Universal Credit: DWP publicity stunt backfires

Anarchist Communist Group

DWP Secretary Amber Rudd is determined to be Boris Johnson’s running mate in the imminent Tory leadership campaign. Her fragile 346 vote majority in Hastings is one problem. Her other problem is her responsibility for Universal Credit and its disastrous impact on working-class households. This in turn is attracting a stream of bad press stories, even in the Mail and the Sun. Not a good look for an ambitious One Nation Tory.

Solution? Suddenly, after years of denial, refusal to release information or allowing journalists to speak to JobCentre staff, the DWP is launching a public relations campaign to persuade the public that Universal Credit is a wondrous and beautiful thing.

A leaked internal memo picked up by DPAC, the Disability News Service and subsequently the Guardian reveals a concerted publicity campaign involving newsprint and TV to “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”.

At the end of May, giant ads wrapped around the cover of the Metro freesheet at a cost of £250,000 will be accompanied by a further four-page advertorial feature. According to the leaked memo “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.” This will go on for nine weeks. The Metro has an estimated readership of 2½ million.

Amber Rudd meanwhile will invite selected journalists to JobCentres to see “the great work we do”. This has already started. Under the headline “I think Universal Credit is great – here’s why’, the Leicester Mercury last week splashed an interview with a job coach team leader at the local Job Centre Plus. The article declares that ‘Living on benefits is not a lifestyle choice’ and repeats the long- discredited myth about intergenerational benefit dependency. When challenged as to why there was no mention of the DWP campaign or the common ownership shared by the Leicester Mercury and the Metro, the reporter in question insisted that it was an interview and not an advertisement.

To cap this publicity campaign BBC2 will be screening a three-part “documentary” which is “looking to intelligently explore UC” by filming inside three jobcentres. It will not be reporter-based – no risk of awkward questions. The leaked DWP memo drools about how this will be a fantastic opportunity and how the DWP has been involved from the start. What’s more, the DWP will see the final product before it’s broadcast. The BBC of course denies this has anything to do with editorial control.

Unfortunately for Amber Rudd the whole publicly funded stunt is starting to unravel.

First the leaked memo blew away any secrecy. Secondly, if readers’ comments are anything to go by, the press visits to JobCentres are being seen straight away for what they are, undeclared government propaganda. Thirdly, a House of Commons Select Committee has picked up on the leak and has started to ask awkward questions. Due to the “lack of branding” even the Advertising Standards Authority could become involved.

Above all, what do claimants themselves think? DPAC is quite clear. As reported by the Disability News Service, DPAC has now called on its supporters to visit locations where the free paper is given away – such as train and tube stations – and “remove or otherwise prevent as many as possible” from being read from 31 May.

DPAC is also preparing a dossier of evidence about the DWP-Metro deal to pass to the advertising watchdog, and pledges to “make sure the Metro never want another DWP advert again”. A spokesperson said: “We refuse to be force-fed government propaganda, so we will put a stop to it ourselves. If they want us to be militant, we will be militant. We are not taking it anymore.

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Help Bristol Care Workers Network!

Hello comrades!

We are Bristol Care Workers Network. We an autonomous collective of healthcare and social care workers. We are contacting other organisations in Bristol to ask for help.

The charity Mencap have gone to court to demand that the government overturns its recent ruling on sleeping shifts counting as work for the purposes of calculating workers’ entitlement to the minimum wage. Because of Mencap, millions of low-paid workers will now be denied the minimum wage for their sleep shifts.

This has come at a time when non-payment of the minimum wage is at its worst ever level. The care sector is already one of the worst affected. Even for workers who are paid legally, studies have shown that it is almost impossible to make a living on the minimum wage. And now, Mencap want to make it even harder for workers to get the minimum wage.

The social care sector is a precarious sector where workers are routinely denied their rights and where union presence is very low. Although the situation for care workers is dire, this makes it an ideal sector for grassroots organising. We’ve found our campaigns around home care workers pay to be very successful and popular, and we’ve generated a lot of support by fighting this issue.

Precarious workers in other sectors are getting organised in an unprecedented way recently but at the moment the care sector has not caught up with what’s been happening among couriers, hospitality workers and other precarious sectors of the economy. The law around home care is changing rapidly and the TUC unions can’t keep up, so there is a real need for grassroots and DIY organising in the care sector. The home care sector is reaching crisis point due to austerity and Brexit will make this worse, so now is the time to start focusing on this sector. This is also an intersectional issue, as home care workers are overwhelmingly women, and a high proportion of care workers are people of colour and/or migrants, so as well as being an issue of class struggle, this is also a feminist issue and an anti-racist issue. This is why we think it’s important to start fighitng this.

We are a small organisation with limited capacity and influence, so we need other organisations to help make this event a success. You can help us by attending on the day, bringing your banners, and making a lot of noise, and/or publicising and sharing our event on your social media.

Thanks,

BCWN

Useful links:

BCWN website: bristolcareworkersnetwork.org

Stand up to Mencap event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1974568829267337/

BCWN’s critique of Unison and the TUC, and our arguments for grassroots organising in the care sector: https://bristolcareworkersnetwork.org/2018/08/26/unison-social-care-seminar-report-and-actions-the-workers-respond/

Background info on the Mencap court case: https://www.unison.org.uk/news/press-release/2018/07/sleep-shifts-judgment-huge-mistake/

Article about non-payment of NMW: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45608993

Wessex Solidarity at Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 2018

In addition to our stall at the Black Swan, we are hosting, as a last minute addition to the programme, the following meeting at BASE (formerly  Kebele) from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Defend the NHS and Fight for Socialised Healthcare!

A Dorset anarchist’s experience supporting grassroots campaigns, working with different groups, dealing with different political agendas, and handling the media. He will then suggest a strategy to set up a defensive infrastructure, capable of rapidly reacting to future threats, and uniting groups of healthcare workers with the users of the service. This will then be followed by open discussion.

That’s a long time to talk so bring your own ideas and experiences!

HELP US SAVE OUR HOSPITALS

For anyone who has yet to visit the Forest of Dean, please do – you’re most welcome, it belongs to everyone after all as it’s public property – we last fought and won for it to remain so in 2011. We have a track record of community action going back at least four centuries to force authorities into doing U-turns. There is a very keen sense of public ownership in the Forest, and this extends to its two community hospitals – Lydney and the Dilke Memorial. Miners and other local workers largely built the hospitals during the half-century before the NHS existed, they paid by subscription out of their paltry wages and acquired land in the middle of the woods near the town of Cinderford for the Dilke (named for the Forest’s Victorian-era Radical Whig MP, Charles Dilke) with a covenant that stated the site should always be used for the care of the poor and the sick.

The reason the Forest has and needs two hospitals is a practical geographic reason: there is a big Forest that separates the northern and western side of it from the southern and eastern side – almost all the settlements are in a bracelet around the main eight-by-10-mile block of woodland.

During its propaganda drive when it was “consulting” on closing the two hospitals to be replaced by a cheap one in an undisclosed location, with undisclosed facilities, the Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust reduced this widespread acknowledgement that the hospitals belong to us, as they were built and funded by us to us being “sentimental” about them, or according to one of the Trust’s plants at a public meeting, “dinosaurs”.

What you tend to find now in our Forest community of 50,000+ people – and we have been going door-to-door with a petition against the closures – is that more than 90 per cent we meet are rushing to sign, while only very few express support for the single new hospital of undetermined location and size. Everyone else sees it for what it is, a cutting in half of our health services, our Minor Injuries Units, our non-acute hospital beds and the asset-stripping of two valuable pieces of real estate. The NHS Trust has written off the hospitals as not fit for purpose – despite them getting five-star customer satisfaction surveys. It cites “clinical reasons” – the main issues being an antiquated heating system, leaky roof and lack of piped oxygen… and the staff shortages which are endemic throughout the NHS. We say the working environment and the problems could be sorted in both hospitals using the £11 million the Trust has in its pot. The reason these problems exist is due to managed decline, to chronic underinvestment by the Trust. Who pays for the Trust and for the NHS? We do… therefore it is up to us and all other communities fighting similar cuts proposals and asset-stripping across the country to make sure we aren’t robbed by these corporate entities.

This is the third battle we know of save the Dilke Hospital from being closed by a succession of governments and NHS trusts. The first we know of was in 1988, while the last battle was in 2005-6, and our Tory MP Mark Harper was at the forefront of it, in opposition to the New Labour government. He and fellow Tories soon transformed a traditionally Labour, or even Communist, area into a Tory stronghold on the back of this “save our hospitals” campaign.

It’s a different story this time around – all our local councillors of each party are either keeping quiet or trying to smear us campaigners. We have now discovered that since 2015 various politicians from various parties, alongside voluntary group representatives and those from the private/ charitable local healthcare sector all signed non-disclosure agreements to keep secret the plot to shut the two hospitals, until the NHS was ready with its propaganda drive, post-election. This focus group convened by the Gloucestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, we are now told, made the decision on behalf of us, the community!

We beg to differ and so we have taken the plunge and got a major public law firm involved and are applying for a Judicial Review. We desperately need to raise £5,000 by April 28 just for the first application stage. The good news is, the legals have found five grounds for challenge and we have raised almost half via the legal crowdfunding platform CrowdJustice (yes they take a percentage for acting as a bridge between us and the money, but none of us were prepared to be saddled with responsibility for loads of cash!). The scary news is, we still have half of it to raise, and if we don’t…

Anyway, please help us out in every you can, a few of us are full-time on this but we need this out everywhere… people pledging donations and sharing around. Also come to our fundraising gig on April 21st, gonna be a blinder!

Please share this link / or pledge a donation to it (not taken out of accounts until April 28 if we raise the target) https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/holdourhospitals/

Know your enemy: Andrew Griffiths.

Andrew Griffiths M.P.

The futility of parliamentary democracy as a remedy for even the most blatant injustice was demonstrated once again last Friday, when your elected representatives were prevented from voting on an issue that had cross-party support .

Instead of employing enough Workers and paying them for their time, shite companies such as cut-price crap merchants B&M have been covering staff shortages by dishonestly offering unpaid trial shifts to vulnerable people, such as those with learning disabilities. The jobs don’t actually exist and when the rush is over these folk are simply discarded without a penny to show for their efforts.

A private member’s bill to ban this practice was talked out of time by this wanker, the government’s business minister Andrew Griffiths M.P. Even the sainted Jeremy can do nothing to prevent the use of the filibuster technique, regularly used by bent politicians to stave off any threat to their corporate sponsors.

B&M recently conned a 25 year-old man with Asperger’s into working three days for nothing, then ditched him an hour before his shift was due to start.

How long does it take to assess a person’s suitability to work in a shop? Cafes are asking for a 40 hour week for free before they will take you on and frequently slip in a busy unpaid shift even after they’ve decided to hire you.

According to 38 degrees:

  • Over 144,000 of us signed the petition to stop businesses forcing people to work for free
  • Almost 30,000 of us emailed our MP to explain why unpaid trial shifts were unfair
  • Over 2,000 of us tweeted our MP the day before the vote

And it did fuck all. We need to shut these bastards down by direct action, politicians aren’t going to do it for us.

– Jo Gonmush

From our archives:

You can still be evicted for reporting a leaking roof – and politicians are still taking the piss.

RISE UP AGAINST N.H.S. CUTS IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE 25th January 2018

Gloucestershire Care Services (GCS) and Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are meeting tomorrow (25th January 2018) to decide whether or not to close two Community Hospitals, The Dilke and Lydney Hospital in the Forest of Dean, and replace them with a single, smaller hospital containing significantly fewer inpatient beds and unknown services.

We demand that these decision makers respect the views of the majority of respondents to the public consultation, who DID NOT SUPPORT these proposed hospital closures. THINK AGAIN!

It’s time we turned the tide! The NHS is in crisis nationally already… and it’s time we demanded our rights as National Insurance payers for a properly financed and equipped public health service with decent pay and conditions for staff. This starts by demanding the Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust and Clinical Commissioning Group respect and heed the majority of people’s views and keep our 2 hospitals open and invest in them for the future!

facebook event

Petition

Gloucester residents’ alternative homeless poster.


The story so far …