A radioactive man, who has been told not to be in close proximity with other people, has been found ‘fit for work’ by government officials.
Peter Foley, 54, from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, was stripped of his sickness benefits by officials from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), despite being banned from standing in queues at his local Jobcentre.
Mr Foley is undergoing radioiodine treatment for an overactive thyroid, which means that his body gives off radiation that could be harmful to other people.
The condition has led to an alteration in Mr Foley’s brain chemistry, leading to depression, anxiety and involuntary tremors. Mr Foley says the experience of having his benefits removed had a detrimental effect on his health and worsened his symptoms.
Mr Foley told the Wakefield Express:
“I am amazed that the DWP decided I am fit for work, even though I am radioactive because of the radioiodine treatment I’m having.
“I’m not allowed near anyone, or on public transport and yet they say I should go to work. I wasn’t even allowed to stand in the queue at the job centre as I had to tell them about my condition. I had to fill in the paperwork in the doorway.
“I have been unable to work because of my overactive thyroid for around five months now.
“The condition has altered my brain chemistry and it gives me terrible tremors and severe depression and anxiety and this situation is just making it worse.”
Intervention from the Wakefield Express has resulted in Mr Foley’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) being reinstated.
His daughter Samantha Foley said: “I can’t thank the Express enough. I’m so pleased the DWP have changed their minds and given my dad the back pay he was owed.
“It was absolutely ridiculous and a huge worry for us.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said: “For someone to claim benefits they need to provide evidence to back up their claim.
“Mr Foley has now provided additional information and has been awarded Employment and Support Allowance.”
His ESA payments have been backdated.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Mar 2015
> But the bad news is that “the council is not legally permitted to use proceeds from the sale of assets to fund public services.”
Cash-strapped councils could make millions of pounds at auction as they sell off their assets.
Both Newcastle City Council and Middlesbrough Borough Council are selling houses, industrial units and a care home in an attempt to claw back money following a series of cuts.
In an auction next month both councils are expected to make millions of pounds – cash they say will be used to develop Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
In Newcastle, leaders are expected to make nearly £2.5m from the sale – on top of £7m they made at a similar auction last month. The news comes just after council leaders announced their £40m cuts package.
Lib Dem Coun Greg Stone said:
“I think Newcastle City Council have a case for reviewing the property. Given the council’s rationalisation of accommodation and with that there will be surplus property.
“It is reasonable to dispose of these but what we need to know is what the council will be spending the money on.”
Houses on the prestigious Jesmond Road West, in Jesmond, Newcastle, and three properties on Great North Road, in Jesmond, are some of the assets being put up for sale.
Other properties to go under the hammer include Craghall Care Home, also in Jesmond, which could bring in as much as £850,000, and the Co-Operative Store, on Newton Road, in High Heaton, for a guide price of £120,000 to £130,000.
The council said it no longer uses the buildings and cash from the auction will help fund future developments.
A council spokesman said:
“As part of the rationalisation of our estate we are in the process of auctioning off former council offices which we no longer use.
“The proceeds will go into our capital investment fund and be used to fund infrastructure improvements at development sites for the future growth of the city and the creation of employment opportunities.
“The council is not legally permitted to use proceeds from the sale of assets to fund public services.”
Leaders in Middlesbrough are also expected to sell property on Brewsdale Road, in North Ormesby and The Park End, on Penistone Road.
A Middlesbrough Council spokesman said: “There is an ongoing review of the assets and we are making the best use of them.”
He said the cash would be invested in other capital projects.
The properties which have come under the hammer will be sold at the Lambert Smith Hampton auction on February 23 at the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square in London.
Source – Sunday Sun, 01 Feb 2015
Campaigners have hit out at rail fares as it was revealed it is cheaper to drive to London in a Bugatti Veyron than catch the train.
Fares from Newcastle and Middlesbrough to the capital city work out more expensive by almost 10p per mile than driving the £850,000 supercar.
Rail travel to London at peak times costs even more – at 20p per mile more than the gas guzzling motor.
An investigation revealed the Veyron, which has an engine more powerful than that in a World War Two Hawker Hurricane fighter plane, costs a whopping 32p per mile to drive.
This means a journey in the Bugatti from Newcastle Central station to Kings Cross would cost a whopping £90.24. The same journey in a tiny Volkswagen Up! would cost around £28.
Travelling from Middlesbrough Rail Station to Kings Cross would cost £80.64.
But the journeys by rail were more even more expensive – at a cost of 45p per mile for an off-peak journey and 45p during rush hour.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said:
“Whilst East Coast has been a stunning success in public ownership, delivering a billion pounds back the taxpayer while the private train companies drain similar sums out, these figures show that in the run-up to the intended re-privatisation the route is being fattened up with eye-watering fares that can be exploited by any new private company taking over in the future.”
Andy Silvester, campaign manager of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, said:
“It’s totally understandable that taxpayers want a train line that they’re paying for to have more affordable ticket prices.
“The East Coast Mainline should be returned to private hands as soon as practically possible, as it is only by reintroducing competition that prices will come down.
> Do you think he really believes that ? Against all the evidence ?
“Of course, passengers are paying even more for their train tickets than the price of the ticket, as they’re also funding it through their taxes.”
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Better Transport, said:
“For the vast majority of people, the 2 hour 50 minute train journey from London to Newcastle will still be better value than the five hour drive, and come at less cost to the environment.
“The Government must take stronger action to keep rail fares down to ensure this continues to be the case.”
The Veyron has an out of town fuel economy of 15.6 letres per 100km, which was used to calculate how it fared compared to rail tickets between Newcastle and the capital.
Booking a ticket in advance allows travellers to pay less for train at specific times of the day. But for flexibility passengers need to buy off-peak and anytime singles and their prices stay the same all day.
The Veyron’s impressive cost for the journey highlights rising rail fares in England. Comparisons made by the Sunday Sun show it matches the price of a train ticket between Paris and Lyon in France, at exactly 32p per mile.
The journey on the continent is 243.23 miles compared to 268 between Newcastle and London.
A distance of 407 miles between Madrid and Barcelona puts the high rail fares in the UK in even sharper light. A journey between the two Spanish cities would cost just 22p per mile.
But a taxi ride between the two UK cities would set you back the most at £1.80 per mile or an eye-watering £496.80 on the metre.
The cheapest option would be to take a coach, at just 11p per mile and £29 per ticket.
Source – Sunday Sun, 05 Oct 2014
I’m writing a book about work and am looking for people who are willing to share their experiences of Workfare or Mandatory Work Activity.
The book is called *All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work*, and it
will come out from Profile Books next spring, before the election.
I’ve been visiting and interviewing people all over the country about their work – potters in Stoke on Trent, call centre workers in Hull, ballerinas at
Covent Garden – and I want to include the experience of someone who has
been on the government’s work programmes.
I’d like to find out a bit more about what the work was like: What did you do? How did you feel about it? How did the workers around you react? Anonymity and discretion guaranteed.
I’m a writer for the *London Review of Books* (where I also work), the
*Observer*, the *Sunday Times* and the *New Yorker*.
I can be contacted on
Low pay and rising prices are pushing thousands of North East families into poverty, a charity chief has told MPs.
Sara Bryson, policy and development officer at Children North East, said that the majority of children in poverty in the region came from working families and that rising employment had not translated into living standards for many.
Giving evidence to Parliament, she called for central and local Government bodies in the region to introduce the Living Wage so that families could cover the basic costs of living.
Ms Bryson said that more than 60% of all children living in poverty in the North East have working parents and that it was years of stagnant pay and high prices that has pushed many low-income families to breaking point.
“It’s about making sure when people do work they can afford to feed their children and send them to school,” said Ms Bryson. “In order to do that they need to earn a living wage.
“National Government is very much focussed on getting people jobs in the private sector but the recession has hit hard and industry still hasn’t fully recovered up here. The region’s public sector, which has always been our most dominant employer, has also been hit hard.
“One in four children and young people in the North East live below the official poverty line. It is not fair or right that they don’t get the same chances and breaks as their peers.”
During the Parliamentary discussion, Ms Bryson shared her views, opinions and knowledge around poverty in schools and child poverty issues.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty and The Children’s Society will meet in August and September to review the findings from the sessions and produce an independent report which will be published in October.
“Education is so important to lift children out of poverty but they need to have a positive experience at school,” added Ms Bryson. “Some children will never have been on a school trip, they will have gone without meals, warm clothes and perhaps felt embarrassed or scared to bring their friends home.
“I was brought up in Blakelaw, in Newcastle’s west end, and it was my first school trip that inspired me to go on to university and study.
“As well as adopting the Living Wage we need to work closely with schools to maintain a bursary for pupils after the National Education Maintenance Allowance was abolished and ensure schools are effectively using the Pupil Premium funding from the Government to support disadvantaged children.
“We also doing terrific work as a charity at helping teachers and school staff better understand the individual needs of children in poverty. This goes a long way to abolishing the stigma and prejudices felt between children at school.”
The latest figures show that 24.5% of children in the North East are in poverty, compared to a UK average of 20.6%.
That figure rises to 29% in Newcastle and the proportion of children living in poverty in some parts of the city is far higher. In both Walker and Byker, in the city’s east end, the figure rises above 50%.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 31 July 2014
A commando hero who twice fought for his country in Iraq is now standing at the roadside with a sandwich board trying to get a job.
Michael Graham, 34, is living in a van, cooking on a camping stove with his interview suit hanging in the back, and pounding the streets to look for work offshore.
The Durham father-of-two has been searching for employment for more than a year and has visited 33 oil and gas companies and job agencies and sent out more than 100 CVs but has not yet had a single offer.
> Join the club, mate, join the club…
The former Royal Marine pledges not to give up however and has had a sandwich board made to place beside the road in Aberdeen, 275 miles from his Durham home.
On his sign he list the courses he has done and effort he has made to get a job on an oil rig.
“So far, it’s proving my hardest battle,” said Michael.
“When I joined the Marines I was determined to do it. I got through training that’s among the hardest in the British military.
“It’s the same with getting offshore. I’m putting 100 per cent into it.”
Michael spent more than five years in the Royal Marines, serving with 45 Commando at Arbroath, north east of Dundee in Scotland.
Now all the Durham dad wants is for a manager driving to work to see his sign. He said he wants to earn a good wage for wife Claire and sons Archie, three, and seven-month-old Max.
On Sunday, he got in his van and drove 275 miles north from his home in Durham to do the rounds of possible employers in Scotland’s oil capital.
Michael said: “I started off on Monday and spent the day in my suit, going round all the agencies and companies. I’ve been to 33 in total.
“It’s just a case of hoping to hear something back from them.
“I’ve done the same companies two or three times and they’re telling me I have no offshore experience.”
Despite the bosses’ doubts, Michael insists his Commando training has prepared him perfectly for rig work.
“It’s one harsh climate to another, from Iraq to the North Sea,” he said.
“But that’s what I would find interesting and challenging.
“I’d go as a cleaner and try and work my way up. That’s the idea. I’d rather start at the bottom and work my way up on the drill floor.”
Michael’s wife Claire, 29, said her husband spent hours on his laptop researching his trip to Aberdeen before he set off.
And the mum-of-two said the former Marine would be an asset to any company.
She said: “He is a hard worker and he is used to harsh environments.
“A lot of people go onto rigs and then struggle as they are not used to working away from home.”
Claire urged oil firms to give him a chance.
She said: “He is determined and he is trying his best to get a job.
“He wants to work on the rigs and I would never stop him doing what he wants to do.
“I just hope something comes of it.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 July 2014
Hartlepool councillors have agreed new plans for a council to set up a social lettings agency in Hartlepool in a bid to develop a more “robust” housing service.
Housing chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council say there is a need because the last decade has seen the first rise in the percentage of households renting since 1918.
But officials say it is estimated 34.8 per cent of the private rented sector does not meet the Decent Homes Standard, therefore they believe by developing a social lettings agency there is scope to generate much-needed income while helping improve the quality, standard and management of private rented properties.
A report highlighted some of the problems experienced in town including; poor management, poor quality housing, unresponsive repairs and maintenance, high rent levels and the poor appearance of properties.
The new agency, using existing council staff, will provide similar services to a commercial ‘high street’ letting and managing agent but officials say the intention is not to undercut the market, but provide a competitive rate for the service.
The decision was taken by the finance and policy committee and officials say this current year will be a transitional one. Any income is dependent on the number of properties managed but the target for properties to be managed by the council is 70 in 2015-16 and up to 100 the year after.
The council will target existing landlords who have expressed an interest, empty houses and the wider market. Meanwhile, tenants who are facing homelessness, those who can’t afford to buy a home or who are finding it hard to secure a tenancy in the private sector will also be targeted.
Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said: “The proposals provide important social benefits and will ensure a robust housing service able to meet the needs of service users into the future.
“The staffing resource being retained in the service is crucial to the development of the new services as they hold valuable skills and knowledge essential to the delivery of the new services.”
Initial market testing showed an appetite from landlords for a “reliable and affordable lettings and management agency”.
Source – Hartlepool Mail 03 July 2014
This article was written by Leah Green, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 21st May 2014
Changes to the habitual residence test, designed to make it harder for European Union migrants to claim benefits, mean UK citizens who have been abroad for an extended period cannot claim jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for the first three months after their return.
It means that people who travel for more than three months – including gap-year students, graduates and people taking career breaks – are being denied JSA to help them while they find a new job.
The new rule came in on 1 January, the same day it became legal for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria to enter the UK on work visas. In a government-issued statement on the new rules, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system.”
However, in attempting to combat predicted “benefit tourism” from eastern Europe, the government has made it impossible for UK citizens returning from abroad to claim as well.
Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said:, “British-born citizens who have been travelling, doing internships or living abroad temporarily shouldn’t be treated in the same way as those coming into our country for the first time.
“Habitual residency rules should be about making sure people who are new arrivals to the UK, and have not yet made any contribution or commitment to this country, do not claim benefits they are not entitled to. British citizens are in a completely different situation, and the government should recognise that.”
Rosie Smith, 24, and her boyfriend Alexi Dimond, 29, are both from Sheffield and returned to the country in March after almost six months living and doing voluntary work in Thailand. Smith had been in the same city since she was born. She wanted “a bit of a change”, she said: “I had been in Sheffield my whole life. I just wanted six months not in Sheffield.”
Smith saved money from her job as a nursery nurse, while Dimond worked in administration at an NHS dental hospital. When they got back, they wanted to look for work immediately and registered with the Jobcentre the next day. Dimond claims the person asking him questions for the habitual residence test was “very apologetic” for even making him undergo it.
He was told he was not, under the new benefits rules, considered habitually resident in the UK and would have to wait three months before claiming JSA. “I thought it was outrageous really,” he says, “I’ve contributed tax for the last six years working for the NHS. I think it’s ridiculous I’m not entitled to anything.” He now had no money at all, he said, and was relying on friends for food. Smith has moved back in with her parents.
Alongside his job, Dimond had done voluntary work with asylum seekers for five years before leaving the UK. When enquiring at the Jobcentre how he was supposed to survive, he was handed a leaflet entitled Emergency Help in Sheffield. It is the same leaflet he was issuing to asylum seekers before he went away. “It’s basically the help you get when there is literally nothing else,” he explained.
British citizens have always had to take a habitual residence test before being granted benefits, but only since the rules changed on 1 January have people been told they automatically fail for spending time out of the country.
Sam, 25, is back living with his parents in Manchester for the first time in seven years after being refused JSA on his return from a year in the Netherlands where he was doing a master’s in psychological research.
Sam had hoped he would get a job as soon as he got back “but that’s not the case,” he said, “so I applied for jobseeker’s soon after I got back.”
He was taken aback to have his application for benefits turned down. “I think if you’re looking for work you should get jobseeker’s allowance. That’s what makes sense,” he said.
Sam’s parents are providing his food and shelter, and he is dipping into savings to travel to job interviews in London. He realises he is lucky to be cared for, claiming it is unfair on others “who don’t have that support. You would think then that support should come from the government.”
However, he is sympathetic to a tougherstance on immigration, agreeing that migrants “shouldn’t be able to claim [straight away] if they come from abroad.”
Emma Birks, 36, was a volunteer co-ordinator at a worker’s co-operative in Birmingham before deciding to go travelling in south-east Asia. “I’d been putting it off and putting it off,” she explained, “and then sometimes you think ‘life’s too short’.”
Since she got back in March, Birks has had no home and has been living between the houses of “three or four” charitable friends. She has been surviving by taking handouts and using credit cards. Because of her work, she knew about the habitual residence test and never dreamed she would fail it. She describes her situation now as “a bit demoralising and humiliating.
“The whole point of jobseeker’s allowance is to help you in that interim period where you’re looking for work, trying to find a new start or whatever. To me, that’s the whole point of jobseeker’s and it’s just failed me basically,” she said.
Dimond agrees. When we speak, he and Smith are at the beginning of five days of agency work, stopping people in a Doncaster shopping centre and collecting surveys about the facilities. He has had to borrow the money to get to work, and estimates he already needs “about six months” to catch up on his debt, assuming he gets a job soon. “It’s seriously affected my job search,” he said. “I don’t have money to get to interviews.”
Smith thinks they are victims of statistics. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “are just trying to get as many people off their system so they can make their numbers look better … so they can say hardly anyone’s signing on anymore. But they’re just disqualifying everyone,” she said.
A DWP spokesman said: “It has always been the case that any UK national who chooses to live or work in another country for an extended period must, if they return to the UK and want to claim benefits, satisfy the habitual residence test by proving they have strong ties to the country and want to remain here.
“People who have paid enough national insurance in the UK do not have to wait for three months before claiming jobseeker’s allowance.”
The spokesman did not respond when asked how much national insurance was enough, but none of the people interviewed were exempt from waiting three months.
The announcement of the changes in December confirmed the the introduction of the new three-month period in which people cannot claim benefits.
Source – Welfare News Service, 21 May 2014
Three new CAB offices are being opened in north Durham to help people deal with a range of problems.
A new Citizen’s Advice centre will open at 77 Medomsley Road, Consett, from Tuesday, following £12,000 worth of investment.
Builders are currently working on premises on Church Chare in Chester-le-Street and it is hoped it will be open in June, following a £50,000 makeover.
Citizens Advice County Durham is also looking for suitable premises in Stanley and has a between £30,000-£40,000 to invest.
Neil Bradbury, chief executive of the charity, said: “All of the new offices will provide clients with a modern, easy to access and friendly place to come for free advice.
“It used to be that CABs were tucked away above shops. That is not good enough and we can provide a better offer for clients with these new premises.”
The funding has come from various sources including the Department of Health, Durham County Council, the Community Foundation in County Durham and various councillors’ funds and funding from area action partnerships.
Neil Bradbury added: “In terms of Consett and Stanley the need for these premises is urgent as we don’t have our own offices in these towns.
“In Chester-le-Street, the new office will hopefully make a whole world of difference providing access for those with mobility problems.
“We have great offices in Seaham and other towns and it has been about upgrading so they are the same standard.”
Last year almost half of the 20,000 people turning to Citizens Advice County Durham (CACD) needed help with benefits with 29 per cent of clients struggling with debt.
The charity, which helps thousands of residents get access to millions of pounds of extra income each year, is hoping to recruit over 300 volunteers.
“We are the main advice service in the county and we are free and confidential for all. People can come to us about anything and talk it through.”
For more information about CACD, its opening times or to volunteer email email@example.com or search Citizens Advice County Durham on Facebook.
Source – Durham times 04 May 2014
Over 200 charities and voluntary organisations have now signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement in response to the Government’s launch of mass workfare.
As pointed out by Boycott Workfare, this vastly outnumbers the 70 organisations that the DWP claim have backed the new Community Work Placements, which involve 780 hours forced work under the threat of meagre benefits being stopped.
Many more charities have confirmed they will not be involved in the scheme on twitter, including household names such as British Red Cross, Scope and Friends of the Earth. This is a disaster for the DWP as they attempt to find tens of thousands of workfare placements in the voluntary sector.
It could also spell trouble for Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), the shorter workfare scheme which to punish claimants when Jobcentre busy-bodies decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work. The Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement does not just…
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