Category Archives: Community
Stand Up For Your Rights Groups:
LUS continues to support and develop community groups around London. Since the last LESE meeting we have delivered training on the latest Universal Credit updates for Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights, Barnet Unite Community and Clapham Foodbank.
We continue to support the development of an Islington SUFYR group and maintain intensive work with the Southwark Know Your Rights group where we recently ran a film event at the BFI for group members plus Southwark and Lambeth Unite Community. The topic was council housing and social cleansing as brilliantly portrayed in the film ‘Dispossession’. There followed a Q and A and some OF those watching were inspired to go on straight afterwards to a lobby of MPS at the House of Commons on this very topic.
Just as important for our groups is the great advocacy and representation work that volunteers do for each other in between meetings. In a recent period of three to four weeks we had a string of successes, including those below (names changed to protect the innocent):
Sara – Won PIP Appeal (backdated at enhanced rates)
Kevin – Won ESA Appeal (from first assessment nil points – awarded Support Group status)
Errol – Won ESA Appeal (from WRAG Group to Support Group backdated with no review for 2 years)
Nick T – Second Work Capability Assessment – maintained status in ESA Support Group
Nick J – Won PIP Appeal
Alan – Won ESA Appeal (from first assessment nil points to Support Group with no review for 2 years)
This is a testimony to the quality of training LUS provides and the efforts of members who are growing in confidence and expertise through their participation in our groups and by hands-on experience.
Strengthening claimants’ participation
Over the last few months, LUS has involved claimants directly in a number of forums aimed at making systemic changes to the Welfare State. They have participated alongside senior officers from major voluntary sector organisations, including Child Poverty Action Group, Disability Rights UK, Refugee Council, The Children’s Society, and Women’s Aid. In July some of our members accompanied me to a seminar on ‘ Strengthening the voice of people with lived experience in campaigns for social change’ where they all made significant contributions. Incidentally this has also led to an encounter with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who were sufficiently impressed with our work to arrange a day’s visit in September to explore how they might be able to support our claimant-led projects in the future.
The other forums include ‘The Future of Social Security’ which will shortly finalise its guiding principles underpinning what a more humane benefits system would look like (possibly with the aim of a media release in time for the November Budget); and the White Paper committee (to be launched in October) which will develop a Bill for Parliament, taking the guiding principles as the starting point and therefrom developing legislative detail.
From the LUS perspective, one of our key contributions to this process will be recommendations about maximising proper channels of communication, consultation and complaint for claimants in relation to Jobcentre Plus and the DWP in general. This is as ever in line with points 4 and 5 of the Welfare Charter and indeed our own 5-point statement of ‘What We Stand For’:
We have now drawn up a new Claimants Survey on these issues which is aimed primarily at people on Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and/or Universal Credit. This will be circulated to you separately via the TUC LESE mailing system. Therefore if you know of any eligible people please pass it onto them with a request that it be completed and returned as soon as possible. The collected responses will be collated, analysed and published as per the previous Claimants Survey of 2014. Also importantly the results will feed into the above-mentioned forums and so will add further weight to their campaigns for major change to the benefit (and benefits) of claimants.
Relations with Unite Community and PCS
Inevitably as with the last Survey, when claimants are asked to be open and honest about their experiences of their local Jobcentre and the DWP in general, many will voice strong opinions that in part will include criticisms of local staff. This is why LUS continues to strive to develop links between claimants and the major trades unions that work with or for them – notably Unite Community and PCS. Starting from the standpoint that the pressures upon both claimants and staff have a common cause which we should all unite to fight against, this means that claimants complaints can be dealt with in a way that channels them through a united front against the bureaucracies and politicians that are the root cause of the problem. The recent campaigns connecting PCS staff, claimants and community organisations against Jobcentre closures in Leytonstone and Southall are great examples.
To this end, LUS is keen to continue to provide various forms of training and support to Unite Community branches in London through liaison with the new Regional Coordinator (current incumbent David Condliffe is leaving at the end of August). We have also had confirmation of our attendance at the next All-London PCS/DWP stewards meeting in September where we shall have further discussions about how to build upon the links already established.
NICK PHILLIPS – PROJECT COORDINATOR
The Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) met on 4th of July, in what was effectively a relaunch for one of London’s longest running local anti-austerity organisations. The time could not be more right for the return of this grouping.
Keen as ever to emphasise the strong ties between community organisations and the trade union movement, there were two invited speakers from the unions. Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of RMT, drew strong comparisons between BAPS’ struggle over services with RMT’s battles in the transport sector. Not only is privatisation, to big businesses that asset strip and repeatedly fail, a common theme but so also is the axing of workers who are essential to vulnerable people. This is as true of station staff and train conductors as it is of librarians and local care workers – and our movement should fight to retain all these grades. Steve finished by contrasting the left and the labour movement’s genuine concern for protecting the innocent with the false narrative currently being peddled by the hard right who are making a false cause out of it, and he urged everyone to attend the anti-fascist demo on July 14th.
Steve Day then spoke from the Baker’s Union (BFAWU) about the ongoing ‘McStrike’, and it was great to get an update. Since a mere 47 workers launched their action, down the road from where we were meeting at McDonald’s HQ in Finchley, one of the biggest employers in the world has been forced to concede a 6.5% pay rise for almost 200 thousand workers in Britain. The campaign to organise and improve the conditions of McDonald’s workers continues, and Day concluded by saying there would be a lot more of our tax revenue to pay for public services if some much wasn’t currently having to be paid as in-work welfare to subsidise absurdly the absurdly low pay large companies pay to service staff.
After the two guests, we had the more familiar faces of local “Mr Reasonable” blogger, John Dix, and Barnet Labour council group leader, Barry Rawlings. John reiterated that since the election, the news regarding the state of council finances just doesn’t stop getting worse. Cuts the Tories had initially estimated as totally £9 million are now looking more like £20 million (when John asked why the Tories were so caught off-gaurd by this, despite officers in Barnet being aware in February, he was told that Tory leader Richard Cornelius “doesn’t read reports”). The never-ending farce of payments to Capita (to say nothing of actual fraud) add completely unacceptably to this. Even when savings to their expensive provisions are found, Capita claim back 40% savings as “gain-share” – literal money for nothing! John said that on July 19th, when the Tories have been forced into having a council meeting to review options regarding Capita, good sense would call for so-called Option 3: bring it all back to the public sector. Barry, and numerous other Labour councillors from the borough, reiterated that the Tories are rampantly breaching election pledges, while doggedly supporting a national government that is directly responsible for lack of council funding, and called for pressure on Tory councillors and MPs to be maintained.
The next steps in the campaign, then are to unite our forces for Option 3. There will be a cultural launch, featuring the start of the Barnet Wall, on Friday the 13th at West Hendon’s Midland Pub. The big push for campaigning will be to get people to protest at Hendon Town Hall on Wednesday the 19th at 6pm.
DEMAND OPTION 3!
Last night, one of London’s longest running anti-austerity campaigns reconvened with a packed meeting at Finchley’s Greek Cypriot Centre. At our last trades council meeting on Thursday, we had resolved to get organising the re-elected Tory council as soon as possible, and this was an excellent start.
The initial presentation came from the one and only Mr Reasonable, John Dix, who had a comprehensive report on just how bad the past five years of mismanagement by Capita, the woefully incompetent and self-serving outsourcing giant to which the Conservatives have entrusted almost our entire borough. The Tories claim that the deal saves money, which might even be true if over-billing, contract variation and “special projects” weren’t absolutely rife. Combine this with the Tories failing to make even the most limited council tax rises for many years (even when their associates in other councils were doing so!) and the fact that Capita fees, astonishingly, rise with RPI inflation and there is a multi-million pound shortfall coming in Barnet’s finances. Auditors have expressed severe doubts that the Tories can possibly fill the gap by 2020 or 2021. You can read John’s full report on his blog.
John was followed by fellow campaigning blogger, Roger Titchbourne of the Barnet Eye. Roger issued a call to arms for activists from across the movement and different parties to unite under a simple slogan: Kick Out Capita! This is going to be the new focus for BAPS, and we’ll be starting with a series of musical and cultural events around the borough.
Finally, we were joined by a very special guest and great friend, John McDonnell MP. The shadow chancellor joined us fresh from address the PCS public sector union’s conference, and spoke about how that union was taking its own action to save essential services. He reiterated that the Labour Party has committed to ending privatisation and bringing failing contracts like Capita back in-house where they belong. Research by the University of Greenwich has shown that far from costing money, this approach would pay for itself in a matter of years. Answering question from some of BAPS’ members, John also touched on some other areas:
- Labour intends to crack-down on the massive tax evasion and money laundering that goes on in London, which is estimated to be of the order of £92 million annually and strongly tied to international crime.
- Labour has realised that simply dragging voters to the polls when election day comes will not win the next election. There has to be a turn to community activism and the party is appointing community organisers to help make this happen.
- There has to be a renewed assertion of a right to a commons in Britain – including of land itself – in order to make society more just, and Labour is working with figure like George Monbiot on policy.
The relaunch was an excellent step in the right direction. Now we have to get the message out there and take the fight to Capita. BAPS will now be meeting every Tuesday at 6.30pm in the Cypriot Centre. Why not come along and join the movement against corporate greed to make Barnet a better place to live?
To mark the occasion, Barnet Alliance have arranged for Mr Reasonable to provide a short overview on Capita and their relationship with Barnet Council.
As an added bonus they have incredibly managed to secure John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, he is speaking at PCS conference earlier that day but has said that he hopes to drop in at some point during the two hour meeting. John along with Jeremy Corbyn have a long association of supporting Barnet Alliance campaigns. Both them still talk about the Barnet Spring march that took place in a blizzard.
Barnet Alliance, will be both organising and supporting local campaigns in Barnet.
If you want to get involved in positive campaigning here in Barnet to help fight to support and save public services then start making plans to attend the weekly Barnet Alliance meetings.
Barnet Alliance meetings will be taking place every Tuesday from 6.30 to 8.30 at the Greek Cypriot Centre, 2 Britannia Rd, London N12 9RU
DEEDS NOT WORDS was a most appropriate slogan chosen by the Suffragette movement in and after 1918 to epitomise their campaign for women to get the vote in Great Britain. Their epic and heroic campaign, which included breaking unjust laws, was eventually successful.
The motto has resounded down the years and is and has been as relevant to subsequent activists as it was in 1918. In 1963 the annual CND Easter march from Aldermaston to London inctuded members of the committee of 100, among them Bertrand Russeil who, unafraid and favouring direct action, inspired peace demonstrators by distributing a “spies for Peace” leaflet and leaving the march to expose the secret details and whereabouts of Regional Seats of Government bunkers at a Berkshire RSG. Russell was among those arrested by the police for his beliefs.
On Maunday Thursday 5 April 2O12, coincidentalty also at Easter, Barnet Council without notice closed Friern Barnet library, despite a vigorous local campaign to save it from closure. Five months later on 5 September 2012, a small group of squatters from Camden led by Peter Phoenix walked through an open window, reopened the library and invited the community to join them in restocking its shetves with donated books and reopening the library to the public. After a Crown Court case the squatters were evicted, but the magistrate allowed a stay of execution for Barnet Council to negotiate a lease with the local community to run the library. Six years later in 2018 they continue to perform this function.
Barnet and Haringey More in Common are celebrating the contribution of migrants with a stall on East Finchley High Road and on social media. More info about 1DWU at http://www.1daywithoutus.org/
The purpose is proclaim the message ‘ Proud to be a migrant/Proud to stand with migrants.’ Alternatively, you might choose to bring messages to the day, depending on your organisational or individual priorities. Celebrating migrants and migration does not preclude protest and there are lots of things to protest against: The impact of immigration controls on migrant workers; the ‘hostile environment’; the failure to guarantee EU citizens’ rights; restrictions on health care to migrants. What do you want the country to know about the value that migrants bring to your communities? What migrant voices and perspectives are being left out of the public debate? What would you like to highlight and draw attention to? Why are you proud to be a migrant? Why are you proud to stand with migrants?
Please find attached the Programme of Work derived from the Trades Councils Conference and TUC Campaign Plan, plus an additional report from the TUCJCC relating to the motion to Congress last year, which was passed and is now being taken forwards.
Link here: 2017-2018 Programme of Work – final
Join us this Saturday in Barnet and campaign alongside Barry Gardiner MP.
Let us know if you can make it so that we can make sure we have enough campaign materials.
Action Saturday – Barnet
Saturday 20 January, 10:00am – 2:00pm
38 Church Lane, London, United Kingdom
Our people powered movement showed its power last summer — taking away the Tories’ majority in the General Election. This year we’re continuing to challenge the Tories in every seat, in every part of the UK.
If you’re new to campaigning — great! This is the perfect opportunity for you to start your journey as a Labour Party campaigner as there will be a full training session beforehand.
This Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families claiming the new benefit Universal Credit. Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, Theresa May’s Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.
Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in- built problems with Universal Credit.
Take action NOW against Universal Credit
On Saturday 2 December 2017 Unite Community will be staging a national day of action against Universal Credit to send a message to the Tory government that they must STOP & FIX Universal Credit before rolling it out and further or thousands of families face a cold a hungry Christmas and the threat of losing their homes.
Who gets Universal Credit
Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.
Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.
What needs fixing
Unite is calling on the government to:
- Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
- Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
- Provide people with better help when the system fails them
- Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
- End benefit sanctions for in-work and out-of-work claimants
- Stop payments going to one named member of a household
- Make work pay – Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn
Tell us your story
Get in touch and tell us about your Universal Credit stories. Send your stories to Liane.email@example.com