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 !