Tagged: 2013

Not Wishing You A Dickensian Christmas

Its a strange thing but a “Dickensian” christmas is often held up as the personification of all things the season should strive to be… the soft, warm glow of candlelight, decorated xmas trees, hot punch, roasting chestnuts, happy families around the fire, merry carol singers gathered under the gaslight in the street, not the least phased by the several inches of snow covering everything – proper snow, snow that miraculously doesn’t turn to slush under the passage of so many feet and the wheels of carriages, or become polluted by the regular discharges from the horses that provided the motive power.

Sometimes people will organize “Dickensian Christmas” events and dress up in Victorian costume, probably read from his works… and generally miss his point.

Because the strata of society they dress up as is inevitably the upper or upper-middle classes of Victorian society. Then as now, the low paid and unemployed weren’t invited to the party – who do you think lit the candles and fires, cooked the feasts and generally did all the work ?

British society must not revert to “times of Charles Dickens” and leave the nation’s poorest families in desperate need of food and clothes, a  charity has warned.

Action for Children said the nation “can’t go back” to the scenes of desperation described by the Dickens.  The comments come as the charity said it has been regularly sending families to food and clothes banks for the first time since the 1940s.

Spokesman Jacob Tas said a “staggering” number of its centres were showing families where they could obtain emergency supplies, with some families are being forced to choose between eating, paying for heating or the rent.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of the charity’s 220 children’s centres said they aere “regularly” signposting families in need to food banks, according to its annual report, The Red Book.

And 21% of managers of the charity’s intensive family support services are signposting those in need to clothes banks, said the report released earlier this year.

Mr Tas said:  ” It’s painful and unfortunate that we have now entered in a time when we go back in comparison to the 1940s. It’s really horrible for those families who are basically already at the bottom of the food chain that they have to go to go to food banks to get their food.

“Some families now have to make a choice between either paying the rent, paying for heating or paying for food. We are talking about children that are cold at home and are hungry and that is in 2013, which is really painful for everybody involved.

“In this very wealthy country, we are in the top 10 of the richest in the world, yet here we have a two-tier society where people are struggling to feed and clothe themselves.

“We can’t go back to the times of Charles Dickens where at Christmastime we are handing out food and clothes. We should be more advanced in our opinion of society where we take care of those who need help the most.”

He said that there are a number of contributing factors to the rise in people seeking help for basic necessities including the economy, unemployment, changes to the benefits system and cuts to services. “These families are facing the maximum squeeze from all sides,” he said.

In Tyne & Wear, the  Trussell Trust, which runs several foodbanks, has already this year helped 19, 388 people – last year it was 7,020. In Newcastle’s West End 7,410 people received help – last year it was just 26.

Gateshead saw a rise from 390 last year to 1,720

The Bay Foodbank (North Tyneside) last December delivered 97 boxes of food (designed to last a family 4-5 days). In November this year they delivered 305 boxes.

The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle is expecting to help around 650 people over Christmas.

Austerity – we’re all in it together. Alledgedly. This time next year, a whole lot more of us will probably be in it, and we can all have Dickensian christmas’s.

This week: take action to stop workfare and sanctions

the void

Boycott-Workfare-Poster-ColourThe Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions begins tomorrow (Monday December 2nd) with a noise protest outside the annual welfare-to-work conference.

There will be online actions everyday, announced on the Boycott Workfare website (and probably here a bit later).  Tomorrow will see online action aimed at the ERSA conference where delegates will be tweeting using the hashtag #ERSA2013 – more details are to come on how to challenge the poverty profiteering conference online.

Please help spread the word and share, tweet and blog details of all events both on and offline!

Here’s the list of what’s taking place so far via Boycott Workfare:

Things are very wrong: each month 70,000 people face hunger and hardship due to benefit stoppages – ‘sanctions’. Millions of hours of work which should be paid are being replaced by workfare. But we’re taking action and having an impact.

This week, from 2-8…

View original post 209 more words

North East Unemployment Falls – Or Does It ?

Unemployment in the North East fell by 2,000 in the three months to August, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics  showed that a total of 133,000 people were unemployed in the region between June and August – a fall of 2,000 on the previous period.

The region’s unemployment rate was 10.3% and saw a fall of 1.5%, but is still the highest in the country.

The devil, of course, is probably in the deatails that they dont’t tell you. For example, how many of those 2000 were sanctioned ?

For those who aren’t aware of them, sanctions for benefit claimants were introduced by Labour, and allowed the DWP to stop the benefits of those who were seen not to be trying – missing appointments, not turning in a list of jobs applied for (even if they were jobs you had no chance of getting), etc.  Although it was there, it seemed you had to be pretty stupid – or very unlucky – to get one.

Come the current maladministration and it’s Work Programme (WP). The WP is delivered by private for-profit companies who, in the best neo-liberal traditions, see the unemployed as something to make money out of. The “advisers” working for these companies were given the power to sanction people (although the sanction has to be confirmed by the DWP).

This was obviously a stupid move. The WP companies get paid for everyone they get off the unemployment figures – by whatever means. Someone who has been sanctioned is not counted as being unemployed for the period of their sanction – which could be for between a month and 3 years.

So if you cant get people into jobs that dont exist, sanction them instead – you hit your targets, the company makes money, who loses ? Apart from the poor sods scraping by with no income, but hey – collateral damage.

An analogy might be if firemen were only paid by the number of fires they attended. How long, especially in quiet periods, before firemen actually started fires so that they could attend them and claim the money ?

Nowadays sanctions have mutated from being a fairly rare event to flying around like confetti at a wedding. You dont actually have to do anything to get one – I know, it happened to me.

The first thing I knew about it was when I got a brown enverlope from the DWP informing me that a sanction doubt had been raised against me because I did not attend an official appointment with a WP adviser.

As I pointed out in my appeal, the reason I didn’t attend was very simple… I didn’t know about it.  No-one told me !

Happily my appeal was upheld and the sanction overturned. But by all accounts, this “phantom appointment” ploy is happening all the time now. The odd one or two you could put down to ineptitude (my WP provider once booked me an appointment on a Bank Holiday, when the office was closed – this kind of elementary mistake happens all the time) but the sheer quantity  suggests that it is widespread and seen by WP advisers as a legitimate way of achieving their targets.

So – when I see figures like the ones at the top of the page I always wonder  how many of that 2000 were actually sanctioned, and not in work at all ?  Two thousand divided by three months only equates to 666 per month (told you the devil was in the details !) How many of those were serving sanctions, I  wonder.

And however you slice up the statistics, we still have the worst unemployment levels.

If you are having problems with sanctions – or just want to read more horror stories – I suggest you view the Unemployment Movement forum – see the links section on the right of this page.