Martin’s already lost almost everything – he voted leave to spread the pain

Leaving the EU might make my life shit, but it’s shit anyway,” Martin Parker, a 62-year-old jobseeker says, bluntly. “So how much worse can it get?”Over three years, his jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) has been sanctioned on six separate occasions. ‘Sanction on top of sanction’, he says. ‘Like a layer cake’.’Contact author

On the outskirts of north London, sitting in his rented box room (“the size of a cell”, as he puts it), Parker could be said to represent a section of the country the remain camp failed to reach. The voters who weren’t swayed by fears of the economy failing – not because they didn’t believe them – but because, as Parker puts it to me: “I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Through the 1980s and 90s, Parker worked as a precision engineer, making aircraft engine parts and suspension units for tanks. But work dried up and he bounced between signing on and taking casual work: from computer programming to office work. His last job – selling studio glass in an art gallery in Piccadilly – ended in 2011 and he’s been out of work since.

“Unemployment, benefits … it doesn’t resemble how it used to be,” he says. “You could do a short contract job and you knew you could sign on after ‘cos it was simple. Nowadays, it’s so hard … Their approach isn’t to support you. It’s to get rid of you.”

“Get rid of you”, to Parker, has come to mean stopping the money he needs to live on. Over three years, his jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) has been sanctioned on six separate occasions. “Sanction on top of sanction,” he says. “Like a layer cake.”

The misdemeanours varied: an “inadequate” CV; being late for an appointment (“I was always early,” he says); or a failure to provide information. “Petty things”, Parker says. “Things you hadn’t actually done or things you were supposed to do but they hadn’t told you.”

At one point, his JSA had only been reinstated for 19 days before it was stopped again. But in 2014 the final hit came: he missed a Jobcentre interview – the letter informing him he had to attend arrived on the same day, he says – and was handed a three-year benefit sanction. Or a “156-week termination” of JSA, as the official notification put it.

As the sanctions started, he says, “everyone piled in”. By 2011, with his rent rising and his housing benefit also suspended each time his JSA was stopped, he gave up his two-bed flat and moved into a shared house: eight adults crammed over three floors. “We’re all squashed up,” he says. “It’s like being suffocated.”

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While politicians amuse themselves, austerity continues rampant, etc…

Kate Belgrave writes:

Just so that you know:

This week, I have already spoken with:

  • Homeless young mothers from the Boundary House hostel in Welwyn Garden City who’ve been placed in cramped, single-room “studio” flats with their kids miles away from their jobs and study. They were terrified (rightly) that they’d never find even halfway decent accommodation.
  • A young woman (aged 22) who told me that she’d been sanctioned for missing a meeting, even though she’d let her jobcentre know that she couldn’t attend, because she’d been placed in housing out of the borough. She said that she didn’t know she could appeal the sanction decision. She also said that she hadn’t been told about hardship payments. She has a two-year-old daughter. She had no idea how to address any of these problems and nobody to ask.
  • A 53-year-old man who has serious mental health issues (his depression and anxiety are so bad that he often can’t leave the house). He has to pay the bedroom tax. His council tax benefit has been cut. And now, it seems that his DLA has been stopped, or that anyway, he’s getting nothing. He filled in a PIP application form with assistance several months ago and was called to an assessment. He says that he couldn’t cope with the face-to-face assessment, though, and so the assessor told him that a home visit would be organised. But it seems that it wasn’t. He says that assessment just never happened.


Man who had benefits stopped illegally gets DWP refund – and now others could make a claim

A man whose benefits were stopped illegally by the DWP is to get a refund – three years later

A man whose benefits were stopped illegally by the Department of Work and Pensions has won a refund – three years later.

The case could trigger a flood of similar claims.

Simon Milne received a letter from the DWP in November saying it had not given him a fair chance to respond to allegations about his work-search record.

The letter said: “A check of our records indicates that we may not have given you formal written notification of this decision. A formal letter would also have given you information about the steps you could take to appeal.”

Simon contacted the Salford Unemployed Resource Centre in Eccles after getting the letter.

Now a judge has ruled he should get a refund for the benefits that were sanctioned illegally in 2012.

Kester Dean, a volunteer at SURC, said: “Stopping someone’s benefits can have catastrophic impacts and so this was an extraordinary admission from the DWP. The sanction was clearly illegal as the law requires claimants to be warned of a possible sanction, so they have the chance to present their case.

“Yet Simon apparently hadn’t even been given a written decision, let alone a warning – unbelievable.”

Simon’s Jobseekers Allowance was halted for a month despite him getting a job shortly after.

Simon said: “The Jobcentre makes you feel ground down and low about yourself. You have to apply for jobs you have no skills for. In the end I found the right course and got a job as a handy person and gardener straight away.

“But the sanction delayed this as I had no money to get to interviews or for food, let alone clothes to look smart enough to get a job. It knocks you back so you have to rebuild the confidence to move forward.”

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BURIED: UN slams Tories over UK human rights abuses

While the country is entrenched in the mire of the EU referendum fallout, the Tories have just been slammed by the United Nations (UN) – for human rights abuses.

But not abroad. Here, in the UK.

As The Canary previously reported, on the 15 and 16 June the UN Human Rights committee on economic, social and cultural affairs publicly reported its questioning of the Tories, after more than two years of evidence-gathering concerning the impact of their policies on society.

report was submitted by the UK government, from which the final conclusions and recommendations, which were released on Monday night, have been drawn. And the UN pulls no punches in its assessment.

Failed policies

The criticisms are overarching, and in some cases staggering – covering nearly every area of government policy. It appears the UN have three levels of disdain: “regret”, “concerned” and “seriously or deeply concerned” – and the latter, worryingly, comes up relating to two specific areas.

The committee spoke at length about asylum seekers; specifically, that our government is failing them “due to restrictions in accessing employment and the insufficient level of support provided”. It goes further and says that they are, basically, being denied the health care that they are entitled to under international law. The UN also slams the government over its treatment of migrant workers, in terms of exploitation, low pay and health care access – specifically citing the fact the Tories ignored its last set of recommendations.

The government comes under criticism for its sales of weapons to foreign countries and lack of legislation surrounding this. A pertinent issue at present, with the Tories coming under increasing pressure to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who are currently accused of committing war crimes in Yemen.

The UN is also critical of the practices surrounding government-backed private companies’ conduct in foreign countries. This specifically relates to an investigation by Global Justice Now, surrounding the Department for International Development ploughing money into private education companies in Uganda and Kenya – at the cost of their free education systems. It seems the Tories not only want a profit from the UK’s schools, they want it from other countries’ schools as well.

There were numerous other areas in which the Tories came under fire: their failure to tackle tax avoidance; the 2016 Trade Union Act and blacklisting of workers; the reductions in the corporate tax rate; the decimation of the legal aid system; the failure to introduce the 2010 Equality Act in Northern Ireland and the continued illegality of abortion; the gender pay gap; the under-funding of mental health services; worsening of social care for the elderly; the lowly minimum wage; violence against women, and the lack of female representation in high-profile public roles.

However, the most damning indictments and truly staggering ones were surrounding austerity, unemployment, living standards and welfare reforms. And the majority of the barrage of criticisms were aimed at the impact these had on the vulnerable and the disabled.

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UN Committee expresses concerns in UK Rights report

View report

In this report the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed a number of concerns about:

  • The proposed introduction of a Bill of Rights
  • The disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures
  • The unfair reforms to the legal aid system and the introduction of employment tribunal fees
  • The failure to bring into force key provisions of the Equality Act 2010.
  • The disproportionate effect of unemployment on disabled people.
  • Violence against women and girls with disabilities.
  • The lack of a specific definition of poverty and the effect this has on disabled people.
  • The lack of adequate measures to address the increasing levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, including obesity, and the lack of adequate measures to reduce the reliance on food banks.
  • The lack of adequate resources provided to mental health services.
  • Persistent serious shortcomings in the care and treatment of older persons, including those with dementia.

from disability

Rising demand forces Worcester foodbank to swap its increasingly cramped premises for a much larger warehouse..

WORCESTER’S foodbank is on the move after ending its two-year search for a new home.

Rising demand for emergency food has forced the foodbank to swap its increasingly cramped premises on Carden Close for a much larger warehouse in Lowesmoor Wharf.

The move will also allow the charity to house a job club, debt counselling support and Baby Basics service, providing essentials like baby clothes to help struggling parents get back on their feet.

The formal date for the move has been set as Tuesday, July 5.

Grahame Lucas, Worcester Foodbank manager, said: “Emergency food is often just a sticking plaster and it doesn’t address the underlying causes of food poverty.”

“That’s why we are delighted our new premises will provide us with enough space to offer a wide range of services that address the root causes of hunger, so people no longer have to rely on emergency aid.”

Volunteers have helped to provide more than 15,600 three day emergency food parcels – including about 5,000 for children – since food bank opened its doors on Carden Close in June 2012.

But with demand for emergency food expected to soar by as much as 25 per cent in 2016, the need to move had grown increasingly urgent.

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Poverty-stricken UK families becoming even poorer, say poverty campaigners

“Cuts to family benefits and in-work support” are being blamed for poorer families across the UK drifting even deeper into poverty.

“Cuts to family benefits and in-work support” are being blamed for poorer families across the UK drifting even deeper into poverty, as new research reveals that poorer families are struggling to get by on an average weekly income of £55.60 below the poverty threshold.

Research published today by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows that the ‘poverty gap’ – how far the income of an average poorer family falls below the poverty threshold – has grown by 9.4% in recent years, from £50.80 in 2010-11 to £55.60.

The research is published ahead of the Scottish and UK government’s annual child poverty statistics, with independent forecasts warning the number of children in the UK living in poverty will increase 50% by 2020, with significant increases expected in 2017.

Whilst parents are doing their best to protect children from the worst effects of poverty, CPAG say children in low-income households are feeling the squeeze too. CPAG Scotland warn of an increase in the number of children who are unable to have friends round for tea or go on school trips as a result of financial constraints.

Jennifer, a working mother of three young children from Edinburgh, said: “My younger son is going away on a residential school trip, it’s the end of school trip in primary seven. But I’ve not been able to manage to pay the £200 to it because I’ve needed it for my rent…I presume that there will be other mums that struggle as well.

“It’s just all the extra stuff to get. You have to buy things like wellies and waterproofs and they’re never going to wear them again but you have to get them. All the other kids will have them. So, you just have to. It’ll be fine. I’ll sort something out.”

CPAG Scotland are calling on both the UK and Scottish Government “to take immediate steps to avert a child poverty crisis in Scotland”.

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170 tenants evicted EVERY DAY in England and Wales, a horrid record, AND councils tax their benefit incomes

170 tenants evicted EVERY DAY in England and Wales AND councils tax their benefit incomes, then blindfold the magistrates with computer printouts, who give leave to intimidate 1,000,000s of vulnerable people.

NATIONAL MARCH AGAINST THE HOUSING ACT ~ for secure tenancies and controlled rents

Rev Paul Nicolson – delivered at Hyde Park Corner on the 18th June 2016

The enforcement of council tax against benefits since April 2013 is a story about piling stress upon stressed households with the indiscriminate use of information technology against the most vulnerable people in England and Wales.  Many will also have rent arears due to cuts in housing benefit. The means to pay off the rent and the council tax arrears is often stopped by a benefit sanction for one month, three months or three years.

Since April 2013 housing benefit has been cut three stressful times, by the co-called “Bedroom tax”, the “Benefit cap” and the “Local Housing Allowance”. Those three cuts in housing benefit have created rent arrears, evictions and misery for tenants.  In 2015 more than 170 tenants were evicted every day in England and Wales, according to Ministry of Justice figures. That is a record and a horrid record too. 

Also since April 2013 the same benefit income, which is expected to pay the rent, due to those cuts in housing benefit by central government, is expected to pay council tax due to the cuts in council tax benefit by local government.  Many cannot pay either rent or council tax.

That is where information technology clashes with vulnerable humanity. A loveless computer printout is carried by the councils to the magistrates’ courts. On it will be 10s, 100s or 1000s of names of late and non payers of council tax. The printouts blindfold the Magistrates. In May 2013, at the first enforcement courts after benefits were taxed by Haringey Council, there were over 4000 names on the printouts. The Tottenham magistrates waved their hands over these loveless printouts and “they presto” the council is given permission, with liability orders, to enforce the tax against 1000s of people, with draconian acts of intimidation.

There are threats to take the arrears out of shredded benefits or low pay, of the bailiffs and prison. Over 20,000 liability orders a year awarded by the blindfolded Tottenham Magistrates to the London Borough of Haringey and 3.5 million by other magistrates to councils in England and Wales in 2013/14.

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