Tagged: Poundland

Sunderland food thieves claimed they were starving after arrests

A homeless couple who told police they stole food because they had not eaten for days have been jailed.

Mum-to-be Ashley Forster, 21, and Benjamin Hall, 27, both pleaded guilty to leaving the Monsoon Kitchen restaurant in North Bridge Street, Sunderland,  without paying their £46.50 bill when they appeared before city magistrates.

Prosecutor Lee Poppet told the court the pair had been arrested in The Wheatsheaf pub and had been ‘extremely compliant’ when interviewed.

The court heard both had a previous record for similar offences and were subject to suspended sentences imposed just a week before the offence.

Hall also admitted stealing sweets worth £4 from Poundland in Sunderland. When arrested he told police he was ‘hungry and starving.’

Gerry Armstrong, for Forster, said:

“This is someone who was placed in the care system, who acquired a criminal record when she should have been protected, and who now finds herself before the court.

“She found herself without anyone to support her and everywhere she turned, I am afraid to say, doors were closed in her face.

“This offence was committed not out of a sense of devilment but out of necessity because, as she said to police ‘I had not eaten for four days.”

Forster, who was in the early stages of pregnancy, had made tentative contact with family in Scotland and was keen to have the suspended sentence activated in order to get it out of the way.

“She wants to draw a line under her time in Sunderland, to get this sentence removed and start afresh when she is released,” Mr Armstrong told the court.

Kate Meek, for Hall, said the pair had been in a ‘mutually supportive’ relationship.

The offences had been committed out of desperation.

It was not because they had a drug problem to fund,” she said.

It was not because they had alcohol or gambling problems to fund. It was because they had no funds and had not been able to eat.

“They are straightforward, low level, unaggravated and, to some extent, mitigated offences of desperation.”

Magistrates jailed both defendants for two weeks and activated suspended sentences of eight weeks for Forster and 16 weeks for Hall. Both were ordered to pay compensation.

Source – Sunderland Echo,  12 Sept 2014

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High Court challenges UK work schemes

The High Court has ruled emergency laws underpinning a government back-to-work scheme are “incompatible” with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ruling stems from a case brought by Cait Reilly in 2012, who said being forced to work for free at a Poundland store breached her human rights.

The government brought in new rules in 2013 allowing unpaid work schemes to continue pending further legal appeals.

Ministers said they were “disappointed” by the ruling and would appeal.

But lawyers for Miss Reilly claimed the government owed about £130m to people who had fallen foul of the retrospective legislation and ministers should admit they made a mistake.

The 24-year old graduate challenged the legality of an unpaid work placement she undertook in 2011, part of the government’s “mandatory work activity” programme.

She said that she was told that if she did not agree to take part in the scheme, which she said involved stacking shelves, she would lose her Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The government was forced to pass emergency legislation amending the scheme last year after Court of Appeal ruled that the regulations underpinning it did not comply with existing laws giving the Department for Work and Pensions the power to introduce the programme

The legislation was designed to reinforce the rules to make it clear that claimants must do all they can to find work in order to claim benefits and to ensure the government did not have to repay money to claimants who had not complied with the conditions of their benefit claim.

But Mrs Justice Lang, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled on Friday that the retrospective legislation interfered with the “right to a fair trial” under Article Six of the Convention on Human Rights.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was “disappointed” by the ruling – which it said applied to a minority of claimants – and would launch an appeal.

We disagree with the judgment on the legislation and are disappointed,” a spokeswoman said.

“It was discussed, voted on and passed by Parliament. While this applies to only a minority of past cases and does not affect the day to day business of our Jobcentres, we think this is an important point and will appeal.”

She said the legislation remained “in force” and the government would not be compensating anyone who had been docked benefits pending the outcome of its appeal.

But Paul Heron, a solicitor for Public Interest Lawyers, said it was a “massively significant” ruling and the DWP’s decision to appeal against it would be a further blow to the “upwards of 3,000 cases sitting in the tribunal system waiting for this judgement“.

He claimed people were owed anything from four weeks benefit, about £250, to several thousand pounds and were having to mostly represent themselves at tribunals.

He told BBC News it was “about time the DWP just held their hands up, admit they made an error, and pay people the money they were entitled to at the time. That is what a responsible government would do.”

The back-to-work schemes have been condemned by critics as “slave labour” because they involve work without pay but are seen by supporters as a good way of getting the unemployed back into the world of work.

The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the regulations last year although the judges also rejected claims that the schemes were “exploitative” and amounted to “forced labour“.

Ministers said that the most recent legal judgement had upheld this view.

“We’re pleased the Court recognised that if claimants do not play by the rules and meet their conditions to do all they can to look for work and get a job, we can stop their benefits,” the spokeswoman added.

Poundland, one of several employers which took part in the scheme, withdrew from it in 2012.

Source –  BBC News,  04 July 2014

Workfare Till You Drop – Esther McVey To Target Older Claimants

the void

WorkFare-not-workingWhat they say …

“It’s time to change the conversation about extending working life from one about working “until you drop”, to one about a fuller working life, that means working as long as is necessary to create the future you want.”

Esther McVey and Steve Webb, Fuller Working Lives Ministerial Statement

What they mean …

labour-market-exitFuller Working Lives, page 8

Unpaid work, cuts to disability benefits and mandated ‘work-related activity’ are set to be at the heart of the latest DWP strategy aimed at bullying older people off benefits

Last week the DWP published Fuller Working Lives, a ‘framework for action’ for older unemployed people and the rhetoric is depressingly familiar. Under the guise of help and support it will be business as usual as older claimants are left at the mercy of the grasping welfare-to-work industry.

The report notes that around a million people over 50 are out…

View original post 647 more words

Labour plans – same old stick, still no carrot

This article was written by Nicholas Watt, for The Guardian on Monday 10th March 2014

Every young person who has been unemployed for more than a year will lose their benefits if they decline to accept a guaranteed “starter job”, Labour will pledge in its manifesto for the general election next year.

> A preview of some of the new jargon we can expect in the future – starter job.

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, will say on Monday that Labour will move to end the plight of “young people stuck on the dole” when he says that the party’s compulsory jobs guarantee, to be funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses, will last the whole parliament.

The scheme, which will fund paid work with training for six months for those aged under 25 who have been out of work for more than a year, will also be paid for by cutting pensions tax relief for people earning over £150,000 to the same rate as basic rate taxpayers. Claimants will lose their benefits if they do not accept the jobs. The scheme will also apply to those aged 25 or over who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for two years or more.

> So, workfare by any other name ? Six-month starter jobs stacking shelves in Poundland ?

Labour launched its compulsory jobs guarantee last year. Balls believes the pledge will be a key element of Labour’s general election campaign by showing that the party is prepared to tax the rich to help provide work for people in danger of becoming Neets – not in employment, education or training.

Balls will say during a visit to a building project in south London which employs and trains young people: “It’s shocking that the number of young people stuck on the dole for more than a year has doubled under David Cameron. For tens of thousands of young people who cannot find work this is no recovery at all.”

The shadow chancellor will add: “We’ve got to put this right. So if Labour wins the next election we will get young people and the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work.

“The government will work with employers to help fund paid work with training for six months. It will mean paid starter jobs for over 50,000 young people who have been left on the dole for over a year by this government.

“But it will be a tough contract – those who can work will be required to take up the jobs on offer or lose their benefits. A life on benefits will simply not be an option.

> Here we go… get tough on the unemployed, no more something for nothing, they’re all lazy bastards, etc… which party does he represent ? It’s so hard to tell the difference nowadays.

“After the global banking crisis and with bank bonuses soaring again this year, it’s fair to pay for our jobs plan with a repeat of Labour’s tax on bank bonuses. We need a recovery for the many, not just a few at the top.

“As a country we simply cannot afford to be wasting the talents of thousands of young people and leaving them stuck on the dole for years on end. It’s bad for them, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for taxpayers who have to pay the bill.”

> Well, there we are – if you’re unemployed you can vote for the party with the stick but no carrot, or alternatively for the party with the stick but no carrot.

Six months workfare or six months starter job.

Source – Welfare News Network

http://welfarenewsservice.com/labour-tax-bonuses-fund-jobs-young-people/

Why do right-wing people support workfare?

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice (he’s from Yorkshire, he calls a spade a spade and I like his style!)

One of the big mysteries in politics is why so many right-wing people support Iain Duncan Smith’s Stalinist Workfare schemes, which are designed to force people (under threat of absolute destitution) to give away their labour for free, often to highly profitable foreign corporations.

There are many glaringly obvious complaints that the right-wing thinker should have against these economically illiterate schemes, yet the typical Tory voter tends to enthusiastically support Workfare. First I’ll look at the big reasons that right-wing people should be highly suspicious of Iain Duncan Smith’s Workfare schemes, then I’ll try to consider the reasons that they might over-look these problematic factors in order to convince themselves that Workfare is a good idea, or even to actively propagandise in favour of mandatory unpaid labour schemes.

Right-wing arguments against…

View original post 2,244 more words

How the UK government hid 1 million jobless from unemployment figures

This is a few months old, but well worth reprising…

One of the purported achievements of the Coalition government’s disastrous economic policy of austerity, has been the unemployment figures.  Pundits say that at 7.8% (2.51m) they are nothing to shout about but not the disastrous rates seen in states such as Greece (26.9%) or Spain (26.3%). In reality, the unemployment rate is more than double this in many areas, while those in employment are facing ever worsening conditions to retain their non-jobs.

We have the Thatcher government to thank for the majority of the statistical trickery which currently renders the government released unemployment figures redundant.  Prior to 1979, the unemployment rate was anyone registered as unemployed, this was converted to a percentage of the total workforce and that was the published unemployment rate.  Then some changes came in:

  1. Redefining Unemployment:  originally defined as those ‘registered’ unemployed, changed to only count ‘claimants’ – this obviously reduced the number greatly as many unemployed people do not, for various reasons, claim benefits.
  2. Cutting Benefit Entitlements: By making changes to the benefit system (who is eligible and not) the government can magic away unemployment numbers by simply removing eligibility for benefits.  If the person cannot claim, they are not classed as unemployed.
  3. Training Schemes & Work Programmes: the conservative government of the 80’s began to double count those in training & work programmes.  First, they excluded them from the unemployed figures, then they added them to the total workforce figures – this means that simply by recruiting people into a work programme, the government has reduced the unemployment figures.  Prior to Thatcher, these schemes were not counted as employment.

The Thatcher government was able to show a drop in unemployment of 550,000 in July 1986, and 668,000 in 1989 by transferring those unemployed into work programmes.  They also kept an average 90,000 unemployed under 18 year olds off the books by making them ineligible to claim benefits.

Sadly, none of these changes have since been reversed, giving the UK public a much skewed view of unemployment and underemployment.  If we look at the research prepared by other bodies without such downright deceitful exemptions, we reveal a more realistic picture of the economic woe being meted out across the country.

A study put together by Sheffield University last year set out to establish the real level of unemployment in the UK, given that there has been little change in the published unemployment statistic, we can suppose they still hold relatively true.  The study found:

  • For Britain as a whole in April 2012, the new figures point to more than 3.4 million unemployed. This compares to just 1.5 million on the claimant count and 2.5 million according to the Labour Force Survey – the government’s two official measures of unemployment. The difference is attributable to extensive hidden unemployment.
  • An estimated 900,000 unemployed have been diverted onto incapacity benefits. These are men and women with health problems who claim incapacity benefits instead of unemployment benefits. They do not represent fraudulent claims.
  • Hidden unemployment is disproportionately concentrated in the weakest local economies, where claimant unemployment is already highest. The effect has been to mask the true scale of labour market disparities between the best and worst parts of the country.
  • In the worst affected districts, the real rate of unemployment is often around 15 per cent. Knowsley in Merseyside tops the list with a real rate of unemployment estimated at 16.8 per cent.
  • The older industrial areas of the Midlands, the North, Scotland and Wales mostly have the highest rates of unemployment. In large parts of the south of England the rate is still only 3-4 per cent.
  • Comparisons with similar data for earlier years shows that Britain was still a long way off full employment before the 2008/9 recession. Full employment is now still further away and the real rate of unemployment is higher than at any time since 1997.
  • The report casts serious doubt on the likely impact of the Coalition government’s reforms, notably the Work Programme and Universal Credit, which are founded on the assumption that unemployment can be brought down by encouraging the unemployed to find work. The evidence points to large and continuing shortfalls in job opportunities away from the most prosperous parts of southern England.

One of the more worrying points in the survey is the widening gap between ‘claimant count’ and unemployed , as ever increasing numbers of people fund themselves without a job or eligibility to claim social security.  For this expanding pool of people, exploitation beckons.

The government is pressurising people into ever more exploitative work programmes in order to reduce unemployment figures by threatening withdrawal of social security for non-compliance.  In 2011, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government announced a plan to increase uptake of Workfare (the term given to these schemes) by 100,000.  They also made changes to the programme they inherited from New Labour as follows:

1. A jobseeker who leaves a placement after 1 week loses their welfare payments for 6 weeks.  If they do this a second time, they lose them for 13 weeks.  The third time, three years.

2. Placements can be mandated for up to 30 hours a week for as long as 6 months.

3. The scheme has been opened up so corporations in the private sector can exploit this taxpayer funded, forced labour.

This means that someone who finds themselves unemployed must work up to thirty hours a week, for up to six months at a time, stacking shelves for Tesco or Poundland simply to receive as little as £53 per week, which they are already entitled to as part of the social contract of Britain.  Also, Tesco isn’t paying the £53; we are, through our taxes.

Although an interview is supposed to be guaranteed at the end of the term, it is not required that the workfare provider has a vacancy open.  An interview for a job that doesn’t exist is no interview at all.

Corporations get free labour, the government gets to massage the unemployment figures (Workfare victims are counted as employed) and the unemployed get shafted.

Anyone doubting this critique would do well to read the findings of the DWP’s own analysis of the performance of their work programmes.  These schemes cost the taxpayer £5bn, yet only 1 in 10 people found employment lasting up to 3 months.  The figures are even worse for the sick and disabled people forced into the work programmes – only 1 in 20 finding lasting employment.

The picture doesn’t get any rosier for those who have managed to find employment either.

Employers are less likely to provide real jobs than ever.  As the market favours the employer, there has been an unprecedented month on month fall in wages through the entire 36 months of the Coalition government, and wages were already falling before they arrived.

On top of hidden unemployment, the UK also has an ever growing problem with underemployment; the case of people unable to find jobs with sufficient hours/pay to meet their needs.

A recent paper by researchers at the University of Stirling revealed that underemployment rose from 6.2% in 2008 to 9.9% in 2012. The rate hit 30% among 16 to 24 year olds.

We have also seen the rise of ‘zero hour’ contracts. Almost unheard of a few years ago, more than a million UK workers are now under these contracts.  These contracts have no specified working hours – meaning that an employee is placed on permanent stand by until or unless the employer needs them.  While classed as employed, the person has no wage security as they cannot guarantee their pay from one week to the next.  They also receive no sick pay, leave or other basic terms and conditions.

The Resolution Foundation recently published a review of ‘Zero Hours’ contracts which found serious issues of the spike in their use:

  1. Those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts earn less than half the average wage (£236 vs. £482 per week) of those on proper contracts.
  2. Workplaces using ‘Zero Hours’ contracts have a higher proportion of staff on low pay(within £1.25 of minimum wage) than those who do not.

These factors have allowed the UK Labour Market in recent years to combine a relatively high level of employment and an unprecedented squeeze on wages.

  1. Those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts work 10 hours a week less, on average, than those who are not (21hrs – 31hrs).
  2. 18% of those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are seeking alternative employment or more hours versus 7% of those in ordinary contracts

These factors have contributed to the rise in underemployment in the UK since 2008.  An ONS survey last year revealed more than 1 million people had been added to the rank of the underemployed since the 2008 bailout of the banks.

  1. ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are hitting young people the hardest, with 37% of those on such contracts aged between 16-24.
  2. ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are more likely to be held by those without a degree, and with a GCSE as their highest level of education.
  3. Non UK Nationals are 15% more likely to be employed on such a contract than UK Nationals.

It is not difficult to see the advantages of ‘Zero Hours’ contracts to employers – they can achieve maximum flexibility of their workforce, effectively retaining them on a pay as you go basis.  It is also clear that in the short term, the government of the day also enjoy the advantage of hiding the true effects of their cut throat economic policies.  But the ordinary human being seeking to meet the rising cost of living is losing on all counts.

Between 2008 and 2012, inflation rose 17% according to the Consumer Price Index, while incomes increased just 7% – this translates to a real terms pay cut of 10% for working people.  But the Consumer Price Index measurement tracks the rising cost of an imaginary list of products and services that the poorest workers are unlikely to ever buy.  The UK Essentials Index however tracks inflation of the bare essentials that would the poorest would buy – and these have risen by an eye watering 33% during the same period.  This means that not only is the impact of unemployment hitting the country disproportionately, but underemployment and exploitative employment conditions are too – with the poorest being the worst affected.

There was a piece on the Guardian this morning talking about the triple boost to the UK economy of increased factory output, house prices and car sales, and trumpeting this as a sign of economic recovery.

But what is the point of this increased GDP if it is won at the expense of people wages and livelihoods?  Surely, if the inequality in the UK between rich and poor is growing, unemployment is rising, underemployment is rising and wages are falling – this is a recession.  It speaks volumes for the broken economic measures of growth at play here that a real world recession for the majority, is applauded as a recovery, when all that is recovered are the profits for transnational corporations and incomes of high earners, most of whom pay little or no contributions in tax.

Get Involved

Boycott Workfare – get involved in the campaign to outlaw workfare

UKUncut – get involved in demanding proper tax contributions from those corporations benefitting from these nightmare employment schemes.

DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts do extraordinary work highlighting the state’s assault on disabled people.  Please support them

Source – BS News,  07 Aug 2013