A demonstration of Southwark claimants took place on Thursday 19th March outside Peckham Jobcentre Plus.
It was organised by London Unemployed Strategies (LUS) as part of the Unite Community National Day of Action Against Sanctions. The Southern and Eastern region of the TUC (SERTUC) were also out in force to support.
Many claimants and passers-by signed the national petition against sanctions and signed up for the ‘Stand Up For Your Rights’ sessions being organised by LUS.
Nick Phillips, LUS organiser, said: ‘We are delivering training sessions called ‘Stand Up For Your Rights’ for local claimants. Many of them feel they are being punished and having their benefits stopped, or ‘sanctioned’ as the Jobcentre calls it, for not being able to find the work they genuinely crave. Peckham Jobcentre Plus according to official DWP statistics is one of the worst in the whole country for sanctioning people and there is no good reason for this. We at LUS are trying to work cooperatively with the JCP and DWP staff unions, management and claimants in the borough to resolve this issue. So if there has not been a dramatic fall in the sanctions rate by the time the next stats come out, we will want to know why.’
One claimant said: ‘I have been screwed by this Jobcentre. In one week I was rejected for three different jobs I applied for. That very same week I was sanctioned for nine months for not looking hard enough for work. I have only just been allowed to sign on again and may never recover from the debt this has put me in.’
Later on, LUS took part in the London demonstration outside the DWP HQ in Westminster where the national petition was handed in.
Claimants wishing to sign up for the ‘Stand Up For Your Rights’ sessions organised by London Unemployed Strategies can contact Nick Phillips at the TUC on 020 7467 1283 or on firstname.lastname@example.org‘
The first national conference of this kind for many years was held at the TUC last month.The day was well-attended by trades unionists both employed and unemployed from all over the country. Key points of consensus emerged from the day about the basic elements of a National Welfare Charter. These included:
- An end to the current sanctions regime
- No more Work Capability Assessments
- An unconditional Citizens Income for all
- Trades union rights and representation for the unemployed
- Campaign for a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour to include apprenticeships and other types of training
- Scrap Workfare – voluntary work should be completely voluntary and not substitute for jobs that should be paid at least the minimum wage
These and other demands arising from the Conference will be developed into a Charter, to be promoted through trades unions, the Labour Party, mass media and other means in the run-up to the General Election. The next open organising committee will be at the Unite Holborn HQ on 25th March at 1.00 pm.
LONDON UNEMPLOYED STRATEGIES has been organising a series of ‘Stand Up For Your Rights’ sessions throughout December for claimants in Southwark.
Topics covered included how to make the Claimant Commitment work for you, sanctions and how to avoid them, and the value of joining a claimants support group and/or trades union. The sessions were well-attended and lively, with claimants sharing their experiences and voicing their concerns about how the system is failing them. There were also some examples of good practice at the Jobcentre which we will try to extend and make more consistent.
LUS will continue these sessions in the new year, to build up a claimants support and action group for the whole of Southwark. This is a practice we hope to extend throughout London, so that each borough has its own group.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SOUTHWARK GROUP, OR IF YOU WANT TO SET UP ONE IN YOUR OWN BOROUGH, PLEASE CONTACT NICK ON email@example.com or on 020 7467 1283/07530 001653
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LUS intends to act on the findings and recommendations in this report with any supporters who want to work with us –
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