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Thurs 14th April – National Protest Against Benefit Cuts Day 3

Tyneside Claimants Union and Disabled People Against Cuts North East are joining forces for a protest against benefit cuts at Newcastle Monument on  Thurs 14th April 2011 at 2pm.

Please join us if you can!

Reclaim the appeal

Defend the right of appeal

Tyneside Claimants’ Union are currently engaged in call for a change in the Social Security appeal system to enable access for many claimants who are effectively denied the right of appeal, or who are heavily penalised for exercising this right. For many claimants in a situation where they disagree with the conditions, or instructions, imposed on there benefit claim by benefit officials, an application to the Social Security Appeal Tribunal would not be allowed to proceed until after a sanction has been applied to their benefit claim, that is, until their benefit has been penalised.  This causes undue and unfair hardship for claimants who take appeals to the Social Security Tribunal, and in many cases of dispute it deters claimants from entering an appeal entirely.  The time required for an appeal to be heard by the tribunal can be many months, and in the most extreme cases it can take years!

Even a reduced level of payment for a limited period can be a formidable endurance for many claimants – the levels of subsistence benefits are determined in law and are the minimum requirement for personal maintenance. In the most severe cases of sanctioning, benefit may be withdrawn entirely for an extended period of time. In these circumstances, it is the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable, who are most severely disadvantaged and disfranchised by this system of administration.

The right to representation by a legally constituted tribunal, in civil claims, is an internationally founded fundamental provision. The fact that this is systematically denied to welfare claimants in the UK is a severe national deficit.   However, there is a universal remedy that can be applied, which would give back the right of appeal to all welfare benefit claimants. This would be that, in disputes and disagreements concerning welfare claims, claimants are allowed to exercise and resolve appeal tribunal claims before any penalisation of, or detrimental intervention to, benefit payments is applied.

Support the Tyneside Claimants’ Union and join us in this collective claim to restore a very important fundamental right.

Protest and Picnic against Benefit Cuts at A4e Newcastle

Claimants and supporters turned up at A4e Newcastle on Monday 24th January.  We had two aims:

  • to protest against benefit cuts, workfare, and the companies (such as A4e) that profit from our poverty.
  • to leaflet, chat to and share solidarity and a picnic with the New Deal detainees forced to attend A4e.

TCU and supporters talk to A4e detainees

Around 15 protesters gathered outside A4e, on a soulless business park in Newcastle.  We hung up banners saying “Benefit cuts hurt all of us“, “End A4e misery – Stop the poverty pimps“, and “Defend welfare rights” from nearby trees, set up a stall, and played music.  This attracted the attention of several of the people inside the building who shouted out from the windows “nice one, are you here for long?”.  It also attracted the attention of A4e security and managers who had a hissy fit about a banner being tied to a tree and called the police on us.

A4e is one of the places in Newcastle that unemployed people get sent to once they have been signing on for a certain length of time, as part of “New Deal” (soon to be replaced by “the Work Programme”).  They offer “courses” (often no more than “peer job-search” i.e. sitting at a computer shared between 3 people looking for jobs on the internet) and force people onto “work placements” (dole slavery).  The company has a reputation for its bullying and disrespectful attitude to unemployed people.

benefit cuts hurt all of us

The protest at A4e was part of the National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts.  Protesters are angry about benefit cuts and “the Work Programme”, which will force more of us to work for our benefits (i.e. for as little as £1.27 an hour) while companies like A4e profit.  This will effectively undermine the minimum wage and increase unemployment as low paid jobs are replaced by this free labour.  The government wants to push 91% of the disabled people currently receiving ESA or Incapacity benefit into “the Work Programme” and the hands of companies like A4e, as well as single parents (and both people in couples) who have children as young as 5.  Benefit cuts are going to force millions of people into a cycle of poverty, debt, stress, and homelessness.  In contrast to this A4e, whose owner, Emma Harrison, already has a £40million fortune, is set to make record profits.

Lots of people came out during their lunch-break and we chatted with them, some were wary of us, some pleased to see us.  Some of the people attending A4e said they had been told not to talk to us by A4e employees, and had been threatened with “being chucked off the course and losing your money” if they did.  Most people said how bored they were on the “courses” that A4e provides.  Some people said that they weren’t getting the help with literacy and IT that they needed.  Other people had been told by A4e staff what boxes to tick on a form asking “what do you need extra support in”, meaning that they had asked for “support” for things they were already highly qualified in, while having their real needs ignored.

We shared biscuits and crisps and gave out the following leaflet:

ATTENDING A4e?
STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!

This has been written by claimants involved in Tyneside Claimants Union. Today we are telling A4e to stop denying unemployed people their basic rights.

Claimants have the right to have a person of their choice come with them to meetings about their benefits and back them up or take notes – this applies to meetings at New Deal providers like A4e, to Jobcentre interviews, to ATOS medical exams, to fraud interviews, to appeals tribunals, and to enquiries at the Council, etc.

We encourage everyone sent here to support each other and stand up for yourselves. For example, with the solidarity of groups similar to Tyneside Claimants Union, some claimants attending A4e in other parts of the country have won the right to change their A4e adviser. This should be everyone’s right.

If A4e try and get your benefit stopped, you can fight it, some claimants have done this successfully. If you are sent on a work placement, then you should have a say in where you are sent.
We are against the whole system of compulsory work for benefits – why should the unemployed be used as slave labour? We want to help build up a movement to defeat workfare and all the other cuts the government are making – why should we pay for the greedy rich?

Today is a Britain-wide Day of Action against the cuts in welfare. Join us in fighting back! Contact us to find out more or if you need support or advice with a benefits problem.

End A4e banner

24th January – Protest and Picnic against Benefit Cuts and Poverty Pimps

11am Monday 24th January 2011
at A4e Newcastle (meet at Manors Metro)

Called by Tyneside Claimants Union

Part of the National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/ notowelfarecuts(at)yahoo.co.uk

Everyone welcome, whether you are a benefit claimant yourself, or want to give your solidarity: please tell your friends.

Bring: banners and placards, music, drums and whistles, food to share, and your ideas, enthusiasm and solidarity.

We say
NO

  • TO CUTS TO WELFARE AND HOUSING BENEFITS
  • TO COMPULSORY WORK FOR BENEFITS
  • TO “THE WORK PROGRAMME”
  • TO BENEFITS SANCTIONS
  • TO CASUALISATION AND ATTACKS ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS
  • TO POVERTY PIMPS LIKE A4E AND WORKING LINKS

After a certain amount of time signing on, unemployed people are forced to attend private companies like A4e and Working Links as part of the “New Deal”. This is supposed to help the unemployed find work, but many unemployed people who have been forced to go to these companies complain of a total lack of any useful courses, training or facilities and denounce the disrespectful and bullying way these companies treat unemployed people. The ConDems are replacing “New Deal with “the Work Programme”, which will mean that more benefits claimants (including disabled people currently on ESA/Incapacity Benefit, and single parents with children as young as 5 (its now 7)) will be forced to attend these companies and more of us will be made to work for our benefits (i.e. for as little as £1.27 an hour).

Benefit Cuts and Poverty Pimps

The government wants to make massive cuts to the benefits system, for example forcing many disabled people off Employment Support Allowance/Incapacity Benefit, abolishing Education Maintenance Allowance and making 20% cuts to Disability Living Allowance. According to the Chartered Institute of Housing, ¾ million people across the UK will lose their homes as a result of the cuts to housing benefit alone. We can’t let them get away with this!

Emma Harrison, the owner of A4E, lives very well off benefits. She has a £40m fortune and a 100 acre country estate. Yet people forced to attend A4e in Newcastle and Gateshead complain that there aren’t enough computers or even pens and that there is a culture of disrespect and bullying in the company. Whilst millions of people face a spiral into poverty, debt, stress, and homelessness, the gravy train is being extended for poverty pimps like A4e and Working Links which seek to profit from the misery of others.

Don’t get fooled by divide and rule tactics

People who are unemployed for whatever reason, either through ill health, or the recession, or because they are caring for a child or disabled person, are not scroungers, but human beings with real needs for food, housing and health! Only 1 in 10 housing benefit claimants is unemployed – most have low paid jobs. Many people with jobs also rely on benefits tax credits, child benefit, and council tax benefit to make ends meet. Carers and single parents do the toughest – unpaid – jobs there are!

The “Work Programme” and the benefit cuts are not only an attack on the unemployed and other claimants, they are an attack on workers in jobs. Making people work for their benefits won’t reduce poverty or improve life chances. But it will allow employers to bypass the minimum wage. If the government get their way the current 4 week compulsory work placements will become much longer. We all have to organise to stop workfare and benefit cuts.

Let’s get together to take some real action to stop these injustices!

Come along to this demonstration, contact Tyneside Claimants Union.

Isolated we can be bullied but together we can turn the tables !

15th December – Newcastle Protest against Welfare and Housing Benefit Cuts

National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts – 15 December

Meet at Newcastle Monument, 12 noon Wednesday 15th December 2010

Called by Tyneside Claimants Union

Come and join us for an afternoon of activity against welfare and housing benefit cuts and reforms.

The reforms and cuts to benefits affect millions of people. They are going to lead to increased poverty, homelessness, debt, overcrowding, and stress for many individuals and families – disabled people, pensioners, carers, single parents, unemployed workers, college students, and low waged workers are all affected. This attack on benefits drives down working conditions and wages for everyone. Fighting these austerity measures is a form of self defence.

We welcome everyone to attend this protest whether you will be directly affected by these cuts and reforms or want to show solidarity with those who are.

Please bring your banners, placards, ideas and enthusiasm.

Please pass this on to anyone who might be interested

Contact Tyneside Claimants Union for more information:

email: tynesideclaimantsunion at googlemail.com

This has been called as part of a national day of action:

http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/;

http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Day-of-Protest-Against-Welfare-Housing-Benefit-Cuts/106945382710717

Here are just some of the cuts and reforms to benefits that will be imposed on us:

* Housing Benefit (including Local Housing Allowance)
o On benefits or a low wage and rent privately? The maximum amounts will be reduced so that only 3 in 10 private rented properties in the whole of Tyneside will be affordable to people, rather than the 5 in 10 private rented properties that are affordable now.
o Got a large family and rent privately? The 5 bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance is being scrapped.
o Under 35 and single with no kids? If you live in private accommodation you’ll only be entitled to the rate for a single room in a shared house, not for a flat on your own (currently this only applies to the under 25s).
o On jobseekers for more than a year (even if you have kids or are disabled)? You’ll lose 10% of your housing benefit.
* Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
o Unemployed for too long? You’ll be forced to work for your benefits i.e. for as little as £1.27 per hour. This will not help reduce poverty or improve life chances. But it will allow employers to bypass the minimum wage.
o You’re a single parent? You’ve already been forced onto JSA when your youngest child is 7, by 2012 you’ll have to look for work when your child is 5.
* Sickness and Disability benefits (ESA, Incapacity Benefit, DLA)
o Too sick to work? ATOS Origins are being paid £6 million to prove that you’re fit for work. Only 6% of people applying for Employment and Support Allowance (which replaced incapacity benefits) are awarded benefit without back-to-work conditions. 39% are found fit for work, and 37% drop out of claiming.
o Disabled? The government wants to the budget for Disability Living Allowance by a 5th.
* All benefits
o Many benefits, allowances, and tax credits will now be uprated by a lower measure of inflation than they have been previously. This means that they will rise more slowly. This will gradually push claimants further into poverty.
o Cuts will also be made to tax credits, council tax benefit, and child benefit. Education Maintenance Award is being abolished.

National Day of Protest against Welfare and housing Benefit Cuts

From
Take action now to defend the Welfare State. We will not pay for their crisis.

The National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts on 15th December 2010 aims to be the first of many and this time will concentrate on the Housing Benefit cuts.

Facebook Page:

The National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts on 15th December 2010 aims to be the first of many and this time will concentrate on the Housing Benefit cuts. With this in mind, why not organise a sit in, protest or demonstration in your local Civic Centre, Housing Benefit Office or Town Hall.

Alternatively hold a public meeting, organise an info stall or even just leaflet your local Council offices. If you are organising an event please contact us asap to be added to the facebook page website which can be found at: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Local groups, individuals, ideas and support needed, please get in touch.

This is just the beginning, further actions and events are planned for the New Year.

Housing and benefits

Next Tyneside Claimants Union meeting:
11am, November 2nd 2010,
back room of St Thomas’ Church, Haymarket.

We are having a themed meeting on housing and housing benefits. How will the spending review, recent changes, and the government’s future plans affect our access to housing? What is the situation now? What are the future changes to Housing Benefit, Local Housing Allowance, Council Tax Benefit, Support For Mortgage Interest, etc? Who will be affected? Will homelessness increase? How will social housing and the provision of affordable homes change? How is the North East affected? How can we resist cuts and fight for decent housing for all? What can we do to help ourselves and support each other?

Everyone welcome.