Rushanara Ali MP for Bethnal Green and Bow has lodged a complaint with the Parliamentary Ombudsmen for me on behalf of one of her constituents a "Mr Smith", his name has been changed. The details are on the TAP [Taxpayers Against Poverty] website.

http://www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/complaint-to-parliamentary-ombudsman-magistrates-courts-ignore-vulnerable-situations-and-send-in-the-bailiffs/  

This is a complaint about the unreasonable enforcement of fines by the Magistrates Court fines officers without consideration of Page 9 of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents (NSEA), covering vulnerable situations, or of a change of circumstances after the fine has been set and the regular payments agreed.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Next Housing Action Group meeting 27 August

WE HOPE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ATTEND AND PUBLICISE THIS MEETING TO OTHERS WHO MAY WANT TO BE INVOLVED:
11AM-1PM, WEDNESDAY 27 AUGUST 2014 @ CASA LATINA

Priory House, 10 Kingsgate Place, London NW6 4TA

This meeting picks up where the 13 August meeting left off, and will then include casework of people who attend who have problems with their housing situation that the want help with.
If you want help with your case, please bring essential paperwork/documentation.

The Housing Action Group

Kilburn Housing Strategy Meeting — 13 August 2014

 A massive thank you to all who supported and came along to the first meeting of the Kilburn Housing Strategy. 

A lot of major topics and issues were discussed and we have made headway in establishing a strategy. 

Mapping the issues in the housing crisis
Come along to decipher more and learn more.

The apartheid of wealth State we're in

Preface by Swheatie of the KUWG

The blog posting below is originally from Community Care magazine and the days of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. The matters of geographical social inequality raised in that piece have become more urgent as a consequence of the social cleansing that has arisen since the 2010 General Election brought in a cabinet of millionaires with no real electoral mandate for the policies that they have attempted to excuse with the backdrop of the crash of 2008 that really stemmed from the perils of investment bankers being rescued by the State.

The pull quote in the Bob Holman article is:
"The affluent elite tell the government about poverty. Those who endure it are shoved aside." 
These days, that shoving of poor people aside gives rise to the sharp rise in out-of-London-dispersal of poor people reported on yesterday in this blog. While the definition of 'affordable housing' laid down by investment banker-turned 'ennobled'-welfare reform minister David Freud and his ilk makes a mockery of social housing, the debt induced by linking definition of 'affordable' to "80% of [a deregulated housing market] rate" results in a steep rise in homelessness and out-of-London housing dispersals.

Yet with property developers and Central Government pulling Camden Council by the purse strings, we are in for further segregation of wealthy and poor people as this paragraph from a recent Camden New Journal item highlights:
The so-called “affordable” section of the development appears not to have the same entrance, amenity areas and roof terraces as the rest of the building. Even rubbish disposal seems to be segregated; tenants of the affordable flats are expected to take their own rubbish to the bins while the other flats will be provided with a rubbish chute. Moreover it seems that this section, together with the community space, will be directly over one of the most polluted and noisy traffic junctions in Camden. 
It can, ideally, be instructive for people to be 'up close and personal' with what they emit. I close this preface with a link to an item from 2011 about Jeremy Clarkson's sad discovery about such matters.

Poor must meet Gordon

by Bob Holman

Originally posted in Community Care magazine, 20 February 2008

Many of those committed to reducing poverty make the time to lobby the rich but have little contact with those at the sharp end Papers recently released show that Tony Blair had regular meetings with the ultra-rich. They lobbied the prime minister on tax breaks and pensions for themselves and their companies. No doubt they now meet Gordon Brown.

If a lobby for the rich meets in Downing Street why not one for the poor? I do not mean the leaders of national charities who have regular meetings with ministers. Odd that those on salaries of more than £100,000 a year, which help reinforce the idea of inequality, should take it upon themselves to be the poverty lobby.

Anyone who lives in a deprived area knows that many people on low incomes are intelligent and articulate about their plight. In 1998, I encouraged some residents in Easterhouse, Glasgow to write. They did not need to be taught to think or analyse. They did need help in finding a publisher. When the book came out as Faith in the Poor, it soon ran to a second edition.
Bob Holman quote 
One problem is that people in poverty are segregated from the powerful. When I joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, some MPs still lived in council estates, cheap housing areas and pit towns. Not now. As the research of Danny Dorling, professor at Sheffield University, shows, Britain is an increasingly segregated society.

Poverty lobby
The affluent – MPs, leaders of think tanks, government advisers, other senior public figures and all who make up the chattering classes – are geographically and socially distanced from those who struggle to survive. Consequently, it is almost impossible for them to have close friendships with and to act jointly with those who experience inequality. It is the powerful, affluent elite who tell the government and the media about poverty while those who endure it are shoved aside.

The poverty lobby should now campaign on the issue: “listen to poor people rather than us”. If the government agrees to breakfast with those on low incomes, how could it be organised? I don’t know. I do know that organisations such as ATD Fourth World run community and service user groups made up of single parents, pensioners, those on disability benefit, asylum seekers and many more. Their representatives would be a start.
The agenda? That is for them to decide. I do believe that they would demonstrate to politicians that poverty is not because of an underclass or fecklessness or defective personalities but is something imposed by the powerful – the kind of people who make up the ultra rich lobby.

Bob Holman is an author and voluntary neighbourhood worker in Glasgow
- See more at: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-care-experts-blog/2008/02/poor-must-meet-gordon/#sthash.fOdghxsF.dpuf

Many of those committed to reducing poverty make the time to lobby the rich but have little contact with those at the sharp end Papers recently released show that Tony Blair had regular meetings with the ultra-rich. They lobbied the prime minister on tax breaks and pensions for themselves and their companies. No doubt they now meet Gordon Brown.
If a lobby for the rich meets in Downing Street why not one for the poor? I do not mean the leaders of national charities who have regular meetings with ministers. Odd that those on salaries of more than £100,000 a year, which help reinforce the idea of inequality, should take it upon themselves to be the poverty lobby.
Anyone who lives in a deprived area knows that many people on low incomes are intelligent and articulate about their plight. In 1998, I encouraged some residents in Easterhouse, Glasgow to write. They did not need to be taught to think or analyse. They did need help in finding a publisher. When the book came out as Faith in the Poor, it soon ran to a second edition.
Bob Holman quoteOne problem is that people in poverty are segregated from the powerful. When I joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, some MPs still lived in council estates, cheap housing areas and pit towns. Not now. As the research of Danny Dorling, professor at Sheffield University, shows, Britain is an increasingly segregated society.
Poverty lobby
The affluent – MPs, leaders of think tanks, government advisers, other senior public figures and all who make up the chattering classes – are geographically and socially distanced from those who struggle to survive. Consequently, it is almost impossible for them to have close friendships with and to act jointly with those who experience inequality. It is the powerful, affluent elite who tell the government and the media about poverty while those who endure it are shoved aside.
The poverty lobby should now campaign on the issue: “listen to poor people rather than us”. If the government agrees to breakfast with those on low incomes, how could it be organised? I don’t know. I do know that organisations such as ATD Fourth World run community and service user groups made up of single parents, pensioners, those on disability benefit, asylum seekers and many more. Their representatives would be a start.
The agenda? That is for them to decide. I do believe that they would demonstrate to politicians that poverty is not because of an underclass or fecklessness or defective personalities but is something imposed by the powerful – the kind of people who make up the ultra rich lobby.
Bob Holman is an author and voluntary neighbourhood worker in Glasgow
- See more at: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/blogs/social-care-experts-blog/2008/02/poor-must-meet-gordon/#sthash.fOdghxsF.dpuf
Poor must meet Gordon
Poor must meet GordonP

'Bedroom tax' — remember 5 September

Remember to get your MP to vote on 5 September to change how the 'bedroom tax' operates


By 38Degrees


38 Degrees Logo


A year ago the government brought in the bedroom tax - the benefit cut that dictates where poor people should live. [1] We've all heard the horror stories in the news. And for some of us, it’s meant struggling to pay the rent or even being forced out of our homes. [2]

Well, now we have an chance to scrap some of the worst parts of it, and quickly.

Andrew George is a Liberal Democrat MP who’s campaigned and voted against the bedroom tax in the past. He’s proposing a law which would change how the bedroom tax works. [3] If we can get enough MPs to vote for it, he estimates that most of those currently hit would no longer be affected.

So, how can we make it happen? The first vote is on 5th September. We need to make sure MPs have the date in their diaries now, so enough of them promise to turn up and vote for it.

Can you email your MP now and tell them to vote
for Andrew George’s new law?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/change-bedroom-tax

The office team have seen the draft of the law. It’ll be published this week. It isn’t perfect – it wouldn’t fully scrap the bedroom tax. But it’s a big step in that direction. As well as covering the bedroom tax, the proposed law should also help families in need of affordable housing. Right now, its the best chance we have to reduce the number of lives hit by these unfair cuts.

If enough of us email our MPs and let them know we want them to vote for the law, we could push MPs to vote the right way. This would help people living with disabilities, people in sheltered housing, people who’ve been in their home for more than three years, and people whose council can’t find them somewhere else to live.

38 Degrees members have come together before to change bad laws - this April our pressure on MPs helped stop the hospital closure clause. [4] When we all contact our MPs at once, they take notice. The bedroom tax is a nasty attack on the most vulnerable people in society. Let’s do our best to get the worst of it scrapped.

So let’s make sure enough MPs turn up and vote. 5th September is a Friday, and MPs often book other meetings in on Fridays. So it’s important we get this vote goes in their diaries now. Please can you email your MP now?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/change-bedroom-tax



Thanks for being involved,

Rebecca, Rachel, Blanche, David and the 38 Degrees team


PS: Here’s what Andrew George MP says about this vote in his own words:

"I'd like to see the bedroom tax scrapped altogether, and I expect many 38 Degrees members would agree with me. But at this stage it would be hard to get enough MPs to vote for that. So my strategy is to focus on trying to help out as many of those who are suffering from the bedroom tax as I can by passing legislation to scrap the worst aspects of it. It's the most realistic way of making a difference right now. So please help me persuade other MPs to get behind these changes."


NOTES:
[1] Shelter: The Bedroom Tax:
http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/bedroom_tax
[2] The Guardian: Bedroom tax affected more than 522,000 people, first figures show:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/13/bedroom-tax-figures-august
Worcester News: Worcester mum says bedroom tax move has left her £900 out of pocket:
http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/10853447.___Bedroom_tax____has_cost_me_Christmas__says_disabled_mum/?ref=var_0
The Bolton News: Widow forced to leave her home due to ‘bedroom tax’:
http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/10426702.Widow_forced_to_leave_her_home_due_to__bedroom_tax_/
The Herald: Bedroom tax: abolish it, says UN inspector after visits to Glasgow, Edinburgh:
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/bedroom-tax-abolish-it-says-un-inspector-after-visits-to-glasgow-edinburgh.1378882434
[3] andrewgeorge.org.uk: Private Members’ Bill decision – George goes with ‘Affordable Homes Bill’:
http://www.andrewgeorge.org.uk/private-members-bill-decision-george-goes-affordable-homes-bill/
[4] 38 Degrees blog: Hospital closure clause: we did it!
http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2014/05/07/hospital-closure-clause-we-did-it/

Monday, 25 August 2014

TTIP meet with 38Degrees — Saturday 30 August in Hampstead and Kilburn

By 38Degrees


38 Degrees Logo

Mark, Jill, Nadia and other 38 Degrees members who also live in Hampstead and Kilburn are meeting next Saturday, the 30th August, to spread the word about the sinister EU-US trade deal TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership]. Are you free?

Joining in on the day is easy. As soon as you sign up using the link below, you'll be able to see the plans in Hampstead and Kilburn and chat to the rest of your group. So will you join in with Mark, Jill and Nadia and give an hour or two on Saturday 30th August?

Please sign up now to make sure the office team has time to send you a pack of flyers:


Here's a map of your area and the volunteers who have signed up so far:
Map of members already signed up in your constituency

The plan is simple. The link takes you to a page on the 38 Degrees website where you can connect with Mark, Jill and Nadia near you. Once you’ve clicked the link you’ll need to pop in a few details, and then you can start making plans with the other 38 Degrees members in your area.

The 38 Degrees office team will send you a pack. It’ll include a badge, a poster, bumper stickers, and leaflets for you to hand out. The leaflets explain the dangers of the trade deal in plain English and lets people know how they can take action too.

Already, over 120,000 38 Degrees members have signed a petition against TTIP. There are lots of parts of the deal to worry about. It’ll make privatisation of our services like the NHS and National Rail irreversible. It’ll also allow big corporations to sue our government if they make changes to the law that affect the businesses profits - like raising the minimum wage. [1]

The government is not going to have a sudden change of heart on TTIP unless they’re bombarded with questions and opposition. The only way we can do this is through people power - making sure as many of us as possible know about it. Whatever you can do to raise awareness of TTIP where you live will help.

So can you spare an hour or two and join thousands of 38 Degrees members to campaign against TTIP?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/ttip-leaflet-action



Thanks for being involved,

Megan, Nat, James, Barney, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team


NOTES:
[1] The Independent: British sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US trade deal: UK in danger of surrendering judicial independence to multinational corporations, warn activists:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/british-sovereignty-at-risk-from-euus-trade-deal-uk-in-danger-of-surrendering-judicial-independence-to-multinational-corporations-warn-activists-9057318.html
Touchstone: Special courts for foreign investors have no place in trade deals:
http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/11/special-courts-for-foreign-investors-have-no-place-in-trade-deals/

"'Welfare to work' pathways far from satisfactory for people with mental health problems" — IPPR

Swheatie of the KUWG reflects on a new report from a 'think-tank'

In its own words, "the IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research, is the UK's leading progressive think-tank." Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? For a slightly more impartial reference turn to Wikipedia:

IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research) is a thinktank based in the UK with a centre-left viewpoint. It was founded in 1988. It produces research and policy ideas committed to upholding values of social justice, democratic reform and environmental sustainability.
The founding director was James Cornford.[1] The current director is Nick Pearce,[2] a former Head of the No. 10 Policy Unit and special advisor to David Blunkett MP. Former members of staff include the current pensions minister Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb and former Labour cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and David Miliband.
The Institute edits a quarterly journal called Juncture (formerly PPR and New Economy), published by Wiley-Blackwell, which features articles from academics and politicians.
IPPR is based in London and IPPR North has branches in Newcastle and Manchester. The organisation is an independent registered charity. Funding comes from the following:[3]
  • trust and foundation grants
  • European and international funds
  • central and local government funding
  • corporate, public sector and voluntary sector support
  • individual donors
While I would tend to regard those bods as right wing rather than left-wing, what they say up front in the blurb for this report suggests that even they don't reckon the assessments treat folk with mental health issues appropriately:

In safe hands? Evaluating employment pathways for ESA claimants with mental health problems

Author:
Published Wed 20 Aug 2014
This short briefing shines a spotlight on welfare-to-work pathways that are 'far from satisfactory' for people with mental health and behavioural problems.
    It is estimated that 1.9 million people are receiving ESA, rising to 2.4 million in 2015. However, people with mental health problems, who make up 40 percent of those going through the work capability assessment (WCA) process, are being let down by a system that appears to be neither effective nor accurate in determining the appropriate level of financial or employment support for claimants with mental health problems.     Equally, the system fails to provide the kind of support for claimants that is adequate or appropriate for people with mental health problems.
    This paper makes recommendations focusing on:
  • collecting additional information and evidence about people who might be disadvantaged by the level of self-reporting that the WCA requires
  • additional training for assessors and decision-makers before they are allowed to handle applicants with mental and behavioural health problems
  • continuous monitoring of how the WCA is conducted to mitigate negative effects on the wellbeing of participants with mental health problems.
Beyond these specific areas of improvement, we propose two principles for wider reform of employment assessment and support.
  • The WCA should be about assessing support needed for a person to work, not policing a gateway to benefits: despite the rhetoric, the WCA is still a test of what people can’t do, focused on benefits rather than employment.
  • Work support services should be about pursuing ‘supported employment’ strategies, not just supported job search: the current regime is too focused on labour market attachment, but other approaches are available, like the ‘place, train and retain’ approach used in Norway and Sweden.
I welcome the above summary as an aperitif to further study. As I am a person with very slow reading pace, I welcome the fact that the full report — available as a downloadable pdf document — is a mere eight pages long.

Yet I point out that the dodgy provenance of the Work Capability Assessment system is rooted in the outlook of American-based 'disability denial factory' — and 'disability insurer' Unum who have been 'advising' successive UK governments on 'welfare reform' since 1994, and Unum's 'bio-psychosocial model' of disability. Of that, Mo Stewart — a disabled war veteran turned researcher into how her own military disability pension from the UK's Ministry of Defence came to be adjudicated and downgraded by Atos Healthcare — wrote in a March 2013 research summary entitled 'The Hidden Agenda':

Of course, [the] destruction of the welfare state could never have been so readily achived without the unelected former Labour adviser, David Freud. He was ennobled to permit appointment initially to the Shadow Cabinet but, following the 2010 General Election, he was appointed as the Minister for Welfrare Reform for the Coalition where he has excelled. Indeed, one of Lord Freud's most recent claims was that: "Poor peope should be prepared to take more risks because they have the least to lose..." Clearly, this man is yet another millionaire Minister who demonstrates no concern, an no comprehension, of human need.
 
The ongoing DWP medical tyranny, masquerading as welfare reform, has permitted Atos Healthcare to conduct the WCA by employing the totally discredited Bio-Psychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment that remains free from all public accountability according to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. The BPS is the assessment model as used by Unum Insurance when assessing healthcare insurance claims, and it is also the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, initially sponsored by Unum Insurance from its inception in 2003 to 2009. However, prior to his move to the Centre, the Professor was the DWP's Chief Medical Officer who, in 1992, was in post when Unum Insurance was invited to become corporate 'advisers' to the UK government....
 
[With] the national press still refusing to expose the identified influence of Unum Insurance with the DWP welfare reforms, the British public remain in ignorance as the government covertly convert the UK welfare state into the American healthcare system, ultimately to be funded by private insurance. Meanwhile, Unum Insurance is happy to continue to offer new careers to former government 'advisers'.
 
So, this IPPR report that has been supported by input from mental health charity Mind is useful information that needs promoting to help counter public ignorance, but we must realise that the 'welfare reform' agenda is generally directed by those who are short on scruples and understanding, and blinkered by greed.