Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ Category
Better a Country Free than a County Sober!
The BBC says,
Ministers are to unveil plans later for a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales as part of a drive to tackle problem drinking.
The Home Office is expected to publish a consultation on the proposal, which was first put forward in the government’s alcohol strategy in March.
A price of 40p per unit was suggested at the time.
But pressure has been mounting on ministers to follow Scotland’s lead, where 50p has been proposed.
The aim of a minimum price would be to alter the cost of heavily discounted drinks sold in shops and supermarkets. It is not expected to affect the price of drinks in pubs.
The Times predicted a 45p per unit minimum would be set and it said this would raise the price for the average can of beer or cider to £1.12.
According to the NHS website the average can of 4.5% strength lager contains around two units of alcohol, while a small glass of wine contains 1.5 units.
This will affect one group: poor drinkers.
Let us ignore all the ‘medical’ concern about alcohol and binge-drinking.
This is not true. Earlier this year this was published
There has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of adults alcohol intake, as in 1998 75% of men and 59% of women drank in the week prior to report’s survey compared to 68% of men and 54% of women in 2010. Furthermore, the average weekly alcohol consumption for all adults was 15.9 units for men and 7.6 units for women and 26% of men reported drinking more than 21 units in a typical week. For women, 17% reported drinking more than 14 units in a typical week
The measure is all about cracking down on “”drunken mayhem” on Britain’s streets.
Or, to put more clearly, about dealing with the rabble.
In recent months Ipswich – apparently a ‘model’ for what could become the norm across the country – has ‘encouraged’ (a visit from the rozzers) off-licences not to sell super-strength lager and white cider.
There has been a hysterical campaign in the local media about street drinkers sipping tinnies of Special Brew and Frosty Jack near the centre of town.
The Council, and all local political parties, have joined in.
To cite a recent story from the Ipswich Star,
As the war on cheap super-strength alcohol is stepped up in Ipswich, a Star investigation has illustrated the size of the task facing the authorities.
Reducing the Strength
The Reducing the Strength campaign was launched in the town in September.
The campaign aims to stop the sale of cheap super-strength beer, lager and cider from off-licensed premises.
The campaign is a joint initiative between Suffolk Police, NHS Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and the East of England Co-Operative Society.
Reducing the Strength asks off-licence owners to voluntarily remove super-strength products from their stores.
Yesterday police began rewarding shops which have signed up to the Reducing the Strength initiative, aimed at ridding Suffolk’s county town of the scourge of ultra-potent beers and ciders.
But high-alcohol beverages are still easily found in Ipswich.The Star was able to buy a three- litre bottle of cider – costing just £3.99 and containing more alcohol than the weekly recommended allowance for a man – within minutes of trying.
The 7.5 per cent proof Frosty Jacks cider contains 22.5 units – more than health experts’ 21-unit limit for men.
The cost per unit of 17p is less than a third of the 50p limit which prime minister David Cameron wants to impose.
Now there is a problem with street drinkers in Ipswich, as in many towns and cities across the country.
Why has it grown?
Policies of successive governments, known as ‘neo-liberalism’, or the free for all – for business – have excluded many people from the labour Market.
The Dole these days is only given to those who satisfy an increasingly rigorous set of criteria, turn up to bogus ‘employment’ schemes (3,5% success rate), and have their lives under constant surveillance.
Many, in the words of my mate Neil, say “fuck it, and go and drink cider in the park”.
Alcohol is only one of their choices.
Most mix the booze with even cheaper tranquilizers (Temazepam), and, frankly, any drug going.
The Left and Alcohol.
Some on the left agree with this clamp-down on poor drinkers.
Some cite the Scottish experience of raising prices. They claim it has been needed because they are particularly afflicted.
In Ken Loach’s The Angel’s Share there is a scene in that land where out-of-their-brains youngsters snaffle down a 3 litre bottle of Frosty Jack.
You can see this round here every day. I have left my gaff at 9 in the morning and seen people swigging Tenants Super at the end of the street.
This will not go away if the cost is raised. The hard-core will just beg and, possibly, shop-lift more.
But what is really behind the thinking of those on the left calling for the less well off to cut down on drinking?
In Britain there was a strong teetotaler movement inside the late Victorian and Edwardian labour movement.
Henry Hyndman though not a non-drinker (he liked his Bordeaux vintages) frowned on the workers imbibing strong drink. He once wanted to snatch a bottle of whisky away from SDF members playing cards on a post-Party meeting train.
Against this prejudice Robert Blatchford felt obliged to make a defence of moderate drinking in his popular Merrie England (1894).
The ILP initially made it policy for members to sign the non-drinking ‘pledge’ .
I can’t imagine my Whisky drinking Scottish ILP forebears liking that.
The policy lasted precisely a year.
Today we see people on the left who have given up changing the world and prefer to try to change (that is cajole) people.
Their attitude is often the same as Hyndman.
They can drink fine wines, good quality real ale, and cider.
But the rabble in the streets need ‘reforming’.
The Anarchist journal Now or Never replies,
With heavy drinking increasingly attacked by the Government and media, Tug Wilson suggests we look to history for guidance, and that it is once again time for drunkards everywhere to march under the banner of the Skeleton Army.
During the late 19th Century the recently formed Salvation Army were taking their message of virtuous clean living to the streets of Britain, deliberately targeting drunks, gamblers, prostitutes and other ‘undesirables’. The Salvation Army’s unconventional approach was abrasive to both the Christian establishment and many of those they were preaching to. In choosing to attack popular working class pastimes, they whipped up a violent grassroots reaction and their provocative style of disseminating their message often resulted in public disturbances. Towards the end of 1881 in Weston-Super-Mare a rag-tag bunch of libertines, drunkards, publicans and brothel-keepers began an organised opposition to the Salvation Army; the Skeleton Army. Very soon Skeleton Armies started appearing throughout the country.
The present anti-alcohol lobby is the modern temperance movement.
This measure is ill-intentioned, ill-conceived and will be ill-executed.
Join the new Skeleton army!
As Kevin has commented (below) I shall add this further example of hypocrisy, which I cut-and-pasted from his Blog,
Mr 3,5%, Ian Duncan Smith.
The BBC has just reported on the dismal failure of the Work Programme,
Official figures showed only 3.53% of people found a job for six months or more – missing the 5.5% target.
Ministers said it was “early days” and the programme was succeeding in getting people off benefits and into work.
The figures, which cover the 13 months from June 2011 to July 2012, showed 3.53% of people were still in employment six months after joining the Work Programme.
The Department for Work and Pensions had told providers they should get 5.5% of people on the programme into sustained employment.
Faced with this poor result Employment minister Mark Hoban took a stand of stout denial.
He said: “It’s still early days, but already thousands of lives are being transformed.”
Indeed they have.
Hundreds and hundreds of posts and comments on Ipswich Unemployed Action have described the incompetence, the bullying, the downright cheating, used by companies operating the Work Programme.
For those on the Programme their lives are have changed – for the worse.
The New Statesman comments,
But by any measure (including the government’s), this is a bad start for what David Cameron hailed as “the biggest back-to-work programme since the 1930s”.
Meanwhile the rats are leaving the sinking ship.
We learn that as as from 31 October this year David Blunkett is no longer an adviser for A4E.
The Virtuous Poor.
Amongst their ideas, backed by the normal method of giving weight to hard-right schemes, a ‘poll’, is to introduce the Charity inspired system of ‘food vouchers’ in force in the United States.
Brian Wheeler of the BBC reports, (2nd October)
Should claimants be paid vouchers to stop spending on ‘vices’?
Should benefit claimants be prevented from spending the money given to them by the state on alcohol, gambling, cigarettes and other “vices”?
A poll commissioned by think tank Demos suggests most people would support such a move.
This has not met universal approval,
the findings have been met with horror by anti-poverty campaigners, who have questioned whether the British public really feel that way, or whether they have been denied the full facts on poverty by the government and certain newspapers.
Alison Garnham, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the poll, in which 59% agreed the government should control what people spend their benefits on, should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
“In the United States in the 1960s, welfare rights campaigners argued for food stamps for certain groups on the basis that some of them were alcohol abusers, but it’s not an argument that ever took traction in the UK because people would find that offensive.
“I think we have a very different culture. I just don’t think it would be acceptable in the same way,” she told a Demos fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference
Those who will gain financially from the idea are already lobbying hard.
In the United States, people on “food stamps” are given a pre-payment card that they can use to buy food and other essentials – but not luxuries such as alcohol and tobacco.
The introduction of the Universal Credit next year, which will see six work-related benefits rolled up into a single payment, potentially opens the door to a similar system in the UK.
Prime Minister David Cameron has not ruled out exercising more control over how claimants spend their money, although there is no suggestion, so far, that food stamps will be introduced in the UK.
Some, including Mastercard, which sent along a representative to the Demos fringe meeting, are pushing for the combined payment to be loaded on to a pre-paid card.f such a card were to be introduced, explained Matthew Mayo, Mastercard’s head of business development in the UK and Ireland, claimants could be blocked from using online gambling sites, for example, but not from buying booze at a supermarket.
Cards could also be used to incentivise healthy behaviour, he added, and some local authorities are already experimenting with such a policy.n the London borough of Camden, primary school children on free school meals can apply for a “Cool card”, which entitles them to £15 a month worth of activities such as drama tuition, climbing wall and martial arts.
The idea has its supporters in the Labour Party as well as opponents,
Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, an aide to shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, said she backed the idea, in principle, of using pre-paid benefit cards to encourage people to make healthy eating choices by offering discounts on fruit and vegetables, for example.
But she rejected the “obnoxious” suggestion that “feckless” benefit claimants blew all their money on “fags and booze”, instead of feeding their children.
Like Alison Garnham, she feared controlling what benefits are spent on would rob the poor of control over their lives and add to the stigma of being on benefits.
What alarms Labour politicians is that voters appear to have stopped thinking of benefits as social security – something they pay into for use in hard times – but rather as a charity handout to the poor, and that this will fatally undermine the welfare state.
One of the most striking findings of the Demos survey was that 18-24-year-olds were one of the most likely age groups to call for government controls on how benefits are spent.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne agreed that a majority of people thought benefit recipients were lazy and did not really want to work.
There are most resolute opponents,
Campaigners like Alison Garnham argue that the public attitudes have been influenced by tabloid caricatures of benefit scroungers when, in fact, the amount paid to out-of-work people had gone down, in real terms, over the past 40 years.
“Six out of ten poor children live with a parent who is working. The reason they are poor is because their parent is a cleaner or a care assistant not because they are a drug addict or an alcoholic,” she told the Demos meeting.
“It’s generally desirable for claimants to have control over their own money, not paid on their behalf to somebody else. So I find myself asking why would the state want to have more power to interfere with how this money is being spent?”
“There will be a small group of people who have trouble budgeting or who are alcoholics, for example, but there is some really good evidence that poor families are very good at budgeting their incomes.”
Demos deputy director Claudia Wood said the think tank would be staging a similar debate in Birmingham next week at the Conservative Party conference, which, she added, might produce a very different response.
Article + comments here
The Daily Telegraph states that the Government says,
“”There are no current plans for the Coalition to introduce vouchers for welfare recipients, but the Prime Minister said there needs to be a public debate on the issue earlier this year.”
- 59% agreed the government should control what people spend universal credit on
- 77% said yes to monitoring people with a substance or gambling addiction and 69% for those with a criminal or anti-social history
- 68% agreed the government should stop all recipients from spending their benefits on gambling
- 54% agreed with the government stopping people spending their benefits on unhealthy items such as cigarettes or alcohol
- 46% opposed benefits being spent on branded goods such as Nike trainers
- 38% backed a ban on buying junk food and 35% on holidays
- Poll was carried out by Populus Data Solutions, based on a survey of 2,052 adults
Comment: The Busy-Bodies behind this idea should be taken to the nearest public stocks.
Claimants will be supplied with rotten Supermarket vegetables and invited to express their views on this proposal.
Last night around 18 activists, from a number of trade unions, unemployed and Suffolk anti-cuts campaigners held a meeting in the UNITE offices.
Its aim was to begin to organise support for the TUC National Demonstration on October the 20th.
As we entered the room people were talking about the TUC vote to “practicalities” of holding a one-day general protest strike. This would include the 6.5 million trade union members in the UK. It responds to widespread calls in the labour movement for action against the Liberal-Conservative Coalition’s austerity and privatisation policies.
On the invitation of UNITE a speaker from the Coalition of Resistance, Neil Faulkner, gave an introduction. He explained why we should oppose these measures and offered a clear counter-argument to the cuts agenda.
Neil argued the claim that ‘there is no alternative’ to cutting public spending to reduce the deficit, was false. The policy is driving the economy into a downward spiral. Greece showed that if you cut and cut you produce something that resembles a 1930s depression not growth.
The Cabinet is not acting for economic rational reasons. They choose to protect the banks, and the rich. This was class war that they had begun. The Liberals and Conservatives are using economic difficulties to bring down wages and make working people pay for the crisis. They were taking the opportunity to drive forward the privatisation of the NHS.
Opposition to the cuts has to begin with demands to take the banks into real social ownership and to bring about a ‘green transition” to a fairer society. If the post-war 1945 Labour Government could set up the NHS and the welfare state in the ravaged condition of the country, we could create a more socially just society again.
Activists pointed to how the government’s plans to deal with unemployment had poured millions into the pockets of private ’welfare-to-work’ companies without providing real jobs. Proposals to pay welfare in ‘vouchers’, which could only be used in certain shops, were mentioned.
On the one Day protest General Strike one union representative observed that there was a potential for opponents of our movement to exploit this and raise hostility to unions. Others said that this was why we had to make the case for such action now.
A member of the audience claimed that the BNP, which did very badly in the May local elections, and the EDF, which has been unable to gather large numbers of supporters, represented a threat that could be as great as Greece’s fascist Golden dawn.
Some scepticism about the last round of national protests, and divisions in the trade union and left,were mentioned. Answering this others noted that in Ipswich here had been great solidarity between different unions, and local anti-cuts campaigning groups, in our large local protests.
Interest in the October the 20th Demonstration is growing locally.
It was agreed to begin to hold street stalls every Saturday in Tavern Street, Ipswich.
There will other activities. Ipswich Trades Council will help co-ordinate the push to build support.
The Suffolk Coalition for Public Services will also be holding a meeting next week.
This will not just consider the national TUC demonstration.
Suffolk County Council has transferred many of its services to private ’co-operatives’ and ‘charities’ which will implement hefty cuts. These include foster care, care homes and community care. These transfers go with reductions in budgets and threats to staff conditions. They take public provision out of democratic control and give it to local oligarchies and profit-making companies.
Suffolk County Council is at present looking to transfer its country parks and recreation sites out of democratic public control to ‘community organisations’.
The future of the Libraries looks insecure, argue Rose Hill readers.
The Suffolk Coalition for Public Services will be revived around these issues.
Poundland Free to Exploit Unpaid Labour.
The government’s back-to-work schemes, which have been criticised as “forced labour”, are lawful, the High Court ruled on Monday.
The Honourable Mr Justice Foskett saw fit to make this pompous comment,
the scheme is “a very long way removed from the kind of colonial exploitation of labour that led to the formulation of Article 4″.
“Characterising such a scheme as involving or being analogous to “slavery” or “forced labour” seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking.”
The judgment was in response to unemployed graduate Cait Reilly’s challenge. The 22-year-old which claimed the scheme breached the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as it “forced” her to work for free.
The DWP also saw fit to make this sinister comment,
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said:
“We are delighted, although not surprised, that the Judge agrees our schemes are not forced labour. Comparing our initiatives to slave labour is not only ridiculous but insulting to people around the world facing real oppression.
“Those who oppose this process are actually opposed to hard work and they are harming the life chances of unemployed young people who are trying to get on.”
In view of the fact that this will legitimise the government’s lans to introduce workfare – unpaid and forced – for around 1 million people under the “Support for the very long-term unemployed” scheme this is scant consolation:
The second challenge before the court involves Jamieson Wilson, a 40-year-old unemployed HGV driver from the Midlands who has been claiming benefits since 2008.
Ms Lieven said Mr Wilson was told last November he would be required to undertake 30 hours’ unpaid work a week for up to six months cleaning furniture, and further periods of required work could follow.
Ms Lieven said Mr Wilson had recently been subjected to sanctions after refusing to take part in the scheme and now apparently faced the loss of jobseeker’s allowance for six months.
Later law firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who acted for both Miss Reilly and Mr Wilson, said the issuing of flawed warning letters meant that “tens of thousands of people stripped of their benefits.
Later law firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who acted for both Miss Reilly and Mr Wilson, said the issuing of flawed warning letters meant that “tens of thousands of people stripped of their benefits must now be entitled to reimbursement by the DWP”.
PIL spokeswoman Tessa Gregory said: “As of January 2012, over 22,000 people had been stripped of their benefits for failing to participate in the Work Programme alone.
“That figure must now have doubled. Today’s decision should mean that many of those subjected to benefit sanctions will be entitled to reimbursement by the Department of Work and Pensions.
“It is truly extraordinary that the Government has found itself in this position by failing to provide basic information to those affected.”