Defend Welfare Gathering

Sunday 23rd October, 11am-5pm
Somers Town Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, London, NW1 1EE
(5 minutes walk from Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations)
Wheelchair accessible

Join us for a meeting with like-minded people to share ideas and strategise to stop the government’s attacks on welfare.

Welfare is being systematically attacked:

  • Unemployed people are being forced to work without pay.
  • Disabled people are being deprived of their entitlement to benefits through the devastating Work Capability Assessment process.
  • People can now be left destitute for up to two years through benefit sanctions.
  • The right to housing is under attack: Housing benefit cuts are set to make thousands homeless. The right-wing called for evictions in response to the riots, even before courts had found people guilty.
  • Private companies stand to make millions through bullying claimants on the Work Programme.
  • Legal aid cuts make it harder to challenge bad treatment.
  • The only benefit that was available to people under 18 – EMA – has been abolished by this government.
  • Single mothers are being forced to be job-seekers when their children are at an even younger age.
  • Asylum seekers are forced to survive on incomes far below benefit levels, which are already set at subsistence level.
  • The full impact that the Universal Credit will have is yet to be understood.

But people across the UK are organising to defend welfare. The Boycott Workfare campaign recently forced the “Making Work Pay” conference to relocate at short notice. Atos, the private company responsible for depriving hundreds of thousands of people of sickness benefits, has had many of its offices occupied, costing it thousands of pounds. Claimants are sharing information on how to challenge the bullying and discrimination that is rife in the new set-up.

This gathering is open to everyone who wants to take action to defend welfare.
We are a claimant-led network – our response to welfare reforms is led by people who feel their effects the most – but the attacks on welfare will affect us all whether we are in work or may need welfare as parents, if we become unemployed, due to sickness or disability, or as pensioners.

We plan to run the day with lots of discussion and chances to share ideas and information in workshops and an open space session where we can set the agenda on the day. If you can offer a workshop or would like to propose something for the agenda, please get in touch.

Please help make the day happen:

  • Let us know you can make it!
  • The network does not have any funding, so if your group or union branch can make a contribution to the costs of the room or participants’ travel, please help raise funds for it. Groups and individuals may want to approach union branches or organise fundraisers to raise funds for your travel.
  • Let us know if you can help with food, childcare or facilitation on the day.
  • Forward this invite to anyone else you know who might be interested, post it on your blog or social media; mention it at meetings, and help spread the word!

Welfare Uncut! Take action on 7 June: Welfare “reforms” don’t fool us!

On 7th June, a conference at the Royal Society will bring together those who will play a role in “the biggest shake up of the [welfare] system for 60 years”. In the same week, the Welfare Reform Bill looks set to return to parliament for its third reading.

We’re not fooled by the proposals for “reform”: we know they mean abolishing our rights to welfare.

While the conference may include some speakers who challenge aspects of the government’s plans, its blurb reads like a DWP press release. We’ve helped decode some of the spin below. Come along and help us do the same on the day…

[Spin] “a simplified welfare system that encourages and incentivises people to find work”

[Unspun] Don’t want to work without wage for Primark, Tesco’s, Sainsburys, Poundland or the like? Or be forced to “volunteer” in a charity shop? No benefits for you then.

[Spin] “maintain standards of living”

[Unspun] …for Financial Times readers. If you’re sick or disabled, we’ll ask private company Atos to re-assess you so we can stop your money.

[Spin] “…more affordable”

[Unspun] We’ve heard Primark are delighted they can now get free labour in the UK as well as their sweatshops.

[Spin] “ensure dignity in later life and make increased pension saving a reality”

[Unspun] Did we mention we gave your pension to the bankers?

[Spin] “break the cycle of welfare dependency”

[Unspun] Can’t be dependent if there isn’t any welfare!

Be there from 9am, Tue 7th June, at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG. Directions here.

More info on:

Claimants’ resistance and the private company profiting from throwing sick and disabled people off benefits.

Boycott Workfare.

A call for organisations to boycott workfare

As workfare, i.e. compulsory work for benefits, is being rolled-out across the country, we call on public sector bodies, voluntary organisations and businesses being offered these placements as well as union branches to join others in signing a pledge to boycott the scheme.

We have knowledge of claimants being inadequately trained for the work they do (particularly health and safety training), working exceedingly long shifts, and bullying in the workplace. Claimants are often not given any choice as to where they work or the sort of work they do. In no sense can this be called voluntary work.

Workfare placements will not benefit your organisation:

  • Signing the pledge will improve your public image.
  • It will help ensure that your volunteers are truly volunteering.
  • Bad publicity about taking part in the workfare scheme could result in a reduction in donations or sales for your organization.
  • Compulsory unpaid labour will create an atmosphere of resentment.
  • No organisation wants to be seen to be using slave labour.
  • This is even more important to charities whose public image and charitable aims often depend on helping the poor.

We want decent work, training and income. Workfare will not provide any of these. It is being rolled out at a time when education and training schemes, housing benefit and other public services are being cut. Unpaid work inevitably replaces paid jobs and pushes wages down.
You may be asked to accept workfare placements for compulsory “volunteers” for anything from a month to six months as part of the new ‘Single Work Programme’.  Something similar is already in place under Flexible New Deal.

Many claimants wish to contribute to their communities and learn new skills through freely choosing to do voluntary work. However, under workfare arrangements voluntary organizations will end up having to police the very people they want to help. Voluntary groups will be expected to monitor the attendance of people on these work programmes, report on their behaviour, and provide other information to the DWP that can result in severe penalties for recipients.

There have been ‘679,820 New Deal Sanctions’ since the year 2000 creating great hardship for the poorest of those amongst us.

We are asking you to refuse to participate in compulsory work placements and to do so publicly.  Even if your organization has no intention of accepting workfare placements it would help us prevent the imposition of workfare elsewhere if you would sign the pledge.

Signed by:

Welfare Action Hackney
Kilburn Unemployed Workers
London Coalition Against Poverty
Disabled People Against Cuts
Notts IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, Nottingham & Notts General Membership Branch)
Kilburn Boycott Workfare
Arts against cuts
Precarious workers

Please contact us if your organisation or union branch will sign the following pledge, so we can add your name to the list:

Pledge to boycott workfare placements
We the undersigned commit to refusing to participate in compulsory work-for-benefits placements. We want volunteering to remain just that!

Since the start of February the following organisations have signed up to the pledge:

  • Unite Central London Branch – LE/524 (The union branch for many of the charities and voluntary sector organisations in Central London)
  • Hackney City Farm
  • International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
  • Shiny Ideas
  • Unite LE/785 Branch, Community, Youth Workers and Not for Profit Sector
  • Campaign Against Arms Trade

Please download the Union motion – boycott workfare to bring to your trade union branch.

Meeting to respond to compulsory volunteering

RESPONDING TO WORKFARE

A meeting for voluntary sector workers and benefits claimants to develop a shared response to government plans to make ‘voluntary’ work compulsory.

Speakers from:
London Coalition Against Poverty
Unite (Not for Profit Sector)

Time: 7pm
Date: Wednesday 9th February
Venue: Hackney City Farm, Goldsmith’s Row, E2

The government is currently planning an expanded, compulsory, workfare programme for benefit claimants.

We have serious concerns about the effect that these plans will have on benefit claimants, workers in the voluntary sector and the voluntary sector as a whole.

This meeting aims to provide an opportunity for claimants rights groups and representatives of the voluntary sector to work together to meet these challenges.

Please pass this invite onto claimants and voluntary sector workers.

To contact us: londoncoalitionagainstpoverty@gmail.com

A day’s work, a day’s pay

Film showing and discussion with Welfare Action Hackney (London Coalition Against Poverty)
welfareactionhackney.org / 07932  241737 / welfareactionhackney@gmail.com

7pm for a 7.30pm start; Finish 9/9.30pm, Friday 7 January at Navarino Mansions, Dalston Lane, E8 1AJ (by Hackney Downs station)

Since October 2009 those unemployed for 12 months have been placed on the “Flexible New Deal”. It means working 30 hours a week for a month just to be able to claim benefits. Private companies have been given £500 million in handouts to make the unemployed jump through hoops and compete for non-existent jobs. It is all Workfare – working for benefits. It means working for about £1.60 an hour, less than a third of the minimum wage.

A Day’s Work, A Day’s Pay tells the story of Work Experience Programme (WEP) workers in New York who organised against being made to work for a lot less than the union wage for the same job.

After the film there will be an opportunity to discuss the issues raised with Welfare Action Hackney members and find out how we are challenging workfare.

Workfare is slavery. We can stop it.

Benefit night – 27 November

Presented by Hackney Benefits Collective…

Saturday 27th November, 8pm-2am, Victoria pub in Dalston (435 Queensbridge Road London E8 3AS)

Hip-hop poetry, Bands and DJs

Entry is £3 although extra donations are welcome if you can afford it.

Download our poster and help spread the word about what should be a great night with some brilliant acts: The Dublo, Suburban Mousewife and Brotherman (read more below!)

Kids’ party 4-6pm, £1

If you have kids then please come along to our kid’s party first starting at 4 PM in the hall at the Victoria pub. There will be party games including pass the parcel and musical bumps. If you know that you are coming in advance then let us know so we have an idea of how many kids we will be entertaining!

The bands are great and are as follows:

Suburban Mousewife

New all-female five-piece from London playing a lo-fi punked up cross between The Fall/ Slits/ Crass/ R Dean Taylor/ Shangri-Las and Kraftwerk

“Funny as well as catchy…” – Artrocker

“AMAZING” – Tatty Devine

I really like this band – think they can totally deliver live and I like their vibe.The stand out ‘singles in waiting’ are Botox Skin, Gulags for Slags (great name by the way), and Shop Shop.” The Girls Are “Unique sounding vocals and scuzzy dark post punk backing, the discordant scratchy guitars remind me of The Yummy Fur which is a very

good thing” - Camilla Pia (BBC)

“Distinctive. Got some real life to it” - Viv Albertine (The Slits)

“An incredible night with Eel Zine, Suburban Mousewife!!! Yes!!! and position normal – a bunch of happy people, entirely independent and punky and a total triumph of what can be achieved through hanging out and having fun with no ulterior motive- i can’t honestly think of anything more radical- absolutely bloody brilliant.” – Jonny Mugwump, Resonance FM

Hip-hop poet Brotherman

“A refreshing slice of heavyweight homegrown hip hop with an infectious hook, crisp production and next level conscious vocals from one of my favourite new mcs on the block. This ones the new generation and staying in my box for a while….Brotherman…Blaoooowww!!!” DaddySkitz (BBC 1Xtra)

The Dublo

“The Dublo make their long-awaited debut, with double-bass, accordian, harmonica and a variety of other fine instruments channeling their strange, infectious but always hip-swinging RnR anthems.”

” Anarchist hymns.. filthy RnR boogie!”

And then we will have some great DJs between 12-2 PM.

Please help spread the word!

No to Welfare Abolition network national meeting

Sunday 24th October, London, venue tbc.
Arrive 11am for 11.30am start. Finish 5pm.

Come to the third national meeting of the No to Welfare Abolition network of  welfare and disability rights activists, unemployed workers’ groups, parents, carers and trade unionists.

Share information about how we can access our rights to welfare and what the cuts mean. Work out how we can challenge the cuts together.

The day will also include website training, so that we can co-ordinate a shared website for our movement.

Lunch will be provided. Let us know you are coming by emailing us. Get in touch to book a space at the creche.
Join the email list here