The South Yorkshire Unite Community Branch Annual General Meeting

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The South Yorkshire Unite Community Branch is now one year old and we have grown to have over two hundred members, we are proud to say that we have achieved a great deal in such a short space of time. We have:

  • Helped organise meetings, protests, lobbies, sleep outs and appeals against the hated Bedroom Tax.
  • Taken part in in organising the People’s Assembly.
  • Taken to the streets to oppose the English Defence League. (more…)

Yorkshire ambulance staff to strike over ‘10 hour shifts without meal break’

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Yorkshire ambulance staff have voted to take strike action over changes in shift patterns which could mean paramedics going more than 10 hours without a meal break and staff being forced to work 12 hour shifts.

The staff, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, voted overwhelmingly for a 24 hour strike which will commence at 00:01 hours on Saturday 1 February 2014.

Unites members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust will strike again for four hours between 15.00 and 19.00 on Monday 3 February over the imminent introduction of new elongated shift patterns.

The members voted by a margin of 76 per cent for strike action. (more…)

Unite Community’s First Polish citizen’s advice Drop-In Session Doncaster Saturday 25/01/2014.

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Report by Unite Community Member Thomas Scott-Chambers

We had 10 members of the Polish Community come along to our First Advice Session in the Library and struggled to cope with the demand in the short time we had available. Luckily we had the support of a Polish lady from Doncaster who was on hand and has now agreed to join the Union.

People came along for support on a wide range of issues and wanted to know if we could make this a regular event and also asked if we could do a week day session too, this is something we would like to do in the near future it is clear that the demand is there. Other organisations also came along to offer support –  something that we can look at as we take the initiative forward.

This was great start to our Community work in Doncaster. Keep an eye out for our next Advice Session Unite Community Doncaster.

Fast Food Workers

Unite Community Branch’s will be supporting the National Day of Action Against Zero Hours and Helping the bakers Union organise workers in Fast Food Companies. Demonstrations outside McDonalds and Burger King have been called outside their flagship Stores in London and similar protests will be taking place in our region. Watch this space for more info on the demos. Good link here  http://www.politics.co.uk

Unite Young Members Speak out on Debt

Unite young members are involved in campaigning against the cycle of debt that young people are being forced in to through tuition fees, insecure work and benefit cuts.

The following article by Anthony Curtley, Chair of the Unite Young Members section, is an excellent summary of the range of issues they face, and has been published in the Huffington Post   Read the article here.

They have also produced this excellent Buzzfeed dealing with the issues:   Read it here.

Welfare Rights Training

We have secured some Fantastic Welfare Rights Training to be delivered by the Child Poverty Action Group on Wednesday the 2nd and Thursday the 3rd of April, from 10am until 4pm at the Leeds Unite Regional Office. The two day course is titled “Benefits for non-benefit advisers” here is the link with more course details http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/benefits-non-benefit-advisers. A buffet lunch will be provided and all travel costs reimbursed. The course has twenty available places and will be filled on a first come first served basis.

Please Email joe.rollin@unitetheunion.org to book your place?

‘Unintended’ housing benefit cuts hit tenants

17/01/2014 | By Paul Hebden

Councils are cutting off housing benefit payments to tenants who are entitled to receive them, as an unintended consequence of sanctions applied to other benefits.

 

Jobseeker’s allowance and employment support allowance claimants can have sanctions applied to their claims if they miss appointments or fail to do enough to find work. But many are also having their housing benefit cut, because they are unaware that they need to tell councils their financial circumstances have changed. Local authorities are stopping claims as a result.

 

Charities warn they are dealing with a rising number of housing benefit problems as the number of JSA and ESA sanctions soar – because many recipients don’t realise the reductions could affect their claim.

 

The number of sanctions against benefit claimants deemed not to be doing enough to find work increased to 860,000 in the year to June 2013, the highest for any 12-month period since statistics began to be recorded in their present form.

 

Housing associations have also reported anecdotal evidence of tenants falling into rent arrears as a consequence of housing benefit being cut off the back of another sanction.

Homelessness charities, including umbrella body Homeless Link and Crisis, have raised the problem with the Department for Work and Pensions. They are feeding into a review of the way sanctions are communicated, being carried out for the DWP by Matthew Oakley, a former economist at think tank Policy Exchange.

 

Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at Crisis, said: ‘People are not being advised that their housing benefit will be affected and that they may need to re-apply for it. Often they only realise there’s a problem when they are in arrears or facing eviction.

‘There needs to be clear communication between the different [council] benefit departments to prevent people’s housing benefit being affected by sanctions [applied elsewhere].’

In its evidence to the Oakley review, Homeless Link called on the DWP to ensure the potential impact of a sanction on a claimant’s housing benefit is explained – and how a claimant can avoid this happening.

A spokesperson for Circle Housing Group confirmed it was starting to hear ‘anecdotal’ evidence of problems as a result of sanctions being robustly applied.

A second association, that did not wish to be identified, confirmed it had seen similar problems.

 

A DWP spokesperson said that sanctions should not affect claimants’ housing benefit.

 

Benefit sanctions

 

860,000 sanctions issued by the Department for Work and Pensions in the year to June 2013

 

4.35% proportion of jobseeker’s allowance claimants sanctioned per month

2.60% equivalent proportion of sanctions under Labour between 2000 and 2010

Source: Department for Work and Pensions

Read an article about this issue in Inside Housing.

Thousands in court for council tax arrears as benefit cuts hit home

Many people who were formerly exempt from paying now face court, as the bedroom tax adds to spiralling debt burden.

Southwark council 9,000 people face court for council tax arrears

Southwark council had issued 9,000 summonses for council tax arrears to its residents by October 2013. Photograph: Martin Godwin

When a court summons for unpaid council tax arrived in early July, last year, Jan Campbell, 49, of Barnsley, south Yorkshire, panicked. “It was terrifying. I thought I was going to lose my home. Her mental health problems drastically worsened, and her family encouraged her to stay with them in Northampton. The court date came and went, and the judge waived the £100 court costs, but granted an attachment of benefits order, which deducted £12 of council tax a month directly from Campbell’s benefits. She’s struggled to make ends meet ever since. “I’m having to sell things. I’ve got nothing left. Everything went in 2012. To be part of society you have to have these things, and you can’t afford them.”

With government cuts to means-tested council tax benefit, many people are now facing liability orders for arrears. From April 2013, the government slashed funding for council tax benefit by £500m, and instructed local authorities to decide how the reduced benefit should be distributed. The poorest residents, unemployed, disabled or low paid, now find themselves paying council tax where previously they were exempt.

Many people, like Campbell, have simultaneously been hit by other welfare cuts. In a three-bedroom home, the bedroom tax shortfall and council tax swallows up a quarter of her benefits even before any of her bills are paid. “That’s a whole week out of the month. It’s not supposed to go on that. What do they expect me to do?” She was able to claim Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to cover part of the bedroom tax, and with the help of Unite the union, won an appeal over one room that was too small to be classed as a bedroom. (more…)

Out and About on the Streets of Barnsley

 

Unite Community activists have been out and about this week spreading the message about the Community Support Centre at the NUM Headquarters, 2 Huddersfield Road, Barnsley S70 2LS Telephone 01226 215557 http://barnsleycsc.wordpress.com/
The Freezing weather didn’t stop a dozen or so activists from leafleting around Peel Square in Barnsley, where members of the public told us of the difficulties either they, or their friends & families were experiencing because of welfare cuts and the hated bedroom tax.

The day was a great success, with our activities being reported in the Barnsley Chronicle, Dearne FM And Radio Sheffield. On the second day of activity, we took our message out to Worsbrough Common and Honeywell estates, delivering leaflets throughout the estates and arranging for posters to be displayed in a number of local shops, businesses and the local Workmen’s Club.

Again, the day was a great success with locals already arranging appointments to visit the centre for advice.

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