Saturday, 3 August 2013

The sanction regime is savage

I really didn't think that it was going to happen to me again, being sanctioned is no joke I can tell you.

Yesterday’, I was informed at my local dole office that my claim for JSA was inactive, the lady adviser was nice enough about it, but still it means that bills won't get paid and I will be struggling to sustain myself for a while, well until I sort this out.

It’s just as well then that I’m streetwise and resourceful; so there is no way that I’m going to starve or go without not in London. Last year I was sanctioned twice and the last sanction that I received, well, in a fit of anger I tore up my paperwork in the Canning Town dole office on my way out of the door, never I must add do I take it out on the staff even if some of them seem to enjoy their work.

The sanction regime is savage. Anybody who failed to attend an appointment or was accused of not actively seeking work is fined with a 2 week suspension of their JSA benefit for a first ‘offence’. The maximum sanction period is 26 weeks – half a year.

I think that in my case I’ve been set-up by the local dole office, some may say that I’ve got a very vivid imagination, let them be, I know that this horrible and ghastly punishment is deliberately leveled at the poorer off and vulnerable in our so-called society, that’s those of us that did not bring on the crisis that almost brought down the whole capitalist system six long years ago, but are being made to pay for it through cuts and austerity.

The first ‘offence’ will be punished with a 4 week sanction of benefits, rising to 13 weeks for a second ‘offence’ within 12 months. For refusing employment, which can simply mean not applying for a job you have been instructed to apply for, the maximum sanction will be 3 years! This will effectively force some people off benefits.

As the Independent Socialist Candidate for Canning Town North’ in next May’s elections, and having been sanctioned myself yesterday for the third time, I intend to take this up and make an issue of it in my locality by first fighting my own corner; and then requesting a freedom of information request, of just how many of my fellow unemployed workers have been subjected to this horrible and ghastly punishment for none other than the now classed as a crime of being unemployed; I would like to know amongst other things how many have dependents and children to support.

With 2.5 million people currently unemployed due to the recession and government austerity measures many people are already in desperate circumstances. The number of food banks is growing weekly and many people referred to them report having no gas or electric as they cannot pay for them.

Neither unemployed workers nor the hundreds of thousands of low paid civil servants are responsible for the crisis – the blame lies at the feet of the ConDems and their friends running the banks and big business.

As the new sanctions regime bites there will be thousands more people driven to desperation by a government which cares only about the rich and powerful.

There are many nasty benefits cuts from the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance, the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap to name but a few. But the barrage of Tory-led media attacks on “benefit -scroungers” and “strivers versus skivers”  has created a climate where the numbers of claimants being stripped of their benefits has soared.

I’ve said this many times before on this blog over the years, what we need is an organisation that fights for the unemployed as indeed there once was in the1930s.   
Between the wars, the response of the British Labour Party and Trades Union Congress to the problem of the unemployed was extremely limited. Committed to gradualist philosophies, the leaders of the labour movement were unwilling to attempt genuine socialist remedies in office, and, in opposition, to provide a militant leadership for the protest movement.

The National Unemployed Workers' Movement, begun in 1921 and not finally dissolved until after the outbreak of the Second World War, was the only body which attempted to mobilise unemployed discontent. After 1926, the Labour Party Executive and the General Council of the TUC consistently refused to have any contact with this organisation on the grounds that, like the National Minority Movement and the later Rank-and-File Movement, the NUWM was merely a subsidiary of the British Communist Party.

The induction the Labour leaders branded the unemployed movement as a whole on the basis of the known Communist allegiance of a number of its leaders, and to demonstrate that they allowed themselves to become so distracted by the issue of whether or not the NUWM was a Communist front that their own efforts on behalf of the unemployed suffered in consequence.

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