Thursday, 9 August 2012



Forced Unpaid Labour Is Judged Lawful

UNBELIEVABLE but not surprising!

"In a decision that will make ministers breathe a huge sigh of relief and leaves campaigners against workfare raging with fury, High Court judge Justice Foskett ruled that forcing the unemployed to work for free is lawful. However, Justice Foskett did rule that stripping claimants of their benefits for refusing compulsory unpaid work was unlawful."

"Justice Foskett stated that “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”.

This doesn't say much for so-called 'contemporary' thinking does it! Who cares about contemporary contemptible thinking! This is evidently not thinking at all! I've never thought in the same way as most people and most definitely do not think in a contemporary manner, thank god, which presumably means NORMAL or AVERAGE, or perhaps just politically correct and cowardly to the degree that it is done consciously.

Still, I didn't really think they had much of a chance but it was well worth a try. It's always worth having a go, putting up a fight!

The only thing left now is AHIMSA-SATYA-GRAHA or NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE in the work-place which I advocate and make organisations pay for employing 'wage-slaves'. These unemployed free labour slaves will most truly merit the name for they will not even receive a wage. In effect under WORKFARE they will be employed by the State-Government with Jobcentres as State Employment Agency's.

The Government had better make sure that the total Universal Credit (UC) payment divided by the total number of hours worked is not less than the MINIMUM WAGE ie maximum circa £6 per hour variable. There are lower rates for those under 25 years of age which is itself disgusting, being little more than a form of AGE DISCRIMINATION. Working today is becoming ever more a form of indentured servitude; WORKFARE 'working for your dole' for those on the lowest rung, and WAGE SLAVERY for all those on the higher rungs. Pathetic!

And now a famous film clip to show just how we're all in'it together!
Perhaps this could be a new entry for 'Team GB' at the next Olympics!

From the movie Ben-Hur (1959):
After his arrest Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is sent to work and die as a Roman Galley slave.
In this scene Quintus Arrius sees Ben Hur and remarks:
"Your eyes are full of hate,  forty-one.  That's good.
Hate keeps a man alive.  It gives him strength".
and thereupon proceeds to 'test' him!

I therefore advocate NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE & CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE of the kind that does no harm to any living thing (Jainism) but may well cause damage to property. Caveat emptor, let the 'buyer' beware! The 'spanner in the works' philosophy of resistance! LAWFUL REBELLION.

Each will have to navigate a path of their own devising through this ethical minefield.

All thoese forced onto 'work for your dole' schemes should arm themselves with techniques of SUBTERFUGE, SUBVERSION, & SABOTAGE. Make sure the participating organisations pay for employing you for nothing! This applies to all, to those participating organisations be they within the Public Sector, the Third Sector, or the Private Sector! It most especially applies to the various PRIME PROVIDERS who will continue to operate behind the scenes not employing the unemployed directly. Anyone heard of A4E! These are the ones most difficult to target. They cannot be targeted from within the workplace because the unemployed will not be working for them. These PRIME PROVIDERS are little more than Government Agents of State-enforced slavery! 

What is the difference between those sentenced to working in the community under the COMMUNITY PAYBACK SCHEME and those unemployed forced to do same under WORKFARE? Those on COMMUNITY PAYBACK are definitely working in a 'Community Chain Gang' but have been found guilty of criminal behaviour and duly sentenced. Those on WORKFARE (work for your dole) have committed no crime other than being unemployed (is that a crime?) and are being sentenced to the exact same punishment. One may as well adopt a criminal lifestyle first for the punishment is identical! Nothing to lose! So what crime exactly has an unemployed person committed when sentenced to working in the community for free in seemingly exactly the same way? This is just CRIMINALISATION of the Unemployed. This is the old Victorian concept of the DESERVING and the UNDESERVING POOR without distinction! In other words all the poor are undeserving! Lets introduce some form of EUGENICS while we're at it shall we!

The Government attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of the 'contemporary' 'un-thinking' public when they try to bamboozle them with numerous variations of the same thing eg. 'Community Action Programme' and 'Work Academy Scheme'.

Spot the difference!
6 March 2012 – Government launches employment support for prisoners
"The Government is launching a major overhaul of the employment support prisoners receive when they leave jail. Everyone leaving prison and claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance benefits will be immediately referred on Day One to the Government’s Work Programme, where they will receive specialist support to get them into employment as quickly as possible."

"Britain ought to make its prisoners work in “chain gangs” to clear litter building up on the side of major public roads, a Conservative MP has said."
“In the US I have seen chain gangs out clearing highways – why can’t we do that here?” he said. “We have criminals expected to pay back – why not get them out there doing something of use?”
Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, is a supporter of short “community sentences” where people work in their neighbourhoods rather than go to prison.
He has also unveiled plans to get prisoners to work for private companies within jails in the hope of instilling a culture of “purposeful hard work”. The minister has promised to double the number of inmates working up to 40 hours per week because they are a “wasted resource”.

I wonder if either of them have realised how the exact same ideas are being applied to the unemployed!

Long Live the Revolution
Nils Carborundum Illigitimi
Love, Light & Laughter

Tuesday, 7 August 2012




On the 27th March 2012 I sent an email to:
Sue Vickers: Director of Volunteer Centre Tameside (VCT)
Tony Okotie: CEO of Tameside 3rd Sector Coalition (T3SC)
Ben Gilchrist (T3SC Policy & Participation Manager)
Cllr. David Sweeton
Cllr. Dorothy Cartwright
Cllr. Eileen Shorrock
Cllr. Kieran Quinn (Leader of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council)

Forced Volunteering and the Work Programme - Slave labour and 'work for your dole' schemes

On the 2nd April I received reply from Tony Okotie informing me that "Sue Vickers will be responding to you on this as the Director of Volunteer Centre Tameside and partner organisation in CVAT that is leading on volunteering issues."

Community & Voluntary Action Tameside (CVAT) is the new umbrella organisation formed/forming from the merger of T3SC and VCT. Despite this ongoing merger I was surprised that Tony Okotie passed the buck to Sue Vickers. I'd hoped for a response from both organisations. Still, I am not surprised at the positive response from VCT and the avoidance by T3SC. I'd already made verbal inquries of VCT and was now seeking a written response that would confirm these positive findings.

However, T3SC have not made plain their position on this issue! Yes, I fully accept that VCT are the body dealing with volunteers, but T3SC are the other Voluntary Sector Organisation in Tameside. They deal with volunteers in community groups. But because both organisations are combining forces I am concerned to know which organisations ethics will prevail! I sincerely hope it will be VCT! T3SC have largely remained silent on the matter. I've criticised T3SC on many matters and there seeming lack of bottle! I begin to wonder if the organisation has any guts at all!

Now follows the positive response received from Volunteer Centre Tameside which contains excerpts from my original email which you can read in full immediately after this email from Sue Vickers, the Director of Volunteer Centre Tameside and acting on behalf of CVAT.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2012 11:04 AM
From: Sue Vickers
To: Steve Starlord; Tony Okotie (T3SC)
Cc: Derek Pattison (TUWA); Katy Robinson; Ben Stoddard (VCT)
Subject: Work Programme

Volunteer Centre Tameside,
95-97 Penny Meadow,
OL6 6EP.

Dear Starlord,

I am sorry for the delay in replying to your email. At a meeting of the VCT board last year it was agreed that the organisation would only engage with the work programme (JobCentre+ and prime/sub-contractors) if the “volunteering” element was truly optional and was not a mandatory  position.

VCT would agree with your statement
"I am very concerned about this Government's anti-volunteering strategy under the WORK PROGRAMME where the DWP/Jobcentre's and Prime Providers and sub-Prime providers/contractors will be forcing/coercing many of the unemployed, especially the young under 25-year-olds, into working for Private sector and Third Sector and Public Sector organisations - ie what are fast becoming known as 'work for your dole' schemes."
VCT have actively campaigned through our National organisation “Volunteering England”  against the use of volunteering and volunteers in this work programme.

Can your organisation give assurances that they WILL NOT be co-operating with this scheme.
Yes, I can give assurances that we will not be co-operating  with the Work programme as long as the Volunteering element continues to be compulsory.

When this is enforced slave labour and 'work for your dole' such as unemployed community chain gangs, then this is completely unacceptable. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree.

How will you differentiate between volunteers who come to you freely of their own volition, and those volunteers referred to you from the Jobcentre or one of their brethren?
We have developed our own ways of differentiating between prospective volunteers. Those who have been sent by the Job Centre are given a letter to take back to the Job Centre explaining our position.

Please see below copies of letters from Volunteering England and Chris Grayling MP.
[Though she says letters I found but a single letter appended.]

I hope this provides adequate response to your questions.
Sue Vickers on behalf of CVAT

21 October 2011
Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
Minister for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street
SW1H 9DA. 

Dear Mr Grayling

Work Programme

I am writing to you regarding the practice of a Work Programme prime provider that has recently been brought to my attention. One of our members was approached by a private sector provider and asked to provide volunteers to help deliver one of its projects to prepare clients for employment.

We are concerned about this because we believe that volunteers should never be considered as ‘free labour’ or a replacement for paid staff. They have a unique role in adding value, complementing the work of employees and bringing benefits to the community. In this case, the organisation seems to be seeking to involve volunteers for no other reason than to reduce its costs.

The involvement of volunteers in this way has the potential to undermine the unique value of volunteering and damage the image of volunteering at a time when it has a higher profile than ever. I would appreciate knowing your thoughts on this issue.

We were made aware of this latest development during the course of investigations into reports that some Work Programme providers are directing their clients to Volunteer Centres without any prior approach or formal relationship in place. We recently briefed Gareth Davies at the Office for Civil Society on this matter, and I have enclosed the briefing for your information.

Yours sincerely
Mike Locke
Senior Policy & Information Manager

Briefing on Work Programme and Work Together

Work Programme

1. A number of Volunteer Centres have responded to approaches from Work Programme providers (or their clients) by speaking to the provider about establishing a formal contractual relationship for support and brokerage. In many cases the provider has been unwilling to enter into such a relationship, hoping to send their clients to the Volunteer Centre for free.

2. Volunteer Centres exist to support anyone who is interested in volunteering. However, greater resource is required to support someone who does not have an interest in volunteering but believes they have been told they must volunteer. As with Jobcentre Plus referrals, they are less likely to be volunteering ready, requiring one-to-one support and training.

3. Some Volunteer Centres have expressed surprise that Work Programme providers are advising their clients to seek their services without an associated payment when the providers will be paid for helping someone back into work. They are concerned that this is not in line with the DWP Merlin Standards.

4. This situation must be seen in the light of other developments that are having an impact on Volunteer Centres. Many have seen their funding decrease and enquires rise. 12 of 15 Volunteer Centres recently visited said that they have seen an increase in referrals from Jobcentre Plus.

5. Volunteering England is concerned that an unwillingness on the part of Work Programme providers to enter into a contractual relationship in these cases could  
  • a. have a negative impact on the image of the Get Britain Working initiative;  
  • b. undermine the work that has been done between DWP, OCS, Jobcentre Plus and Volunteer Centres prior to and as a result of Work Together; and  
  • c. breach the conditions of the DWP Merlin Standards.  

Merlin Standards

6. Volunteering England asked its contacts at DWP for an opinion on whether or not this represents a breach of the Merlin Standards. DWP said that as Merlin is an independently assessed standard, it would not be appropriate for it to pre-judge the assessments that will be carried out within the next year.

7. Under the Merlin Standards, a prime contractor must demonstrate “that its procurement processes are fair and transparent” and “that funding arrangements are fair, proportionate and do not cause undue financial risk for supply chain partners”. It is clear that Work Programme providers see Volunteer Centres as useful in meeting the objectives for which they will be remunerated under their DWP contract.

8. Volunteering England is investigating ways in which feedback from Volunteer Centres can be fed into the Marlin Standards assessment process.

Work Programme prospectus

9. There may be a distinction between Work Programme clients being merely signposted – rather than referred - by their adviser to Volunteer Centres as a potential source of support. However, the Work Programme prospectus does state that participants in the Work Programme “must undertake the activities specified by their adviser.”

10. The Work Programme prospectus also states that “Jobcentre Plus will help people to volunteer, do work experience or take advantage of peer-to-peer support before they enter the Work Programme”, citing Work Clubs and Work Together as initiatives in this regard. This raises questions of whether simply signposting someone to a Volunteer Centre is the appropriate approach for a Work Programme provider.

Tel: 0161 339 2345

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 1:42 AM
From: Steve Starlord
To: Tony Okotie (T3SC); Sue Vickers (VCT)
Cc: Derek Pattison (TUWA); Katy Robinson
Subject: Fw: Forced Volunteering and the Work Programme - Slave labour and 'work for your dole' schemes

Tony Okotie & Sue Vickers,
Approaching 2 months since I sent this email to you Tony.
I've yet to hear anything from anyone let alone Sue Vickers!

Love, Light & Laughter
Tameside Unemployed Worker's Alliance (TUWA)

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2012 6:22 PM
From: Tony Okotie
To: Steve Starlord
Subject: RE: Forced Volunteering and the Work Programme - Slave labour and 'work for your dole' schemes


Sue Vickers will be responding to you on this as the Director of Volunteer Centre Tameside and partner organisation in CVAT that is leading on volunteering issues.

Tony Okotie
Chief Executive
Tameside Third Sector Coalition
131 Katherine Street
Tel: 0161 339 4985 x2023

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2012 5:06 PM
From: Steve Starlord
To: Tony Okotie (T3SC)
Cc: Derek Pattison (TUWA) ; Katy Robinson
Subject: Fw: Forced Volunteering and the Work Programme - Slave labour and 'work for your dole' schemes

Hi Tony,
Re: your recent separate email.
I said I would respond to the specific emails referenced separately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Tony Okotie
To: Steve Starlord
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2012 9:00 AM
Subject: RE: Comment Received for Website Blog

I am just back from leave. I have not received a comment via the blog from you. I did receive a very long email from you (which I have attached) about mandatory volunteering. Is this the email you are referring to? We will respond to this in due course. The comment facility on the blog is specifically to allow people to respond / comment on specific blog articles. I also received another email from you on 23/3 (again, attached) which I did respond to, asking what the email was about – it isn't clear.
Tony Okotie

I did not receive a response to this email which was about average length by my standards.
I consider emails to be letters and treat them as such.
I received a standard read-receipt.
I suspect this to be the email to which you refer when you say: "we will respond to this in due course".


Love, Light & Laughter

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 3:55 PM
From: Steve Starlord
To: Ben Gilchrist (T3SC P&PM) ; Sue Vickers (VCT) ; Tony Okotie (T3SC) ; Cllr. David Sweeton ; Cllr. Dorothy Cartwright ; Cllr. Eileen Shorrock ; Cllr. Kieran Quinn
Cc: Be Dazzled ; John Bevan (DERA) ; Katy Robinson ; Derek Pattison (TUWA)
Subject: Forced Volunteering and the Work Programme - Slave labour and 'work for your dole' schemes


I am very concerned about this Government's anti-volunteering strategy under the WORK PROGRAMME where the DWP/Jobcentre's and Prime Providers and sub-Prime providers/contractors will be forcing/coercing many of the unemployed, especially the young under 25-year-olds, into working for Private sector and Third Sector and Public Sector organisations - ie what are fast becoming known as 'work for your dole' schemes.

Can your organisation give assurances that they WILL NOT be co-operating with this scheme.

Tameside Unemployed Worker's Alliance (TUWA), a local voluntary community group are opposed to such measures and we hope you are too!

We have no objection whatsoever to the unemployed freely giving their time to contribute to the community. That, after all, is the true nature of volunteering. That it is done freely from the heart because one cares, and not because one is being forced.

When this is enforced slave labour and 'work for your dole' such as unemployed community chain gangs, then this is completely unacceptable. Do you agree?

This includes the Government's Mandatory Work Programme. The Work Experience scheme has been much in the media of late and Chris Grayling has been squirming somewhat and has been forced to say he/they shall be re-writing some of the relevant legislation to make this volunteering element abundantly clear, and that any participating unemployed person can now leave the scheme at any time without incurring a benefit sanction.

However, though this Work Experience scheme is itself not mandatory/compulsory, non-compliance is met soon after with a placement on the Mandatory Work Programme itself which is compulsory. So, in effect, if you don't volunteer you will be forced to do so later under another similar scheme! That is something the Public and Voluntary sector need to be made well aware of. Many unemployed will be coming your way with the appearance of having volunteered. Many will have been coerced and really don't want to be there.

How will you differentiate between volunteers who come to you freely of their own volition, and those volunteers referred to you from the Jobcentre or one of their brethren?

So Chris Grayling is being disingenuous to put it mildly when he speaks about such matters. Of course, he will say, and does say, that such matters are left to the discretion of individual Jobcentre Officers who, simply because they suspect someone is not looking for work properly, and despite evidence to the contrary, can force them onto a work for their dole scheme for otherwise their benefit will be stopped.

Under the forthcoming Universal Credit it is unclear whether this will also include Housing Benefit such that the unemployed person will become almost instantly homeless as well, and intentionally so for non-payment of rent! RSL's like New Charter will be placed in a difficult position having to take unemployed tenants to court for non-payment of rent, but I doubt very much the courts will evict such tenants and so RSL's will not get their rent and the tenant will stay free of charge, even if starving to death. But I would not be surprised if such results in increasing crime in Tameside. After all I would never condemn a starving man for stealing a loaf of bread! Would you?

How can we tell the difference between the very long term unemployed (defined as 2 years) forced to carry out 6 months community work under the 'Community Action Programme' (CAP) and convicted criminals doing same under 'Community Payback'? Surely this is little more than criminalisation of the unemployed? Do you agree? In fact one may as well commit crime for the punishment is the same anyway! "CAP work experience placements must deliver a contribution to the local community and must not displace what would otherwise be paid jobs."

I've just set-up a Tameside Unemployed Worker's Alliance (TUWA) Facebook 'Group' and Facebook 'Page' linked to my personal Facebook account. Unfortunately you cannot access these links unless you are a Facebook member. That's one of the many drawbacks of being on Facebook. It's an exclusive part of the internet!
"A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions strongly rejected that mandatory placements would be used as a sanction, but said they could be offered in circumstances where advisers felt they were appropriate. In a statement, it was stressed that such referrals were not automatic."It is not the case that claimants who do not volunteer for work experience would automatically be referred to mandatory work activity," it said. "Jobcentre Plus advisers have the flexibility to use mandatory work activity, where they feel it is appropriate, as part of a wider range of support options. The decision to refer a claimant to mandatory work activity is taken on a case-by-case basis and claimants are only referred to the scheme where it is appropriate in their individual circumstances."Speaking with regard to individuals being placed on mandatory programmes after just a few weeks of unemployment, the spokeswoman said: "We have said that we expect most referrals to mandatory work activity will be for claimants who have been unemployed for 13 weeks or more. However, we have not ruled out the possibility that some claimants may be referred before this point where Jobcentre Plus advisers consider this to be appropriate in their individual case." 
My highlights! The approach taken by Jobcentre Plus officers is entirely subjective and not evidence based!

I have much experience of dealing with Jobcentre staff. I can assure you that some of them are nasty pieces of work and extremely prejudiced and judgmental in their dealings with the unemployed. I have acted as representative at meetings advising unemployed people of their rights during the interview process. I call such staff 'dragons' and I've had many battles with such over the years. It seems that a slight disagreement, or a personal prejudicial dislike, is all that it will now take for a sanction to be applied, even if one is complying precisely with the conditions stated in the so-called Jobseeker's Agreement, which by the way is to be re-named with the word agreement removed! Agreement was very far from the reality in the first place for a disagreement would result in a benefit suspension pending a slow appeals procedure effectively starving one into agreement! The only option was to agree and then to appeal to have it overturned, which because one had signed and agreed made it all the more difficult!

When is an agreement not an agreement?
When it's a Job Seeker's Agreement, of course!

Thank you
Love, Light & Laughter
Tameside Unemployed Worker's Alliance (TUWA)

Ripped-off Britons:

Benefits Fraud: would the taxpayer save money by giving every citizen their due, not a penny more, not a penny less? Actually, it would cost £12.7 billion EXTRA!

[I've re-blogged this excellent article here unedited from the official blog of the Guardian cartoon strip' Was published on that blog 19th June 2011. Just discovered via facebook! It's even more valid now than when originally written 1 year ago!]

Moral outrage is about something that doesn’t affect you personally. If someone pulls the leg off your teddy bear, it’s not moral outrage you are feeling – just rage. (No, really, I forgave you years ago. You know who you are!)

Moral outrage is all about the principal. And is magnified more by how close the offender is to you than by the magnitude of the offence.

  • Morally Outrageous: Someone who is about the same as us, same habits, same social group, doing something naughty. Outrageous because they are getting away with something we could get away with, if only we could be a bit more immoral:
    • Jumping the queue
    • Driving like an idiot
    • Benefits fraud
  • Just Damn Annoying: Someone very different to us: e.g. a celebrity, top company executive, or banker. Less outrageous, because their naughtiness is something we could only aspire to in our dreams/nightmares:
    • Getting let off by the police for extreme bad behaviour, including assault and substance abuse
    • Taking multi-million bonuses while wrecking the world economy
    • Asset stripping companies, and throwing pensioners onto the streets

When Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK Labour Party, wanted to give his outraged morals an airing in a speech earlier this month, he picked on two sets of bogeymen.

1)   A man he had met who “hadn’t been able to work since he was injured doing his job. It was a real injury, and he was obviously a good man who cared for his children. But I was convinced that there were other jobs he could do.”

2)   The executives of “Southern Cross care homes - where millions were plundered over the years leaving the business vulnerable, the elderly people in their care at risk and their families feeling betrayed.”

How did a “good man who cared for his children”, claiming £71.10 a week in incapacity benefit while looking pretty fit to Miliband, find himself in the whiffy company of unashamed slash-and-burn executives who pocketed an estimated £500million at the expense of pensioners?

The sad truth is the thought of some individual scamming us taxpayers out of £71.10 per week in incapacity benefit while actually being capable of flipping hamburgers for minimum wage is enough to blow all our other troubles away. We will soon forget about Southern Cross, but the bitterness for benefits cheats will stay with us.

No matter that we can’t afford a proper armed forces or a health service, we need to hand our schools to private companies, have to work until we are older and get less pension. Misfortunes caused by avaricious bankers who were let off the leash, self-serving politicians who got rid of the leash, and incompetent regulators who wouldn’t know how to use that tricky-dicky catch on the leash even if they had a leash and the inclination to use it.

What we need to do, we are told by politicians to the left and to the right, is tighten up on the benefits system. Make sure that everyone gets just what they are entitled to, not a penny more and not a penny less.

But would tightening up save us any money? The figures show that it would actually cost us billions.
In these straitened times, saving money is what it’s all about. After all, did we scrap HMS Ark Royal because we didn’t need it? If so, why did we have it? By taking out the Ark Royal, bankers did something last achieved by a German U-Boat in 1941.

All that bad banking is overlooked, but benefits fraud is not. So let's take a closer look at those benefits fraud figures:

  • £3.1 billion was overpaid, of which £1 billion was fraudulently taken in benefits. The rest was due to errors by the DWP and by the customers.
  • £1.3 billion was underpaid, all of which was due to DWP and customer errors.
  • NET Overpayment = £1.8 billion

On the other hand, the amount that was simply not claimed at all is many times this.

The fact is, if everyone got what they were entitled to, nothing more and nothing less, then Department of Works and Pensions figures show it would all cost us £billions MORE!

The last thing governments want is to be clear about the uncomfortable truths. So, here are the meanings of key bits of official-ese you will need for the next bit:

Caseload take-up compares the number of benefit recipients - averaged over the year - with the number who would be receiving [benefits] if everyone took up their entitlement for the full period of their entitlement.

Expenditure take-up compares the total amount of benefit received - averaged over the year - with the total amount that would be received if everyone took up their entitlement for the full period of their entitlement.

Income Support & Employment and Support Allowance

  • Take-up between 78% and 90% by caseload.
  • Take-up between 85% and 94% by expenditure.

Pension Credit

  • Take-up between 62% and 73% by caseload.
  • Take-up between 71% and 81% by expenditure.

Housing Benefit

  • Take-up between 77% and 86% by caseload.
  • Take-up between 82% and 90% by expenditure.

Council Tax Benefit

  • Take-up between 63% and 70% by caseload.
  • Take-up between 65% and 73% by expenditure.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income-Based)

  • Take-up between 47% and 59% by caseload.
  • Take-up between 49% and 63% by expenditure.

And here are the totals in folding money:

Department of Works and Pensions, research published in June 2010.

Fraud in 2009/10 cost £1billion, which was less than 1% of total benefits payments. The reality is that if the government ran a campaign to ensure everyone took only what was coming to them, it would cost up to an extra £12.7 billion. How likely are they to do that at a time like this?

Politicians are overwhelmingly from the comfortable middle classes. Brought up traditionally, they will have all watched all those optimistic Hollywood musicals repeated over the years at Christmas. Few were repeated more often during the childhoods of this current generation of politicians than this song from “The King and I”.

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows
I'm afraid.

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

Singing the song of benefits fraud finds plenty joining in from the broadcast, online, and print media. Politicians, always afraid of being found out, are happy to take cover and comfort wherever they can find it.

Benefits fraud, certainly a problem in itself, has proved successful in diverting Ripped-Off Britons from the much bigger problems in their lives. Politicians hope that by making ordinary Britons suspicious of and annoyed with their neighbours, they will forget they are getting ripped-off far far more by utility companies, banks, insurers, the taxman, and the government itself. Bigger problems that the politicians are too afraid, or too complicit in, to deal with.


Love, Light & Laughter

Wednesday, 28 March 2012



I recently read the following extract from the blog by Tony Okotie (CEO) of Tameside Third Sector Coalition (T3SC):

"I was interested to read last week that the Trafford Council Leader said, 'We are looking in the future to launch a volunteer army. Many residents want to come forward and work with us.' In the same article saying there will be over 100 job losses. It got me thinking again about volunteering and participation levels, and the premise that volunteering could/can replace paid employment. So, firstly, how realistic is it that there are lots of people waiting to jump up and volunteer?"

I added a lengthy comment, not at all unusual for me, which I posted on the 3rd January 2012. I then awaited moderation but it did not appear. On the 5th January 2012 I received an email from Tony:

"Thank you for your comment on my blog. However, it is too long to publish (the technology wont allow it!) – you’ve written 2,780 words. If you would like to resubmit a comment of up to 30 words we will consider uploading it."

30 words! I've never come across a blog with such a feeble limit before! And even then he says that he will only 'consider' uploading it! I've written longer and shorter comments on blogs before but I've never been turned down on the basis of length! There now follows an expanded version of my original comment.


The NATURE OF WORK in effect!
A subject very close to my heart!
VOLUNTARY WORK (altruism).

I wonder who exactly will comprise this volunteer army?

If the unemployed offer their services for free, including those recently sacked from same paid job now applying to do same job unpaid, they will fall foul of the DWP availability and actively seeking work regulations. They must declare any and all work undertaken, including voluntary work, and if it is judged by the DWP that said work could/should be done for payment, they may well be penalised accordingly with cuts to their benefits! So again, I wonder who these volunteers are to be.

Perhaps they will all be pensioners who are not required to look for work. Could this be a pensioner’s volunteer army? Perhaps some of these volunteers will be those currently in paid work and prepared to give up some of their free time. Those signing-on unemployed in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) will not be able to work for free where there is a going rate for the job, ie where it is remunerated elsewhere. The going rate for the job and the minimum wage will have to be dealt with.

And this doesn’t even deal with the so-called ‘16 hour rule’ that applies to any unemployed volunteer in receipt of JSA.

“In fact the rules state that someone on Job Seekers Allowance can volunteer as much as they want to as long as they are still 'actively seeking work'. The 16 hour rule in relation to volunteering, is nothing but a commonly held myth.”

So this rule is considered to be a myth is it! Rubbish! I can assure you, based on my own personal experience, that this is not the reality on the ground when signing-on at the Jobcentre. Though the unemployed can volunteer their time, to qualify for JSA entitlement they must declare any work done whether paid or unpaid. If they are considered to be ‘enjoying’ this work ‘too much’ their benefit may be suspended. This is made absolutely clear, that one’s claim is definitely under review/threat!

It is far better not to declare any work done for free. However, it will be difficult to include this ‘work’ on one’s CV! It is best if done anonymously, and by not declaring all work done a claimant will be in breach of the requirements for benefit entitlement. It is far better then to work voluntarily as an individual in the community and not as a ‘registered’ volunteer working directly for a voluntary organisation, or even indirectly via an organisation like Tameside Volunteer Centre.

"We strongly believe that volunteers should not be exploited, so we will only ever advertise volunteering opportunities at non-profit organisations (such as charities, community groups or social enterprises), or statutory organisations (such as hospitals and the court service). We also wish to make it clear that volunteering is a choice; no-one should ever be forced to volunteer or threatened with punishment or sanctions for not volunteering."

T3SC have made no such similar statement to date of which I am aware. Yet T3SC and VCT are currently undergoing a 'merger' to form a  single umbrella organsation called Community And Voluntary Action Tameside (CAVAT). Such a moment necessitates a bold statement of position on these matters by this newly forming Third Sector organisation.  Will VCT's stronger position take precedence over that of T3SC who appear rather reluctant to make a statement?

A Tameside Volunteering Summit was held at Ashton Town Hall on 9th March 2011 where the new Tameside Volunteering Strategy 2010 - 2015 was unveiled. See also Tameside Compact Code of Practice on Volunteering. Similar documents to these should be available for every area across the UK!

Further, it is best that any voluntary work is done during the evening or at weekends, especially a Sunday, to avoid working voluntarily during any period that clashes with the times one is prepared to work as stated on one’s signed Jobseeker’s Agreement (JSAg). Legally one is not then in breach because doing voluntary work outside the agreed times where one is prepared to do paid work, and which has been accepted by the Jobcentre. It is therefore imperative that one limit the time periods for when one is available to work.

My most recent experience of this was only a couple of years ago when signing-on at Stalybridge Jobcentre. I expressed my interest in voluntary work in the community. They brought my whole claim into question suggesting that my ‘desire’ to find paid work may be undermined by this interest, that I was perhaps more interested in doing voluntary work than I was in applying for paid work! If this was found to be the case they would suspend my JSA. Such an attitude will definitely make those in receipt of JSA think twice before engaging in any type of voluntary work! In other words, one’s availability for work is in question if one is ‘enjoying’ voluntary work, and especially if ‘too much’. After all one must be prepared to end any such unpaid work immediately that a paid job comes available. As such voluntary sector organisations are reluctant to take JSA volunteers because of the inherent unreliability built into the benefits system. This is typical of my experience when dealing with Jobcentre’s over the last 30 years.

Voluntary work is work done without thought of reward or expectation of reward.
A Society based upon such a premise is purely ANARCHIC in all positive senses.

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”, but without compulsion or expectation! It is pure SERVICE - MUTUALISM.

I have no objection whatsoever to anyone working for free provided they are neither compelled nor expected to do so. In fact I very much welcome voluntarism as an antidote to selfishness. Selflessness vs Selfishness.

Such work must not just be voluntary but must also be done voluntarily! After all, one cannot be compelled to work voluntarily, can one! A contradiction in terms! Too often today people enter into ‘voluntary work’ for the wrong reasons, wrong in the sense that it is done for personal gain and not out of selfless service. It has become something extra, a necessary addition for one’s ‘all-important’ CV, perhaps seen as an indicator of one’s social worth/value/responsibility? Volunteering is a measure of altruistic social connectedness and service beyond mere self-service. The act of volunteering, and I emphasise ‘act’, has come to replace, because in competition with, volunteering from the heart. For many it is no longer heart-felt. Voluntarism has been selfishly appropriated by those who wish to add such a social ‘accomplishment’ to their social credentials!

This then, allegedly, improves one’s chance of, for example, getting a job ie real work, ie paid work, or simply getting into University. The idea of SERVICE is completely ignored. One may be serving the community far more through one’s voluntary work than through some mere soul-destroying job.

All of this in effect makes voluntary work compulsory, though not of the worst kind. Such people are not volunteering because they care but because of the kudos gained or because without it they may not obtain the paid position they seek! It has become for them a means to an end and is no longer an end in itself! As said wrong motive! It is true that many people enter voluntary work for non-financial reasons besides this modern CV-kudos reward. People enter paid work for many reasons too and not just for the money. For some it is only the money. Why else would one work in a destructive job except for the money!

However, the Con-Dem Government’s WORK PROGRAMME will through the WORKFARE ‘option’ force/compel the unemployed to work for their benefits. They will still be expected to look for and apply for paid work, and if they don’t their benefit will be suspended even though now effectively employed by and paid by the State.

It’s a punitive regime, intent upon instilling the ‘work ethic’ which they are deemed to lack! In other words, being unemployed is solely their own fault, and they are therefore in need of behavioural reprogramming and conditioning. They are the UNDESERVING POOR! I wonder then what kind of voluntary work will be made available to them given the inherent unreliability resulting from the Benefits System itself, simply because they have to be prepared to give-up any unpaid work immediately to enter paid work.

The Con-Dem Government’s WORK PROGRAMME is evidently an example of wrong volunteering. It seeks to make the unemployed in receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) work for their ‘dole’ and this work may very well include being forced to do voluntary work within the Community, Voluntary & Faith Sector (CVFS). This is slavery and is simply unacceptable. It is, as said, a contradiction in terms. It is no longer ‘necessarily’ voluntary. I say ‘necessarily’ because some of those ‘compelled’, ‘coerced’, or ‘forced’, to carry-out voluntary work under WORKFARE schemes may very well have done so without recourse to a big-stick!

It is my understanding that Volunteer Centre Tameside (VCT) will not accept volunteers referred directly from the Jobcentre. There is then no need to sift the voluntary wheat from the involuntary chafe! Anyone truly wishing to volunteer has only to approach the VCT directly and must not pass though any intermediary. This will hopefully include any future organisation tasked with the same kind of functions as the Jobcentre ie any Work Programme providers! However, I can see how many will be forced to apply directly for voluntary work under threat of benefit sanctions. It may very well become conditional, though I am not aware of any such conditionality legislation at the moment! As such these reluctant volunteers will have been, in effect, referred yet not referred! How then, I wonder, will the VCT be able to tell true from false? Voluntarism and volunteering are under threat!

All of this is on the horizon, and will come into full force in 2013 when Iain Duncan Smith’s (IDS) dream of the Universal Credit (UC) becomes reality. God protect the lame, the halt, and the blind!
UK Government Definition:
"For the purposes of volunteering policies the Cabinet Office defines volunteering and volunteering opportunities as any non-compulsory activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something which is of benefit to others (excluding relatives), society or the environment."
Phil Hope, Minister of the Third Sector (15th October 2007) Source: Hansard

Many other interesting definitions are also given. Still, we’ve had a change of Government since 2007 so this particular definition may very well no longer be in vogue! I really cannot see how it could be in light of the Con-Dem Government’s Work Programme/Workfare! They are contradictory!
Formal volunteering:
“Giving unpaid help through groups, clubs or organisations to benefit other people or the environment. (2001 Home Office Citizenship survey).”
Informal volunteering:
“Giving unpaid help as an individual to others who are not members of the family. (2001 Home Office Citizenship survey).”

Still, I find these definitions rather unsatisfactory!

I have been very active voluntarily in the community for many years often/mostly acting as an individual and not as an authorised group representative. I may very well be active in various groups but I often act on my own recognisance independently of any group with which I am connected. It would be fair to say that many would consider much of what I do to be politically motivated or political, but I hasten to add, non-Party political!

And then I am also concerned about the muddying of the waters as per the Charities Act 2006 and the Charities Act 2011 both of which are currently undergoing changes. The full Charities Act 2006 is available as a PDF.

After this point the former more or less clearly defined division between the Charity Sector and the Private Sector became rather blurred. It is now possible for all kinds of business arrangements to be entered into between these two purist extremes birthing a grey world betwixt the light and the dark!

T3SC have themselves recently formed a Social Enterprise called T3SC+ and VCT have done the same.

Could such a company, a subsidiary of the parent company, ‘employ’ the unemployed as compelled voluntary workers?

It may well again be a matter of individual company ethics, but here the voluntarism element would not be at issue. Indeed would such an organisation accept unpaid slave labour drawn from the ranks of the unemployed simply because not directly a voluntary organisation, being but a hybrid organisation lying between the private and the charity sector?

The whole area of not-for-profit or non-profit companies is another grey area. In Tameside this would for example include the likes of New Charter Housing Trust Limited, a hybrid company born well before the 2006 Charities Act. See my New Charter Watch blog. All ‘Housing Associations’ (aka ‘Resident Social Landlord’s’ (RSL’s), most recently re-badged ‘Private Registered Providers of Social Housing’ (PRP’s) or ‘Registered Providers’ for short) are subject to a special relationship with National Government because of their involvement with Social Housing provision. But I won’t go into that hornets nest here!

It is still perfectly possible, yet unacceptable, to compel those in receipt of JSA to work for their dole in either the Public Sector or the Private Sector. I expect the Public Sector in Tameside, ie Tameside Council, to give this short shrift and reject it out of hand! That leaves the Private Sector. And generally speaking one cannot expect any better of the private sector whose modus operandi is to operate on a commercial basis to make a profit. Individual private sector organisations may view what they do differently and have a different set of priorities. Still the first priority is to make a profit. Placing those in receipt of JSA here is relatively speaking far more acceptable simply because this does not result in a compulsory volunteer contradiction. However, work for dole is tantamount to slavery and supportive of paid worker displacement, ie sack’em and force’em back to work for their dole! This is little more than getting ‘scab’ labour. I wonder what the Trades Unions will have to say about this given that it undermines the Minimum Wage and the 'going rate' for the job.

The danger is that the unemployed in receipt of JSA will become a ‘free workers bank’ to fill the gaps created by the economic cuts, a conscript Chain-Gang! As I’ve said so often before, how are we to tell the difference between those in receipt of JSA and forced to do Community Work, and those convicted of a Criminal Offence and similarly forced to do Community Work ie Community Payback (aka Community Punishment & formerly Community Service! Will they be expected to wear different coloured uniforms! Is this not the criminalisation of the unemployed in receipt of JSA? I see little reason for not absconding from such forced labour in the Community and entering upon a ‘life of crime’! The sentence is the same when, and if, caught!

And what about the idle rich! They are not in paid work. If they are, then they are not idle! Still, if they are truly rich, then like many of those in the Con-Dem Government, they work but not really for the money. After all they don’t need the money! They have entirely different motivations. They may also be greedy.

The only real difference between the rich and the poor, especially the poor and unemployed, is that the poor need a taxation ‘hand-out’ merely to live/exist whereas the rich do not! For many the idleness of the rich is more palatable. Firstly many people aspire to join this ‘class’, and secondly the rich don’t receive a JSA handout and as such are not considered a taxation parasite. That they don’t work, or have no need to work, is beside the point, because their money works for them! The rich have always had their servants, and today money has become even more the intermediary between rich and poor, between master and servant. It has simply become more obscured.

What do you do to make the rich work harder?
You pay them more! and use a lot of carrots!
What do you do to make the poor work harder?
You pay them less! and use a big stick!  

The art of incentivisation! “the practise of building incentives into an arragement or system in order to motivate the actors within it.”

Why not instead force the idle rich, those merely earning money with money, to work in the community! After all they are but parasites living off the backs of the poor and the downtrodden in society.

Many people aspire to climb the greasy pole of ambition. We’re all Middle Class now! Are we indeed, and who wants to be Middle Class anyway! Hyacinth Bouquet maybe! The simple idea of Class as once understood has been eroded, has become more complicated, especially through the emergence of a new Middle Class or Classes who like the Upper Class also earn money with money which serves to supplement their earned income to a greater or lesser degree. The only difference is they have less to ‘gamble’ with!

Thus many of the traditional Middle Class have in effect entered the realm of the Upper Class in that they have less of a need to work in the sense of earning income in a job of work and are better able to earn money with money whether this be playing the stock market or earning bank interest etc. The money performs the work and not the person! Nevertheless somebody somewhere has to do the productive real work to pay for this, and this means the burden is born more and more by the Working Classes and the so-called Underclass who are either permanently unemployed or frequently moving in and out of paid work.

After all we are all in’it together, aren’t we!

Working Class, Underclass, 'Untouchables', 'Dalits', trailer trash, travellers, gypsies, etc.

Love, Light & Laughter