Thursday 19th March is a national Day of Action Against Sanctions called by Unite Community, and supported by claimants groups and welfare camapign groups all over the country. In Leeds, we’ll be gathering in Briggate, near the Body Shop, at 12 noon to show our determination to see off this cruel regime of punishment and scapegoating of people whose only “crime” is that they’re having a hard time! We’ll have our usual advice/ info stalls and display boards and some cool banners – but the event will be what you make it, so please join in. You can find more info about the Unite campaign on the Unite Community Website here
Unite Community offers union membership to people not in waged employment, or whose work is in the home or the community (eg parents and carers). Membership costs 50p per week, which may be waived if necessary in certain circumstances. Unite in Leeds now has two Community Support Centres, which need more volunteers to offer advice and support to claimants and to get involved in campaigns around welfare and other issues affecting communities. They are run by ordinary people, not specialists, and free training can be given – so please get in touch and help out.
Some time this month people claiming Housing Benefit will be receiving their new statement telling them what Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support they will be getting in the coming year. As we know, Council Tax Support has been slashed yet again, and even more people will be finding it impossible to cope. The bedroom tax is still with us, with half of affected Leeds tenants in significant arrears and possibly facing repossession proceedings, especially now that the government is tightening the reins on Discretionary Housing Payments. The Labour Party has said it will abolish the bedroom tax if it wins the next election – but that’s not enough! We need all bedroom tax victims reimbursed and debts written off, an end to all the other cuts and sanctions which are making it hard to survive, and we still need a massive programme of public investment in new and well-constructed council homes.
To achieve all this we’ll need a massive movement for the right to decent housing. It’s already begun, with loads of tenants in London occupying their estates to prevent evictions and sell-offs to wealthy developers. In the meantime, one thing you can do is challenge your new Housing Benefit calculation. If it says you are having money deducted for having a spare room – appeal! There are a number of grounds on which you might be able to do this. You won’t necessarily win, but every appeal brings us closer to a victory over this vicious and unworkable bedroom tax policy. For help and advice with this, see http://www.handsoffourhomes.org.uk, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 07504017322.