Tagged: welfare rights

Hartlepool novelist finds inspiration in punk

A crime fiction writer who hails from Hartlepool is celebrating after the release of his latest novel.

Paul Brazill, 52, has brought out Guns of Brixton, which is inspired by a song by 70s punk band, The Clash.

Paul describes the book as Punk Fiction, and says it part of a series of books with each drawing inspiration from song titles from the punk era for the book titles and chapter titles.

Paul, who now lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he teaches English, said:

“Punk was a very influential time for a lot of people of my generation.

“It was the first social network for a post 60s generation who felt let down by a country that should have been blossoming but was stagnating.

“Punk brought about social change and for a while democratised the music industry.

“It seemed as though anyone could form a band and make music that had an awaiting audience.

“A similar revolution is happening in many industries today because of the advent of digital and the internet.

“Ironically music has not really evolved as it should have, but f and other industries are seeing a broad acceptance of skilled and talented people who prior to the internet would never had had their voices heard.

“So in a way the internet is the new punk revolution that brings radical change to the masses.”

Prior to moving abroad, the former pupil of Hartlepool’s Rift House, Lynnfield and Dyke House schools lived in London for 10 years after leaving Hartlepool in the early 1990s, where he was a welfare rights worker.

His latest work is published by Caffeine Nights Publishing in paperback and eBook.

Source –  Hartlepool Mail, 02 Jan 2015

‘We can’t cut Wonga links’ says South Tyneside Council boss

A South Tyneside Council leader has denied double standards after the authority launched a crusade against payday lenders.

At a meeting of the full council last week, a motion was passed to introduce a series of measures against high interest lenders.

Action includes blocking access to lenders’ websites from council computers, working with partners to stop the promotion of such firms and to lobby for an extension to planning and licensing powers to prevent them locating in South Tyneside.

But one of the motion’s signataries, Coun Allan West, has now been forced to defend the move after it emerged the authority, along with the four other Tyne and Wear councils, pays into a pension fund which has £233,000 invested in Wonga shares.

Today Coun West, the council’s lead member for adult social care and support services, said legal regulations prevent the authority, which administers the fund, from cutting its “indirect” ties with the payday lender.

He said: “We are raising the issue of payday lending because it is the right thing to do.

“At times of financial pressure, it can feel like payday lenders are the only option, but their extortionate rates can trap people in a vicious circle of increasing debt and interest payments.

“The council administers the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund on behalf of 140 different organisations and we are bound by some very clear legal restrictions as to how the fund is allowed to operate.

“Case law and local government pension scheme regulations specifically require the fund to seek the best possible return on its investments and only allow us to consider social and ethical issues when they have a financial impact.

“The Pension Fund has no direct investments in payday lenders, but does have a very small indirect holding via Pooled Investment Vehicles as part of its global private equity programme.

“This is similar to a private individual investing in a unit trust and having very limited influence on how those investments are made.

“These indirect holdings represent a tiny proportion of the fund’s investments – about 0.005 per cent of its total value, which currently stands at £5.6bn.

“We are very keen to invest as ethically as possible, but the pension fund issue is extremely complex, and something that all local government pension funds are grappling with on a national level.

“There is a lot we can do on a local level to make a difference and ensure that people have an alternative. We have recently reorganised our welfare rights service to ensure it can help more people with financial problems, and The Bridges Community Bank in South Shields is a non-profit service that offers far lower rates.

“There are also encouraging signs that the new Financial Conduct Authority is ready to cap the cost of loans and provide increased protection for vulnerable borrowers.

“In the long term these things will either encourage payday lenders to improve their practices or it will impact on their profits, which in turn would make it easier for pension funds to invest elsewhere while staying within the law.”

Source – Shields Gazette,  17 March 2014

People stripped of benefits could be charged for challenging decision

UK 2014 – everything’s for sale…

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from The Guardian

You couldn’t make it up could you …..

David Cameron in action
David Cameron has been blamed for creating a ‘national crisis’ because of ‘punitive sanctions’ and other DWP failures. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

People who have been stripped of benefits could be charged by the government for trying to appeal against the decision to an independent judge.

Critics said the proposal, contained in an internal Department for Work and Pensions document leaked to the Guardian, would hit some of the poorest people in Britain, who have been left with little or no income.

In the document about the department’s internal finances, officials say the “introduction of a charge for people making appeals against [DWP] decisions to social security tribunals” would raise money.

Other ideas include selling off child support debt to “the private sector to collect”, though civil servants remark that the government would be unlikely to raise more than…

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Durham City – New Help Centre for Unemployed/Welfare

 Unite union has teamed up with Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) to set up  a “community hub”  centre at the Miners’ Hall in Red Hill, Durham, which they  say  will become a resource for those most in need of help to deal with cuts, changes in benefits such as the bedroom tax and the tests carried out by ATOS, the company contracted by the Government to carry out the fitness-to-work assessments.

It will also launch a Benefit Buddying  scheme, offering peer-to-peer support for those who are most vulnerable and are facing difficulties (which sounds like it might be  a good idea), and campaign for welfare rights.

The centre will open two days (Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 – 15:00) with the volunteers also offering support, help to learn new skills and guidance as people search for work.

The official launch is on Friday, November 15, at 2pm.

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the DMA, said: “We have opened the community support centre in partnership with Unite in a response to the vicious attacks on the benefits system brought in by the Con-Dem Government.

 “The last Conservative Government decimated our coal industry, now this Government is making the people of the North East suffer all over again.”