debt / welfare benefits

"If we want them to tap dance, then they will tap dance," a Whitehall official on government plans for benefit claimants (Sunday Times, 2012)

Take action this week to stop workfare in North London Hospice shops

- From Mon 2 Feb - in a "communications conga" - social media / email / phone action
- Sat 7 Feb, 6.15pm - join our protest at North London Hospice's Dancing Strictly fundraising event in North Finchley to ask "Waltz going on with workfare?"

Since August last year, Haringey Solidarity Group has been campaigning for North London Hospice to stop taking on people on 30-hour a week workfare schemes in their shops. (For more info, see our full web article 'Why North London Hospice should keep its word and pull out of workfare'). The hated and hateful six-month Community Work Placements (CWP) are backed by the threat of sanctions, i.e. having your benefits cut off for four weeks or more.

Many of us in HSG have reason to respect the great work that the hospice does within our local community.  So we tried contacting the hospice, to let them know that CWP is not voluntary, and we tried leafleting passers-by outside their shops.  Finally, in December, North London Hospice's Chair of Trustees wrote to us, stating their intention to stop using workfare once current placements came to an end. He refrained from giving a date for their withdrawal from the scheme, leading some of us to fear that their "intention" could mean another six months' misery for claimants on CWP.
 
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we found out that,  contrary to the letter, North London Hospice had taken on a new placement and possibly more.  Furthermore, it has been over a month and a half since their letter to us, and not one of the shop managers we have spoken to is aware of this proposed withdrawal from the scheme, and the chair of trustees has to refused to give any indication of a date for withdrawal.

So our campaign against workfare at North London Hospice continues.

This Monday, 2 February, we are asking people to join our North London Hospice "communications conga" and contact the hospice, via social media, phone and email, asking them to pull out with immediate effect.

Then, the following Saturday, 7 February, 6.15pm, we are asking for support at North London Hospice's "Dancing Strictly" fundraiser, when we hope to speak directly to their supporters, and for them to ask the hospice management, "Waltz going on with Workfare?".

North London Hospice "communications conga" from Mon 2 Feb, contact details:
Twitter @NLondonHospice
Facebook /NorthLondonHospice
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. [nb: this is the correct email address!]
Phone: 020 8446 2288 (Fundraising team) or you can find the numbers for their 18 shops online. (NB: We are asking people not to contact the main hospice switchboard number.)  Please also remember, if you call them, it’s definitely worth trying to speak to a manager, or someone involved in fundraising and volunteer organising. The person who answers the phone may well be low paid admin staff, or possibly on workfare themselves.

Dancing Strictly Fundraiser on Saturday 7 Feb, 6.15pm
Join Haringey Solidarity Group from 6.15pm at the Arts Depot in Finchley. The event starts at 7pm.  Bring friends and (dance-themed) placards. 

ArtsDepot, 5 Nether Street, North Finchley, N12 0GA.  Tube: Finchley Central (then bus); Woodside Park and West Finchley (20 mins walk). Buses: 82, 125, 134,221 (from Turnpike Lane), 263, 460. Or see the Artsdepot website for directions.

See our website for more background information on the campaign.

The story so far of our continued campaign against the hated Community Work Placement scheme and the ongoing participation of North London Hospice

Boycott Workfare - Real Jobs NowIn May last year, the Department for Work and Pensions launched its latest workfare scheme for the long-term unemployed – Community Work Placements (CWP). Previous schemes met with outrage when corporations, like Tesco and Poundland, were seen to be increasing their profits through the use of the free labour of the unemployed. These schemes were rightly understood as a taxpayer subsidy to employers in much the same way that in-work benefits paid to the low-paid act as a subsidy to employers who pay rock-bottom wages. Consequently, CWP focuses on charities, although private companies can take advantage. The majority of those on CWP are placed in charity shops, where they have to work 30 hours per week for six months in return for their benefits, under threat of sanctions.

CWP serves several functions:

  • those responsible for the scheme claim that the unemployed are engaged in worthwhile activity whilst giving something back to the community
  • the threat of sanctions intimidates and disciplines claimants with the intention that they will do exactly as they are told without objection, no matter how reasonable
  • those old friends of the government, G4S, who forever have their snouts in the trough line their pockets handsomely at the expense of those with nothing. Yes, G4S runs contracts covering half the country, including Haringey. The idea that claimants on this scheme are putting something back into the community is contentious. The fact that these bastards are taking loads more out is beyond question.

Read more...

This Saturday, 6 December, 12.30pm. Join us on a picket of North London Hospices shop on Wood Green High Road (Turnpike Lane end).

Haringey Solidarity Group continues its support for claimants referred to Urban Futures as part of the hated Community Work Placement scheme.

On a weekly basis, claimants tell us the shameful way in which they are treated by Urban Futures, the local organiser of the CWP scheme and the way in which they are then forced to spend 30 hours per week hanging around in a charity shop rather than using their time constructively creatively or in any other way they choose.

Claimants and HSG have been campaigning against NLH's participation in the scheme for almost 3 months precisely because NLH is Urban Futures' largest partner, providing some 50 placements. We believe that if we can persuade NLH to pull out of the scheme, life will become pretty difficult for Urban Futures and the CWP scheme in the local area as around 20% of Urban Futures' placements are with NLH. They would find it very difficult to replace them quickly hitting them financially, providing some relief for claimants and raising serious questions over the whole project.

Read more...

Reel News footage of our Urban Futures occupation as part of the Boycott Workfare week of action against workfare. 

Anti-workfare protest at North London Hospice

About fifteen people, turned up at the North London Hospice Shop in Wood Green today, to protest at their use of forced labour, and to ask them to sign up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge.

North London Hospice has been staffing some of its 18 shops across Barnet, Enfield and Haringey with people on Community Work Placements. These people are forced to work for their benefits, or they face having their benefits stopped - four weeks for the first breach, and 13 weeks for the second.

We had some lengthy chats with people working inside the shop - mainly those lucky enough to be paid - and were surprised and saddened to hear the view that the people on CWP had a "choice", that they were not forced to work there. 

This "choice" is not a choice at all - it's the choice between working at the shop, or facing having your benefits stopped, leading to possible destitution or starvation.  Hardly a choice at all.

Article 4 of the Human Rights Act protects the right of humans to live free from forced labour - this is work which is carried out under threat of physical or psychological harm.  In many people's eyes, six-month workfare comes pretty close to contravening this right.

This is one of the many reasons why we are asking charities like North London Hospice to reconsider their involvement in the scheme. It's why we want them to pledge not to staff their shops with anyone other than those who are paid a (living) wage to be there or who have genuinely offered to volunteer their free time.

Have a look at our earlier articles for more info on how to contact North London Hospice, if you have any views on their involvement with workfare.