Sunday, 20 October 2013

Channel 5's billionaire chairman calls out the unemployed for not having jobs


Billionaires advice to unemployed: "go get a job"
On the 15th October, Liverpool Claimant Network tweeted a response to Channel Five’s brutal unemployed-bashing documentary ‘On Benefits and Proud’. We said:

"'On Benefits & Proud' is part of @RichardDesmond's pro-tory benefit-bashing septet of media outlets feeding into State's Welfare agenda.

"Desmond also owns the Express newspapers, the Daily Star and a trio of gossip magazines allowing Desmond to duplicate & cross-publish benefit-bashing content to maximise reach and generate support for the tories. In return, Desmond’s Northern & Shell media Co. will receive favourable industry treatment by the State (prob in the form of peerages).

"'On Benefits & Proud' exploits myths of the undeserving to establish characters in show as origin of 'how bad this country has become’, when in reality it’s the structural, economically driven make-up of society that is responsible.

"People in 'On Benefits & Proud' face multiple exploitations by viewer, producers & media outlets for social, political, economic gain and Desmond, the neoliberal philanthropist fuckspleen is laughing all the way to the bank. "

The twitter response, on Sunday, from self-identified "Media Mogul" and owner of Channel 5, Richard Desmond, was:

"go get a job"



We fucking love it when billionaires call out the unemployed for not having jobs, because it reaffirms the chasm between fuckends like Desmond and the rest of us struggling to make ends meet. By tweeting "go get a job" Desmond confirms the contempt that he has for working class people battered by the motives of the so-called ‘elite’, contempt he can no longer conceal behind his philanthropic turns. It also confirms that Channel 5’s output is influenced by Desmond’s political agenda, an agenda that runs in parallel with the tories.

He also holds a similar disdain for people who’ve been fortunate enough to hold on to their jobs. When his own staff sought a pay rise, he told them to jog on and offered them a one-off payment. He also turned round and offered all his staff weekly Health Lottery tickets "so you can all share the fun of playing and winning." For fucks sake.

And do we really have to mention the vomit that he publishes in his tabloids, The Daily Star and Express? No, we don’t. The bloke is a vile shitbag masquerading as a charitable do-gooder who clearly has no idea or doesn’t want to have any idea what struggling working class people are facing, except if it can marginally boost viewing figures or sell more papers.

Cheers to everyone who piled in on the scumbag. For those who haven't done so: @RichardDesmond

Look forward to your next tweet, Desmond, you fuckin’ prick.

@claimantnetwork

Monday, 7 October 2013

The DWP Shame Machine: Lowering Self-Esteems Since 1997*

image via lucas adams (for display purposes only)


One component of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) unofficial ‘toolkit’ we must resist is shame, a deeply felt anxiety that rips through the psychology of anyone who’s on the dole. It is used as a behaviour modifier that can be detected in the verbal and written discourses we have with the Jobcentre and the DWP, and can be triggered in various ways.

Whether you’re being grilled about your jobsearch diary not being complete, chided for being 5 minutes late for an appointment, doubted on your jobseeker’s agreement, sanctioned for 4 weeks for refusing workfare, questioned on the authenticity of a disability, interrogated on the life choices you’ve made, openly humiliated in a work programme provider’s office, sat waiting in a church for a food handout, stood waiting in a phone box for a crisis loan, shame is there punching at your mental health. And the DWP, or in a broader context the State, know it.

The DWP rely on shame, as both motivator and de-motivator, to coerce the unemployed by associating shame with unemployment —or ‘joblessness’, as the DWP like to call it —and the poverty that stems from unemployment.

The DWP’s deployment of shame as a coercive tactic is an act of psychological violence working in conjunction with the violence implicit in the sanctions regime. It draws on the indoctrinated/ing unemployment-related shaming present within society (passed from community, neighbour, peer) and maintains this shame at and beyond the interaction (interview, appointment, assessment) between individual and state department.

There are similar coercive, shaming tactics used throughout society: in schools, prisons, work, —it is part of a disciplinary process that individualises the potential for collective struggle, limiting the scope of organizing against punitive measures.



The cycle of shame, not the absence of work itself, is something that must be combated outside of the idea employment is some sort of cure for misery and poverty —it isn’t; combating shaming is part of a process of fighting back; it’s about changing how we look at the DWP (or the State), the letters they send, the threats they make, and the buildings they are based in, and seeing them as areas where we can resist, both clandestinely and openly, the imposition of work, workfare and sanctions. In other words, we begin to take back control of our lives.

This is a process that will open up further questions about the nature of work and our relationship to it — ioo, the absence of employment from our lives is nothing to be ashamed of—, but for the moment we can start with combating the psychological attacks on ourselves by organizing together, rejecting the shame of non-work and attacking the shamers by whatever means we have available.  

No doubt the situation is more complex than just shame on its own; and the complexity of circumstances will define how we individually and collectively defend ourselves, but if we can identify shaming as a tactic used and imposed upon us by the DWP then we can begin to break their psychological control and refigure it towards our direct action.


(Thanks to lucas adams for the image & subtitle borrow)
*2001, if we're being completely accurate

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Violence of Sanctions




This is a section from a longer essay, written in 2012, on State attempts to enforce behaviours on the unemployed.

Every week claimants are subjected to violence, but this violence is not the ‘typical’ physical violence we associate with the word violence, —although physical attacks on claimants, spurred on by right-wing media campaigns ( see the Sun’s declaration of war on benefit scroungers: http://is.gd/BmApbV ) have been on the increase, and with tragic consequences— it’s a violence based on power.

If you claim Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA), which will be replaced by Universal Credit in 2013, you can be ‘sanctioned’, meaning you lose your JSA for a week to 26 weeks depending on why the sanction was applied in the first place. A sanction is financial, but it has a social element to it as well: it is meant to regulate your behaviour. By threatening you with loss of allowance, benefit, or support, sanctions are supposed to modify you and your relationship to work; by threatening those who are in poverty, with poverty, the State expects you to comply or perish -what use are you, economically, if you cannot or, maybe, will not to work? It is through these ‘sanctions’ that the State wields power over the unemployed (& employed), and it is through this power that violence against the claimant is committed.

The World Health Organization (WTO) defines violence as:

The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.[1]

Power is a form of violence that can cause, according to the WTO, injury, death, psychological harm or deprivation. Whether a sanction is actually applied or not, the intention is to threaten you with the possibility of not being able to pay the electricity bill, or buy food, or make up the difference in your rent; the intention is to put you in a position that causes significant trauma (threatened or actual), so that you don’t resist the terms of the agreement you signed in order to receive your benefit. It is to deprive you of the necessities of life so you prefer to be put to work and have your labour exploited.

In the quarter ending November 2011 there were 309 thousand referrals for JSA sanctions where a decision was made, of which 153 thousand were adverse (i.e. a sanction or disallowance was applied).[2]


In just 4 months, ending in Nov 2011, 153,000 sanctions were applied to claimants, resulting in a loss of Job Seeker’s Allowance.

In 2011, over 10,000 sanctions were applied to claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), an allowance that can be claimed if you have an “illness or disability”.[3]

On the 21st May 2012, 124,000 single parents were forced from Income Support onto JSA, where they face the threat and application of sanctions.[4]

This is the extent of regulation of the unemployed on JSA; this is the extent of regulation of sick & disabled people on ESA; this is the extent of modification of behaviour by the State; and the extent to which violence is used against the poor and vulnerable.

And this violence can have tragic consequences:

In June 2010, Scottish Writer Paul Reekie was found dead in his home surrounded by “letters informing him that his welfare benefits were to be halted”.[5]

In February 2011, Elaine Christian committed suicide over her disability benefits being cut.[6]

In November 2011, Helen & Mark Mullins were driven to suicide, unable to live on the £57.50 a week Mark was collecting in JSA. Helen had been refused JSA because she was unfit for work, but could not claim Incapacity Benefit (IB) because she had not been officially diagnosed with a condition. Although Helen wasn’t sanctioned, the refusal of benefits, no doubt, precipitated a fatal act of violence by the State.

In January 2012, a claimant died of pneumonia six weeks after his Incapacity Benefit was stopped[7]

In May 2012, a claimant walked into Birkenhead Jobcentre, Wirral, and slashed his wrists.[8]

These are just a few reported cases of what could be described as poverty-related deaths or suicides (in one case attempted) invoked by the threat or actual application of increased poverty by financial sanctions or adverse benefit decisions. Although most of the cases relate to benefits being stopped, as opposed to benefits being sanctioned, they highlight the actions of a state that perpetuates violence and its preparedness for the consequences of that violence, as evidenced in a six-point plan sent to Jobcentres, by the Department for Work & Pensions, warning staff of potential increases in suicides:

 "Some customers may say they intend to self-harm or kill themselves as a threat or a tactic to 'persuade', others will mean it. It is very hard to distinguish between the two … For this reason, all declarations must be taken seriously."[9]

When violence is mentioned in this text, in relation to power, it is not an abstract. When you go to sign on at the Jobcentre and end up being threatened with sanctions, it’s a very real situation; when you are mandated to perform unpaid work as part of the Work Programme, for instance, or you lose your benefit, it’s a very real situation; when you’re a single parent with a young child being forced to look for work or face sanctions, it’s a very real situation; and it’s important to recognise these situations as attacks, as acts of violence, perpetrated by the State against you and your behaviour.



Sunday, 24 March 2013

Week of Action Against Workfare in Liverpool


A week of action against workfare in Liverpool, including pickets, communications blockades and other actions will begin on the 15th April.

Those dastardly f*&ks at the Department for Work & Pensions are still clinging on to the notion that unpaid work is somehow the medicine that the unemployed need to make them employed. We reject that notion.

It is a punitive, Dickensian rehash of the Victorian workhouse ethic and needs stamping out...forever.

Boycott Workfare have worked tirelessly to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare and we'll be doing our bit in Liverpool to put pressure on the architects and profiteers of workfare.

If you're in Liverpool or Merseyside then join us from Monday, 15th April to send out our message loud and clear:

IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN!

Week of Action Against Workfare in Liverpool Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/309556732505241/


Follow @boycottworkfare & @claimantnetwork on twitter

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Workfare hammered in the high court



From Boycott Workfare:

Media enquiries: Please contact info@boycottworkfare.org or call 07840 381195. We are happy to provide information, comment and interviews.

Media release – Tuesday 12th February 2013

Back to work schemes quashed in huge victory for ordinary people


Today, the Court of Appeal quashed the government’s workfare schemes, which have seen tens of thousands of people put to work without pay and many more put at risk of destitution through sanctions.
Of the numerous workfare schemes introduced by this government, only Mandatory Work Activity remains lawful. From today, those on the controversial Work Programme, Sector Based Work Academies, Community Action Programme or other workfare schemes may leave without risk of sanction. Sanctions currently in place must immediately be brought to an end.

The viability of the remaining workfare scheme, MWA, is under question due to campaigners’ success in persuading charities and companies to withdraw. A DWP evaluation [4] of Mandatory Work Activity in December 2012 noted that “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.”
Joanna Long, a member of Boycott Workfare, has said:
“Today’s ruling is a victory of the people against a government which thought it could compel unemployed and sick people to work without pay, backed by a vicious regime of sanctions which made the poorest far poorer.
“We are confident this spells the end for workfare in the UK. The only remaining scheme is wobbling due to public pressure on the charities profiting from free labour. If Iain Duncan Smith attempts to legislate for workfare in future, he should know that we will not allow it. Tens of businesses and charities are already boycotting his schemes, and today’s ruling shows that workfare is not only wrong, it is also unlawful.”
Boycott Workfare’s UK-wide week of action on 18th-24th March will go ahead with the aim of bringing Mandatory Work Activity to an end. The campaign will do all it can to ensure those sanctioned are repaid in the coming weeks.
[Ends]

Notes to editor

Boycott Workfare Media Liaison 07840 381195
[1] See Public Interest Lawyers’ press release here: http://publicinterestlawyers.co.uk/news_details.php?id=298
[2] Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign network to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights. We are not affiliated to any political party and are open to all who share our aims. More info: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
[3] DWP evaluation of Mandatory Work Activity, December 2012: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/report_abstracts/rr_abstracts/rra_823.asp
[4] Workfare doesn’t work: DWP research has repeatedly found that workfare has no impact on job outcomes. In June 2012, peer-reviewed research by the DWP concluded that Mandatory Work Activity had “no impact on the likelihood of being employed compared to non-referrals”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/13/mandatory-work-scheme-government-research
2008 DWP research concluded “it can even reduce job outcomes”: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2007-2008/rrep533.pdf
[5] For more information on workfare schemes and links to key documents, see the Boycott Workfare “The Facts” page: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=663
[6] This photo of the Boycott Workfare support action at the court on 26 June 2012 is available for use (please credit Boycott Workfare): http://www.boycottworkfare.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/forfacebook.jpg

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sunday People newspaper launches ‘crusade’ to keep bedroom tax


Dingbat

Trinity Mirror's The Sunday People have decided to launch a ‘crusade’ against the Bedroom Tax…by keeping it. Not only do they recycle the cross-party falsity that the “housing benefit bill must be reduced”, but their political hack, Nigel Nelson, thinks he’s got the solution to the Bedroom Tax after proclaiming it “wrong, wrong, wrong”. His solution? “[L]et local authorities determine individual claims case-by-case.”

Yeah, Nigel, that will make it right. (add shed loads of dry sarcasm).

Case-by-case would involve costly, invasive assessments, similar to the humiliating ATOS assessments, by local authorities to determine whether you are or whether you aint subject to the Bedroom Tax.

In Liverpool, the Housing Associations' Welfare Reform Group set up a database last year to swap information on tenants affected by the bedroom tax and who were likely to go into arrears, so they already know specific details.

Even if particular cases were made exempt from the Bedroom Tax via case-by-case, that would still leave 100’s of 1000’s of tenants not exempt and still liable to pay the shortfall.

Clearly, the tabloid hasn’t thought this through (or has --->) and decided to jump on what it probably foresees as a paper-selling opp.

The Bedroom Tax needs to be smashed outright, and that will only be achieved by tenant solidarity and direct action --not by devolving it to local authorities. That’s the only way we’ll combat the Bedroom Tax.

combatbedroomtax@gmail.com

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Localis Document: Blueprint for the Destruction of Social Housing



The image above is the title page of the Localis Principles for Social Housing Reform document. It was published in 2009 by think-tank Localis and authored by Stephen Greenhalgh and John Moss. Stephen Greenhalgh is a Tory dirtbag who’s currently under investigation by the IPCC for offering preferential treatment to tenants on new housing if they OK’d the demolition of their existing homes. John Moss is another Tory, who ran for election in 2005 and has worked under Lord Heseltine.

The document set out the trajectory-of-attack on social housing —and as soon as the Conservatives got into power they set the fucking thing in motion. It’s a horrible piece of ideology that will make your fingernails explode, but the truly stomach churning bit is Appendix 1, in which Greenhalgh and Moss set out the necessary amendments and repeals to legislation that would bring the social housing sector close to total privatisation.

Alterations to legislation involved recommending repealing all sections of Local Government Acts “limiting the ability of councils to operate commercially”; and abolish all sections of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act to allow “controlled and influenced companies” to operate on a par with private companies. Most insiders will say here that this is standard stuff, common knowledge. But it’s not if you don’t know. Tenants are still working out how the Bedroom Tax will affect them personally, never mind think-tank policy that’s been worked on for years, decades even, by squads of Tory professionals.

Regarding the Bedroom Tax, it is disturbing to now see it in its true form: a mechanism to enable the reconfiguration of social housing into private housing at market rents; and even more disturbing to see human lives cast aside for daring to live in homes the government now sees as profitable units for the taking. Those monitoring Universal Credit will be interested to see the proposal to “abolish the Housing Benefits scheme” and “enable a new means-tested unified benefit to provide for a single housing and income support benefit.” Ring any bells?

The Localis document is also punctuated with myths about “inter-generational dependency”, worklessness, and the deserving/undeserving rhetoric picked up by suits throughout parliament to score votes and block solidarity amongst the working class. Localis even go as far as enabling “councils to discharge their homelessness duties” to free up housing for more “economically active households.”

The clincher, though, is the “[o]ther areas needing examination/amendment” section of Appendix 1, which calls for the removal of “anything which limits the powers of housing associations, Trusts, or similar bodies to trade commercially for community benefit, including the creation of for-market dwellings” and “amend any clauses which prohibit housing associations, Trusts, or similar bodies from operating for profit, and paying dividends of more than £1 to shareholders”. Says it all really.

Beneath DWP pretences of “growing housing benefit expenditure” and the housing ‘crisis’ glowers a renewed accumulation of our common resources by private interests, aided by the State. It amounts to an attack on the poor by the rich; and this document provided, and is providing, the pathway to destroying the remainder of our social housing.