Be angry.

It’s a sad, but I suppose not wholly unexpected, morning. At this point it’s almost certain that the Conservative Party will be governing the country for another five years. We all know what this means for the poor, the sick and disabled and the vulnerable. We know what this means for the NHS, education and welfare. The poor will get poorer, people will die, foodbanks will get busier and the rich will get richer.

So, this is when we really start the fight. We’ve campaigned and marched and shouted for five years and no-one listened. We need to make a louder noise. We need to get in the way. We need to make it very clear that we will not put up with this for the next five years.

Your MP is your elected representative in government. Make sure they know what you think. Government doing something you don’t like? Tell them how you think they need to vote. Even if your MP is the Toriest of Tories, tell them. Go and see them, write to them, make a noise. And tell everyone else you know to do the same.

Protest. Shout. Make your voice heard. Refuse to be silent. The media will put the disenfranchised against the poor, the sick against the homeless. They will tell people that you are scum, that you are not worth it, that you need to be quiet, that you deserve it. Do not listen to them. Be loud, be cross and be angry.

If we have to do another five years of this, we will fight. Don’t take it lying down.

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It’ll get worse before it gets better.

There’s an election next year. Scary thought, especially given the political climate. UKIP, with it’s one-MP-that-was-a-Tory have every party wanting to pander to them.

It’ll get better, but I think it’ll get worse first. Here’s my back-of-a-fag-packet thinking about this.

Election happens next year. UKIP get some seats, the media will go MAD about it and it’ll be all over the papers for weeks. Someone will win, possibly the Tories (to be honest they’re the “most likely” to win out of the other three just because the Lib Dems really don’t have a hope any more and Labour are just being rubbish). UKIP will get LOADS of screen time during the run-up to the election because one of them will say we should bring back slavery and another one will say that women shouldn’t work and another one will do a Nazi salute or something but for UKIP, even bad publicity is publicity and the media will go on about it for days.

Meanwhile. Whichever party wins will basically end up bringing in the same policies. The dividing line between the three main parties is now so tiny it’s barely visible and we’ve almost got to the point where if you’re poor or unemployed or disabled or a mixture of all three then you’re going to be screwed, which ever party gets in. And because the media will have been shouting “UKIP!” for weeks, each party will feel they have to pander to them. It’ll get worse before it gets better.

However. At some point after the next election, people will realise it has gone too far. People who support UKIP don’t see the truth behind the propaganda they spew. Sadly, I think they’re going to have to come and show how awful they actually are before some people will see them for the nasty, misogynistic, racist party they are. And then people will realise, and they’ll get cross, and UKIP will eventually disappear like all the BNP/EDL groups that have come before them.

However. We should not accept that this is what will happen. We need to fight against it. It’ll be a hard fight, especially because it will consist of the people with least power fighting the people with the most power. Be political. Talk about political issues. Challenge people. It will be exhausting, but we just cannot lie down and be trampled on.

But I’m interested to hear what people think. Do you think it will happen this way? Am I being pessimistic? What are the chances of the country being a better place for the poor and disabled? Please leave your comments below.


UKIP are not taking over the world.

I haven’t switched on the tv so far today. There are a few reasons for this, one of them being my new German cast recording of Wicked that arrived today (Keiner weint um Hexen!) but also, UKIP won a by-election, meaning they now have a seat in the House of Commons.

Or did they? I mean, they did, but how did it happen?

Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, defected from the Tory party to UKIP, which then triggered a by-election. Which he won. The turn-out for the by-election was 36%, which automatically puts 64% of Clacton voters in the “not UKIP” camp. The other aspect I will freely admit is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder how many of those UKIP voters weren’t actually voting for UKIP, but were just voting to keep the same MP they’d always had? I grew up in a very safe Tory seat, and the MP (who is still there) has been MP since I was in school.

I’d wager, quite happily, that most of those voters just wanted consistency. They wanted the same guy they’ve had. They weren’t voting for UKIP, they were voting for Carswell.

So the news is, actually, sitting MP retains his seat. The BBC would have you believe that UKIP is about to take over parliament but honestly, it’s just not that big.

On the other hand, Caroline Lucas – who became an MP on her own Green Party manifesto – has been the sole sitting Green MP for four years. But that’s not radical, so the BBC don’t care about that.


Young people deserve so much more – a reaction to Iain Duncan Smith’s Party Conference Speech

There are so many things I could say about Iain Duncan Smith’s speech today. A lot of them I said on Twitter.

I could talk about how introducing pre-paid benefit cards for people with addiction or debt problems will lead to a black market of people selling their cards for cash. Or how, the pre-paid cards will only be redeemable in specific supermarkets, meaning local shops will suffer, and that means traveling to your nearest supermarket. Difficult if you don’t have a car.

I could talk about how rolling out Universal Credit next year is a very bad idea, considering it’s been “dogged by delay due to IT problems”, and that while IDS intended to have 1 million people on Universal Credit by last April, there were in fact only 7,000. (source)

No, what I want to focus on is what IDS said about young people specifically. What with me being a youth worker an’ all.

“Today I can announce my intention for Jobcentre Plus coaches in my department to work with young people in schools across the country, for the first time, from as early as 15…targeting those most at risk of falling out of education, employment or training…working with them before they end up with a terrible wage scar, as happened too often in the past.

For the first time, 15 to 21 year olds will have a single package of help, support and assistance that will radically improve the hope and aspirations of a generation that the last Government left behind.”

Young people have been dragged through the mud by this government. Youth centres all across the country have been closed, experienced and good youth workers out of a job. Youth workers worked holistically with young people. We understand that it’s no good getting a kid a job if he’s not no home to go to, or he’s got no food, or if he can’t control his anger. Youth workers deal with the whole person. We were really good at that. But the Tories got rid of us.

And put this in its place. It’s all very familiar – I believe an almost identical service called Connexions was axed a few years ago – but then again the Tories are well known for axing services and then putting something else exactly the same but with a different name in its place. But my argument is this: Jobcentre Plus advisors are advisors. They are not equipped to handle the complexities and chaos that is a young person’s life, particularly the young people who are likely to end up as “NEETs”. Youth workers are QUALIFIED in doing this, we are qualified in working with young people in a way that doesn’t just tick the boxes of “job” and “qualification” but that can help that young person build a positive relationship on their own terms with an adult. Young people are told what to do all the time. They need to be given the choice to make their own decisions.

The problem is, this doesn’t tick boxes. The targets are not “how many are in work” or “how many gained a qualification” (although we can do that too, if we need to!) The problem is that the government refuses to invest in good youth work services for young people. But, I would challenge IDS’s idea that a single package of help, support and assistance is being delivered “for the first time”. Youth workers have been delivering exactly this for years. Trained, experienced youth workers who know how to work with young people where they are. Who equip young people with the skills to give direction to their lives themselves. I am willing to believe that the Jobcentre Plus workers being placed in schools will not be using those skills.

Young people are being treated so, so badly by this government and the cuts it has imposed. They deserve so much better than this. They deserve not to be treated as a statistic, a problem, as something to be dealt with. They deserve to be treated as complex, fantastic human beings and we are doing them a huge disservice.

(You can read Iain Duncan Smith’s speech in its entirety here)

 


If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The government does not care about you. And nowhere today could that be more obvious than George Osborne’s speech to the Tory Party conference. George and his collection of Tory posh boys whooped and cheered as he announcing that, should the Tories remain in power after the next election, benefit rates would be frozen in 2016. Meanwhile the rich are getting richer.

And who better than to give comment about Mr Osborne’s proposals than that well-known political commentator White Dee (whose opinions were clearly so important that even the BBC felt they had to report it) who, is without a doubt, being used horrifically by the Tory party.  “Look!” they say “she’s someone on benefits, like you! And SHE thinks it all a good idea!”

This government, and this country, are run by the rich and the corporations. They write policy geared to make sure they end up with profit in their pockets. And in order to focus attention away, in order to say “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” they point fingers at the poorest, saying “it’s your fault we’re in this mess.” The papers play along, blaming the poorest and most vulnerable in society for the financial problems we’re now in. And meanwhile the rich get richer.

The poorest and the most vulnerable in society cannot take it any more. Food bank usage is at a MASSIVE increase, benefits are sanctioned for the smallest of reasons and still the money flows into the richest pockets.

If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.


Why I should be the Tory poster gal (but I’m not).

Mr Duncan-Smith is positively champing at the bit to get sick and disabled people back into work. He’ll get you back into work even if you’re comatose, his belief in disabled people working is so strong.

Clearly the “people in comas being found fit for work” is a terrible thing, but IDS really makes no secret about how much he wants us to work. Well Mr Duncan-Smith, I’m your gal. I have my own business, I am capable of getting myself enough work to make a full time job, I love my work and it’s even work that helps communities work better together, which is what your Big Society is all about. Mr Duncan-Smith, I am the girl you’ve been looking for. (I swear that line sounded less dodgy in my head).

However. As someone who has taken 6 months out of work due to becoming chronically ill, I do not see people who are trying to get me back into work. I am at the bottom of lists, I am under a pile of paperwork and I am at the end of strict budget cuts. Apart from the fact that I’m working in a line of work that is getting royally shafted from all sides by budget cuts (but that’s another blog entry…) I am waiting for Personal Independence Payments that, despite having applied for them at the beginning of February I’m not expected to hear anything until June. I’m applying for Access to Work which, despite its name, seems to be having smaller and smaller criteria as to what “access” actually means.

I’ll lay my cards on the table right here Mr Duncan-Smith. I’m chronically ill yet desperate to work. I’m a professional in a job that is all about Big Society (despite you sacking us all but y’know, whatever). I have my own business and I can make it full time if I just have the right support. Yet, you’re not willing to give me the right support. So if I can’t work, what’s going to happen to the people who have never worked who are now suddenly being told they have to? What’s going to happen to people who have even more limitations than I do? If I can’t get enough support to work, how the hell are you going to support them?

This is why you need to listen to what the Spartacus Network are saying. Beyond the Barriers was released to the public last Wednesday and lays out a practical way of getting sick and disabled people back into work. It means people who cannot work are not living constantly under the eyes of the DWP. It means those who are able to work get the correct support that is on-going. It means that sick and disabled people are not punished simply for being ill or being disabled.

I miss my job. I am desperate to go back to it and I’d like to believe Irritable Duncan Syndrome when he says he wants sick and disabled people to get into work. But he’s not doing a very good job of showing it.


Going Beyond the Barriers

They say things always come in threes…today seems to be no exception. Today a government minister showed us that you can in fact steal thousands of pounds from your boss and still expect to be in a job. Today is also my two month PIP-iversary. Bring out the cake!

But, most importantly, today is the release of the Spartacus Network’s second major report into benefit reform, Beyond the Barriers. This report describes in detail the failings of the Employment Support Allowance system, the major failings of the Work Capability Assessment and, crucially, makes recommendations for changes in the system so that instead of being a barrier to finding work, the system supports those disabled people who can work into appropriate work.

Currently we have a welfare and support system for the sick and disabled that pretends to give with one hand and takes more away with the other. ESA was supposed to be a way for disabled people to get into work. Yet Access to Work schemes are underfunded and poorly run, and this week it was also announced that the Disabled Student Allowance – a vital means of support for sick and disabled students to continue accessing university and higher education – was to dramatically cut down on the list of things it would provide, meaning services such as note takers in lectures would now no longer be covered. With a welfare system designed to punish rather than encourage, it is clear that the ESA and WCA are not fit for purpose.

Beyond the Barriers sets out a visionary review of Employment and Support Allowance, making recommendations such as having a case worker that supports the claimant through the process of acquiring work rather than leaving them with no support whatsoever. It also suggests that claimants should be able to manage their own budgets so they can direct the funds where they would find most useful – getting appropriate equipment etc., and making sure their return to work is tailor-made.

This is a ground-breaking report. This focuses on treating sick and disabled people like people, not figures. This proposes a positive attitude by the system towards returning to work, rather than penalising those who can’t. It is vital that the ESA process accepts the fact that some people will never be able to undertake work. The stress and fear inflicted upon those who are pursued by the DWP means that ESA is viewed as a punishment for sick and disabled people, rather than a means to a better way of life.

See the full Beyond the Barriers report HERE.

Find out what you can do to support Beyond the Barrier and the Spartacus Network on Sue Marsh’s blog HERE.