Hands Off Our Homes Update 24th Sept 2014

Update, and some important news and events

Next meeting Wednesday 1st October, 7pm at the UNISON offices on Woodhouse Lane (near the university) – all welcome, call/text/email for more info/directions

This update includes:

  • Notes from the last Hands Off Our Homes meeting
  • Info: new supervised jobsearch scheme
  • Meeting: We Need to Talk About Work
  • Week of action against workfare 4th – 12th October
  • NHS workers’ strike, public sector workers’ strike and TUC national demo 

First, though, read about the inspirational actions of this group of homeless young mothers occupying unused social housing in London – for example   here  and  here .

And on local bedroom tax work, we’re delighted to say that some tenants have been successful in getting reviews of their housing benefit (bedroom tax) decisions on the grounds of room size – so carry on appealing and let us know what happens. We’d also be grateful for any news on how Discretionary Housing Payments are currently being applied, and whether people are being successful or not with repeat claims.

1) HOOH meeting 17th September 2014

We were delighted to welcome 4 new people to our meetings – Nad, Lewis, Mark and Christine. Also present were Kevin, Ellen, John and Steve.

We discussed the recent Day of Action against benefit sanctions and workfare: a real positive was that loads of passers-by took an interest in the information we had on display, and the ideas discussed in our flyers, and lots signed up to the campaign. Some people were disappointed that the turn-out was low, but we agreed that this event was just a beginning, and that we should keep taking our stall and displays out on a regular basis. As people get used to seeing us around and talking to us, they may feel more comfortable to take the next step and start attending meetings or an action.

We talked about the need to keep using press and social media, build spaces/ events to bring people together, get info into schools/colleges and unis, and support other connected struggles (see below).

  • Action.to try to build rotas for getting the stalls out to job-centres and the town centre. If you can help with this, please get in touch!
  • Actionto gather individual stories about the impacts of cuts, sanctions and workfare, work-capability assessment fiascos etc, and to use these where appropriate for mediua work, displays and publicity etc. If you have a story to tell (anonymously) please get in touch.
  • Action – join a union! our campaign is supported by Unite Community, for people not in waged work. The normal fees are 50p per week. If you want to get involved and can’t afford the fee, you may be able to get sponsored membership. Contact us if you are interested.

2) New supervised jobsearch scheme

This scheme, starting in October, will require selected claimants to spend 35 hours per week doing “supervised job search” – that is, they will have to spend 35 hours per week in what is effectively a private job-centre run by the already-discredited workfare provider, corporate giant G4S. The pilot will look at two different groups of claimants: those who have recently become unemployed, and those who have already completed the Work Programme (which is basically a compulsory workfare scheme for people who have been unemployed for 9-12 months).

In the Leeds/Bradford areas, it is the longer-term claimants who will be affected. People in this category will be picked at random and compared with similar claimants not on the scheme. We know this is more likely to hinder than help people to get suitable work. It is certainly not going to produce jobs where none exist! What it will do is make lots of money for G4S, and probably lead to an even steeper rise in sanctions against a particularly vulnerable group of claimants – many of whom would be on ESA were it not for the despicable Work Capability Assessments, and the long delays in processing ESA claims which have put many off from claiming altogether.

(Read  here  for more on chaos facing sick and disabled claimants)

3) “We Need to Talk About Work” meeting on Tuesday 30th September, 7pm, room CCRB223 at the Rosebowl, Leeds Beckett University (ie Leeds Metropolitan University): all welcome – Hosted by Leeds Plan C.

On 18th October the TUC is holding its big national demonstration with the slogan “Britain needs a payrise”. We support this demo but want to see it include much bigger demands – including demands which speak to the needs of people who don’t or can’t work for a wage, or whose work is unpaid (eg parents and carers dependent on benefits or family support. This meeting will explore who benefits from our work – paid or unpaid, chosen or forced – and what demands might bring us a step closer to freedom from either wage-slavery or dependency on conditional welfare.

See Plan C leaflet here for more details

There will be a follow-up meeting on the 7th October for practical planning around the TUC demo, participation in the NHS and public-sector workers’ strike etc.

4) Week of Action Against Workfare: Saturday October 4th to Sunday October 12th

Many groups around the country will be organising actions during this week to highlight the use of workfare by local and national businesses and charities, and put pressure on them to pull out of the schemes. This tactic has been highly successful up to now, and there is a real chance that workfare can be defeated completely if we continue to make it unviable for employers to take part. We still have time to plan something in Leeds, and would like to hear your ideas (come to our next meeting if you can). We will also be keeping up our presence in the shopping centre with our stalls and display boards, which we’ll be updating with more info to explain workfare and why it’s wrong. Please get in touch if you can help, especially between 4tth and 12th October. The more people we have, the more of the week we can be there.

The Boycott Worfare website http://www.boycottworkfare.org/ maintains a list of businesses and organisations which still use workfare. It’s also a mine of useful information about the different schemes, the research, and knowing your rights.

5) NHS strike (Monday 13th October), public sector workers’ strike (Tuesday 14th October) and TUC demo (Saturday 18th October).

We believe the struggles over pay, for decent public services and against privatisation, and the demand for a decent welfare system are all connected, and that we need mutual solidarity between people engaged in each of these struggles. We’ve agreed a number of ways to start doing this:

  • Visit the picket lines on the strike days – to show our support and to talk to workers and union members about our struggles over welfare and unpaid work.
  • Attend the strike rallies – there will be a big one in Leeds on the 14th – with our own banners, stalls and flyers
  • Where possible, take action in solidarity, such as organising local creches so that everyone can keep their children off school; maybe picketing local facilities where council or DWP staff work – the time is short for organising, but if we start small now we can continue to build for the next time around!
  • Attend the TUC rally in London on Saturday 18th October. There will be free coach-seats available – contact UNISON on 0113 2458442, or contact us. If you are a member of Unite the Union you can also travel free on their coach – contact us if you want to join Unite Community (see above).

It would be great if we could form a claimants’ block or similar on both the strike rally and the national demo; and ideally we should have a couple of banners and some placards with challenging slogans. (If you want to join the Plan C block and grab some ideas for slogans, why not attend their meetings on the 30th Sept and 7th Oct?). If you can help make banners/placards, get in touch or come to the next HOOH meeting, on Wednesday 1st October.

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