The latest unemployment figures released to day show that another 15,000 joined the dole queues from January to March. There are now 2.52 million people unemployed and the Office for National Statistics stated that the recent period of falling unemployment “seems to have come to an end”. Youth unemployment fell but there are still 958,000 16-24-year-olds without work, education or training. And the future for young people looks bleak as research by the TUC shows that there is a shortfall of 395,000 jobs for young people. Added to that Cameron and Osborne’s austerity measures are hitting some communities particularly hard.
On Monday night’s Panorama, former footballer Sol Campbell spoke about the scandal that the unemployment rate for young black men is 45% – double the rate for young white men. The Tory flagship workfare policy has been very good at providing free labour for multinationals such as McDonalds and millions of pounds of public money for shady welfare-to-work firms like A4e, but have failed miserably to provide real jobs for people. With unemployment rising, the Tories have now turned to the snake oil salesman Sir David Halpern, who heads up the Behavioural Insights (or “Nudge”) Unit. based at Downing St. The Nudge Unit have devised a bogus psychometric test used by the he DWP – which asks claimants to say whether statements such as “I have not created anything of beauty in the last year.” are “very much like me ” or “very much unlike me”. Jobseekers have been told that they may be sanctioned, ie – have their benefits stopped, should they not comply, although the DWP deny that the tests are mandatory. There are many nasty benefits cuts from the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance, the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap to name a few. But the barrage of Tory-led media attacks on “benefit -scroungers” and “strivers versus skivers” has created a climate where the numbers of claimants being stripped of their benefits has soared. In 2009, 139,000 were sanctioned, that has rocketed to 680,000 to October 2012.
Iain Duncan Smith increased the maximum sanction from 6 months to 3 years. Many are being sanctioned for arriving minutes late at appointments, failing to use Universal Jobmatch regularly (although this requires access to the internet) and at least 225,000 people were sanctioned for refusing or being unable to take part in workfare schemes. Sanctions have been a significant factor in the huge rise in the use of food banks (now used by 350,000 people) and the queues at Citizens Advice Bureaus and other advice centres. The tragic death of Stephanie Bottrill is a chilling reminder of the desperation people can feel when they are about to be made destitute by benefit cuts. The issue of sanctions was a prominent feature of the Universal Credit workshop at the 2nd Benefit Justice Summit held on Saturday at Westminster Central Hall. The workshop was led by Jane Aitcheson of the PCS who represent Jobcentre workers that are under pressure to sanction claimants. She told the workshop that Jobcentre workers are angry at the Tories and argued that we need to unite PCS members and claimants. She advised anyone facing sanctions to contact their local PCS rep. With the Universal Credit about to be rolled-out, part-time workers, including her members could also be subject to sanctions. 350 people from 37 area groups and 37 organisations at the Summit agreed to form the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation which has called a National Day of Action on Saturday 1st June against the Bedroom Tax and all benefit cuts.
The Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation has already called a protest in Glasgow on 1 June as have Greater Manchester Against The Bedroom Tax. The Right To Work Movement will add details of more local and regional protests as they are announced.
Protest Against The Bedroom Tax on Saturday 1st June
Scotland: 12 noon George Square, Glasgow
Called by the Scottish Anti Bedroom Tax Federation.
Manchester 1pm : Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
Rally and March around Central Manchester
March is fully wheelchair accessible.