Speakers: Robert Punton, Disabled People Against Cuts; Tanya Murat, Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign; E15 mother and PCS union speakers tbc
> Despite unmissable evidence and growing public awareness of the detrimental impact on the poorest and disabled members of our communities by punitive measures such as sanctions, benefit assessments and capping, all main political parties are still committed to being ‘tough’ on welfare and sticking to Tory spending plans. Whoever is elected in 2015, things are set to get even worse for communities already struggling under the weight of arrears, debts and falling incomes. The occupation of the Carpenters’ Estate by the Focus E15 mothers in Newham shows that resistance is also growing and developing. This workshop will explore how trade unionists and community groups can work together to expose the truth about welfare reform and to fightback.
The meeting will take place as part of the Unite the Resistance conference. For more information and to book a place go to: http://uniteresist.org/
Tory welfare reform is in crisis. Last week 70 Conservative MPs ignored a three line whip and stayed away from Westminster for the vote on Andrew George’s bedroom tax bill. Protests have beaten back government attacks on benefits but we need to keep fighting to see off the hated bedroom tax once and for all and to stand up against sanctions, which remain a vicious plank in the government’s punitive policies, whose use is rocketing and which are still supported by Labour in Parliament.
12 – 2pm: Street meeting on benefits and sanctions: Briggate, LS1 6JX (near the Body Shop). firstname.lastname@example.org
11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1
(Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign will be meeting 10.30am outside Metropolitan Tabernacle opposite Elephant and Castle tube station to go up to Parliament)
Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Gig: Starring: THE WICKED VENETIANS + PARVA HINTON + SEBASTIAN MELMOTH + MYLAS: New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road London SE14 6AS: http://newcrossinn.com/?p=1&m=09&y=2014
Paupers Picnic outside David Cameron’s Witney Conservatives event at Witney Lakes with tax-dodging, expenses-grabbing MP Nadim Zahawi. Coaches leave Oxford at 5.30pm. For more info contact: mail:dpac.uk.net
Find your local councillors at http://www.writetothem.com/
Or at your local council website-Copy and paste the text below or download Word version from the link-please send any copies of responses to email@example.com
Dear Councillor (insert name),
I am writing as one of your ward constituents to ask you to sign up to the Councillors Against the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts statement and oppose anyone losing their home or being forced to move due to the Bedroom Tax or other unjust benefit cuts, and call on landlords not to evict those pushed into arrears due to these measures: http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/resources/CouncillorsvBedTax2.pdf
The bedroom tax or ‘under-occupation penalty’ is unfair and unworkable. Two thirds of those affected by it nationally are disabled and the majority have no-where suitable to move to. Discretionary Housing Payments are a short term solution that create more work for local authorities. A July survey by the Papworth Trust, backed by the National Housing Federation , said nine out of 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills to pay the bedroom tax if they are refused a safety-net housing payment. Meanwhile the cost of implementing the bedroom tax costs far more than the savings the government claimed it would make.
The next steering group of the Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation meets on 7 September 12-4pm in Manchester. Please email to confirm you can send one or two reps from your local groups and supporting organisations, to help decide next plans.
For those that don’t know, could you tell us a bit more about the Benefit Justice Campaign, how it came about and why now?
The Benefit Justice Campaign was set up by three campaigns, DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts,Defend Council Housing and the Right To Work Campaign. We came together in January of this year because the people that we represent were being hit on all sides by cut after cut after cut from this government and we wanted to unite together to form a campaign. So rather than disabled people campaigning on our own, we want to be with council house tenants who were going to be hit by the bedroom tax, and with unemployed workers, and we also wanted to unite with workers through the trade unions because the government has been using a lot of divisive rhetoric about benefit scroungers and the difference between strivers and skivers, and we wanted to come together and overcome a lot of those myths, that a lot of people who are being hit by the benefit cuts are actually in work. And what the government is doing affects people in work and out of work – so to provide a combined campaign to oppose it.
Why have the government been pushing this striver vs. skiver debate?
Well it was very effective and it has been very effective over the last couple of years. People have actually thought we really need to reform the welfare state. A lot of people talk about the need to stop all these people having a lifestyle on benefits. So actually the government rhetoric has been really effective, and what they’ve managed to do is they’ve managed to get away with causing misery and pushing many, many thousands of disabled people – the poorest members of society, into poverty. That’s what they’ve been effectively doing, but they’ve got away with it and there hasn’t been an outcry because they’ve wrapped it up in all this language of reform and saying that these people are taking all the taxpayers’ money, and trying to point the finger at people that don’t really exist. There aren’t people choosing to live a lifestyle on benefits because it’s ‘such a wonderful life’.
A lot of people would say we’ve got this national debt, so there has to be cuts. ‘Everyones feeling the pinch’, so what would you say to them?
Yeah, not everyone’s feeling the pinch. There’s a certain section of society that really isn’t being affected by it. Meanwhile, there are sections of society that are being hit over and over again. So research that came out recently from the Campaign For a Fair Society, showed that the poorest members of society are being hit harder than anyone else. But they also showed that disabled people with the highest level of support needs, people with complex and severe disabilities, are being hit 19 times harder than the average person so there’s no way ‘we’re all in it together’. There are some sections of society who are being deliberately targeted harder than anyone else.
“Austerity is lining the pockets of certain sections of society.”
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times Rich List in April showed that the 1000 wealthiest UK residents increased their wealth by £35bn last year. So some people are getting richer out of this actually. Austerity is lining the pockets of certain sections of society.
So why aren’t we attacking rich people more?
I think some sections of the population are, but we mainly do that through social media, through our own blogs, or through the left wing media maybe. Certain elements of the right wing media certainly have fallen in with the government and they will reproduce the government statistics which are shown to be misrepresented most of the time.
A Previous Defend Council Housing Protest in London Image: demotix.com
You already have a lot of support for the campaign, but how do you get to the people who are a little more shut off? There must be people who would maybe stand with you and support you, but they aren’t aware of what is going on. How do you get to them, and how do you get them to act?
And it’s the isolated people who are more likely to be in trouble because they’ve got no support so it’s about reaching those people. I think through social media DPAC has got quite an online presence. We’re very involved in Facebook and Twitter and social media, and people find us through that because people are looking because they don’t know where else they can turn to. So that’s one way, but of course people don’t all have access to social media and the internet, and what we’re seeing increasing is local campaigns being set up and just going around, like I was doing on Sunday, just knocking on doors in estates where people are affected – so actually meeting people in person.
At the Benefit Justice Summit a couple of weeks ago in Westminster, you had many organisations coming together for different struggles – around 37 from around the country including DPAC, Hands Off Our Homes, Manchester vs. Bedroom Tax and so on. There was a lot of talk about unity, and coming together – why is that such a strong message right now?
I think people are feeling that because we’ve been attacked for the last couple of years and we haven’t managed to change it yet. The government have done some small U-turns – for example the bedroom tax exempting children with severe disabilities. But, we’ve never got them reverse the direction of welfare reform so I think people want to come together en masse to try and mobilise, to try and fight against the bigger things that are happening – essentially to get the government out and that’s only going to happen if everyone campaigns together.
Its another opportunity for people to come together against the cuts affecting us all.
“The Bedroom Tax and the benefits cap, alongside other sweeping changes to the benefits system and the reduction in vital services supporting disabled people and parents, is hitting the poor hard – both those in and out of work,” DPAC’s spokeswoman said.
“The benefits cap on top of the Bedroom Tax will impoverish and stigmatise people who can’t move home, while driving out others to unfamiliar parts of the country, uprooting their lives and their support networks, and leaving London to the better off.”
Tenants, Disabled People Against Cuts, trade unions and others are meeting 19 Jan 12-2pm to organise against Benefit Cuts.DCH, Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), PCS and Unite trade unions and others want to get organised with tenants and other groups hit by the Bedroom tax, Council Tax and other Benefit cuts.
Come along, or delegate someone from your tenants group, union, political or campaign to the Benefit Justice organising meeting 12-2.00 pm Sat 19 Jan at Unite House, 128 Theobald’s Road,London WC1X 8TN (nearest tube Holborn.)
Please forward to local groups and others who are concerned at the impact of Benefit cuts and want to challenge this injustice.
Get in touch for more information or see you on 19th
for Housing Emergency