Saturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm (arrive from 10.15am for a cup of tea), London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)
We’ve just added a couple more workshops! And now there’s a timetable as well.
Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.
If you are concerned about:
- Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
- Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
- 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
- ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
- Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
- Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
- Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
- Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…
…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!
[EXPAND Here’s the full list of workshops]
Organising against workfare in your town or city: How groups have had a huge impact and ways to get started in your town.
It can seem a daunting prospect to start a campaign against a workfare provider or business when sometimes there is only you and a couple of mates. What can a couple of people do? How can you sustain a campaign? Whose going to take notice of you? But, this is exactly how groups like those in Edinburgh & Haringey started many years ago, and these groups now having a huge impact against Workfare and sanctions. And it’s how most groups start. Just look at the rise of Housing Action type groups around the country. Most were started by a few people who knew each other. Come and listen to groups who have just started out and others who have been going for years. The workshop is for us all to share experiences, learn from each other, help those out who are thinking of setting a group up and mutual support.
Challenging sanctions and mandation
Over half a million people were sanctioned last year, and unless we fight every sanction we now risk three years without even a subsistence income. This session explores the key facts that people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance need to challenge sanctions. We’ll look at both the formal processes and ways we can collectively put pressure to overturn sanctions as well. We hope people will go away equipped to support each other to fight every sanction!
Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements
We can use Access to Work as a stalling tactic for avoiding work placements. If disabled people need support to work, such as equipment or a support worker, or can’t use public transport, they can apply to Access to Work. Big employers have to pay themselves so may think twice about taking a workfare placement on if it’s going to start costing them.
Take part in this workshop with Andy Greene of Disabled People Against Cuts to explore ways disabled people can resist forced unpaid work placements.
Taking on Workfare
Together we have brought a flagship government policy to near “collapse”, but with all three main political parties and UKIP firmly committed to workfare and sanctions, we need to keep pushing. Take part in this workshop to share information on the shape of workfare at the moment: where it is taking place and the latest tricks of the providers. We’ll map out workfare’s weaknesses and find the places we can push together to bring it down once and for all.
Universal Credit: The time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together
Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out nationwide, Job Centre by Job Centre. People on “in work” benefits will soon face the same evil job seeking and sanctions regimes that those of us on JSA and ESA have had to endure for years. For people in low paid work, it could mean facing workfare or losing housing benefit. Could this be the present government’s “Poll Tax” moment when different groups come together to destroy a hated piece of legislation? Come and share knowledge about Universal Credit, explore ways to make sure people know what it could mean for them, and discuss how we can bring people together to put a stop to it.
Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme
A few different companies have contracts to deliver the Work Programme, the flagship two year workfare scheme. They’re all supposed to follow the same regulations. These can be used against them. There are lots of ways not to cooperate with the Work Programme.
Come to get information from groups and individuals about what Work Programme providers don’t have the power to demand, and the personal data they can’t force you to give them – and more on how to avoid and overturn benefit sanctions they inflict. We’ll hear from welfare action groups in Edinburgh and elsewhere about what can be achieved by insisting on your right to be accompanied to appointments.
This workshop is for everyone to share strategies for stalling and changing the activities that providers try to impose, and for resisting their demands about attendance, unhelpful training, and unpaid work placements.
Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: Workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people
For workfare to happen, the government needs charities and voluntary groups to take placements. But more and more voluntary organisations are standing up and saying no. Over 550 have signed Keep Volunteering Voluntary’s pledge not to take part and the word is spreading. With most national charities now out of the schemes, we need to get the word out at a local level where charity workfare placements are still rife.
Come along to this workshop with Kevin and Penny from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to explore the key arguments to challenge the voluntary sector’s involvement, to share which tactics and approaches have been successful so far, and to plan how to take the campaign further and win!
Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms
When we work in mutual support groups, before we ever overturn a sanction or force a workfare user to pull out, we are already doing something important: sharing our experiences and offering emotional support. The reality is hard: the punitive culture at job centres, ever-present threat of sanctions, and the psycho-coercion of workfare providers take a heavy toll on people’s wellbeing. This session is an opportunity to share our experiences of working in groups dealing with these issues and discuss good ways to share support and look after ourselves and each other.
Dealing with energy companies and energy debt
Eleven million people in the UK are now on prepayment meters- many of these were unwanted and imposed through court warrants, home break-ins or by intimidating people into accepting unpayable debt arrangements.
Come to this workshop with Fuel Poverty Action to discuss what we can do collectively about break-ins by energy companies and ways we can support each other. Find out about basic rights and standards with treatment from energy companies and what to do if you’re being threatened with an unwanted prepayment meter –at the doorstep, in court, on the phone or by letter. Hear about ways to get energy debt written off or negotiated down; what benefits and funds exist that go towards paying energy bills – and how to get them.
Against austerity — a caring society for everyone!
Caring for others is the foundation of every society, yet this work done mostly by women is devalued & underfunded. Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, WinVisible (women with disabilities) & Payday men’s network host a discussion on how the international petition for a living wage for mothers and other carers counters the market and promotes the caring society we all need.
[EXPAND Here’s a programme for the day]
|10.00||Tea / coffee / welcome|
|What will cuts and reforms to welfare and housing mean? How can we fight against them? We’ll hear from everyone about what the biggest challenges facing us at the moment are. We’ll find out what all the different groups and individuals want to get out of the day.To get a snapshot of who’s come along, each group will have 2 minutes to say who they are and what they do. Hopefully this way, everyone will be able to make links with the people they especially want to speak to throughout the day. We’ll hear about successes that we might like to explore in more depth later. Everyone will be able to share the priorities and interests that bring them to the gathering, and say what they’d like to work together on and what issues they’d like to discuss.
We’ll start using the materials around the room to record what people would like to discuss in the open space, to signpost others to useful resources, and to advertise upcoming dates for actions/events/workshops.
We want this to be a day for making concrete links between groups and between people. We want there to be more effective collaboration by the end of it – not just another committee or a manifesto. And we hope these discussions can get going from the start.
|11.40||Tea / coffee / snacks|
|12.00||Workshop session 1|
|Organising against workfare in your town or city||Challenging sanctions and mandation||Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms||Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements (DPAC)|
|1.20||Lunch (provided, vegetarian and vegan friendly)|
|2.20||Workshop session 2|
|Universal Credit: time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together||Taking on workfare||Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme||Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people (KVV)||Against austerity – a caring society for everyone! (WinVisible)|
|3.40||Tea / coffee / snacks|
|4.00||Open space session to make stuff happen!||Workshop|
|This session is for organising and information sharing. People can plan how the ideas for action from the workshops will happen; or spend time exploring important questions we’ve all brought to the day. People can move between discussions, and between discussion and the workshop. We’d like each discussion group to be able to feed back with information about: who to contact; what is going to happen; how can people get involved.||Dealing with energy companies and energy debt (FPA)|
|We’ll hear about the plans from the open space, who is taking them forward and how we can stay in touch beyond the day. We’ll maybe arrange dates or targets for UK-wide action and ways we can build capacity and share resources to support each other.|
|5.30||Finish and pub!|
Join the Facebook event and invite others to come too!
This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s a day for people at the grassroots to get together and work out how we can support each other, defend our rights and continue successfully to campaign against workfare and sanctions.
Organised by Boycott Workfare with Haringey Solidarity Group. Workshops and contributions from other groups are very welcome!
If you’d like to come please register your interest now: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can help with travel costs. If you are in a local group where people support each other and take action on welfare or housing (or plan to start one), we should be able to help with your travel costs. Please help by booking travel early and accessing other sources of funding if you can. Get in touch as soon as you can to sort travel costs out.
If you’d like access info please get in touch and let us know if there are ways we can help make the event accessible. We’ll make sure the venue is wheelchair accessible on the day, but unfortunately one workshop room is not. If you’re a wheelchair user and would like to contact us in advance to let us know what workshops you’d like to attend, we’ll make sure they’re scheduled on the ground floor. But either way, room allocations are flexible and will be decided on the day.
If you want to organise something similar near you we’d love to help if we can. We especially want to support another gathering in the North in Autumn/Winter 2015, but would need a local group to take the lead on organising it. Please get in touch or talk to us about it on the day.