Saturday 23rd August 2014
Assemble 12.15pm at Horseshoe Common – BH1 1HL – Ready to move off at 12.45pm.
Campaigners and supporters of the NHS took part in a celebration of its 65th Birthday outside Poole Hospital. They were joined by patients, thanked by staff and received hundreds of ‘Honks’ from passing traffic in response to a sign reading ‘ Honk to Save the NHS’. The celebration was called by Bournemouth and Poole Anti Cuts Coalition in order to take some time out to celebrate the wonderful achievements of our NHS over the last 65 years and to highlight the threat the Tory led Coalition is to the wonderful service continuing.
Stewart MacArthur of Poole and Bournemouth Anti – Cuts Coalition said “The NHS has given us improved life chances, security in times of need, pioneering treatment, and care, life without the NHS is hard to imagine. Three years of this coalition government has seen the dismantling, the selling off, the privatisation of the NHS…and the next 65 Years could look very different.
Throughout the country members of the public and medics are extremely concerned at the privatisation route this government has chosen for the NHS, campaigners are adamant a USA insurance system is slowly being introduced. The recent move to set up a system whereby migrants are to pay towards treatment is a way to have the pay system in place within the NHS ready for top up fees and insurances and is the beginning of a slippery slope whereby other sectors of society will be asked to contribute. This should be a huge concern to all of us and we owe it to future generations to fight for the free health service we have all had the privilege of.”
65 fascinating facts about our glorious health service
The peoples assembly 2013 – an account by Natasha Allen
Why Austerity is a Concern to us All
Over 4000 people, united against austerity joined together at Westminster Hall on Saturday for a day of discussions and ideas on how we can involve more people in our fight against planned poverty, oops sorry, austerity.
I attended a talk on how we can get the message out about what our government is doing to us with these so called austerity measures and what we can do about it. We need to get people to come together, the cuts affect us all and we have to protect our children and our grandchildren from the consequences of these cuts. We need to “give up on the differences and look towards what we agree on”, we are part of a community who are meant to care about each other, we are all suffering so we need to come together and fight for change, when did people stop caring? What’s happened to community spirit? We should be looking out for each other and loving our neighbours, not just walking on by without a thought for anyone else. Have people made a conscious decision to be selfish?
I thought I would get the answer on how to bring us all together at the People’s Assembly, but then I realised there isn’t one. I believe the only answer is with the people; all coming together to fight against austerity that we know is only affecting the vulnerable, weak, poor and disabled. Its way past the point of ignorance now, everyone knows what is going on. It all comes down to whether you care. If you don’t care – why not? Are you that important that you will never need to use the NHS, the schools, the roads etc and obviously your bin never needs emptying!
Another discussion I attended was about immigration and how the media portrays Muslims. It has been said that if immigration continues we would need to build 17 more cities which is just an example of the rubbish that gets said. The left has been far too quiet on immigration and the bile being spouted. Immigration control is class based and only about money. If you’re not rich enough, you can’t come in, only the brightest and the best are welcome. If you get married outside of the EU you have to pay £18,600 for your spouse to enter the UK. Theresa May has now put a price tag on love!! Immigrants are treated as victims who have no rights.
There are 2.5 million Muslims living in the UK, they are peaceful people who want to live in the wider communities and be a part of society, but the media don’t want to see the good, and it’s caused a backlash against the Muslim community. The police call hate crime against Muslims anti-social behaviour, which has caused mistrust in the community and against the police. Muslims are living in fear and don’t want to go out on the streets, this can’t be right. Its 2013 and we all have a right to go about our daily lives in peace without any fear of being attacked. There are a small minority who cause trouble, as there are everywhere, but to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few is the same as blaming all white British people for the actions of the EDL. Don’t judge people, go and see for yourself.
History proves that when we are in a recession you will see a rise in racism. In WW1 when Germany had an economic collapse there was a rise in Nazi’s. We should not be surprised, it is no coincidence, it is just a classic way of dividing and weakening the working class. There is nothing to be gained about conceding to myths, all it does is feeds the likes of UKIP. Immigrants haven’t caused low wages, it’s the predatory employers who have. Without successive immigrants there would be no NHS, they take far less out of the system than they put in.
We will not let racism and fascism divide us, and we stand out and oppose any racist and fascist groups. WE are the majority and we oppose any attempts to demonise and destroy us. Islamophobia is the cause of the right wing groups and we must stand united against them. We are not going to ignore the EDL coming to our town, when Muslims are under attack we all are. We remain united against Islamophobia and racism, it’s not welcome in our town!
Protests are really good fun, we are a family friendly group at bpacc.co.uk who protest peacefully. We use a lot of creativity and humour in our demonstrations and it’s a great day out for a very important cause. You really feel like you are doing something for the good, you know that you’re making a difference and you are representing the people that are unable to protest for themselves. Someone has to help them, I know I can’t sit and watch and do nothing, to me it’s morally wrong and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing how much people are suffering everywhere. The time for doing nothing is over, it’s time for action!
See you on the streets.
Meet on the pavement by the main entrance steps to Poole General Hospital from 6pm on Friday 5th July.
The NHS will be 65 years old on the 5th July 2013. Take some time out to celebrate the wonderful achievements of our NHS over the last 65 years. And to highlight it’s biggest threat since its founding.
The NHS has given us improved life chances, security in times of need, pioneering treatment, and care, life without the NHS is hard to imagine. Three years of this coalition government has seen the dismantling, the selling off, the privatisation of the NHS… and the next 65 Years could look very different. Help be part of the celebration of what we have had, and show our intentions to defend it against government cuts.
Bring a banner, placard, cake, flask, balloon,flowers, tributes, and highlight our NHS for the good it’s done and the threat it’s under.
Shown below is a public question submitted to Bournemouth Borough Council full council meeting on 18th June and the council’s response. BPACC are currently considering the council’s response and will be responding soon.
Public Question from Mike Cracknell
“The Government has introduced the Welfare Reform Bill which limits the total amount of Welfare benefits with an increase capped at 1%. This coincides with the introduction of the Social Housing Size Restriction policy equating to a reduction of 14% for one spare bedroom and 25% for two spare rooms which is monetary terms equates to circa £14/15 per vacant bedroom in Housing Benefit for tenants occupying social housing. Will the Council give an assurance that if the rent debt is accrued because of these factors there will be no eviction of tenants?”
Reply from the Leader of the Council, Cllr John Beesley
Tenants who are affected by the Social Housing Size Restriction policy (also referred to as the “Spare Room Subsidy”) will be of working age, receiving Housing Benefit and here in Bournemouth will be either local authority tenants or housing association tenants.
There are 577 Housing Benefit recipients affected in Bournemouth, of whom 328 are Local Authority tenants and 249 are in Housing Association properties.
All those who are affected and are Local Authorities tenants were written to twice by the Housing Benefits team with an explanation of how their Housing Benefit could change. The Council’s Housing Management team has been most proactive in contacting these tenants in order to discuss their options. They have been provided with information and advice on downsizing, applying for Discretionary Housing Payment, maximising income, returning to work and taking in lodgers. The Housing Management team is working closely with the Allocations team to ensure that all tenants wishing to downsize are placed on the ‘gold band’, significantly increasing their chances of winning a bid on a suitable property. tenants who wish to downsize will also be encouraged to arrange a mutual exchange of tenancies with other social housing tenants.
The Council is currently reviewing the incentives that it pays to tenants who wish to downsize to smaller properties in order to provide more assistance with the costs associated with moving, such as replacement of carpets, removals and decorations. The Council is also considering the level of practical assistance that it can provide, such as help with the connection and disconnection of white goods.
One of the Council’s 8 Housing Strategy priorities for Bournemouth is to ensure that we are making the best use of all our existing housing. The Social Housing Size Restriction policy forms part of this strategic priority by freeing up much needed family accommodation to help meet the housing needs of many who are on the Council’s waiting list. In April this year there were 3,177 households on the waiting list. 933 of these needed 2 bedroom accommodation and there were a further 645 who needed 3 bedrooms or more. We have reduced the waiting list from the 9,425 who were on it a year earlier through a much stricter allocations policy and are doing all we can to increase the number of new properties available to those most in need. It seems only fair therefore that we use our existing and future housing stock to best suit the needs of tenants, through downsizing where appropriate, in order to free up larger homes for those who need them and who are included on the revised waiting list, in the main through having a Bournemouth connection.
The Council’s policy in dealing with tenants who fail to pay their rent is available on the website. The policy is flexible enough to ensure that each case is dealt with on its own merits by specialist and experienced staff. They will become involved in cases of non-payment quickly in order to provide assistance and advice and have been successful in helping tenants who experience problems in paying their rent. However, if a satisfactory arrangement to manage the rent account cannot be agreed, the Council would take action to recover the property, nut only ever as a last resort.
In the Budget statement, the council recognised that Welfare Reform would be likely to cause hardship for some. Although there is no direct requirement by the government for us to do so, in Bournemouth we made provision in the Budget of £1.0 million for this year (2013/14) to establish a Local Welfare Assistance Fund. Bournemouth residents can apply can apply for emergency one-off payments through this fund to help with their living expenses where they are struggling financially. This fund is therefore very much targeted to those who are are most in need of support. In addition, the Council has also created a new earmarked reserve of just over £500,000 to further address the impact of the changeover to Universal Credit as the next stage of the governments Welfare Reform programme. This will provide an additional safety net for the most vulnerable local people here in Bournemouth. It should be stressed that neither of these additional funding streams are required by the government to be provided by the Council, but were nevertheless contained in our Budget Statement in February. They were introduced because we wanted to protect the most vulnerable local people and because it was simply the right thing to do.
Shown below is a public question submitted to Borough of Poole full council meeting on 18th June and the council’s response. BPACC are currently considering the council’s response and will be responding soon.
Public Question from Kevin Smith
“The Government has introduced the Welfare Reform Bill which limits the total amount of Welfare benefits with an increase capped at 1%. This coincides with the introduction of the Social Housing Size Restriction policy equating to a reduction of 14% for one spare room and 25% for two spare rooms which in monetary terms equates to circa £14/£15 per vacant bedroom in Housing benefit for tenants occupying social housing. Will the Council give an assurance that if rent debt is accrued because of these factors there will be no eviction of tenants?”
Borough of Poole Response from, Leader of the Council, Cllr Ms Atkinson
Response in respect of properties where the Council is the Landlord
The Council and it’s partner Poole Housing Partnership (PHP) are working hard to address the issues raised by the governments welfare reform programme. Planning for these changes has taken place over a long period and a package of assistance is now offered to residents effected by these changes. Everyone in a PHP property who has lost benefit because of the under occupation penalty and the benefit cap regulations has been contacted by PHP and offered assistance. Advice has been given about how tenants can move to more appropriate sized accommodation either by way of a transfer or by exchanging their home with another social housing tenant. We have also changed our transfer incentive scheme to give a greater emphasis on people effected by welfare benefit changes. In addition we offer tenants advice about how to maximise their income by either accessing the jobs market or ensuring that they are receiving all the benefit to which they are entitled.
We are committed to working with residents affected by these changes to ensure that they retain access to appropriate secure accommodation. We are not able to give an assurance that no one will be evicted because of arrears that have arisen as a result of welfare benefit reform, each case will be considered on it’s merits. However we can confirm that tenants will be offered every possible assistance to deal with such problems and that eviction will always be the very last resort.
Response in respect of properties where the Council is not the Landlord
Again we are not able to give an assurance that no one will be evicted because of arrears that have arisen as a result of welfare benefit reform as the decision will be made by the respective private sector landlords. However the Council has a Discretionary Housing Payment fund, that is limited by Government grant, which it is using to help mitigate the impact of several welfare reforms taking place in 2013. Any claimant on housing benefit who is unable to meet the reduction in award can make a claim for additional financial assistance from this fund.
The Government grant is not enough to meet every claimant’s housing benefit shortfall and to prioritise awards from this fund payments are made in accordance with the Council’s Discretionary Housing Payment policy. The Council’s policy is designed to support the implementation of the Government’s welfare reforms whilst making sure we have a process in place to protect our most vulnerable residents, sustain tenancies where we can and prevent homelessness.
Where an application is made and it is established that the claimant cannot afford the housing benefit shortfall awards may be made to financially support claimants whilst they take action to change their circumstances so they can afford their accommodation in the longer term. Each application is considered on a case by case basis, and the length of award will vary. The policy expects claimants who make applications for the additional financial support to engage with relevant support services, such as work programmes, budgeting and debt advice agencies, health programmes etc. and, where appropriate, take steps to be able to afford their accommodation in the future.
BPACC recently sent an open email to Bournemouth Borough Council about the Bedroom Tax following an article in the council’s Spring edition of Home News that stated some people were ‘protected’ and we asked for clarification.
We also expressed our concerns that Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) were not a viable long term solution as they fail to give people with disabilities the assurance that their housing needs are secure and asked the council several questions.
Shown below are BPACC’s questions and the council’s response received this week:
1) Question: Is Bournemouth Borough Council exempting all people stipulated in the Home News article from the ‘Bedroom Tax’?
Council response: No. Unfortunately, the article gave the impression that disabled people are not affected whereas, in fact, they are not exempt from the under-occupation rules.
2) Question: Where it is determined that people are entitled to DHP, will funds be made available for all cases irrespective of whether the money allocated by central government is exhausted?
Council response: The DHP fund is being carefully managed so that funds are available for all cases where it is determined that help should be given. The Council has the option to top up the fund to a “prescribed limit” if the central government funding should become exhausted but cannot go beyond that limit.
3) Question: Will DLA income be taken into account when assessing a family’s income?
Council response: Not for assessing entitlement to Housing Benefit but would be taken into account when deciding whether to award DHP.
4) Question: Where parents or guardians of children receiving DLA no longer live together, will both households will receive DHPs?
Council response: DHP can only be awarded if someone is receiving HB. So if no parent received HB no DHP would be considered. If only one parent received HB, DHP could only be considered for the parent who received HB. However, if both parents received HB each DHP application is judged on its own merits so there might be circumstances where both parents could get a DHP.
The child will normally be taken into consideration in the household where child benefit is payable and that is the household where the DHP would be normally be considered for if a disabled child was the reason for the application.
Following these responses we have asked follow up questions, below are the council’s replies:
1) What steps are Bournemouth Borough Council planning to take to make this clear to residents?
Council response: The under-occupation rules only affect those in local authority properties and housing associations. All affected residents have been written to at least twice by Housing Benefit staff. The Council’s Housing Management Team has been proactive by contacting their tenants to discuss the options open to them. It is understood that housing associations have done the same.
2) What are the criteria for making an application for DHP and determining whether help should be given; and what is the level of the “prescribed limit”?
Council response: Please see the relevant page on the Council’s website. The prescribed limit is 2.5 times the Government contribution which for Bournemouth equates to a limit of £1,256, 630
The Bedroom Tax is a cynical attack on the poorest in our society. Questions have been submitted to both Bournemouth and Poole Councils asking for assurances that no residents will be evicted due to rent arrears accrued through the Bedroom Tax. These assurances were not given click here for Bournemouth’s response and click here for Poole’s response.