Thousands of unemployed young people across the North East could be stripped of benefits under tough plans in the Government’s Queen’s Speech.
David Cameron insisted the crackdown was designed to end youth unemployment, as he set out his plans in the House of Commons.
But Labour MPs said the plans effectively meant young people would be forced to work for as little as less than £2 an hour – payment far below the minimum wage.
The North East has the highest youth unemployment rate in England.
Office figures show 21.4 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 are unemployed.
The figures cover people who are “economically active”, which means they are in a job or looking for work. Full-time students are not included.
This is a higher proportion than in any other part of England. It’s also higher than Scotland or Wales, and roughly equal to the Northern Ireland figure of 21.8 per cent.
By contrast, the unemployment rate for people aged 18 to 24 in the south east is 11.4 per cent. And in the West Midlands, it is 16.1 per cent.
Official figures also show that 4,000 people in the North East aged 18 to 24 have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for six months or longer.
But under Government plans, anyone aged 21 or under will lose the right to this benefit – and be put on a new “youth allowance” instead.
They’ll get the same amount of money as before, up to £57.90 a week, but if they are unemployed for six months then they will be given compulsory community work such as making meals for the elderly or working for local charities – and they’ll lose the right to claim benefits if they refuse.
If they will have to work 30 hours a week as expected, that would be a payment of £1.93 for each hour worked, well below the minimum wage of £5.13 for people age 18 to 20 and £6.50 for those older.
The Government says it plans to prepare young people for work and will create 200,000 new apprenticeships in the North East.
And Conservatives point out that the number of people aged 18 to 24 in the North East actually in work has risen by 13,000 over the past year.
David Cameron told the House of Commons: “One of the most important things we can do is give young people the chance of an apprenticeship and the chance of work.
“What we have done is expand apprenticeships and uncapped university places, so that there is no cap on aspiration in our country.
“We now want to go further by saying that every young person should be either earning or learning.
“Leaving school, signing on, getting unemployment benefit, getting housing benefit and opting for a life out of work—that is no choice at all, and that is why we will legislate accordingly.”
And Conservative MP Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said:
“This Bill will provide assistance to young people to earn and learn, and give them the skills which they need to have a long term future in employment.
“We need to address the skills gap and using apprenticeships will really make a difference to do that.”
Labour Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said:
“If young people are expected to work in order to get benefits then they should be entitled to the minimum wage.
“To tell them to work for £2 an hour is ridiculous. We have legislation which says there is a minimum wage in this country and that should be the minimum level people can expect.”
Conservatives will face a battle over plans to stop people aged 18 to 21 claiming housing benefit – with Labour MPs and other critics warning it will put young people who are forced to leave home because of abuse in danger.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 May 2015
The average homeowner in parts of Teesside has lost £25,000 off the value of their house since the coalition came to power in 2010 – while prices in London have soared.
Exclusive analysis of Land Registry data show the average house price in Redcar and Cleveland has dropped by 21.3% since May 2010, the date of the last election.
The average price is now £92,785 – or £25,134 LESS than it was then.
Only two places in the country – Merthyr Tydfil (down 27.1%) and Blackpool (down 24.9%) – have seen a bigger percentage fall.
In Middlesbrough, prices are down 6.6% since May 2010.
That means the average property is worth £5,904 less now than then.
And Stockton-on-Tees has seen a 2.6% fall, equivalent to £2,944.
Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have actually gone up by 10.8% since May 2010, with the average property worth £17,595 more than it was then.
Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have risen by 10.8% since May 2010.
The biggest increases have all been in London – with the 29 top-rising areas all in the capital.
Top of the list is Hackney, where house prices are up 76.3%.
The average house is now worth £634,045 – or £274,491 more than it was five years ago.
In the City of Westminster, meanwhile, the average price is up £464,941 from £610,767 to £1.07m.
When London is taken out of the equation, Tory-run areas seem to have done markedly better than those controlled by other parties.
Ten of the 20 ‘non-London’ areas that have seen the biggest rises are held by the Conservatives, with nine in no overall political control and just one – Slough – held by Labour.
Tory Wokingham (up 25.7%), Hertfordshire (up 24.6%) and Surrey (up 24.6%) have seen the biggest rises outside London.
By contrast 19 of the 20 areas to have seen the biggest falls in house prices are run by Labour.
The only one that isn’t is Lancashire (down 13.6%) – which is in no overall control.
Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015
Hundreds of firefighters gathered in Newcastle for a rally against changes to their pension and retirement ages.
The protest at the Monument today formed part of a national 24 hour stoppage in the long running dispute over Government proposals the Fire Brigade Union described as “unworkable”.
Officials say that under the government’s plan, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.
The latest industrial action in the four year dispute followed claims by the FBU that fire minister Penny Mordaunt had mislead parliament over the matter.
It says in a parliamentary debate last December she gave a guarantee that any firefighter aged 55 or over who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.
The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister’s “guarantee”.
However a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said:
“We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so.
“If fire authorities do not produce processes which yield this, the Secretary of State has said he will intervene.”
In Newcastle, Pete Wilcox, regional secretary for the FBU in the North East, said:
“We don’t want to be taking action because we’re aware of the consequences as we deal with them day-in and day-out.
“But we have been misled. The government talked of giving guarantees to those who fail a fitness test through no fault of their own to get an unreduced pension. Then it spoke of setting up an appeals process on it. Why do you need an appeals process when there’s supposed to be a guarantee?”
He said improvements to pension arrangements had been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which meant no strike action was taking place there.
Mr Wilcox added: “We hope the Government will be back around the table and start negotiating again.”
As well as the firefighters and their families who attended the Newcastle rally, representatives of other unions including Beth Farhat, Northern regional TUC secretary, turned up to give their support.
The strike began at 7am on Wednesday and saw pickets at fire stations across the North East.
Meanwhile a number of North East FBU members joined thousands of colleagues in London for a lunchtime rally in Westminster addressed by MPs and union officials.
Firefighters later lobbied MPs for support in their campaign against changes to pensions and retirement age.
The Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman added:
“Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has condemned the Government’s decision to privatise part of the administration of Universal Credit.
Private firm Capita will be gifted with the responsibility for booking initial work search interviews for new Universal Credit claimants.
Capita is currently facing a second inquiry into a £1.5bn Whitehall jobs contract, which small companies claim could leave them facing financial ruin.
A press release on the union’s website reads:
“Their intention is that the process for booking the appointment for a claimant’s initial work search interview will be handed to the private company Capita. No DWP staff will be transferred to Capita under this proposal.
“There is no justifiable business reason for doing this. DWP claim that Capita will be able to make these appointments at weekends for claimants who make a claim online at a weekend, but in practice the appointments could just as well be done by DWP staff the following Monday, as has happened up to now.
“Capita already have been handed the same task for claims to Jobseekers Allowance and this announcement extends that arrangement to Universal Credit claims.
“PCS has protested strongly to DWP about this decision. Seeing their work privatised is a kick in the teeth for our hard working members.
“Members will also be understandably concerned that this privatisation is a foretaste of further private sector involvement in the delivery of Universal Credit.
“PCS has also made the point to the department that Capita is consistently failing to meet its key targets in relation to JSA First Contact calls that are currently out sourced to them. This failure contrasts with the DWP staff in CCS who are consistently meeting the very same targets.
“Again the failure of the private sector to out-perform the public sector has been ignored as the tired, false dogma of ‘private sector good, public sector bad’ is wheeled out once again.
“PCS will continue to argue against all privatisation of DWP work and will continue to campaign for all privatised work to be brought back in-house where it belongs.”
> Hear, hear – claimants should be harrassed by public sector, not private company , workers.
Jobcentres are, I would guess, high on the list for selling off to private companies if the Tories win the next election. Possibly if Labour win too.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Feb 2015
David Cameron’s plan to make 18- to 21-year-olds work for their benefits is “cynical electioneering” as it would hit people hardest in the north and Midlands, where the Conservatives traditionally have little support, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.
The party laid into its coalition partners over the proposals to make school leavers do community work or face losing state support, saying it showed the Conservatives were “choosing to be tough on the vulnerable and young, whilst being weak on the rich and powerful”.
> Well ? It’s not as if they’ve suddenly betrayed long-held values – they’ve always acted like this. A fact which the Lib Dems must have been aware of before they got into bed with them.
Obviously they were quite willing to overlook this in return for a little bit of power. Oh, to sell your soul for such a low price…
None of the top 25 areas where there are the most “Neets” are run by Conservative councils, the research found.
John Leech, the Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, said it was nothing more than an attack on the north.
“These placements are not designed to help someone into work, more to punish. Just like the Tory plans to axe housing benefit for young people,” he said.
The Tory plans to make £12bn of welfare cuts for the working-age poor means 8 million low-income families will be £1,500 worse off a year.
Under the plans, those aged between 18 and 21 will be barred from claiming benefit unless they agree to start an apprenticeship or complete community work.
It is designed to ensure that the 50,000 young people “most at risk of starting a life on benefits” find that their first contact with the benefits system is a requirement to undertake community work and search for jobs. The claimant will be expected typically to undertake at least 30 hours community work a week and 10 hours looking for jobs.
Anyone required to undertake community work would be paid a youth allowance equivalent to the jobseeker’s allowance rate for young people.
In a speech in Hove, East Sussex, Cameron made an attempt to answer some of his critics who say the planned cuts are too harsh.
“I would ask them: is it compassionate to leave people on the dole for years with no incentive to get into work?” he said.
“Is it big-hearted to leave people on sickness benefit without checking if they can work, if given the right help? Is it kind to sentence people to never going anywhere, of letting people in their teens and 20s sit at home all day slipping into depression and despair?”
> Is it compassionate or big-hearted to subject people to a sanctions culture at the whim of DWP so-called work coaches ?
Following the announcement, Jonathan Portes, from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, pointed out that pilots conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions suggested “compulsory community work for unemployed had little or no positive impact”.
The Conservatives want to make £12bn of welfare cuts in the next parliament, while the Liberal Democrats are budgeting for £4bn. Labour has not made clear what it would do to the benefits bill in order to balance the books.
Source – The Guardian, 18 Feb 2015
The number of evictions in England and Wales have soared to the highest level since records began, according to official Government figures.
Ministry of Justice figures show that 41,956 households who rented their homes were evicted between January to December 2014.
Around 8,000 families in England and Wales are losing their home every month, reports 24dash.com.
The shocking figure represents an 11% increase on the previous year and is at the highest level since records began in 2000.
An estimated 21% of landlord possession claims made by landlords between October to December 2014 will result in tenants being evicted. But the figure could be anywhere between 17% and 24%.
Rob Campbell , chief executive of the housing and homeless charity Shelter, warned of the “devastating impact” a shortage of affordable homes is having on struggling households.
“With the cost of housing sky-high, we are hearing from increasing numbers of families who are terrified that just one thing, like a sudden illness or job loss, will leave them homeless”, he said.
Mr Campbell slammed Government welfare cuts for “making it harder and harder for people to stay in their homes”.
He urged politicians from all parties to “commit to building the genuinely affordable homes that we desperately need”.
In related news, a Bill is currently passing through parliament which could make so-called revenge or retaliatory evictions illegal.
If the Bill is passed into law, it would prevent landlords from evicting tenants within six months of receiving an improvement or hazard awareness notice.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 12 Feb 2015
Almost a quarter of all North-East workers – and nearly a half of part-time staff – are not being paid a living wage, new research shows.
Local authorities in the region are facing fresh calls to pay employees and contractors more after a study by the GMB revealed that 23.4 per cent of North-East jobs paid less than the living wage.
Jobs held by women – 29.9 per cent – and part-time roles – 46.8 per cent – were disproportionately affected, the report based on data from the Office for National Statistics showed.
The living wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK.
In November 2014 the national living wage increased to £7.85 per hour outside London.
GMB is publishing the figures to mark the launch of its 2015 campaign to get every local authority signed up to the living wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far made the move, up from 103 a year ago.
So far only two authorities in the North-East – Newcastle and South Tyneside – have implemented or committed to implement the living wage.
In North Yorkshire, two councils – York and Scarborough – have taken the step.
Billy Coates, GMB regional secretary for the North-East, said:
“No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the living wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors.
“There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.
“The living wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits.”
In the North-East, Hartlepool has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 34.7 per cent, followed by Redcar and Cleveland – 30 per cent – and Middlesbrough and Northumberland, both 26.8 per cent.
At regional level, the East Midlands has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 24.7 per cent.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Feb 2015
Northumbria Police saw the highest rise in complaints of any force in the country, official figures have revealed.
A total of 794 complaints were made against Northumbria Police, which had 5,871 employees in 2013/2014, representing a 98 per cent rise in 2013/14, compared to an increase of 15 per cent for England and Wales, statistics issued by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show.
The total number of complaints against Durham Constabulary rose 26 per cent to 303, while over the same period complaints against North Yorkshire Police rose 15 per cent to 544.
Cleveland Police saw the number of complaints it received drop by six per cent to 454 last year.
A spokesman for the IPCC said:
“Some of the increase in 2013/14 is down to the definition of a complaint being broadened beyond an officer’s conduct to include direction and control matters to do with operational policing.”
A complainant has the right to appeal about the way in which a police force has handled their complaint.
Just one in 20 of appeals from the public against Durham Constabulary were upheld by the force IPCC, compared with a 46 per cent of those considered by the IPCC.
It seems that Hilton Dawson has a history of triumphing against the odds.
The native Northumbrian has twice overcome substantial Tory power bases at council and parliamentary level to get into office.
That was in the North West where he lived and worked for around 20 years.
Now back home, he hopes to repeat his David and Goliath act at the next general election in May with the North East party he helped form and is chairman of.
And this time three of the four seats his party are contesting at Easington, Redcar, Stockton North and Newcastle North are held by Labour with who he was a member for 30 years.
But he doesn’t see it as a betrayal of his political roots, just loyalty to his personal roots.
“There isn’t anyone who stands up for the North East directly,” he said.
“My experience of parliament and working with national policy makers is that huge decisions are made in London by people who don’t know about the region.
“We need to get these big decisions – about jobs, housing, health, wellbeing, transport – made here.”
To do this, it aims to secure devolved powers similar to those enjoyed by Scotland and Wales.
“We want real powers to borrow and invest, which will produce high-quality integrated public services,” Hilton said.
“In Scotland in particular, they have far better public services than we do a few miles south over the border.”
The idea for it was born out of a debate in 2013 at the Newcastle Lit & Phil Society about whether it was time for ‘Wor Party’. A lot of people attending thought it was.
The North East Party was officially registered last May. It had its first annual general meeting in June then in December after a three day meeting it thrashed out its manifesto.
Read what you will into the fact these discussions took place in a room above a funeral home in Shotton Colliery.
“Very salubrious surroundings,” laughed Hilton at the memory but he is very pleased with the result and hopes to cause as much of a stir as his first attempt to change things as an eight-year-old schoolboy.
Born in Mona Taylor’s Maternity Home in Stannington, his parents were both teachers. He was raised in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea where he was a pupil at Moorside First, locally known as the Colliery School.
It was there he recalls he became second in command in a pupils protest about the state of the school’s food.
“The soup was particularly terrible that day,” said Hilton.
“We marched up and down the playground all over dinner time. We all really enjoyed it.”
The Head, Mr Kirsopp (none of the kids knew his first name, of course), “emerged lugubriously at the end of lunch time” recalled Hilton.
“We looked at him with some trepidation then he ceremonially rang the bell and we went inside. Nothing more was said about it.”
This obviously whetted his appetite. After later completing his studies at Ashington Grammar School he gained a place at Warwick University to study philosophy and politics.
“Philosophy to understand the world and politics to change it,” he said.
Hilton recalled Warwick as a bit of a political hotbed in the 1960s with plenty of sit-ins and protests.
It was after his first year there he married Susan, who he met at school.
After graduating they went to stay for a time on a Kibbutz in Israel.
“We wanted to experience a collective way of life. We had idealistic expectations of it. The work was very hard but rewarding.”
Then they returned home as Susan was pregnant with their first child, Catherine.
He found work at the Choppington Social Welfare Centre, moving into a council house in Scotland Gate.
“It was one of the most educational experiences of my life,” said Hilton.
“I worked with the people of the community on many fantastic things. I was part of this rough, tough, incredibly warm hearted community organising anything from play groups for youngsters to events for the older residents, working with the people there to make things happen.
“At different times I would run the bar, put three tons of coal in the central heating, paint the walls, but most important of all I learned how to talk to people.
“The teachers’ son grew up an enormous amount.”
Having worked with social workers on projects there he became interested in the profession, getting a job at Bedlington.
“The attitude of people on the estate changed straight away. While they were still friendly it was a case of you’re a social worker now, there’s a difference.”
Hilton said he worked with a fantastic team determined to make a difference to the community and it was when he became involved in mainstream politics, joining the Labour party in 1978.
“The university anarchist saw at Choppington what a group of dedicated local politicians were doing for the community,” he said.
Hilton got onto a well respected course at Lancaster University.
“It was the top place to go,” he said. “It had the Centre for Youth Crime and The Community.”
He and wife Susan packed their bags and with daughter Catherine headed to the North West.
Soon after his second daughter Helen was born.
“She always says you lot speak funny. She is from the North West the rest of us are from the North East,” said Hilton.
He got heavily involved in child care and child protection issues, managing children’s homes as well as fostering and adoption services.
He worked his way up to social work manager, on call 24 hours a day.
“I could be called out at any time of the night dealing with all sorts of matters – a child on the roof, what are we going to do about it. Six kids who need housing now at 2am. It was stressful but I loved the job.”
His job resulted in a lot of community involvement and he decided to stand in the Lancaster City Council elections for the Ryelands ward in 1987.
“It had always been Tory and no-one ever understood why – it had a huge housing estate on it,” said Hilton.
The penny eventually dropped that while Tory supporters would vote come election day, hardly anybody from the estate ever did.
After much canvassing, that changed.
“It was one of the most seminal moments of my life,” said Hilton. “A huge phalanx of people came out of the estate to vote, knocking on doors as they went to persuade other people to vote.”
Hilton won the ward for Labour.
Then 10 years later in 1997 he stood for parliament in the Lancaster and Wyre constituency, formed after boundary changes from the old Lancaster constituency.
Since the Second World War Lancaster had been won by the Tories at every election bar the 1966 poll.
“No-one expected us to win,” he said.
“The media, even an eminent professor of politics. told me I had no chance.
“But I’d learned if you just engage with people, have a clear message and work hard at the grass roots you can win,” he said.
After winning the seat after a re-count he became well known for his championing of child related issues – he was named the 2004 Children’s Champion in the House of Commons – however it led to run ins with party bosses.
He objected to its policies on asylum seekers suggesting they be refused benefits would see their children left destitute.
Hilton described it as “immoral” in a Commons debate.
And then there the Iraq war – “a terrible time,” he recalled.
Hilton was one of the Labour MPs who backed a rebel backbench amendment that the case for war with Iraq was “unproven”.
So while he loved his first four years in Parliament, his enthusiasm waned considerably after he was re-elected, again after a recount, in 2001.
By 2005 he had decided it was time to move on and quit before the general election to return to children’s services.
He became CEO of Shaftesbury Young People which works for children both in care and in need and later chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers.
In the meantime he had returned to his native North East, he and wife Susan buying a house in Warkworth which boasts a spectacular view of Warkworth Castle.
“I found I was able to commute to London from Alnmouth which is on the East Coast mainline.”
He also found time to fight for the Lynemouth and Ellington seat in the 2008 Northumberland County Council elections.
“It was the only safe Labour seat I have ever fought – and I got whupped,” said Hilton ruefully.
“I had the arrogance to think I could do it all in a month thinking I could repeat what I did in Ryelands over a much shorter period of time.
“It proved a very important political lesson.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 31 Jan 2015
“I am so disheartened, ill and worn down by them, but I will vote if it is with my last breath to get this Coalition out!”
Claimants are angry – not cowed – and they are planning to turn out in huge numbers to vote in May.
That’s the message from almost 6,000 readers who responded to the Benefits and Work General Election Survey, conducted over the last fortnight.
A staggering 84% of respondents said their lives had been made worse or much worse by the Coalition. 14% had seen no difference whilst fewer than 2% said it had been made better or much better.
You can read in detail what they had to say about life under the Coalition in “I’m scared” – what the Coalition have done to 84% of sick and disabled claimants.
But it’s what our readers had to say about their voting intentions that should have politicians breathing frantically into brown paper bags.
No fewer than 85% voted at the 2010 election.
And an extraordinary 93% of respondents plan on voting at the next election, an increase of 8%.
Although we didn’t ask, many told us who they intend to vote for as well. Below are a selection of the many thousands of responses we received.
I’ll never vote Tory/Lib Dem again
Perhaps politicians and the tabloids sometimes forget that it’s not only Labour voters who get sick, become disabled or lose their jobs. When it happens to a Conservative supporter it can come as a bit of a shock.
“For the first time in my life I do not know who to vote for. After what Ian Duncan Smith put me through I cannot ever vote Tory again, but it is hard making a new choice.”
“Vote this coalition out. I voted conservative for all my life. Never again. I don’t trust a word that comes out of their mouths, especially the DWP and Employment ministers.”
“I would prefer the Downing Street cat to get elected rather than the Conservatives, and, I like many voted for them in the last election.”
“Our family would never vote for a tory government ever again!”
“I am in a Tory marginal. They’ve lost three votes in this household. I am not convinced that Labour – the only likely alternative – are likely to do anything better. The Bedroom Tax does not apply to me but as a result of its impact on disabled people I will not be voting Tory again. Neither will I vote for the Lib Dems who did not have the backbone to stop it. I will be voting tactically in the hope that this Government will fall and take IDS with them.”
And then there are all those people who voted Lib Dem in the expectation that they would pursue left of centre policies . . .
“I feel that my vote last time was not how I wanted it to be. I voted Liberal Democrats to keep conservative from ruining the country, I certainly didn’t expect my vote to be added to the conservatives.”
“Lib Dems stole my vote.”
Finally, there are Tory and Lib Dem supporters who initially thought that a coalition might be rather a good idea.
“I had high hopes for the Coalition (I have always voted for one of the Parties in question); however, I won’t be voting for either of them in the next election. Massively disappointed.”
“The only good thing to come out of the coalition is that I am now aware of how spineless and what liars both parties are. I will never vote for either of them again.”
I’m voting Labour, reluctantly
We weren’t surprised by the number of respondents who volunteered the information that they would be voting Labour. But what came across very strongly indeed was the almost universal lack of enthusiasm for doing so. Most sick and disabled people expect Labour to be bad, just not as bad as the Conservatives.
“Vote tactically; even if that does mean the Labour Party, whom I do not particularly wish to endorse.”
“Vote Labour. They can be no worse than the coalition.”
“This coalition has been the most heartless and uncaring in living memory. Whether things will massively improve under Ed Miliband is debateable, but at least some of the Labour MPs do care.”
“Have to get these out, Labour might not be much better but sure can’t be worse.”
“We have to get the Tories out and at least with Labour it won’t be quite as bad.”
“Russell Brand speaks the truth about the corrupt political system which needs destroying and recreating in another form. Not sure it’s a good Idea not to vote though …we could end up with the nightmare scenario of permanent Tory rule…with a heavy heart I will vote Labour.”
“Life under this Gov has been very hard to the poorest section of our people, but be under no illusion, life under Labour won’t be a great deal better, but anything better is good.”
“Labour slightly more likely to look after claimants.”
“Vote strategically. Anything which gets the Conservatives out of sole or coalition power. Don’t vote Lib Dem they sold out. Labour are far from perfect. But only alternative viable party who stand any chance of beating Tories. Working class and the vulnerable stand a chance if Labour regain power.”
“I’m no fan of Labour’s timid approach but since only Labour can beat the Tories and since they are more likely to listen, vote Labour where it will secure a Labour victory and vote for any other progressive party where it will keep the Tory out even if Labour can’t win the seat.”
“Because at least Labour have promised to abolish the sickening bedroom tax, whether or not they adhere to this promise is yet to be seen, as we know the politicians don’t stick to what they promise.”
“For the past 5 years my wife and I have been at the mercy of a government that has none. So Labour are the only credible party, they are for the common people but still they need to have more working class people as MPs not public school boys.“
“It’s got to be better under Labour they are fairer and have more compassion and will abolish the illegal bedroom tax.”
“Voting is the only way to bring about a much needed change. Hundreds if not thousands will not survive another 5 years of the Tories. Many people I know will be voting UKIP but my strong views are that a UKIP vote is a vote for the Tories. We must vote Labour.”
I’m voting Green with hope
By contrast to Labour voters, those who say they are voting green tend to be much more positive about their choice – even if it runs the risk of splitting the anti-conservative vote and putting the Tories in power.
“I have been a Labour supporter all my life but no longer. If we have a Green candidate in our constituency I will vote Green. If not I suppose it will have to be Labour.”
“Vote green, even if they don’t get a majority, they do at least support what labour used to stand for.
“I am voting Green Party if there is a candidate as they are the only party that shows any compassion for a fairer society.
“I will probably feel upset whatever the outcome, but I’d feel more miserable if I didn’t even have a say. I think we should all give the Greens a try now.”
“I’m proud to say I’m voting Green, again. Their policies, when people take the time to read them, are very, very good. And they support the little fish in the big ocean – us.”
“Vote for the Greens, if you really don’t know who else to vote for… we’ve tried everyone else. Even Labour now are too right-wing and don’t represent the low-paid working class person.”
“At least make a protest vote to give hope for others. Vote green!”
“It matters to vote to make other parties, e.g. Green Party stronger. I will not vote Tory or Labour, both behave disgusting towards disabled people, but will vote for alternative.”
I’m voting SNP/Plaid because they are for claimants
In Scotland, there seems to be a real feeling that the SNP can be trusted to oppose some of the worst attacks on claimants in a way that people no longer trust Labour. The same appears to be true of Plaid.
“I shall vote SNP as I live in Scotland and they do not want the DLA to change to PIP
Labour admit that they will still implement welfare cutbacks so they are useless but preferable to Tories. I will be voting SNP.”
“I intend to vote SNP as they have tried to help by subsidising the bedroom tax and are against austerity cuts. Labour are no longer a socialist party, MPs voted with the Tories for further cuts.”
“Tories are out to crucify you if you have a disability. I’m voting SNP, as a Scot I can testify been stabbed in back for voting to stay in union but gain fictional extra devolution.”
“It matters for me in Scotland to vote SNP as they genuinely oppose the cuts and may hold the balance of power. Voters in the rest of the country may benefit from voting tactically to
get rid of the Tories .”
“I live in wales which biases my choice of which party to vote for. So if i was talking to someone who also lived in wales i would tell them that Plaid Cymru have the most disability friendly policies of all political parties in the UK. I realise that Plaid if they came to power in Wales would not have the capacity to control benefits however they may be able to in future as devolutionary powers increase.”
“I will vote for Plaid Cymru in Wales. I am not concerned with England. I don’t think it is worth voting there.”
I’m voting UKIP in spite of the press
In spite of continued negative publicity and the strong indication that some UKIP candidates despise claimants, there is no shortage of sick and disabled claimants willing to give UKIP a try.
“Vote for UKIP- this will blow out the old tired parties that just want to save money by bullying the disabled. UKIP is largely an unknown at the moment, but they will probably leave the disabled alone- at least for a few years.”
“I detest this government and would like to see UKIP have a chance.”
“I will be voting UKIP as I don’t believe in David Cameron and I don’t feel that being in the EU is helping this country.”
“The only hope is UKIP so we need to vote to get their influence into government, or at least to have a big influence as part of a coalition.”
“Vote ukip. Hoping they will be better than others.”
“To my dismay I have always voted Conservative. In the next election and future elections UKIP will have my vote.”
“Vote UKIP who are the only ones that understand the people’s needs , do not vote for the self-serving 3 main parties or this will just continue to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”
“I feel that the last Labour government with its Stealth Taxes and general lies have completely lost my support for ever. The Conservative’s did not do what they promised – so how can I trust them. It’s time for a new party, may be UKIP could do a better job.”
I’m voting for anyone who can keep the Coalition parties out
For many respondents it really is a question of voting for anyone at all, so long as the result is that the Coalition parties are forced from power.
“I am so disheartened, ill and worn down by them, but I will vote if it is with my last breath to get this Coalition out!
“I’m 47 and never voted before having had the feeling my vote didn’t matter but with the way the sick and disabled have been treated by this coalition i will certainly be voting to try and make sure they don’t stay in power
“I don’t care who gets in at the next election as long as the conservatives no longer have any power over the running of this country. Nobody could do as bad a job as them, and over the years the considerable damage they have done to this country is horrendous.”
“It matters very much that you make a point of voting. Any fellow claimants must vote to try and keep the Conservatives and Lib Dems out. Things will only get worse if they get in power again. Please take time out to vote!!!”
“I fear for my life and for this country if the Tories are elected again.
“We don’t have the power to work miracles, but we do have the power to get the Tories out. It’s not that I think any other party will be a magic solution, but we know that things can only get worse with them in power.”
“Life under the coalition ? You haven’t got one! Upcoming election? Never before, have I been so interested/petrified of a certain party getting another 5 years and destroying our country even more!”
“We must vote in our thousands, our tens of thousands. It’s the only chance we have of getting rid of this cruel and vindictive Coalition.”
It’s my duty to vote
On the subject of whether to vote or not, many respondents stressed their view that if you don’t vote you have no right to complain and that you are letting down all those who fought so hard for the right to vote.
There was also a strong view that if claimants are seen to be active voters then politicians will start to take notice of them.
“I don’t know whether voting will do any good. But if I don’t use my vote how can I complain about the people who are in power?”
“Generations that came before us fought hard for the right to vote, they were our ancestors, and like them we need to stand up for ourselves, and make our voices heard, or the powerful will find it easier to trample all over us.”
“We have to vote no matter what to show the government how we feel about their behaviour toward pensioners like myself who are disabled and ill. We are not scroungers most of us have worked since aged 15.”
“Benefit claimants should organise politically instead of not voting. Statistically we are among the groups less likely to vote. We have to fight to achieve our aims whether they are fairer benefits or just removing the stigma.”
“Politicians reward the sections of the electorate who vote, that is why older people get more generous giveaways. The young who don’t vote are ignored by the government.”
“People have to vote. It is totally ridiculous to say “your vote does not count”. Five more years of this shit and how many more people will die for the sake of Ian Duncan Smith and the rich of this country. People have to vote.”
“You can’t make a difference if you don’t vote. The government already think we are nobodies, don’t agree with them, make your voice heard.”
“There are people in the world who would give anything to vote and are prevented from doing so by their own leaders. You should vote even if it’s for a smaller party that you don’t think can win.”
“‘They’ are not all the same. Different political parties or groups will impact differently on our lives.”
“It is worth voting for two reasons, the first and more obvious and immediate is that if we get the Tories in again things will get very much worse for us – and that’s a lot worse than state it will be. Secondly, once politicians see we are able to represent a large and united block of voters they will be much less inclined to undertake the vicious attacks that has been current Con-Dem policies. We could even become somewhat akin to the retired block of voters; untouchable, for the electoral fear of its consequences.”
“I normally vote, but last election i did not because I was so disillusioned. This year I will return to voting Why? Because it is a way to protest against the main parties, to show that I am not happy with their politics.”
“If this coalition has made a negative effect on your life or the life of someone close, you should vote and have your say otherwise stop complaining, its your fault they got in last time. Come on let’s show them we will not be pushed around, have your say, use your vote.”
“Because we are a marginal and every vote not cast is a vote for the Conservatives, and we cannot afford for them to win again.”
I’m not voting because . . .
Not everyone who responded said they would vote – a small minority will not do so. For some, it is the perception – in spite of the massive difference in spending plans – that there is no discernible difference between the parties.
Others simply have no belief in party politics as a force for change
Perhaps more worryingly, some respondents either didn’t realise they could have a postal vote, can’t get to a post box even if they had one or have tried to get a postal vote and failed. The need for online voting has never been more urgent.
“Cause l cannot get there. I’m nearly 61 and struggling.
“As I’m disabled can’t get to a post box as they closed it. Can’t vote on the internet.”
“Do not leave house.”
“Too ill to get to polling station and i have applied for a postal vote 7 times but never received one.
“Not registered, disabled and housebound.”
“It’s too hard to get there and I can’t make a decision as to who would help me get disability best.
“Mobility problems and disillusioned with politics.”
“I do not trust any of the political parties, none of them represent my interests or that of the class of which I am a part.”
“There will be no change to the disabled.”
“Makes no changes to my life. All parties are going to make life hell on earth for disabled claimants.”
“No party can be described as ‘pro-disabled’.
“Because they are all the same nothing changes.”
“Makes no difference who we vote for nothing will change their ways towards disabled people and benefits.”
“I don’t think either Labour or Conservative are for Disabled people.”
“You can’t put a cigarette paper between the mainstream political parties.”
“When it comes to welfare policy you can’t get a fag paper between either labour or the tories.”
“Because for the first time in my life as a Labour voter, I don’t know exactly what they stand for anymore and doubt they will change the welfare bill or represent the working class anymore. Ed Milliband and Clegg and Cameron are all millionaire public school Oxbridge white men so I have lost heart.”
“They are all the same.”
“They are all as bad as each other.”
“The Tory and Labour Parties are as bad as each other, I won’t vote UKIP as a protest vote because I’d be afraid that they would win and not be capable of running the country. This will be the very 1st time I haven’t voted in 41 years .”
“I live in a safe tory seat, so I don’t see the point in voting.”
This was a self-selecting group of people. It represents those who feel most strongly about the issue of voting. It may not be a representative sample of the views of all claimants.
But there are lessons that politicians should, nonetheless, take from this poll.
One is that any assumption that claimants have been beaten into weary despair and will not turn out on May 7th is almost certainly wrong – many feel that their lives depend on voting.
So, if the pollsters have not factored in enough working age claimants views, then there may be some surprises in store.
Another lesson is primarily for Labour.
It is evident that many claimants intend to vote for Labour because they believe that is the only way of preventing the Tories being the largest party. But it is just as clear that most are doing so with enormous reluctance, on the grounds that Labour are marginally the lesser of two evils.
And some just cannot bring themselves to vote for a party that still treats them with such palpable disdain.
If Labour continues to take claimants votes for granted in the mistaken belief that they have nowhere else to go, it could very easily cost them the keys to No 10.
The bizarre reality is that all three major parties choose to ignore the voting potential of millions of working age claimants.
Yet, as we demonstrate once again, this time in graphic detail with dozens of bar charts, claimants’ votes can make a massive difference to the outcome of the general election.
And if our survey is anything to go by, they are going to do just that.
Source – Benefits & Work, 28 Jan 2015