Thursday, 23 March 2017

Universal Credit: Claimants ‘stealing food’ to eat due to benefit delays

Alan Wheatley


At Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group's weekly business meeting on Thursday 23 March, though we warmed to the page 2 prominence given to your news story 'Universal Credit: Claimants "stealing food" to eat due to benefit delays: Finance chief warns people are being forced into new debt',(1) we were very concerned at what to us seems a fundamental error in one sentence of your report.

That error concerns the length of wait for Universal Credit payments to be processed. You report, 'In some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed.' Waits as long as six weeks for benefit claims to be processed and "unacceptable" telephone helpline service standards are nothing new and pre-date Universal Credit and even the 2010 General Election. In November 2006 Community Care magazine reported: "MPs slammed Jobcentre Plus for leaving 21 million calls unanswered. Despite government claims of improvements, stories of poor service continue to mount."(2)

Where our 'experts by experience' would disagree with your report is that we believe your report should state, 'People wait a minimum of six weeks for claims to be processed.' Those delays are exacerbated by the income fluctuations caused by processing of Universal Credit claims in zero hours economies; and the DWP's deepening reliance on 'pay-as-you-go' call-centre service delivery that  penalises economically vulnerable people for their vulnerability.

Now, as you report, 'Telephone calls [to the Universal Credit helpline] can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”' That is an all-too-common experience, leading in many cases to rent arrears and subsequent evictions.

This sickening system leads more and more people to sickness and suicide, while the DWP refuses to take lessons from coroners courts and insists instead that disability benefit claimants be reassessed every six months as standard.(3) Against that backdrop, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group will be highlighting local benefits-related suicides on Monday 3 April as follows:

12 Noon: Assemble outside Kilburn Jobcentre, Cambridge Avenue, NW6 5AH for rally with local Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, PCS (jobcentre workers union) National Executive Officer Zita Holbourne and Brent Trades Council Executive Committee.
12:45: Black Flag march to Paddington Cemetry via Kilburn High Road.
13:30: Address at Leon Burmont graveside by Dawn Butler MP and RMT Political Officer Cat Cray.

14:00: Prince of Wales PH, Willesden Lane NW6 for Tea & Sandwiches

Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, will join a range of other contributors at the launch of Free Movement and Beyond

We're pleased to announce that Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, will join a range of other contributors at the launch of Free Movement and Beyond this Monday at the LSE. Diane is a critical voice that has repeatedly backed free movement - we're delighted she'll be speaking on the night. 
Get your ticket here
Free Movement and Beyond, Agenda Setting for Brexit Britain
Public Launch - LSE, Clement House, Room 2.02, London WC2
6.30pm Monday 27th March
Organised by Public Reading Rooms, LSE Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit and Another Europe Is Possible

Free Movement and Beyond
 is an edited collection that draws together the current thinking of many of Britain’s most prominent ‘critical Remainers’ – those who argued to remain within the European Union while seeking its democratic and progressive transformation. Another Europe Is Possible are delighted to be co-sponsoring the launch of this new collection

In solidarity,

Another Europe is Possible

PS - have you booked your ticket to our conference yet?
Check it out here

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

National Day of action against benefit sanctions.

Philip Fletcher

Hi Folks,

In case you didn't know, Thursday 30th of march is the National Day of action against benefit sanctions.

This is what Barnet Unite are planning.  It would be good if the Green Party could show a strong presence.
this is what is happening in Barnet:

Barnet Unite - No Sanctions, No Targets, No Closures !! 
10.00 am to 11.00 am - Finchley Job Centre, 40 Ballads Lane, N3 2BL. 
12 noon to 1.00 pm - Edgware Job Centre, 29 High Street, Edgware, HA8 7DX. 
Contact Branch Secretary Janette Evans - - See more at:

If you can't make it, to any of the Barnet events, then in Central London there is:
1.00 pm - Outside Westminster Tube: Banner Drop, Balloon Release 
1.45 pm - March to DWP at Caxton House 
2.00 to 3.00 pm - Demo at DWP Caxton House - See more at:

Afterwards there will be a lobbying session of MPs in the Commons.

Please pass around.

Phil Fletcher

(Barnet Green Party)

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Brexit & Employment Rights

We Rise 1 April

This Saturday, 25th, Unite for Europe march (16k signed up)
Join the Global Justice Now youth network for a day of discussion, debate, live performance and movement building. Followed by an after-party at the Amersham Arms until late.

Book your free ticket here:


MALIA BOUATTIA (President, NUS) - OWEN JONES (The Guardian) - AARON BASTANI (Novara Media) - GLOBE POETS - NICK SRNICEK (co-author, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work) - TATIANA GARAVITO (migrant rights activist, HOPE not hate) - NICK DEARDEN (Global Justice Now)

Sessions include: Migrant solidarity – understanding corporate trade deals – alternatives to capitalism – Stop Trump youth organising assembly – spoken word and live music

Beats Not Borders after party:
With high energy queer grime artist Karnage with support from Jai'Rouge and Dream Jazz Collective

In the US, UK and beyond we’re seeing politics lurch ominously to the right. Trump’s racist attacks on migrants, from Muslims to Mexicans, are met with an invitation to the UK for a full state visit. Inequality continues to grow and the super-rich remain as powerful as ever. Meanwhile today’s youth face a future of debt, precarious work and a hostile political climate they did not create.

But from the Women’s March to Black Lives Matter to the anti-Trump protests, a powerful wave of resistance is building – with young people from all backgrounds at the centre. If we come together to share ideas, educate ourselves and organise mass action, we can pose a real challenge to the powerful.

Join the Global Justice Now youth network and a host of artists, activists, thinkers and organisers for an inspiring day of discussion, debate, performance and action planning.

It’s time to rise.

(Event is free, but booking is essential - book your free ticket here:

Monday, 20 March 2017

Liberating Arts conference and arts festival


The inaugural Liberating Arts conference and arts festival will take place on the 3rd -5th November 2017, at the University of Exeter.

The 3-day event aims to connect the trade union movement with public educators, cultural workers and creative activists and explore the role of the arts and culture in the ongoing struggle for equality and social justice.

We invite interested trade unionists, cultural workers, activists and educators, to propose workshops, performances, media screenings, exhibitions, discussions, lectures and networking events that they would like to host at the event.

If you are a trade unionist, cultural worker or creative activist and would like to propose a session for Liberating Arts 2017 then please email the event Producer, Chris Jury, on

If you wish to present an academic paper or other research-based event please email Dr Rebecca Hillman
Please share far and wide across your networks!
Chris Jury
Producer, Liberating Arts 2017

UCU campaigns update 17/3/17

In this week's campaign update:

University of Leeds: no to the sackers’ charter
Leeds UCU are campaigning against moves by management to make it easier to sack staff and the branch have entered into dispute over the university’s decision to change the statutes that cover grounds for dismissal. The branch are currently considering potential industrial action and you can send messages of support to

Further education teacher numbers falling 
The number of people training to teach in further education (FE) has dropped by more than a fifth in just one year. A report from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) showed a 22 per cent decrease in the number of learners studying initial teacher education (ITE) courses for further education between 2013-14 and 2014-15. Speaking to the TES, UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: ‘To attract people into further education, the government needs to do a much better job of selling the sector. Unfortunately, massive cuts to the sector, attacks on pensions and falling real-terms wages have had exactly the opposite effect.
‘We have lost around 15,000 teachers since 2009 and if the government is serious about the role FE has to play in getting Britain match fit for Brexit and beyond, then it needs to deliver a more attractive role for current and potential staff, and help people to complete their studies.’

See here for full update including:
·  In the news
·  Defend jobs at Manchester Metropolitan University
·  Goldsmiths UCU put forward ‘the Gold Paper’ alternative
·  Legal corner: writing your will
·  Continuing professional development with UCU

March for Science – 22 April, London