Jan 152016
 

Having problems paying the punitive bedroom tax and live in Lambeth? Work for them for free[1] for 3 months and all will be solved.  Lambeth sent out a series of letters last year under the heading of ‘Get set Go’. The letters announced:

‘an exciting opportunity in a scheme run by the Welfare Solutions and Estate Pride Team’

Lucky recipients were asked to choose from three different ‘volunteer opportunities’

Option one was Resident Surveys: basically tramping about in all weathers asking people on ‘selected estates’ what they think of particular community issues-This happens in pairs, presumably so they can protect one another from all the different kinds of vitriol ‘the community’ might have about the lack of services via cuts and the inflated salaries of Lambeth council directors. But hey, Lambeth are convinced that by doing the work of their paid employees for nothing, you can gain great skills. The letter gushes that such skills include:

‘dealing with the public in a customer service role, capturing information and gain[ing] insight into community engagement’

If you don’t fancy that, there’s

Option two: Estate inspections: This is about delivering services (stop laughing) and involves being mentored by trained (presumably paid, but who knows anymore) Lambeth council staff. On this one, the new found skills include

‘reporting, writing repair requests’

and a possibly illuminating combination of

‘understanding how the housing sector works and problem solving’

Last but not least is doing a bit of gardening for Lambeths ‘less able residents’. In three months this clearing of weeds/gardening apparently provides a number of wonderments including:

‘gaining horticultural/maintenance, creative and project management experience’.

They leave out getting the odd cup of tea, maybe they just couldn’t agree on any specifically ridiculous wording for potential quasi-skill set, for example: to professional tea taster or to the development of professional tea buyer which would include exciting travel opportunities to pick the best leaves for brand name teas, gaining exceptional skills in quality control and financial exploitation for a multinational corporate body.

In addition to all this there’s the obligatory CV writing workshops, interview techniques etc. But also the completely stunning and baffling:

‘customer service functional Maths & English and IT skills training’

(and yes, I can see several errors and oddities in that line too, but never mind)

In return for this bewildering array of nonsense -your bedroom tax gets erased for 3 months:

‘You will receive financial support to assist with the effect of the social sector size criteria (bedroom tax) through monthly rent adjustments to cover your shortfall for the 3 month duration’

So if it’s possible to give monthly rent adjustments to cover shortfalls: why can’t they just do that for everyone?

Why do people need to work for 3 months on Lambeth’s bizarre version of local workfare?  And of equal importance -are Lambeth in breach of the Equality Act? Even if a disabled person wanted to take part in this sham none of the options seem particularly accessible. Lambeth announced in 2014 that they would tackle the issue of bedroom tax with what they called a ‘work first’ approach[2].

The DWP’s own 2015 report  said that three quarters of those effected by the bedroom tax were going without food and/or heat while just 1 in 9 of those affected had been able to move home to a smaller property. We know it’s much more difficult for disabled people to move home due to completed adaptations to their homes and local family and friends networks.

We also know that those in receipt of housing benefit are increasingly those in work on low pay and in insecure work, which is compounded by the increases in the cost of living. Another fact that seems to have escaped Lambeth:

‘A “work first” approach will be taken that will encourage these households to avoid the bedroom tax altogether by getting into work’2

Surely, the only correct thing to do is to scrap this punitive tax that persecutes those with the least- Lambeth council show they can do it for 3 months-or to work at local levels to alleviate the inhuman impacts of bedroom tax on local individuals, families and children?

No, Lambeth chose to  devise ‘work first’ workfare schemes to add further persecution and provide them with  labour at the equivalent  of a x pounds a week , reducing their own employment costs, driving down wages, and denying real paid jobs in the process.

If anyone thinks that this is a useful initiative, think again: how long before this turns to 30 or 40 hours per week, how long before dwindling ‘services’ need to be exchanged for work in a ‘work first’ local agenda?  What happens to those who can’t work because of chronic ill health, or impairment, and those that need additional support?

Lambeth are setting a dangerous local precedent

Let us know if your council has a similar scheme at mail@dpac.uk.net

See here for useful information on discretionary housing payments

Original Get set go letter page 1 

Notes

[1] Bedroom tax is applied to those in social housing where the amount of net rent covered by housing benefit is reduced by 14% for one spare bedroom and 25% if you have two or more bedrooms. Housing benefit is paid to those in work and out of work. The bedroom tax does not apply to those in so called private housing. https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/bedroom_tax

[2] ‘A “work first” approach will be taken that will encourage these households to avoid the bedroom tax altogether by getting into work’ p.3 2014 https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/documents/s71133/For%20info%20A%20Welfare%20Reform%20Report.pdf

Get set go promo leaflet https://www.roupellpark.co.uk/sites/default/files/Lambeth%20Get%20Set%20Go%20poster.pdf –

 

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[suffusion-the-author display='description']
 Posted by at 18:24

  2 Responses to “Lambeth Council creates its own brand of local workfare: Get set go!”

  1. Very illuminating document that Welfare Reform Report. Took time to read it today and answers quite a lot. Living in Lambeth and being subject to the Spare Room Penalty I have asked Lambeth time and time again why they continue to be punitive rather than choosing to get creative about how they face the tax.
    O live in a 2 bed adapted property and feel like they are trying to harass me into leaving my home not helping me to stay.
    Even if I wanted to move which I don’t why would I lose my assured tenancy for a five year tenancy? That is provided that that had a one bed adapted property that was suitable for my needs, which there isn’t, I can’t take ‘advantage’ of this exciting opportunity to learn to sell myself being in the Support group for ESA, again if I wanted to, which I don’t but as it goes can’t. Likewise I’m sick of being ‘selected’ to attend a housing swap exhibition!
    So yeah that document really does explain a lot and confirms that I am being harassed into leaving my home and yet again placing the ‘blame’ onto those who ‘refuse to engage’ i.e. acquiesce quietly to giving up their home. Yet again Lambeth using the same language as the conservatives which further confirms their narrative that those on benefits and living in social housing are feckless wasters refusing to shift.

    Great piece good to see that Local Authority Workfare schemes are being exposed.

  2. i like the way that this is labelled voluntary, the first two sound more like the jobs that there own staff don’t want because they get cornered the third one is the only one that sounds remotely feasible

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