There was a spate of example towards the end of last year where Charities were warned they were at risk of closure, or at least sanctions, for acting ‘Politically
- the chair of the Trussell Trust was told “he must think more carefully otherwise “the government might try to shut you down”.
- The Global Warming Policy Foundation were advised ‘concerns were raised that the charity was promoting views that were of a political rather than an educational nature’.
- Oxfam was been rapped by the charity watchdog for not taking sufficient steps to avoid appearing politically biassed in a social media campaign which criticised the Government’s austerity programme earlier this year.
These are only examples, of how a breadth of Charities are experiencing this, what I feel is bullying.
This behaviour by the powers that be, is despite Government guidance which states:
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Food poverty is no longer being seen as a welfare issue as those who suffer from it have got so used to turning to charities for help.
In a report, North East academic Dr Jane Midgley said the huge increase in foodbanks run by the voluntary sector has blurred the lines as to who should be caring for the vulnerable and the needy.
She said a squeeze on incomes, benefit sanctions and rocketing utility bills are the drivers of foodbank use, but people instead see their local council as ‘uncaring’ and ‘part of the problem’.
Dr Midgley, whose research formed part of the Feeding Britain report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK, urged councils to show support for those facing the misery of food poverty and called for more clarity over the root causes of the phenomenon.
“We are increasingly finding that charities, rather than the state, are supporting people in need who cannot afford to feed themselves.
“While we need to recognise the effort this takes and the difference it makes to peoples lives, the boundaries of this responsibility are far from clear.
“Food poverty is not seen as a welfare issue and because of the way charities and voluntary sector organisations have stepped in, people no longer see local government and the public sector as a source of support.”
Foodbank use exploded in 2014. The Trussell Trust said between April and September 2014, more than 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead , Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks.
That works out at 4,289 people a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.
“We are now not just at a critical juncture for how we respond to the issue of food poverty, but also what this means for local policy makers,” Dr Midgley added.
“They need to be able to show, in a difficult financial climate, that they still care and want people who live within their towns and cities to live well and flourish.”
The Feeding Britain report warned that North families are just one unexpected bill away from food poverty. It said the living wage and speedier benefit payments must form part of the solution.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said he had “no indication” people were turning on councils and said staff were supportive of people facing the misery of food poverty.
“We are one of the richest nations in the world and yet we are seeing some of the most terrible cases of poverty in years due to the huge financial pressures being put on hard-working families.
> I do wish politicians would refrain from parrotting hard-working families on issues like this. It implies that those not working for whatever reasion are lazy, and before we know where we are we’re back to the concept of deserving and undeserving poor.
“We are living in a society where rising costs and relentless government cuts across the country are creating much tougher living conditions. Here in South Tyneside we are doing all we can to try and support and protect people who are experiencing the greatest hardship.
“As a council we have committed to the phased introduction of the Living Wage for Council workers from April 2015. This should help people on some of the lowest wages and we hope that other businesses will be able to look to do the same.”
Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, said Coalition ministers were to blame for the rise in foodbanks.
“You can’t sack half a million public sector workers or employ people on exploitative zero hours contracts and expect there to be anything other than a calamitous outcome.
“While ministers enjoy Christmas this week far too many of our people will be struggling, literally, on the breadline. It’s time to stop penalising the poor for the failures of the richest in society.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Jan 2015
Trussell Trust Press Release:
On Tuesday 10th June, Trussell Trust Chairman Chris Mould gave evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, together with a number of other invited organisations.
The Panel is chaired by Sir Roger Singleton. Other members present included Sir Bert Massie, former Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission and Andrew Hind, former Chief Executive of the Charity Commission.
The Panel’s website reads:
“The impact of independence can be huge. However, it may come under threat only gradually, almost imperceptibly, with its loss only being noticed once it’s too late. That’s why the Panel has been set up to ensure that independence is seen as a top priority by the voluntary sector and those with whom it works, to monitor changes and make recommendations affecting all those involved.”
Chris Mould was invited to speak by the Panel after they observed The Trussell Trust’s experiences over the last year. Chris had a 30 minute slot and this article in Civil Society provides an accurate reflection of the discussion.
Chris told the Panel that, in a face-to-face conversation in March 2013 with “someone in power”, he was told that he must think more carefully about how The Trussell Trust speaks about its figures and welfare, otherwise “the government might try to shut you down”.
Chris explained: “This was spoken in anger, but is the kind of dialogue that can occur. It exposes the way people think in the political world about their relationship with the voluntary sector when things are getting difficult. What can we do?”
Chris says: “I told the Panel that I had made the choice to disclose with care our experiences, rather than come to the Panel and keep what really mattered off the table for fear of the consequences.
“What is essential here is that charities are able to retain an independent voice so that they can freely share their experiences, speak up on behalf of their clients and give a voice to people who would not normally have the chance to be heard.
“The experience of charities, whilst sometimes not easy listening, should be welcomed as a helpful source of evidence for politicians across the political spectrum.
“Speaking out on difficult issues is not about party politics, and being free to say what we see as we provide our services should help to create a better future for the poorest and most vulnerable.
“That’s why we chose to give evidence at the Independence Panel and why we value their work in helping to make sure that charities’ voices are able to be heard.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 12 June 2014
Unite Union Press Release:
The opposition of nearly 350 charities to the government’s new ‘workfare’ programme has ‘holed the scheme below the waterline’, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 5 June).
Unite has welcomed the news that 345 voluntary sector organisations, including household names such as Shelter, Crisis, Scope and Oxfam, have pledged not to take part in the Community Work Placements (CWP) programme.
This week was meant to be the deadline for organisations to start the new mandatory CWPs which require that jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants do six months work placement – or risk losing their benefits.
Unite, which has 60,000 members in the voluntary sector, has branded the scheme as “nothing more than forced unpaid labour.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The mounting opposition from the not for profit sector has holed one of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship projects below the waterline. More waves of opposition will sink this scheme once-and-for all.
“This obscene programme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour.
“Unite welcomes the fact that so many charities have given this scheme the thumbs down as they can see that it is grossly unfair and a perversion of the true ethos of volunteering.
“Questions have to be asked about the government’s slavish reliance on the controversial private sector contractors, such as G4S, to implement the CWP programme.
“It was G4S and its security shambles that was the only blot on the London Olympics two years ago.
“We are against this scheme wherever Duncan Smith wants to impose it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.
“It is outrageous that ministers are trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits clawed back.
“What the long queues of the unemployed need are proper jobs with decent pay and a strong structure of apprenticeships for young people to give them a sustainable employment future.”
Unite is opposing workfare in local government and will be raising it as an industrial issue with local authorities which do not sign the pledge. So far, 13 local councils have signed up not to implement any workfare programmes – and more are actively considering doing so.
With so many council cuts, Unite is determined that workfare placements are not used to replace paid jobs.
Unite’s growing community section will be on hand to support unemployed people forced onto workfare schemes.
> This last paragraph looks interesting….
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 June 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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A Couple of stories from Kate Belgrave – http://www.katebelgrave.com/
“They threatened sanctions because they couldn’t read my handwriting”
For about a month now, I’ve been spending time outside London jobcentres with the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group talking to people who are signing on about their experiences with JSA, sanctions and jobcentres. Last week, we went back to Kilburn. Recently at the jobcentre, we heard from one man who said he’d been sanctioned for several months. He was furious and screamed that he was “going to come back with a fucking hammer.”
I asked him if he wanted to talk about the sanction and he told me to fuck off. “Why the fuck would I want to talk about it?” he yelled as he disappeared towards the high street. Which was fair enough. I wouldn’t want to discuss a months-long sanction with some old blogger with a notebook. I’d want someone to fix the sanction. Who wouldn’t. I give you this as an example of the sort of fury and desperation that this vicious JSA sanctions regime generates and to put it to you that there’ll be more of it when conditions for JSA become even more demanding.
“I’m 62 and they threaten me with sanctions.”
A lot of people we talk to outside jobcentres seem completely stuck. They say their problems aren’t being resolved at all.
We’ve talked to plenty of people who are furious about that. At Lisson Grove, I talked to Penny*, aged 62. She was angry all right. She said that she’d worked in the voluntary sector until August last year, when she was made redundant, because of budget cuts. She was particularly angry about being told by the jobcentre that she wasn’t trying hard enough to find work.
“Some of us in our previous lives actually taught jobsearch. We actually took people through to the point of appointment, so [it’s very hard] to come here and be told “why are you late, you’re not doing proper jobsearch, that’s why you haven’t got a job,” when you’re 62 years of age. I’m being told this by people who are half my age. I’m being told that if ever I arrive late, they are going to cut the whole of my benefits.
Collective action can halt this forced labour scheme in its tracks. A week of action against workfare has been called beginning on the 29th March. An escalation in the campaign against unpaid work is vital and there is no better chance than this. It only takes a few people to get the ball rolling, and protests against organisations using workfare have proved to be effective. Boycott Workfare can offer…
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RENTS for 18,000 council tenants in South Tyneside are to rise by an average of £5.50 a week, it has been revealed.
However, there was better news for residents in the borough as South Tyneside Council boss, Coun Ed Malcolm, revealed that Council Tax bills are to be frozen for the fourth consecutive year.
The details emerged from the local authority’s budget plans for the coming 12 months in which it needs to find another £18m worth of savings.
That is made up of a £9m reduction in Government funding and another £9m in other areas – particularly services for the young and elderly.
Savings need to be identified out of a revenue budget – made up from government funding and Council Tax payments – of £148m for 2014/15.
Despite the pressures, the council is committed to spending almost £5m improving borough highways and footpaths.
It is pushing ahead with selling off council buildings which are regarded as being “surplus to requirement” – with profits re-invested in capital programmes.
As a result of a Council Tax freeze, the owner of an average Band C property in the borough will pay an estimated £1,290 for the year from April.
Meanwhile, council rents will increase by 6.8 per cent, which is in line with Government guidelines.
That would mean the average weekly borough rent, which currently stands at £78.34 over a 48-week period, rising by about £5.50 – which still represents the lowest level in Tyne and Wear.
It’s estimated the hike will add an additional £4.7m to the council’s coffers.
Coun Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, today pledged that “no one would suffer” as a result of the budget proposals he has overseen.
There was also a commitment that job losses at the council will be less than in previous years – with more than 1,000 posts shed since 2010.
He said: “Even though we have had £18m of budget cuts to find this year, I’m confident that this budget will mean we can still provide services to anyone who wants them, anyone who needs them.
“No one will suffer because of this budget. As a Labour council, we remain committed to social justice.
“The key message is that is that we are continuing to get funding reductions, we’ve got nine per cent less core funding and we still have the standstill financial pressures on top.
“We’re going to be freezing Council Tax for the fourth consecutive year and that means we will have the third lowest in the North East, and we remain committed to our ambitious regeneration of the borough.
“We face £18m worth of savings in the year ahead. The days of salami-slicing budgets are over.
“We’ve looked at integration, working with partners in the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary sector on Adult and Social Care.
“The council has a lot of buildings which have passed their sell-by-date and I think we can work more efficiently by redesigning the town hall and have the majority of staff transferred there.
“Then we have the community hubs which will provide a majority of services under one roof.”
Coun Malcolm added: “There will still be job implications but we will endeavour to keep away from compulsory redundancies.
“Because we are redesigning services there will be redundancies but we envisage there will be less than in previous years. We are also putting substantial investment in highways and pathways and increasing amount of money going to Community Area Forums by £50,000.”
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “Jobs-wise, next year we are hearing that there will be a little bit of respite in terms of a large number of job losses.
“But there are still going to be job losses in the area of business support and the merger of some other services together.”
Source – Shields Gazette 05 Feb 2014