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Report on Benefit Justice Campaign - Summit 9.3.2013

posted 26 Mar 2013, 06:56 by Xxx Xxl Sexy Xnxx Xvideos HD   [ updated 26 Mar 2013, 10:40 ]

Benefit claimants are facing a tsunami of cuts. We must fight and we can win. Londoners on benefits are particularly hard hit because of high rents, and Wandsworth has among the highest council rents in the country. Over 50% of benefit claimants are in employment.
 
Key Points
 
1. ATOS carries out disability assessments on behelf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). 
Claimants are entitled to appeal ATOS assessment outcome; many assessors are not qualified medical practitioners and can be challenged on this point. DWP needs to get medical evidence from claimant's own medical practitioner. See DPAC and Black Triangle for advice (references below).
 
2. Council Tax Benefit
Currently at 0% for those on benefit. From 1 April this will be 20%. Some councils are protecting tenants from this for a year e.g. Dundee and Brighton. Councils have discretion to continue paying Housing Benefit. 
 
3. Universal Credit
Being piloted in Harngey in London from April 2013. Others councils may not bring this in for up to two years. All claimants have to claim online, but only 50% of benefit claimants have access to the internet.
 
4. Those on benefits assigned to 'self employed' status will have an assessed minimum income of £1400 per month.
 
5. Legal Aid is now being withdrawn for all benefits work.
 
6. Judicial Review (may be possible to claim legal aid if eligible).
Can only be brought on points of law.
 
7. Bedroom Tax
Disabled children and service people now exempt. May be able to get a lodger, depending on rental agreement. Not yet tested in law. Many people will be forced to move to another part of the country; this is already happening in some areas.
 
8. Mental illness: the 'invisible' disability. Many on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) are being harassed by continuous assessments, some suicides reported.
 There is a Mental Health Discrimination Bill going through Parliament. 
 
9. Workfare: described as 'slave labour' as those on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) are forced to work for nothing or lose their JSA and other benefits.
A recent case won a ruling against Poundland on this at the Court of Appeal as being contrary to European Human Rights. Retrospective legislation is being rushed through Parliament. 
 
10. Eviction
Private landlords can take tenants to court to evict them and do not have to offer a reason. Councils and Housing Authorities have to prove rent arrears. Lawyers may to able to buy time if they can show that tenants are trying to pay some of their arrears and can advise to ensure the tenant is claiming all benefits to which they are entitled. It is apparently quite difficult to evict someone.
 
A high profile campaign organised by Wandsworth Against Cuts (WAC), Liberty and local residents in Wandsworth, with support from some Wandsworth Labour councillors, two Labour MPs and Defend Council Housing, helped stop a local mother being evicted in 2012.
 
Conclusion and Actions
 
A combination of legal defence (where possible) and community campaigns to defend those facing eviction and harassment. 
  • Practical support combined with political campaigns.
  • Train up 'barefoot' lawyers with some relevant legal expertise.
  • Defend and protect those being evicted.
  • Boycott Poundland and other Workfare 'employers'.
  • Campaign for building of more social housing.
  • Build local campaigns in your local area.
 
Useful References for advice and action
 
Benefit Justice Campaign: http://benefitjustice.wordpress.com/
Black Triangle:http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/
Defend Council Housing (DCH): www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC): www.dpac.uk.net
Hackney Law Centre: http://www.hclc.org.uk/
Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers: www.haldane.org
Liberty: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/index.php
London Coalition Against Poverty: http://www.lcap.org.uk/
 
And of course, Wandsworth Against Cuts: http://www.wandsworthagainstcuts.co.uk/
Join us today and help fight for equality, fairness, justice and the right to decent living standards for all.
 
Recent update:
Responsibility for the Social Fund (community care grants, crisis loans etc) passes from the DWP to local authorities with effect from the start of April. Wandsworth Council confirm that their responsibility would include crisis loans but didn't think they were required to provide these until 2014. 
 

Message of support from Mark Thomas, comedian

posted 27 Jan 2013, 11:38 by Jane Eades

"Dear occupiers, activists, residents and discontents,
 
thank you for work, thank you for occupying the playground and thank you for reminding all of us that we only get what we are prepared to fight for. 
 
Coalition cuts and austerity make the poor pay for the mistakes of the rich and they do not care as to the hurt they cause. As Oscar Wilde said they “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. 
 
In trying to shut the playground the council attack the most basic pleasure in our lives, fun. This is an assault on joy by a bunch of political hoodlums who would have found a place in a Dickens novel.
 
Congratulations on the struggle so far and good luck.”

Derek Williams, Former European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Boxing Champion

posted 27 Jan 2013, 11:32 by Jane Eades   [ updated 27 Jan 2013, 11:39 ]

Former European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Boxing Champion Derek Williams has come out in support of a last minute reprieve for Battersea Park Adventure Playground, which is hours away from destruction and replacement with an anodyne, “safe” staff-less facility.

He’s heard about the planned demolition and has offered to get involved at this eleventh hour, and to help get more celebrities involved.

Williams now works with gangs and hears their reasons for joining gangs, and say it’s often boredom.

“Leaving children and youth without a place they recognise as a base can lead to broken communities and heightened crime”, said Williams this afternoon.


Message from Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for Children

posted 27 Jan 2013, 10:47 by Xxx Xxl Sexy Xnxx Xvideos HD

 I phoned Norman MacLean of Wandsworth Against the Cuts yesterday afternoon after receiving WAC’s report about the forcible removal of members of the occupation, who have complained of rough handling. Norman was not in any way impressed with the majority party at Wandsworth Council that has forced this matter through against huge public opposition to the total loss of the London Borough’s adventure playground provision, replaced by fixed equipment unstaffed provision.
I believe we all should join him and WAC in paying tribute to the Occupy people who took on the brunt of the last defence of this provision. Norman told me that 2 last defenders had barricaded themselves inside a building.
Wandsworth has wantonly wrecked decades of achievement, has failed to listen, and has forced through closures opposed on every side, including London Play, Play England and Fair Play for Children. Councillor Tracey holds the cabinet post for Children’s Services at Wandsworth – she should have defended this provision, instead she has led its total loss. Not fit for purpose, Councillor.
But this is no isolated event – across the country, children’s play provision has been hammered by Councils, and the damage is continuing. Our report Unfair Play for Children shows the extent of this over-emphasis on cutting play provision, especially where run by the voluntary sector. A similar situation affects youth provision – for example, West Sussex has cuts its youth budget from £16m a few years back to £6, or by a staggering 62%. Of 58 supported youth centres, some 42 have been told they will cease to be supported in staffing and grant terms, and even some of the 16 are being ‘reviewed’ for a third time.
When this Coalition Government came to power, one of its first actions was to cut the Play England budget severely. And also to announce that the gains under the previous Government of some semblance of a national strategy would be entirely abandoned. This no doubt in line with its mantra of ‘localism’ – decisions on play are best made at local level, e.g. by councils, never mind local neighbourhoods and communities. Result? Well people must judge for themselves how important many councils view play.
In spite of the growing, persistent and alarming evidence of the effect of lack/loss of play opportunity, lip-serviced by government and councils, we see the truth of its real status in actions such as at Wandsworth.
The reality is: Play has never been able to get a fair deal for children from councils, it isn’t getting one now, and this is set to continue.

More information at http://www.fairplayforchildren.org/index.php?page=HTML_News&story_id=20253

(Fair Play for Children have promoted children’s right to play since 1973 in the UK and Worldwide according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child)


Report on Eviction

posted 27 Jan 2013, 10:10 by Xxx Xxl Sexy Xnxx Xvideos HD

Wandsworth Council’s eviction attempt fails

Around 5am on Wednesday 24 January, protestors occupying the Playground in tents were woken as High Court Enforcement Officers, accompanied by Parks Police, broke in to take possession of the site. While a number of peaceful protesters were evicted forcefully, some occupiers had moved into the adjacent play building – which is divided in to two parts – in an attempt to further delay the demolition of the Adventure Playground.

The two activists that remain in occupation are occupying it under Section 6 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 [1]. Others who were in another part of the building contest that they were illegal evicted. While Wandsworth Council may have obtained a possession order permitting them to instruct the Enforcement Officers to take possession of the Playground, this order did not include the building, and as such it is potentially an illegal eviction for which the occupiers are seeking legal counsel [2].

Responding to the new occupation, Parks Police used a crowbar to prize open shutters and smash a window. A video which catches the moment when the police and bailiffs enter the building has been released on YouTube [3], showing how the building was tidy prior to eviction and not in the state that Wandsworth Council claims [4]. In the video, viewers can hear a window and building being smashed up, not by protestors.

Furthermore the Council’s pictures, obtained by the Police, clearly show manipulation. In one, the south-western window which was completely smashed in the eviction, is now boarded up with all the glass cleared away. And there’s paint over the floor, which the Council claims was spilled in advance of the eviction, yet there is no evidence of any walking of the paint around the room. The protestors insist that damage was done to the building in the process of the eviction, which occurred in the dark.

One of the occupiers who was forcibly removed said: “We told them the court order didn’t cover the hut but they wouldn’t listen – it was bully boy tactics. They grabbed us by the arms but we were just being peaceful.”

Commenting on the pictures released by the Council, they added: “Just as with the reasons given for destroying the Adventure Playground, the Council can’t get what it wants by fighting fair, so it cheats.”

Wandsworth Council refuses to engage in meaningful conversation

Unfortunately the attempted eviction and the ongoing attempted to discredit and intimidate protestors, rather than engage in any meaningful way, seems to be the preferred way of operating for Wandsworth Council. The protesters, who are made up of local residents, activists and members of the Occupy community in London, believe the council has failed to accurately present the facts relating to the playground, and to explore all the options available for its future.

Key updates include:

  • The Council has ignored all attempts by a variety of different groups of people to find a sensible compromise between the Council’s wish to destroy the Adventure Playground and the public’s view that it should remain (as evidenced by their survey and the increasing numbers of signatures on the petition – now approaching almost 7,000 signatures)
  • These groups also question the legality of Council’s failure to adequately consult on the development. The Council only gave weight to children and young persons views about what new types of equipment to acquire, rather than whether staff should be removed from the playground [5] and so have not given ‘due regard’ to the effect on the children and young people who the Equalities Act 2010 indicates are a protected group [6]. It has failed to consider the impact of staff withdrawal and modification of the Playground on this group which is potentially a breach of the duty they have in law. Their Equality Impact Assessment suggests there will be no possible negative impacts from the change of service on children and young people aged 5 – 16 or those with a disability [7]
  • On the financial front, plans for the Adventure Playground involve a spend of 200K, most of which is going on the destruction of the much-loved structures which have been built in consultation with children who’ve used the Adventure Playground in the past, replacing them with a downgraded facility and a small spend of £60K. With the Council’s financial results for 2011-12 showing an underspend [8], and during this time of ‘austerity’ with the Council quoting multiple different figures that it has to save, campaigners see that this current direction is a false economy and that there are alternative futures for the Playground that could be better thought out, but the Council refuses to listen
  • The council has attempted to discredit those who occupied the playground by posting notices that they were urinating and defecating in the playground, had built a fire hole, were destroying structures, etc. All of these statements have proven to be untrue and the Council since removed their notices
  • The Council also tried unsuccessfully to get public opinion on their side by closing the One O’clock club and the small children’s playground
  • The police and/or Council have further tried to gain public support by closing five access points to the park on the grounds that they claim it is a “crime” scene.

The adventure playground is one of the most famous in the country and inspires passionate support both amongst those who have used it and those who know the good these facilities do in reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. Recent high profile support includes former European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion Derek Williams, and comedian Mark Thomas.

Notes

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1977/45

[2] Area in pink covered by Writ http://i50.tinypic.com/dnj7na.jpg & Writ of Possession http://i49.tinypic.com/mtksiu.jpg

[3] http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/11652/squatters_trash_playground_building?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ

[5] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/committ/documents/s24111/Paper%20No.%2012-321%20-%20Battersea%20Park%20Playground%20Design.pdf

[6] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/part/2/chapter/1

[7] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/committ/documents/s24111/Paper%20No.%2012-321%20-%20Battersea%20Park%20Playground%20Design.pdf - Appendix 2: Section 4

[8] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s24175/12-491%20-%20Councils%20financial%20results%20for%202011-12.pdf

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