As the Tories continue their attack on our welfare, Boycott Workfare and welfare activists in Birmingham have come together for a one day conference, called as a counter to the Welfare to Work conference happening just down the road at the ICC. This is part of the national week of action against workfare
Making Welfare Work
Tuesday 10th July, 9:30am – 5:30pm
Unite the Union Building, Transport House, Broad Street, Birmingham, B15 2AY
Whether you are unemployed, disabled, retired, low paid or in a caring role, the past 2 years of government have seen an unprecedented attack on our standards of living and rights. It is no surprise that this has come alongside a rise in hate crimes being reported by disabled people.
Those who have inherited millions from their parents talk of ending a culture of entitlement, and deride claimants as scroungers and cheats whilst letting their rich mates get away with paying no tax.
The £5bn work programme is reducing people’s chance of finding work, with just 22% getting jobs, compared to 28% of those who aren’t forced onto this scheme. Mandatory Work Activity does no better. The government’s response is to extend these failing schemes, at a huge cost to the taxpayer, benefit claimants and workers whose jobs are threatened by the free labour provided by workfare.
For disabled people, the Work Capability Assessment run by ATOS is failing to properly identify who is able to work, with 32 people dying every week whilst waiting for their appeal, after being assessed as fit to work. The £100m cost of employing ATOS is increased by around £50m when you take into account all the appeals to their decisions – of which 70% succeed when advocates are involved.
The low paid are facing cuts in tax credits which will leave millions of families who are in part time work thousands of pounds out of pocket each year. Cuts to housing benefit combined with the £500/week cap on total benefits will see many people losing their home, forced to the streets or moving hundreds of miles away to find affordable housing, whether there are jobs available or not.
Pensioners – who claim 2/3rds of the total welfare bill – have lost £50 to £100 in winter fuel allowance and a pension that has been reducing in real terms for many years.
The introduction of Universal Credit presents an attack on everyone who relies on the welfare system to keep their heads above water, whether you are unemployed, disabled or in work.
It is clear that this government, in line with previous ones, are attacking claimants and using the financial crisis as an excuse to strip away hard fought for welfare rights and send us back to victorian times and the workhouse for the poor.
This conference will look at how we bring welfare groups together and fight back in our communities against this government’s attack on the vulnerable and low paid, and to move towards a welfare system that works for all of us.
The Unite building is wheelchair accessible. Children are welcome but we are unable to provide a creche service. If you have any accessibility requirements please contact us for information.
The venue is approximately 1 mile from New Street and Moor Street train stations, and 0.9 mile from Snow Hill Train Station.
Five Ways train station is about 0.5 miles away, but is not wheelchair accessible.
Please see www.centro.org.uk for details of bus routes that stop along Broad Street.
If you need accomodation to attend this conference, please email us and we will do our best to arrange for you to stay with people in Birmingham.
We have a limited travel fund available – if you need financial help to pay for your travel to this conference please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Timetable for the day:
9:30am: Conference opens / registration
10:00 – 10:30am: Update from Public Interest Lawyers about the judicial review & legal challenge to workfare schemes.
10:30am – 11:30: Organising amongst benefit claimants.
A discussion session about how claimants can organise themselves, With Anne-Marie from London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP), Pierre Lapin from Boycott Workfare and Dave from Unite Community Branches leading off the session where we will share experiences and best practice about how to build claimants networks and groups to campaign against benefit cuts & reforms, and to provide support and advice networks.
11:30 – 12noon Break
12 – 1: Universal Credit,
Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts will talk about the introduction of Universal Credit and how this will affect claimants, followed by discussion about this reform and our responses to it.
1pm-2pm: Lunch – A free vegan lunch will be provided by Birmingham Food not Bombs.
2:00pm – 3:30pm: Practical workshop to secure Workfare, Work Programmes & Welfare Rights
Run by www.consent.me.uk, this is a practical workshop covering:
Using the Data Protection Act (1998), Jobseekers Allowance regulations to secure your rights, on the Work Programme, Mandatory Work Activity and the Community Action Programme (Work Programmes)*.
Successful ways to challenge benefit payment sanctions raised by Workfare Providers, including use of the Fraud Act (2006).
Making effective formal complaints against Jobcentres and Workfare Providers and seeking compensation for maladministration.
Effective use of the Freedom of Information Act (2000) to obtain information held by Workfare Providers and the DWP/jobcentres.
Note: *The DWP refers to the Work Programme, Mandatory Work Activity and the Community Action Programme and other unpaid workfare schemes as ‘Work Programmes’
4pm – 5:30pm: How do we break the Work Programme?
Discussion session led by Tom and Pierre from Boycott Workfare examining the largest workfare scheme, which pays £5bn to private workfare profiteers and is shown to be failing in its primary aim of finding people work, and by the time it’s over will have handed out sanctions to more people than found work.
Pierre will talk about his experiences of the work programme, whilst Tom will look at the evidence of failure of the scheme. This will be followed by discussion about what actions we should take to make the Work Programme collapse.