Tagged: recession

Unemployment Still Higher Than Pre-Recession Levels, Warns TUC

Trade Union Congress (TUC) Media Release:

Unemployment rates and levels of joblessness are higher today than before the recession in every region and nation of the UK and across all working age groups – suggesting that the economy is still less healthy than it was before the recession, the TUC warns today (Monday) ahead of the publication of the latest jobs figures later this week.

 The TUC analysis of official figures shows that half a million more people were unemployed in January-March 2014 (the latest available figures), compared to January-March 2008. Yorkshire and Humberside has the biggest jobs gap, with almost 100,000 more unemployed people today than before the recession.

Northern Ireland has the biggest gap between its current and pre-recession unemployment rates. Across Northern Ireland unemployment is currently running at 6.9 per cent, 68 per higher today than six years ago, when it was 4.1 per cent. The unemployment rates in Scotland and Yorkshire and the Humber are 50 per cent higher today than before the recession.

The biggest unemployment gap by age group is among young people, with the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds 167,000 higher than six years ago. In the West Midlands for example, there are currently 20,000 more young people out of work than there were six years ago.

In most parts of the UK the jobs gaps for young people are higher than for any other age group. Unemployment levels are only lower now than six years ago amongst 16-24 year olds in the East Midlands and 35-49 year olds in Wales.

Much of the debate around unemployment has been about the rate falling below seven per cent – the trigger set by the Bank of England for possible interest rate rises. However, with over two million people still out of work – half a million higher than before the recession – and many more under-employed it remains far too early for the Bank of England to be considering an interest rate rise, says the TUC.

The number of unemployed people across the UK is still far in excess of pre-recession levels, in spite of the recent upturn in the jobs market, says the TUC. While the size of the economy is likely to return to pre-recession levels soon, unemployment levels are recovering much more slowly and the analysis shows that more needs to be done to get people back into work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The recent upturn in the economy has prompted lots of speculation about an increase in interest rates. Those hawks that are keen for interest rates to rise have forgotten that unemployment is still over two million.

“In some parts of the UK, unemployment is 50 per cent higher than it was before the recession. The talk in the City and around Westminster may be about a fast growing economy but the recovery still feels a good way off for millions of people still desperate for work across the rest of the country.

“The government should be doing more to get unemployment down in every part of the UK. High levels of youth joblessness are particularly concerning. The growing talk of an interest rise is a worrying distraction from this far bigger economic and social problem.”

 Source: www.tuc.org.uk

Source – Welfare News Service, 14 July 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/unemployment-still-higher-pre-recession-levels-warns-tuc/

Recession ‘led to 10,000 suicides’

The economic crisis in Europe and North America led to more than 10,000 extra suicides, according to figures from UK researchers.

A study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed “suicides have risen markedly“.

The research group said some deaths may have been avoidable as some countries showed no increase in suicide rate.

Campaign groups said the findings showed how important good mental health services were.

The study by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analysed data from 24 EU countries, the US and Canada.

It said suicides had been declining in Europe until 2007. By 2009 there was a 6.5% increase, a level that was sustained until 2011.

It was the equivalent of 7,950 more suicides than would have been expected if previous trends continued, the research group said.

Deaths by suicide were also falling in Canada, but there was a marked increase when the recession took hold in 2008, leading to 240 more suicides.

The number of people taking their own life was already increasing in the US, but the rate “accelerated” with the economic crisis, leading to 4,750 additional deaths.

The report said losing a job, having a home repossessed and being in debt were the main risk factors.

However, some countries bucked the trend. Sweden, Finland and Austria all avoided increases in the suicide rate during the recession.

One of the researchers, Dr Aaron Reeves, of the University of Oxford, said: “A critical question for policy and psychiatric practice is whether suicide rises are inevitable.”

‘Policy potentially matters’

He told the BBC:There’s a lot of good evidence showing recessions lead to rising suicides, but what is surprising is this hasn’t happened everywhere – Austria, Sweden and Finland.

“It shows policy potentially matters. One of the features of these countries is they invest in schemes that help people return to work, such as training, advice and even subsidised wages.

“There are always hard choices to make in a recession, but for me one of the things government does is provide support and protection for vulnerable groups – these services help people who are bearing the brunt of an economic crisis.”

Andy Bell, of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “The study says what we feared for some time: that unemployment, job insecurity and many other factors associated with the recession are associated with poor mental health and suicide.

“It reminds us how important it is to respond to that need and take preventative action where we can, and that primary care is properly resourced and able to identify people who are at risk.”

Beth Murphy, of the charity Mind, said: “Since 2008, we’ve seen an increasing number of people contact the Mind Infoline concerned about the impact of money and unemployment on their mental health.

“Redundancy and other life circumstances brought about by the recession can trigger depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for anyone, whether they have previously experienced a mental health problem or not.

“For some people, these factors can become so difficult to cope with that suicide may feel like the only option.”

Source –  BBC News,  12 June 2014

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27796628

North Tyneside council chief executive warns of another £20m in cuts

Another £20m of cuts will see councils end their historic “paternal provider” role, a chief executive has admitted.

North Tyneside Council’s most senior official, Patrick Melia, has said the nature of local authorities will change to one that “steps in when people fall”.

The council needs to reduce its spending by 2018 by around £20m, and is now preparing to set out three years worth of spending plans as it looks at the next budget rounds.

Mr Melia said that if his £150m budget is “spent wisely we can still do a lot of good with it”.

Alongside that cash comes health spending, and money for schools, homes and building work which will still see some half a billion pounds spent in the borough, something the chief executive says is “a cause for optimism”.

The council official said that while he cannot rule out job losses at the council over the next three years, he could point to a strong record at the council of avoiding compulsory redundancies, and was hopeful to make the process as painless as possible.

He said: “Local government in the North East has been paternalistic. We have always wanted to care for people, with the recession we have had and the way things are we now have to help people to do these things for themselves, but to be there to catch people if they do it for themselves.

“We will be moving away from being a paternalistic provider of services to one that enables people to look after themselves, and reduce demand for services as a result.”

Mr Melia added: “We are working now on a plan that sees us think three years ahead. If our share of local spending is £150m by then how best do we spend that money?

“It means we have to redesign how we deliver services here.

“I think one thing we need to think about as part of that is we often talk of hard to reach people, but it is the council that can be hard to reach for some people.

“I mean the council knows where people live, but some people will just not come through the door of an official council building, so changing how we provide those services is something we will look at.”

Alongside that will come a continued focus on regeneration, with work continuing on the likes of the A19 Silverlink improvements, the redevelopment of Wallsend town centre and the various projects around Whitley Bay and the coast.

We need to help businesses as much as people, to get people with the right skills to be where they are needed,” Mr Melia added.

Source – Newcastle Journal  16April 2014

Newcastle City Council leader tells MPs to give big cities more freedom

Letting Britain’s big cities develop their economies could save Britain from future economic downturns, the leader of Newcastle City Council has told MPs.

Coun Nick Forbes said the economic crash was partly due to the nation’s dependence on London, and its banking industry.

But a country with a more diverse economy and a number of successful cities would be better able to cope if there was another crisis.

Coun Forbes told the Commons Local Government Committee that major cities such as Newcastle should be able to raise far more funding locally, for example by keeping a portion of the business rates paid by employers rather than handing the entire sum to the Treasury – and use the cash to promote economic growth. But he warned there also needed to a complete rethink of the way national government redistributed cash to local authorities, so that councils with the greatest need – such as those in the North East – received more money to let them provide essential services.

Newcastle recently cut spending by £35m on top of previous cuts.

The council leader was at Westminster representing the eight “core cities” of Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. He said: “At the moment we have been absolutely ravaged by the recession.”

What Newcastle wanted was the ability to grow its own local economy rather than relying on handouts from London, he said – and argued this would make the entire UK economy more “resilient”.

“We have seen how London-centric the recession was. It was the collapse of the banking system that tipped us over the edge into it. We wouldn’t have that if we had a better settlement around the rest of the country.”

Newcastle was already proving what it could achieve with more independence by using a scheme called Tax Increment Financing, which allows it to invest cash collected from business rates in regeneration projects to attract new businesses, he said.

“We have managed to stimulate development activities on a number of key sites in the city which wouldn’t have happened otherwise but at he moment those powers are exceptions rather than a rule.

“We could do so much more as a country and as cities.”

And he urged the Committee to recommend that councils be given more powers to cut business rates and attract employers that way.

“I can see areas of Newcastle . . where you might want to give us a discount that would allow the introduction of new businesses.”

> No mention of Scottish independence, but I’m sure there will be proponents of it north of the border watching this with interest…

Source – Newcastle Journal,  11 March 2014

The Shameful Role of PCS Union Members In the Widespread Bullying of Benefit Claimants

> A masterful summing up of the current situation, by John Wight.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are engaged in the widespread bullying and intimidation of benefit claimants in Jobcentres up and down the country.

The evidence can no longer be denied and the union’s leadership must now take steps to educate its members that solidarity is more than just a word on a leaflet during a PCS pay dispute, or else face the accusation of collaborating with the government’s vicious assault on the most economically vulnerable in society under the rubric of austerity.

The upsurge in the number of claimants having their benefits sanctioned for increasingly minor infractions correlates to the upsurge in the demand for the services of the nation’s food banks. This shocking revelation was contained in a report by MPs in January, the result of an investigation by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which called for an independent review into the rules for sanctioning claimants to ensure that the rules are being applied “fairly and appropriately“.

Among its findings the report stated: “Evidence suggests that JCP staff have referred many claimants for a sanction inappropriately or in circumstances in which common sense would dictate that discretion should have been applied.

The report continued: “Some witnesses were concerned that financial hardship caused by sanctioning was a significant factor in a recent rise in referrals to food aid. The report recommends that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by sanctions.”

The majority of Jobcentre staff are members of the 270,000 strong PCS, the sixth largest trade union in the country, which represents the majority of Britain’s civil servants and public sector workers.

The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, has been a high profile and strong critic of the coalition’s austerity policies in recent years, appearing on numerous public platforms and a ubiquitous presence in the mainstream press making the case for an investment led recovery from recession and calling for mass opposition to the cuts that have ravaged the public sector and been accompanied by a concerted campaign of demonisation of the unemployed and economically vulnerable that is unparalleled in its viciousness.

It is a campaign that has largely succeeded in diverting the blame for the worst recession to visit these shores since the 1930s onto the poor. Meanwhile the rich, whose greed lies at the root of the nation’s economic woes, have seen their wealth and incomes increase over the course of the recession, evidence that austerity and economic and social injustice are one and the same.

It is unconscionable that any self respecting trade union would allow its members to engage in the wilful and systematic sanctioning of benefit claimants without meaningful resistance. It flies in the face of the very principle of social solidarity that is the cornerstone of a movement founded on the understanding that the interests of working people – employed and unemployed – are intrinsically the same.

The human despair not to mention humiliation being inflicted on people in the nation’s Jobcentres is evidence that the Tory campaign of dividing working people section by section has borne fruit. It has reached the point where the oppressive atmosphere found in your average Jobcentre is on a par with the oppressive atmosphere associated with a district or sheriff court.

Jobseekers are not criminals and those sanctioning them so readily are not parole officers, yet you could be easily mistaken in thinking they are after spending just a few minutes in a Jobcentre in any town or city up and down the country.

Enough is enough.

This shameful culture of bullying, harassment, and intimidation against the unemployed must be confronted by the leadership of the PCS as a matter of urgency. By no means are all PCS members working in Jobcentres guilty of this shameful behaviour and treatment of claimants – indeed many are low paid workers reliant on various benefits to survive themselves – but enough are involved in the practice to leave no doubt that we are talking about an institutional problem rather than the actions of a few rotten apples.

Making matters worse is the fact that many of those being sanctioned are being trapped due to mental health issues or language issues making them more vulnerable to violating the plethora of rules regarding the obligations they must fulfil when it comes to searching for work. Many are being sanctioned for turning up five minutes late to a scheduled appointment, regardless of the reason why.

The sheer barbarity of this is staggering, plunging people who are already living on the margins into extreme poverty and destitution. In some cases suicide has been the result.

Those PCS members involved would do well to imbibe the words of the American union leader Eugene Debs: “…years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Any trade union member who allows him or herself to be used as an instrument to attack the poor and the unemployed is deserving of contempt. And any trade union leadership that fails to act to prevent it happening is reactionary.

Source –  Huffington Post,  25 Feb 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/john-wight/benefit-reform-pcs_b_4851675.html

Food Banks: One In Six GP’s Say Patients Have Asked To Be Referred For Food Packages

One in six GP’s say they have been directly approached by patients facing poverty and malnutrition asking to be referred to a food bank.

Pulse Magazine surveyed 552 family doctors. 16% said they had been asked by their patients, who were unable to afford feed themselves and their families, to be referred for food aid.

GP’s claim that the increased demand for food bank referrals from those who are in genuine need of assistance, particularly in the wake of welfare cuts and stagnant wages, is creating an “enormous workload issue”. This is in-turn is resulting in a “knock-on effect” in the ability of other patients to obtain appointments to see their doctor, GP’s claim.

Former Chair of the Royal College of GP’s, Professor Clare Gerada, said that poor people were being forced to jump through hoops to get help. She added:

“Poverty is an enormous workload issue and, again, it’s the inverse care rule because it creates more work for GPs in poorer areas who don’t get resourced for it so you end up with more work and less time.

“People do naturally turn to their GPs, they don’t know where else to go, so they come to you. And because we get so much criticism, I get so fed-up.

“We’re there trying to sort out everybody’s problems and meanwhile the posh middle classes are complaining because they can’t get access to us.”

Editor of Pulse Magazine, Steve Nowottny said:

”That a significant number of patients are now going to their GP asking to be referred to a food bank is clearly a concern – both because of the extent of need it suggests among patients, but also because of the knock-on impact on general practice, which is already stretched very thin.

“GPs often feel as though they are asked to do everything, and increasingly that includes acting as a support agency for patients who may be struggling as a result of the recession.

“Every GP is committed to doing whatever they can to help their patients – but with finite resources, this kind of work inevitably diverts GPs from the rest of their job and leaves them less time to spend with other patients.”

Chris Mould, Chairman of the food bank charity Trussell Trust, said:

“GPs should have the ability to refer to a food bank when they come across a patient who they believe needs a food bank for health reasons, especially as levels of malnutrition are reported to be increasing.

“Some GPs are contacting food banks to ask them to help people visiting their surgeries who are suffering various sicknesses caused by not eating.

“GPs should not, however, be placed in a position to assess whether someone needs a food bank when the crisis is not health-related and they do not have enough information to make an accurate assessment of a patient’s situation.

“Food banks work hard to partner with a whole range of relevant professionals in the community who can refer people to food banks.

“If a doctor is asked to refer a patient to a food bank for a reason that is not health-related, such as debt, it is better for the GP to suggest that the patient speaks to a relevant agency, such as a debt advice charity, who can help address the underlying cause of the crisis and who will also be able to refer to a food bank.

“Over 23,000 professionals nationwide are registered as food bank voucher holders, enabling them to refer to their local Trussell Trust food bank.”

Doctors have also reported a 21% increase in the number of patients requesting help in support of a sickness benefit claim. Many GP’s are now refusing to help sick and disabled patients in their benefit claims (such as writing a letter to the DWP), because no matter how much they would like to be in the position to help and support their patients, GP’s claim that they simply do not have the time.

Source – Welfare News Service  18 Feb 2014

The Lost Generation: Conservatives say their plan is working

It’s the sort of headline you could take in several contrary  ways…

The Lost Generation: Conservatives say their plan is working

… but in this case its a mission statement from Rebecca Harris, the Conservative party vice chairman for young people’s issues, so we may suspect it’s not humour or irony….

Even before Labour’s great recession hit in 2008 things were tough for young people. During the 13 years of Labour Government half a million people lost their jobs and youth unemployment rose by 45%. It’s a longstanding problem.

This isn’t good enough.

> You noticed ? 

Jobs really do matter. Giving people the feeling of a wage in their pocket every month is the best way to help people plan for a secure future.

> Really ? 

That’s why we have a long term plan to get the economy of Britain, and the North East, working again.

> Long term = “we may get around to the North East eventually. Say, 2050 ? But you’ll have to vote Tory first, of course.”

We are creating more jobs by backing small business and enterprise with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes. Already there are 13,000 more businesses in the North East than there were three years ago.

> Yeah ? But what are they ? One-person self-employed start-ups ? What’s more noticable is that are far more empty shops, offices and factory units  than there were three years ago.

We’ve cut Labour’s jobs taxes to make it easier for those businesses to create jobs.

> And added a whole raft of new problems to make creating jobs look like too much hassle… and that’s before Universal Credit lurches onto the scene (if its wheels dont fall off first…)

That means more jobs for young people, as well as greater prosperity for the entire region.

> Why does it mean that ? Proof ?

Once young people find work they now get to keep more of their income as well. By raising the level at which people start to pay income tax we’ve taken 2.4m of the lowest earners out of tax altogether.

> No-ne is ever “out of tax” – there’s VAT for a start. And you’ve made them accountable for Council Tax and, in some cases, the Bedroom Tax too. Give with one hand, grab back with the other.

Ed Miliband used to claim that a million jobs would be lost under this Government – but in fact the private sector has created 1.6m new jobs. Our plan is working.

We’re also making reforms to schooling to increase young people’s skills. Under Labour, rampant grade inflation meant their GCSEs and A Levels did little to help them get a job.

> More GCSEs and A Levels do not equal an increase in skills. They don’t create jobs either.

We’re reforming exams so that young people gain an education that is actually worth something to employers.

> Er, dont you mean:  “so that young people gain an education that is actually worth something to them ?  No, you really dont, do you ?

At the same time we’ve created 1.5m new apprenticeships so that people can learn while they work.

By giving young people decent skills we can help them get jobs, and get jobs that pay well. It’s a long term plan for the future.

> A very, very long term plan. About 2050 ?

The signs are encouraging. There are 7,500 more young people off Job Seekers Allowance in the North East than a year ago. We’re committed to getting even more get off benefits and on to that important first step of adult life.

> Off JSA does not necesserily equal  someone getting a job, as we all know too well.

The economic damage Labour did to the economy caused unforgivable harm to the life chances of young people. Even now they offer only short term gimmicks that would do more harm than good. Young people deserve better than that.

> Maybe if that old hag Thatcher hadn’t… oh, I see – you’re revising history here, it was Labour who killed off what was left of industry. Nothing to do with Thatcher at all.

Our long term economic plan is working and young people are working for a secure future once again. Let’s stick to the plan.

> I could suggest somewhere you might stick it… 

Interestingly, the original article was illustrated with  a photo of Smilin’ Dave Camoron getting down with a couple of apprentices in a factory… in, er, Oxford. Probably as far north as a Tory likes to go…

Source – Newcastle Journal  01 Feb 2014

Youth Unemployment & Mental Illness In North East

More than one in five young people in the North East have experienced symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of unemployment, a new report warns today.

The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index paints a bleak picture of young people’s mental health and wellbeing in the region, with the report finding that young people who are long-term unemployed are more than twice as likely as their peers to believe they have nothing to live for.

The report comes at a time when Newcastle has seen a 279% increase in the number of young people claiming benefits for more than six months since the beginning of the recession.

Jonathan Townsend, Northern regional director of The Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people. Thousands wake up every day believing that life isn’t worth living, after struggling for years in the dole queue.

“Here in Newcastle, 795 young people are facing long-term unemployment and there is a real danger that these young people will become hopeless, as well as jobless.

“Our research highlights that unemployed young people are significantly less likely to ask for help if they are struggling to cope. Our message to them is this: organisations like The Prince’s Trust are supporting young people like you every day, helping them back into work, education or training. You are not alone and you need not struggle alone.”

The Prince’s Trust, which works to help young people looking for work, last year worked with 426 disadvantaged young people across Newcastle. It also has a centre in Benwell, in the city’s West End. The charity’s survey found that nearly a third of young people from the city said they “always” or “often” feel down or depressed with the report showing that long-term unemployed people are significantly more likely to feel this way.

One in four young people locally admitted they feel like a “waste of space” – higher than the national average – with the report finding that the long-term unemployed are more than twice as likely to feel this way.

> I wonder why that is ? Just a wild guess, but you dont think it might have something to do with the relentless “skivers not strivers” propaganda channelled through the media direct from the government ? 

Not to mention the treatment handed out by the DWP through its Jobcentres, Work Programme, etc ?

All the stupid hoops you have to jump through, with the possibility of a sanction if you slip up, however trivially ?

It’s enough to unhinge the sanest at the best of times.

The Prince’s Trust is now calling for urgent support from the Government, health agencies and employers to fund its work with long-term unemployed young people battling mental health issues.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “This research proves that unemployment is a public health issue. It is one that must be tackled urgently and it is essential that youth unemployment is added to the public health agenda.

“Unemployed young people are struggling in many aspects of their lives, from their mental health and wellbeing to their relationships and their qualifications and we must act quickly to end this.”

> Well, maybe they could take a lot of the pressure off by just acting in a humane way, and stop treating the unemployed (of any age) as an enemy that must be crushed at all costs. 

Stop sanctions, start admitting that we are an area of high unemployment and probably always will be…and most of all stop the vile media propaganda.

All easy to do and would cost very little.  But, conspiracy theories notwithstanding, I’m starting to think that the government actually want things the way they are. They have absolutely no interest in improving life for the poorer sections of society.

And they keep getting away with it, so why does anyone think they’ll stop ?

Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Jan 2014