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Monday, 26 May 2014

Media Frenzy - This Is Not About UKIP

It is clear to anyone who has been witnessing the media frenzy around UKIP, or has been campaigning on issues of national importance like Fracking and Disabled People’s rights, that there has been a media blackout on progressive voices in society and a strengthening of the voice of reaction.

This can be roughly traced back to the end of the Occupy protests, when after the rise and rise of anti-establishment protest movements, and societal reaction against austerity and police brutality (as in the riots), the new heads of the BBC, (who are Tory peers), aligned with the rightwing press, to avoid discussing progressive politics in totality, even to deride it.

Instead the cultural message propagated across the media has been one of hyperbole around immigration, cultural snobbery, the demonisation of the poor, and some fantastical pummeling of meaningless distraction in the shape of obsequious royal family fanaticism and nationalist celebration of sports and war (though we did enjoy the Olympics).

Reporting social security news becomes even more biased towards 10 Downing Street, head of news at Department for Work and Pensions - DWP joins the BBC

Please sign petition regarding 'Bias in Election Reporting' & Respect Petition

More friends of the Conservatives take over lead positions within the license funded broadcaster. BBC News communications chief brings in Department for Work and Pensions head of news Jonathan Reed

Reed’s move follows two years at the DWP, including time working as press secretary to Chris Grayling. He joined the department after working as a political reporter for a number of regional titles.

One BBC insider added the move was a part of a broader effort to "sharpen up" the BBC’s operation.

This cannot go on.

This is our first communique/brief on the subject but there will be more to follow. In it, we wish to briefly sketch our hopes for reclamation of the national debate for the people, and of a plan of action to achieve this.

After writing on welfare and issues of economic and social justice over the past 12 months, we believe there is an ongoing war on our minds.

This war of the mind manifests itself in distraction and false debate.  We wish to challenge this paradigm.

We want to talk about aspiration and positivity.  To borrow Plan C’s audacious slogan, we believe in a world of luxury for all.

We live in a world of abundance, of eternal resources of energy from natural sources, to eternal resources of creativity, from the minds of humanity.

Some people are already living the changes we all wish to see in the world.  The changes towards less pointless unfulfilling work, less damage to environment, less violence towards each other and more time and freedom to be the person you want to be.

We wish to hold up these examples, promote them and show that, yes, another world is possible.

We also want to talk about misdirection and reality/rationalism. Not all debate can be rational, or should be. The emotional is valid, even if that manifests itself in scorn and anger at points.

We must recognise that sometimes that the way people feel about something cannot necessarily be reasoned with in pure logic and facts alone.  This is why we need a politics of aspiration.

But it is also why we must change the terms/premise of the debate.  Arguing about racism and immigration, the size of poor people’s TV’s and ASBOs, are the wrong debates.

They are divide and rule tactics by the elite, expressed through the political and media establishments, to distract us from tackling the genuine causes of societal problems.  Those causes almost always have one root, and that is the search for profit.

We need to talk about freedom and liberty. We need to talk about inequality and wealth. We need to talk about the environment and resources. We need to talk about alternatives and achieving them.

To be part of this movement for change, RealFare are undertaking a variety of projects over the next 12 months in the lead up to the 2015 elections – and hopefully beyond.

The first is the Real Tour.  Our intrepid contributor Thomas Barlow is going to bike across Britain for 8 weeks in search of Middle England/Britain. To do this he will be visiting 12 swing constituencies, as well as stopping at key campaign sites like Reclaim the Power, Anti Fracking camps, and festivals like Shambala.

He will conduct interviews with notable campaigners from the area, as well as surveys and vox pops, and he will distribute the soon to be printed RealFare news-sheet.

This will hopefully help us build a network of interested people who will help promote and share news and contributions from RealFare (and other sources).

Following this in early winter there will be Real Talks, a conference with a twist.  We will have big name speakers who will drop their motivating knowledge bombs like all the other conferences. Except these speakers will be in a room with only a camera for company, where their talks will be live streamed and archived for free internet distribution.

This is because the real juice will be in the other activities at the conference.

There will be networking and stalls from a huge array of community and activist groups.

There will be skill-share workshops running concurrently all weekend, to learn about everything from video activism to direct action planning.

There will be live theatre, music and poetry, sometimes intervening directly in unexpected places.

There will be, in short, plenty of fun to be had and connections to be made, as we try to move away from a world of internet networks, to a world of concrete human connections.

Following this we will have a plan of action for all participants to freely engage in, that should be easy to squeeze into the most marvellously crowded of lives.

This will be involve targeting media institutions and putting pressure on them to engage with alternative subjects, and move away from the politics of distraction and divide and rule.

This will culminate in a Spring campaign to target the Daily Mail, surely one of the most spiteful publications in existence, with a number of secret, but developing, actions and stunts that should hopefully give us the energy in the lead up to the elections to get real issues talked about.

This won’t just be about talk, it will be about creating and showcasing alternatives, and about campaigning and working together to create a better world.
Viva la revo-love-tion!


To find out more or to pledge help email and we will keep you updated on our action.

Examples of Media Blackouts:
Bias and the BBC
50-70,000 strong NHS protest in Manchester
Disabled People Against Cuts Protests
Cops Off Campus student protests
Fracking Protests
Workfare Protests
WCA/ATOS Protests

Part Re-blogged from RealFare
More info: from REALFARE

Friday, 16 May 2014

Husband killed no safety net - one year on the nightmare continues

One year on, the misery continues for group member of Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants

An 'Open Letter' to David Cameron - 10 Downing Street
cc Ed Miliband  & Natascha Engel MP

Karen holding a picture of  husband Andrew
I'm writing in a desperate attempt to be heard regarding the situation I find myself in. On the 1st June 2013 my husband Andrew Siddall was killed in an awful road accident along with his best friend. Another biker from Sheffield was also killed in the same accident.

Before his death my husband had been receiving Disability Benefits. In his younger days my husband worked at Bolsover Colliery, after leaving school he went on to work as a builder / roofer. Taking part in the construction of Carsington reservoir dam. He retired early on health grounds. He was a member of Derbyshire Bikers.

I buried my husband on Thursday, June 13.

We informed the benefits office two days after his death. ALL benefits were promptly stopped, leaving our family with no source of income & no explanation as to what we must do or where to turn for help & assistance - we had the 'safety net' removed, in free-fall.

I spent the next few weeks visiting the Benefits Office & making phone calls in a state of pure grief & desperation trying to get help. However, I was passed from one department to the next, each time no one had a clue as to what I was entitled to - they were simply not interested. I was told if I had been 45 years old at the time of my husbands death I would have been able to claim a 'Widows Pension Allowance'. I was 45 on the 2nd August, just two months after his death.   
Jobcentre Plus informed me that the only thing I could do, was to make a claim for Jobseekers Allowance. I pointed out that I thought JSA was for people looking for work - she replied in an irritated voice "Well you are fit for work aren't you" ? I was absolutely shocked & devastated. I was grief stricken, I didn't know what day it was or what planet I was on. I couldn't eat, sleep or function properly - I think its fair to say I was in 'traumatic shock'. I was constantly vomiting & having panic attacks. I had been with my husband since I was 14 years old - I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to live anymore.

With the help of family members, I filled in various forms for benefits. These 'forms' are a 'minefield' in trying to understand & 'overtly complicated' at best. We finally received a letter regarding a claim for Employment Support Allowance. It took them so long in dealing with the claim & after a period of four weeks struggling with no money whatsoever, I was forced to work in the local shop to ensure I could feed the family - working 16 hours a week.

From that point onwards I've had nothing but trouble with North East Derbyshire District Council regarding Housing & Council Tax Benefits. Mistake after mistake & misinformation from the benefits agency. It has resulted in over a hundred letters in nearly a year, informing me what I should be paying. No sooner had one letter been sent out, the council would change its mind yet again - throwing me into financial chaos. They sent letter after letter asking for more information & suspended my claim on numerous occasions - this in turn created huge rent arrears & threats of eviction. Letters sent regarding impending court action seeking to evict us, has caused me to become seriously depressed. I spent days upon days visiting the housing department trying to provide the information they required.

Finally I received a letter stating that my Housing & Council Tax had been reviewed & that I was no longer in arrears. I was  told how much I needed to pay - My relief was instant, it was now February 2014 & this nightmare had been going on for months. I was earning £100 per week working, & receiving child tax credits for my daughter who was doing a childcare course. I was getting tax credits for myself, calculated that I could just about manage to survive & pay the rent, council tax etc - little did I know that my ordeal was far from over .....

I then received a letter from HMRC regarding Tax Credits, asking for more information regarding my daughter (Jade) - I contacted her learning provider (AgeUK) asking for more details regarding the educational course she was on. All the details were was passed onto HMRC - the swift result was .... all tax credits promptly stopped. In a state of panic I rang HMRC to investigate & was told it was because my daughter was doing an 'advanced childcare course', & therefore I wasn't entitled to any tax credits.

HMRC have stated that I'm not entitled to working tax credits because my daughter was classed as a 'non dependent' - they also stated I would have to be working at least 30 hours a week before being entitled. I approached my employer & requested more hours not realising what else I could do. I did managed to increase my hours from 16 to 26. I inform the council of the change in circumstances in work hours & that tax credits had been stopped.

The council reviewed both my Housing & Council Tax benefit twice over a period of weeks with incorrect information. A final review stated that I must pay £96 rent plus council tax & water charges - in total I have less than £40 a week to buy food, gas, electric plus other living expenses. In addition the council have informed me that I now owe over £1,400 in arrears & £322.83 council tax arrears. HMRC are harrassing me for £3,000 in repayment in tax credit.

Nearing the anniversary of my husbands death, it's clear that my nightmare is to continue. There is no safety net for me - there is no social security provision ! I'm at my wits end, not knowing which way to turn. I cannot survive on such a small amount of money & god only knows where the money is going to come from to pay these arrears. I'm sorry to bore those who have taken the time to read my story, but I have not chosen the situation I find myself in - I've fallen on bad times, stuck in quicksand, struggling to get out while people simply walk on by - conclusion ..... #help.

North East Derbyshire District Council have sent a letter addressed to my husband 'Andrew Siddall' a year after his death demanding £1,400 within 14 days - despite being told a thousand times, my husband has died .....  

Finally I urge readers to support & sign the petition calling for a 'Public Inquiry' regarding the systematic abuse of Benefit Claimants >>

yours sincerely

Karen Siddall wife of Andrew

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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Who are the parasites in society ?

ProfessorJason Reed Quote: On Parasites and The 1% - became an Internet meme

Professor Read has delivered lectures and written an essay about Occupy Wall St. movement. The source of this particular quote may come as a surprise: from a Facebook status update.

In Britain how hatred towards claimants is circulated - Atos Origin calls disabled 'parasites'

A quotation by the trade unionist and Labour politician, Ernest Bevin, in Francis Williams’ biography of the great man:

Unemployment is not accidental. it is deliberate on the part of the capitalistic system. The one weapon in the hands of the capitalist is starvation, not his brains, ability or managerial capacity, but his ability to hold or withhold the means to life to break you when your children cry for bread. (p. 91).

This is all too true in today's UK - thousands struggle to survive on FoodBank handouts - David Cameron & 10 Downing Street are deliberately enslaving the people in a George Orwell 1984 style of starvation, enslavement & control.

The Libertarians of the Chicago School recommended that there should be a constant unemployment rate of 6 per cent in order to prevent wages rising. And Margaret Thatcher’s administration deliberately destroyed British heavy industries, such as mining and steel, in order to break the unions.

Who are the parasites in society ?

Currently 75% of 'Government Cabinet Ministers' - within parliament are Millionaires. Those that sit in the House of Commons & the House of Lords are Members of Parliament - TOTAL - members 1462 (650 MPs + 812 sit in the House of Lords).

We believe parliament should represent the majority not the minority !! But the reality is - We are governed by MILLIONAIRES.

The majority in Britain are struggling in poverty, unable to pay bills, buy quality food items. Meanwhile the House of Commons & the House of Lords enjoy privilege beyond imagination.

These Lords & MP's hold many assets - (many hidden from public view), including savings & (second income wages). There are Lords & MP's who gain extra payments from industrial lobbyist.

Benefit Claimants are quite rightly 'angry' at those who sit in an 'undemocratic & an unelected House of Lords. Those MP's & those who sit in the Lords firmly believe it's OK to hold two jobs & enjoy a subsidised restaurant & bar.

In contrast benefit claimants are struggling to buy food, pay bills & face benefit sanctions.

We hear Boris Johnson in an online video talk about his second job, writing articles once a week on a Sunday for a staggering £250,000 a year - he calls this amount 'Chickenfeed'

In recent years 
we have witnessed the parliamentary expenses scandal in the House of Commons & it seems acceptable to Fiddle expenses if you sit in the House of Lords.

Our conclusion ...... contemptuous !!!
Ask this question - who are the parasites in society ?

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Friday, 9 May 2014

CPAG in Scotland - ‘Early Warning’ report about sanctions

‘Early Warning’ report about sanctions !

Child Poverty Action Group CPAG in Scotland has set up an ‘Early Warning System’ to identify problems reported by front-line workers in the operation of benefits.  Their first policy briefing is online, giving examples of problems with sanctions.  They give examples of a series of  mistaken decisions:  for example, a sanction for not reporting for the Work Programme while in police custody and benefits were already stopped, and a sanction for turning up for the time on the letter instead of the time the office thought it had sent out.  Part of this, too, is that people who are suffering sanctions then have to go to food banks – a link recently denied by Neil Couling, of the DWP, at a meeting of the Holyrood Welfare Reform Committee.

The Early Warning System (EWS) is a framework which has been developed by CPAG in Scotland to collect case studies and wider evidence about how welfare changes are affecting the health and wellbeing of children. They are currently collecting information and anonymous case studies from 75 frontline workers including welfare rights officers, housing advisers and support workers across Scotland. Please visit the website for more information on the project.

Concerns raised through the Early Warning System Cases collected through the EWS suggest that sanctions are often applied without adequate consideration of claimants’ personal situations, characteristics or the barriers they face - particularly in relation to their ability to comply with the conditions placed upon them. Cases illustrating these concerns include:

* A father with dyslexia, spinal arthritis and COPD was sanctioned for not attending a work-focused interview. He had told the jobcentre in advance that he didn’t have enough money to get to the office, as it was not local to him. He was told to walk to appointment, but was unable to due to health conditions. He was sanctioned for 13 weeks.

*The lone parent of a 5 year old child was sanctioned for 4 weeks for failing to keep an appointment with her careers adviser. This was despite the fact she was in the jobcentre for her first appointment but, due to being misdirected, did not hear them call her name. A new appointment was to be sent by post but the client never received this.

* A client could not sign on because his children were left with him unexpectedly by the parent with care. He was sanctioned and, given that he was not classed as vulnerable, was unable to access hardship payments for 15 days.

* A 56 year old claimant was sanctioned for missing one appointment (he admits the error). As a result of the sanction the claimant had no money to travel 14 miles each way to sign on for his hardship payment. The jobcentre advisor moved his appointment to the middle of the day so he would have time to walk the 28 mile round trip in daylight.

* A client was sanctioned twice for failure to attend work programme appointments. The DWP were aware he could not have attended because he was in police custody (as they stopped his benefits for the period he was detained). DWP did not provide adequate written information to allow him to challenge the sanctions effectively.

* A claimant was given written instruction to attend a jobcentre appointment on Monday – which he did. He was sanctioned for failure to attend on the Friday (despite having no appointment to attend). The sanction was overturned on appeal after 6 weeks, during which time the client had to access a food bank.

The policy briefing can be downloaded by clicking this link : 'Early Warning' impact of Sanctions

These issues raised within the report will be given in-depth consideration at a policy seminar at the Renfield Centre in Glasgow on the 28th May 2014. Please contact or 0141 611 7090 for more information or for details of how to book you place at the Policy Seminar on Wednesday 28th May.

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