Report of Living Wage meeting in Bridport

Despite the pouring rain the first Living Wage Dorset launch event in Bridport got off to a flying start. Attendance: 20. Three good speakers (all women) who each gave a different angle on the issue.

Issues arising from the discussion:

1. Immigration was being used by unscrupulous employers to keep wages down, by paying immigrant workers lower rates of pay. The Living Wage would create a level playing field and help to end this exploitation
2. Some confusion about small firms having to pay the Living Wage and maybe having to cut jobs in order to do so. Clarified that the campaign was aimed at the 16% of very large employers in the county who employ 75% of low paid workers
3. Many low paid workers were frightened to make a stand for a Living Wage, and in fear of losing their jobs. That is why a community-wide campaign is important to support those workers who are unable/unwilling to lead the campaign
4. Some workers, particularly in care and retail are on zero hour contracts – and are more concerned about the lack of hours rather than the hourly rate
5. Wide acceptance that the broader the base of the campaign, the more likelihood of it being a success

Some practical points:

1. Could the Minimum Wage be raised to the level of the Living Wage – and thus become legally enforceable
2. It would be useful to have a list of Living Wage employers and perhaps give those companies a logo/sticker to display on websites/shop windows etc
3. Support for community action such as leafleting the public about the issue, picketing low wage employers etc
4. How is the Living Wage calculated and isn’t £7.45 an hour too low

Living Wage Dorset Resources:

Campaign statement

A toolkit for campaigners

Campaign briefing

Flyer / poster

Logo

living wage logo

The boom in UK food banks

Demand for food banks in the UK is ‘booming’ with over 500,000 people forced to use them to stave off hunger and destitution. Half of those helped are children. They are among the victims of sweeping austerity which is cutting welfare, services and programs precisely when they are needed most.

The following has been republished with kind permission from Gareth Hill

Food bank manager in Bournemouth blames welfare reform for rising demand

The manager of Bournemouth Food Bank has blamed welfare reform and changes to Job Seekers Allowance for a rising need for food handouts.

Debbie Bramley said that the charity she runs in Charminster is struggling to keep up with demand as George Osborne outlines *planned spending cuts for 2015.

Bournemouth East MP, Conservative Tobias Ellwood, did not respond to a request to discuss accusations that government policy is forcing people to rely on food banks.

Victory as judges rule controversial disability benefits procedure is unfair

Republished from False Economy

Sent from Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society:

Wednesday 22 May 2013 – Three judges have ruled that the procedure currently used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to decide whether hundreds of thousands of people are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) disadvantages people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism.

The judgment, which was made public at a high court hearing today, is the result of a judicial review brought by two anonymous claimants with mental health problems.

The charities Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters.

The case centres on how evidence is gathered for the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the process used to determine whether someone is fit for work.

Under the current system, evidence from a professional such as a GP or social worker is expected to be provided by people themselves. There is no obligation for the DWP to collect this evidence, even on behalf of the most vulnerable claimants, apart from in some rare cases.

Seeking evidence can be very challenging for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or autism whose health or condition can make it hard for them to understand or navigate the complex processes involved in being assessed.

As a result, those who need support the most are frequently being assessed without this important evidence being taken into account.

It was ruled that the DWP had breached its duties to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 and that the Department must do more to ensure this sort of evidence is collected and taken into account. This means the current procedure for the WCA puts some groups at a substantial disadvantage.

The three charities have hailed the ruling as a victory for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism who are being put through a process which puts them at a disadvantage.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “This ruling proves once and for all that this cruel and unfair process is unlawful. The judges have independently confirmed what our members have been saying for years – the system is discriminating against some of the most ill and vulnerable people in our society, the very people it is meant to support.

“The Work Capability Assessment process is deeply unfair for people with a mental illness – it’s like asking someone in a wheelchair to walk to the assessment centre. The Government is setting people up to fail.

“Now that the court has ruled that these tests are unfair it would be completely irresponsible to carry on using them. The Government must halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefit immediately, until the process is fixed.

“This ruling will help improve one aspect of the Work Capability Assessment, but there are still many other problems with it. We will keep campaigning on behalf of everyone we represent until the whole process is fair for everyone.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Mind welcomes the tribunal’s judgment, which has found that the claims process for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is unfair to people with mental health problems and that it has to change.

“The judgment is a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in this case, but for thousands of people who have experienced additional distress and anxiety because they have struggled through an assessment process which does not adequately consider the needs of people with mental health problems.

“Following this judgment, Mind hopes changes will be implemented quickly to ensure the claims procedure is fairer and more accurate.

“Mind has campaigned to improve the assessment process for many years and we will monitor the situation closely to ensure people with mental health problems receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society said: “The court’s decision is a victory for fairness. Now that the tribunal has ruled that the Work Capability Assessment process disadvantages people with autism, the Government must stop putting them through it until a more equitable system is in place.

“Those who devised this process failed to understand the complexities of conditions like autism. By the nature of their condition, people with autism can struggle to understand and articulate how their disability affects them – which is just what this current system requires them to do, by placing the burden on them to collect their own evidence.”

Read more:
The controversy around Atos Mental Function Champions
The judicial review taken by people with mental health illnesses

false economy

Low paid workers and tax payers in Dorset set to gain from new “Living Wage” campaign

living wage is moral value rszLow paid workers and tax payers in Dorset are set to benefit from a new campaign being launched to persuade local employers to pay a so called “Living Wage” of £7.45 an hour. The campaign group – called Living Wage for Dorset (LWD) – is backed by a number of faith groups, community organisations, political parties and trade unions in the county who claim that Dorset is one of the country’s low pay economies dominated by the agriculture, hospitality and service industries.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 66,000 workers in the county – over one in four – earns less than the living wage. Research by LWD has also found:

  • Average pay for full time workers in Dorset is at least 5% lower than the national average with pay as low as 19% lower in South Dorset.
  • Women continue to earn approximately 80% of the male rates even on the lower Dorset wages.
  • Of the 18 high pay industrial sectors in the economy, Dorset’s employment is under represented in these industries. Only 11% of the Dorset workforce is found in high pay sectors, below the national average.
  • Of the 13 low pay industrial sectors in the economy, Dorset’s employment is over represented in these industries, compared with both the national average and the south west region.

LWD say the benefits of a living wage are very clear:

For a family with two working parents, one part-time and two children under 16 renting their home at an average rent for the area, working 40 hours a week; the Living Wage would increase their total net household income by £550 per annum, and at the same time save local tax payers £3,370 in Tax Credits and Housing Benefits.

Neil Duncan-Jordan, spokesperson for the LWD campaign said: “Low pay is associated with poor job security and treatment, fuel poverty, expensive housing costs, lower educational attainment, reduced mental health, suppressed economic demand and debilitates the human spirit. These are all costs that society has to bear when things break-down. But the Living Wage offers a win-win for employees, employers and tax payers. Employees get a higher income and see their living standards rise, employers get a workforce with improved morale, less absenteeism and increased productivity and the tax payer saves huge amounts of money because they are no longer subsidising low wage employers by having to top up people’s earnings with benefits and credits. This is an idea supported by all the main political parties, major employers like Barclays, as well as the Church of England.”

The campaign is being launched with three high-profile meetings across the county:

Bridport 28 May – 7pm, Town Hall, Speakers include Anne-Marie Vincent, South West Dorset Multicultural Network and Claire Moody, Unite the Union

Dorchester 31 May – 7pm, Corn Exchange, Speakers include Cllr Alistair Chisholm, Kaye Kerridge, First Dorset Credit Union Ltd and Tim Nichols, Dorchester TUC

Bournemouth 5 June – 6.30pm, Barnes Lecture Theatre, Bournemouth University Talbot Campus, Speakers include Dr Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne, Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party and Paul Nowak, Assistant General Secretary TUC

Independent Living Fund recipient interviews

Reproduced from False Economy

The videos on this page are interviews made, by False Economy, with people who are directly affected by the government’s atrocious recent decision to close the Independent Living Fund (the ILF).

The ILF was set up as a standalone fund to pay for extra carer hours for people with severe disabilities. That additional funding made it possible for people to pay for enough care to continue to live independently in their homes, rather than in residential care. At the end of last year, the government made an extremely unpopular decision to close the fund and devolve it to local authorities. A recent attempt to challenge the closure was lost, but claimants plan to appeal.

In these videos and linked case studies, ILF recipients around the country explain how vital the fund is to them and what will happen if they are no longer able to pay for the high levels of care that they require.

Mary Laver

In this video, Mary Laver, who lives in Newcastle, talks about the life that she leads with carer hours paid for by the Independent Living Fund. The ILF pays for about 46 of Mary’s carer hours a week. With that support, she does everything and a lot more: last year, for example, she raised money for the Royal British Legion by travelling from Lands End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair and went to London as a 2012 Olympic volunteer. Without that funding, things will change drastically:

Gabriel Pepper

Gabriel is 41. He began his working life as an archaeologist after completing a Phd. He has had three brain tumours and has sight, speech and mobility impairments. The ILF pays about two-thirds of his care costs. Waltham Forest council pays for the rest. His view on the importance of taking legal action to fight to save the ILF fund in court (he was in the group of ILF recipients that took the recent court action): “I don’t believe the Tory party will ever hang their heads in shame, because they don’t have shame.”

He also talks in the video about the effort that he’s had to make to convince MPs to sign early day motion 651 – an EDM which called for the government to “look at ways of expanding the Independent Living Fund to provide needs-based support to all adults in the UK who require it.”

Sophie Partridge

Sophie is an actor, writer and workshop artist from Islington:

“My PAs [carers] do everything for me – everything physically that I can’t do for myself. It’s all aspects of personal care – like getting up, going to the loo, washing, dressing, cooking for me, cutting my food up, cleaning, laundry, driving me in my van. I still need the same levels of assistance whatever I’m doing, so if I’m working or round at a friend’s house, I need them with me to do all those things.

Fighting the cuts has been difficult. [In their arguments against benefit cuts], people do use this word “vulnerable” a hell of a lot. I actually wrote a letter to David Cameron – and I’m still waiting for a reply – in which I said: ‘It’s not my impairment which makes me vulnerable. It is your cuts. It is your policies. Give us decent resources and we will add to your economy. We can’t be cast as victims all the time. It’s difficult, because we do have to fight the good fight without appearing pathetic cripples. It’s hard to find the right balance.”

Penny Pepper

Penny Pepper is an Islington writer and journalist: “The reason I get the independent living fund (ILF) is that I’m judged to have a severe disability with severe levels of mobility impairment. I’m assessed as needing 24/7 care. The ILF pays for just under half of my care costs(and Islington council pays the rest. I need support to do most things of a physical and practical nature – from getting out of bed, using the bathroom, getting dressed and food preparation to moving from A to B, getting into my wheelchair and getting out of my wheelchair. I would not be able to work without that funding. This is what is terrifying to me. Council funding alone, for carers, would not be enough to retain my personal assistants.

There is this bizarre idea coming our way that you can eat sandwiches, lie in bed and use incontinence pads. If that happens, then that is, in effect, the end of my career. Now, we’re being forced backwards into having to go on about how pathetic we are as individuals – you know, with your poor legs and your this and your that. If the council ever tries to put me in a care home [because it cannot afford to fund independent living costs ] I will take it to court.”

Kevin Caulfield

Kevin lives in West London, works in Brixton and is training to be a barrister.

“For my care, I need two people during the day at some points during the day, so my care package totals 25 hours. It’s quite significant. It’s enabled me to stabilise my health and it’s improved quite a lot. I’ve been able to work during the last 15 years. I’ve been able to go to college. I’m training to be a barrister – things that I would have been able to do in my life if I wasn’t a disabed person, but certainly things that I couldn’t do without this support.

Hammersmith and Fuham council pay for about 60% of my care package and about 40% of the pacakge comes from the Independent Living Fund. For disabled people to be included as equal members of society, [the great thing about the ILF is that the assessment really is based on your needs and you don’t feel that someone has come in with a cash register next to them.”

There are more testimonies from people on the Disabled People Against Cuts site:

What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Mary’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Justine’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – John, Paul and Evonne’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people –Roxy ’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Kathy’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Richard’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Penny’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Anthony and David’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Kevin’s story
Template letter to MPs to stop ILF Closure
What Local Authorities said about the Closure of ILF

false economy

Follow the Money: Tory Ideology is all about handouts to the wealthy that are funded by the poor

Politics and Insights

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Here is yet another great Tory lie exposed – “Making work pay”. This Government have raided our tax-funded welfare provision and used it to provide handouts to the very wealthy – £107, 000 EACH PER YEAR in the form of a tax cut for millionaires. The Conservatives claim that it is “unfair” that people on benefits are “better off” than those in work. But the benefit cuts are having a dire impact on workers as well.

People in work, especially those who are paid low wages, often claim benefits. Housing benefit, tax credit and council tax benefit are examples of benefits that are paid to people with jobs. Indeed the number of working people claiming housing benefit has risen by86 percentin three years, which debunks another Tory myth that benefits are payable only to the “feckless” unemployed.

By portraying housing benefit as a payment for “the shirkers”, not “the…

View original post 2,172 more words

UK 24th out of 33 in global race for economic growth

The UK is experiencing a slower economic recovery than 23 of the 33 advanced economies monitored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to new analysis published by the TUC on 9th May.

The research, which comes as the IMF begins its two week visit to Britain today, says UK income per head – economic growth that takes account of population change – will not return to its pre-crash level until 2017.

By contrast, income per head in Germany and the US will be over 10 per cent higher a decade on from the financial crisis, while South Asian economies are set to have growth of over 20 per cent.

The TUC says the figures, which are based on the IMF’s latest GDP forecasts, reveal that the UK risks enduring a ‘lost decade of growth’, while many of its economic rivals forge ahead.

With the Chancellor identifying an economic ‘global race’ as the defining challenge for the government, the TUC report shows how George Osborne’s own strategy is causing the UK to fall behind its competitors.

The study also reveals how the UK is emerging from recession at a slower rate than at any time in its recent history.

In 1985, UK income per head was six per cent higher than it was before the 1980 crash. In 1995, UK income per head was seven per cent higher than it was before the 1990 recession. UK income per head is today still six per cent below its 2008 level.

The Chancellor cannot blame Europe for the UK’s economic woes, as the vast majority of the Eurozone’s countries are performing better, says the TUC.

George Osborne faces further embarrassment this week when he hosts a meeting of the G7 finance ministers on Friday. Only Italy are experiencing a slower recovery than the UK among G7 countries.

Recent TUC analyses of the ‘global race’ – available at www.touchstoneblog.org.uk/tag/global-race – have found that the UK is lagging behind most of its G7 competitors on exports, wage growth and manufacturing too.

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George Osborne must heed the IMF’s recent call for the UK to ease off austerity and follow the example of the US by investing in jobs and infrastructure, says the TUC.

The TUC wants to see a large jobs and infrastructure stimulus, including a jobs guarantee and an extensive house building programme to get growth and confidence back into the economy.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘We truly are experiencing a lost decade for growth.

‘While other countries are already seeing a rise in economic output, the UK won’t return to its pre-crash level for another four years.

‘The Chancellor’s commitment to self-defeating austerity has prolonged people’s suffering and put the brakes on our economic recovery – so much so that escaping a triple-recession is considered by some to be a cause for celebration.

‘Even George Osborne’s favourite economic institution, the IMF, is calling on him to change course. Without a fresh approach we will continue to trail our economic rivals and bring up the rear in the global economic race.

‘He should start learning from countries like the US whose ambitious programme of investment in jobs is helping to turn its economy around.’

Warning Signs

Reproduced with kind permission from TUC – Warning Signs

The warning signs have been there for some time. Last month one poll showed that the general public has lost confidence in politics providing solutions to the failing economy. More recently opinion polling showed antipathy to all things Europe, amplified by anxieties about a contagion of struggling EU economies.

This anti-politic dynamic gains traction from the Coalition dogma that there is ‘no alternative’ to the course they are plotting; that austerity is the natural and only response to the fiscal and monetarist challenges exerted on the global economy. It’s easier, their theory goes, for the social and economic devastation inflicted by their undiluted assault on public spending and public services to remain unchallenged if we believe it is ‘out of their hands’ and they have no choice.

One side-effect of this deliberate denial of culpability, this refusal to accept ownership of or responsibility for the outcomes of their choices as a government, is a diminishing faith in politics and politicians being seen as part of the solution. The consequence of that is democratic fracture and an increasing tendency to withdraw support for mainstream political parties – either through not voting at all or, as was demonstrated last week, by voting for what is essentially a protest party that says ‘no’ to many things, but not much about anything else, a party that stands on a platform of incoherent, impractical and inherently flawed, ill-thought policies.

This anti-politics combined with anti-Europeanism created a perfect storm for UKIP and they maximised benefit to them, aided and abetted by an increasingly eurosceptic Tory Party and an inherently right-wing media. It would be wrong, though, to suggest that their message, however superficial, didn’t resonate in some quarters with a voting public deeply frustrated by the failings of the current government and yet to be sufficiently convinced that ‘One Nation’ Labour are offering a strong enough alternative.

Bill Clinton’s eponymous, “It’s the economy, stupid!”, rings as true today as ever. Herein lies both a paradox for the Tories and an opportunity for Labour. The Conservatives of the last thirty years have retained a deliberate ambition to maintain high levels of unemployment and to limit trade union influence in order to keep wages low and to pacify the demands of workers, thus, as they see it, maximising profit, although this is ultimately self-defeating. For Labour, it should be an open goal, focusing on fair taxation, fair pay, investment in jobs and growth, including their jobs guarantee, should be music to the ears of struggling families – but swimming against the media tide to convince voters remains a tough challenge.

Whether it is by design (the Tories) or through insufficient impact (Labour) unless there is a more promising story to tell on the economy very soon we risk a growth of protest party politics that could push the UK toward a democratic train wreck that would render solutions to the economic and social challenges we face ever more unlikely.

Kevin Rowan
Head of Organisation and Services
TUC

© Trades Union Congress 2013

TUC

Demos against the Bedroom Tax – Tuesday 18th June – 6pm

We are calling on Bournemouth and Poole councils to give assurances that no social housing tenants will be evicted due to arrears accrued through the Bedroom Tax and will be holding demonstrations outside both town halls prior to full council meetings on Tuesday 18th June. Please show your support and assemble outside either Bournemouth Town Hall or Poole Civic Centre from 6pm. Thank-you

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Download flyer (pdf) A4A5

The Bedroom Tax – What it is and why it’s unfair

As part of the government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012, the Bedroom Tax came into effect in April 2013. It is also known as the spare room subsidy, social sector size criteria or under-occupation penalty. The changes mean that Housing Benefit will be cut for people who rent from a council or social landlord if they are considered to have a spare bedroom. Strictly speaking it is not a tax but that is the name it was given and it has stuck.

The Bedroom Tax is a cynical attack on the poorest in our society. Only those claiming benefits are affected. Anyone who lives in social housing but does not claim housing benefits will not have to pay any extra. This highlights that it is not about freeing up scarce social housing.

If a property is deemed as having spare bedrooms, the following applies:

  • One spare bedroom means you will lose 14% of your entitled housing benefit
  • Two or more spare bedrooms means you will lose 25% of your entitlement

According to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) analysis, the average claimant will see their housing benefit cut by £14 / £16 per week although 7% of people will face a cut of £31.

The Bedroom Tax affects anyone of working age who rents from a council or social landlord, ie Housing Association, and is in receipt of Housing Benefit. There are a number of different rules about what counts as a spare bed room and what rooms will result in a reduction of Housing Benefit revenue:

  • Children of both sexes under 10 are expected to share a bedroom. If they currently do not share and they remain in separate rooms, one of their rooms is considered as a spare bedroom
  • Children of the same gender under 16 are expected to share a bedroom
  • Couples and adults are entitled to have bedrooms of their own
  • If a bedroom (with or without furniture) is kept free for when a child comes to stay with a parent that they do not normally live with, this room is considered as a spare bedroom
  • Bedroom Tax allowance for a child can only be claimed by one parent, even where they share access to the child
  • Extra bedrooms for medical reasons is not allowed and considered as a spare bedroom e.g. a couple using separate bedrooms because one of them is ill or recovering from an operation will be liable to the bedroom tax

Around 660,000 people will be effected and thousands of families and single people are at risk of losing their homes. Families will loose their neighbourhood, their community, children will have to change schools and teenagers will lose their friends. In Bournemouth and Poole, 1224 social housing tenants are affected by the bedroom tax.

It has been estimated that up to 420,000 of those affected are disabled or chronically sick. Many of these properties have been modified by social housing landlords to assist people in daily living and unless they can prove that they require ongoing overnight care, disabled tenants are trapped in a situation where they will have to pay more rent.. It is highly unlikely that people forced to move through financial difficulties, will find private landlords willing to spend money to modify properties.

The government claims that the Bedroom Tax will encourage more efficient use of social housing. However the reality is, not only are many people in need of their ‘extra’ rooms but, there are simply not enough one and two bedroom properties for those affected to move into. Across the country there are already 1 million people on council waiting lists for one bedroom properties.

The vast majority of those who are forced to ‘downsize’ will switch from social housing to the private rented sector which will inevitably lead to higher rent costs and local authorities paying out more in Housing Benefits. The solution to a lack of social housing is not to punish those who live in social housing but to build more council homes.

Please also see Some ideas to fight the bedroom tax

Unite Community Activist Training Day – 3rd June – Bournemouth

Unite Community will be holding an activist training day on Monday 3rd June at Unite the Union office, 238 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth BH8 8EG starting at 11am and finishing at 4pm.

Unite Community activists listen to the concerns of people in their area, build relationships and help people take action on their own behalf on the local issues that matter to them. This training session aims to give people the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively mobilise our community towards addressing issues that negatively affect us all and build sustainable local groups. The event will cover:

  • An introduction to Unite Community membership
  • How to set up and build a local Community Group
  • Relationship building
  • Introduction to becoming a ‘benefit buddy’
  • How to identify, choose and campaign on local issues

You will leave the training with a good grounding in Community Organising and an assortment of skills.

All are welcome, whether you are a seasoned campaigner or dipping your toes in for the first time. In order to manage numbers, please click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. If you require any further information please email unitecommunitydorset@yahoo.co.uk

Thank-you

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