Trump Divides, The People Unite: Bridges Not Walls

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The STUC organised #dumptrump Anti-Trump Rally in George Square, Glasgow was a colourful and enjoyable affair. 

 

I suppose the good weather helped but there was a party atmosphere. Many different groups (there were three I’m a part of) there under the one cause of being against the racist, misogynistic, ruthless capitalist… you know the rest, “The Donald” Trump. 

 

There were Trade Unions (GMB, Unite, EIS and others), pressure groups (like Global Justice Now & Stand Up to Racism), political parties (Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour, Scottish Socialist Party) and ordinary members of the public. 

 

There was a large diversity in those attending. Age; there was a baby in a papoose, who really didn’t have a say whether to attend or not but there were a number of young people from 5 upwards, there, happy and having fun brandishing their homemade placards opposing the presence of the current incumbent of a great office. Also ethnicity (biggest ethnic diversity I’ve seen at a rally), social background (I hate the word ‘class’) – posh folk and ordinary folk like me. And a wide range of politics, albeit all on the left.  

 

As you will see in the pictures there were many home made placards deriding Trump and people were only too pleased to pose with them for my (and many others) pictures. This shows that they didn’t only want their hatred/disdain/etc of Trump to be noticed today at a rally but were happy for it to be shown worldwide, as people know that’s what happens to photographs these days. And everyone with a smile or pose for the camera. I hadn’t intended taking so many shots of banners & placards but they were fascinating, just wish I could have got them all. 

 

If only the left could unite on all causes like it did today. All there, all for one cause, happy, sharing stories, praising each other’s placards/banners and most importantly engaging the normally non-politically active members of the public. 

 

If we could do that, austerity wouldn’t have a chance! Bring it on. 

 

By Neil Anderson

 

You can read more from the Ungagged collective on our writing page, or listen to left views on our podcast

 

And you can download free anti-Trump posters and placards here – it’s not too late!

World Refugee Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Debora Kayembe, Human Rights campaigner and Director of Full Options

 

It’s summer, most countries in the world expect migration movement to increase. Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. A person who moves from their home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, especially within the same country, a displaced person. A person seeking refuge from political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.
Since the Arab spring widely considered as the Arab revolution which was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. The world has witness an expected and unprecedented massive movement of refugees to Europe that result to a reception crisis; thousands of refugees cross the sea and attempt to settle in the most appropriate place that they taught suitable for them.

Once arrived the host country; it is not always a welcoming sight; a lot it expected from the new comer as well the from refugee perspectives; it is the time to rest, recover and make choices. Some likely manage to make it to the place of their choice, some do not and the most unfortunates end up in detention centre or being deported back to their home land depending on countries and immigration refugee policies.

When integration in the host countries comes to the mind of a refugee, the challenges are immeasurable. It requires great mental and/or physical effort and is a major test of a person’s ability. It is also important for members of the host society to recognize that it is the right of a person to have or to do something in order to strive to move forward.

Integration is, after all, defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio economic and cultural life. Each and every country holds its own policies on refugees and asylum seekers in order to allow them to settle. We can divide these in two parts: the socio economic integration and the cultural integration. There is also a third part and that is the responsibility that both the host country and the refugees (that includes asylum seekers) take for ensuring that the policies work.

A new life in a host country places a lot of expectations on refugees and little thought is often given to how much or how well the refugee understands the society in which s/he has joined and been called up to integrate. Are there any ways that the host country can help the refugee to overcome the challenges that they will certainly face? Have ways of teaching the new way of living been provided to minimize additional tensions on the life of the refugee? While each country has its own systems, they all have some things in common, namely, they are discriminatory, non-equal, and segregationist. People are led to believe that the world is working towards less racist policies at local levels, but in the context of the refugee (and asylum seeker) experience this is not the case.

We also need to think about the ignorance and naiveté that can be part of the refugee’s way of seeing the world after going through tremendous trauma, and their expectation that the world will look upon them with compassion.

Challenges are not only felt by the newcomers and it is important to consider that those attempting to welcome them can face significant challenges too including offer refugees the opportunity to participate in a dialogue and to be open-minded about how refugees might be perceived.
Fundamentally, there is a need for an open and inclusive local/national society that offers refugees the opportunity to be introduced to a new culture through non-judgmental inclusion. Being a refugee in host countries is like finding refuge in your neighbor’s home.

Your neighbor will give you a bed and will probably provide food for you in the earliest days on your arrival, but will soon expect you to make a contribution to their home as long as you stay. I do not think the neighbor will be pleased to see you stealing or destroying his property for no reason. But it is also true that, the refugee will be much settled if his host offers him in equal measure and all the necessary help that he need in order to be become self-sufficient.

I will not finish to write this article without mentioning the immigration detention Centre; around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. In 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in process, and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). In the Scotland we have a detention centre called Dungavel, I always call for the closure of that centre because of the persistent and continuous violations of Human rights that happens in that centre ; It is also true that immigration matters are not part of the devolved powers to the Scottish government ; but the welfare of the individuals in Dungavel it’s very much a Scottish responsibility ; I am calling upon to the Scottish parliament to conduct an investigation into the conditions of detainees in that centre .

You can find out more about Full Options on their Facebook page or on twitter

 

 

You can read more news and views on our writing page or listen to our our latest podcast

Alive, due to lack of death

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Fuad Alkbarov

The UN must recognise Palestine’s right to exist, says leading Human Rights Campaigner

Today 136 out of 193 UN member states have formally recognised Palestine. The UK needs to show some leadership and be amongst the first Western European countries to recognise Palestine and its right to self-determination.
British Government already recognises the principle that the Palestinian people have an inalienable right to self-determination but has not granted this officially because it wants to reserve the right to do so at a moment of its choosing to best help bring about peace.
That moment is now. Recognition is a good starting-point for negotiations and would help guarantee that the focus of talks is about how Palestine becomes a viable and secure sovereign state – not whether it becomes one. Denying recognition as the current British government is doing is entirely at odds with the principle of self-determination.
Of course, neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist. It can be difficult to understand the scale of the human tragedy that is occurring on this narrow strip of land, day in day out. Not just when the camera crews and journalists are there, but every single day.
It’s vital that human rights violations and violence on all sides cease and that the international community take strong action to hold the perpetrators to account.
One of those core causes is the eternal question mark that hangs over Palestine’s right to exist. Recognition would help the process of removing that question mark and allow Israelis and Palestinians to look forward to a future defined by equality, justice, freedom and peace.
In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles creating the only light. Thousands of families have lost loved ones in house fires. Gaza’s residents face so much struggle and pain, just to secure one of life’s basic necessities.
Today, if you ask Palestinians in Gaza how they are doing, they might respond: “Alive, due to lack of death.” This commonly used expression captures the misery of everyday life in Gaza.
Every second in Gaza under Israel’s blockade – where water and medical care are luxuries – is tainted by tragedy. Every time a family can’t afford to put food on the table, every time a house fire claims yet another victim, every time a cancer patient can’t acquire life-saving treatment or another desperate human ends their life, the dreadfulness of the blockade comes into full view.
The UN has declared Gaza “unliveable”, and the blockade creates a passive, collective death. What will it take to convince the international community that the people of Palestine, like all humans on this Earth, deserve to live in dignity?
So long as Israel maintains great control over Palestinian lives but denies them their basic rights and freedoms, it cannot call itself a democracy.

Leading Scottish BDS Activist Reacts To Gaza Massacre

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Jim Bollan

The premeditated murder by the Israeli Zionist state of another 58 innocent Palestinians is further evidence that Israel the Apartheid state is being protected by the US and the West in its policy of ethnic cleansing.

These brutal murders along with thousands of innocent Palestinian protesters injured are being portrayed by the BBC as “clashes”.  Not one Israeli has been injured in these so-called “clashes”. It is obscene and racist the way the BBC and other mainstream media report on these barbaric acts by the Zionists.

The Labour Party also need to take to task “Labours friends of Israel” organisation who are absolving the Zionists of any blame for the murderous carnage and acting as apologists for the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).

The UN, EU and the West stand by and watch this genocide unfold and do nothing. They are all complicit with Israel and the US who allow and condone these atrocities.

Palestine is under occupation by the Zionists who have one of the biggest militaries in the World. The IOF used marksmen to shoot and kill innocent unarmed Palestinians including women and children. Tear gas from drones was also used to incapacitate the peaceful Palestinian protests before carrying out their cold-blooded murders of innocent people. Many of these weapons used to kill Palestinians will have been made in the UK. We need to continue to expose these companies and the Government for allowing these weapons to be sold to Apartheid Israel. Yet the Western powers turn the other cheek and pay homage to the American dollar.

We all need to do what we can in anyway we can to support the Palestinian resistance to the illegal and immoral occupation, a resistance that will never die or be defeated by elite Zionists in occupied Palestine.

Trump and his fascists in the White House are dancing to Netanyahu’s tune and are determined to invade Syria and Iran to create the greater Israel the Zionists desire and also to plunder the rich resources these countries hold.

The Palestinians are brave beyond words. Their land has been occupied for 70 years by the Zionists with the total support of the West. Unemployment in Gaza is at 60% because the Apartheid state decides who can and cannot work. Power and water are controlled by the Zionists. There is no freedom of movement on their own land with hundreds of checkpoints set up as part of the control mechanism used by the Zionist IOF.

We all have a responsibility to do what we can, however small an act, to support the Palestinians in their struggle for Justice, Peace and Equality.

NO PEACE FOR ISRAEL, WITHOUT JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIANS.

Oooh Jeremy Corbyn…Poorly Paid Agency Workers Aren’t Just Migrants

Reading Time: 5 minutes
IMG_20180306_195252
Brian Finlay
This post also appears on Brian’s blog

Like many on the left I was optimistic when Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party. I was happy to see him fend off the centrist Labour MPs such as Liz Kendall and latterly Owen Smith to be the leader of the opposition in Westminster. I was hopeful that the UK had a leader of the Labour Party that believed in the scrapping of our Trident nuclear weapons and ending Austerity.

I find myself wanting to cheer him on but get disappointed when I hear him acknowledge the ‘will of the British people’ in the 52/48 EU referendum to end freedom of movement. I got even more disappointed when Jeremy Corbyn stood on a manifesto, in June 2017, which supported the renewal Trident nuclear weapons; outvoted by his own party to do so. I lost all faith when he addressed the Scottish Labour Party conference this week and delivered a speech which blurred an issue of poorly paid agency workers with migrants coming to this country.

This has pandered to the controlling of mass immigration narrative which has been made to be a major factor for the working condition woes in the UK which is completely unfounded. Poor pay and working conditions are stagnated and driven down in the UK labour market because the National Living Wage (NLW) is low, precarious work is unregulated and jobs are being deskilled because of automation and centralisation of power structures.

Agency workers in areas such as manufacturing and hospitality sectors in the UK have historically been accepted and normalised. In fact, organisations such as Amazon and Ryanair still use agencies to staff their business. Different organisations use agency staff to different extents.  Amazon has both their own employers and agency staff working in the back office and on the warehouse floor alongside each other. This allows them to quickly increase their workforce to the business needs and when workload demand increases. Ryanair has a slightly different approach, where their cabin crew and customer service staff are from agencies and their pilots are employed by Ryanair. This is known as marketisation where different specific areas of an organisation can be tendered out to an agency or in some cases third party companies; this is common with cleaners or maintenance for example.

These types of working arrangements can cause huge problems for employment relations and attempting to collectively mobilise staff to strike, or collectively bargain, as employees all work for different organisations or agencies and have unique terms and conditions of work. This fragmentation of the workforce dilutes any power the collective employees may have had to strike and means that, where trade unions are even acknowledged within the organisation, the strike will only impact on a small section of the business and have limited impact on the organisation’s ability to function and produce profit. It is important to acknowledge this is not accidental and organisations have adopted marketisation for this reason to ensure the employer holds the power and prevents, as much as possible, strike action taking place and it allows them to tender out parochial, specialised or in some organisations low skilled job roles. 

I believe this is the issue that Mr Corbyn wants to address in relation to his speech at the Scottish Labour Party conference but what he did, which may be unintentional or possibly not, is talked about this issue in relation to cheap agency workers migrating to this country from abroad. I was shocked to see these words come out of his mouth and sounded like dog whistle politics of mass immigration driving down the wages and quality of work in the UK. He has previously stated that with the EU referendum result he would want to see the end of free movement of people because of ‘genuine concern over immigration by the electorate’ but, as a socialist leader, he should be standing up and arguing the case for free movement. Moreover, he should be specifically highlighting areas of the country which need immigration to continue to function such as here in Scotland. We have a declining population numbers overall and an ageing population, we have an urgent need to attract immigrants. By closing the door to the single market we stop the free flow of people from the EU and speeches like this could make us seem unwelcoming. The underpaid agency worker issue could be policed with the legal framework we already have; regardless to where that worker has come from.

It has been known, since the debate of introducing the National Minimum Wage (NMW), that the offer of meals, refreshments and accommodation from an employer can be offset from an employee’s wages. This means that if an employer is paid the ‘National Living Wage’ (NLW) they can have accommodation and cost of meals taken from their pay packet resulting in the employer having to part with less money to the employee. This type of working arrangement can be occupied by anyone not just workers from abroad. These types of adverts exist on Gumtree every summer for remote hotels in the north of Scotland and such like. The fact is agency workers are already protected under UK employment law to receive at least the NMW under the UK Governments Rights for Agency Workers. I do believe that a threshold should be put in place to ensure agency workers are not paying over the cost price for in-work accommodation and meals. A comprehensive framework is needed to ensure that employees are receiving company perks at production cost incurred to the business and the employer is not pocketing additional profit by exploiting agency workers in this manner.

The desirability of agency workers, from my extensive research in the hospitality sector, has reduced in the last ten years due to the adoption of zero hour contracts (ZHC). The use of these contracts, which contributes massively to in-work poverty and degradation of the power held by the employee in the UK, gives the employer similar flexibility benefits they traditionally had with agency staff. The use of these types of contracts rose by 300% in 2015-16 and is most common in service sector work. The ZHC is also more attractive as they do not have to pay agency fees. Agency fees can be particularly expensive and could cost the employer double the hourly rate than it would be to have their own employee but it did give the employer to stability of staff ‘on tap’ but this can now be achieved through ZHC’s. The use of ZHC’s as a method of employment tends not to suit skilled manual labour or specialised jobs which may amount to agency workers in these fields; for both indigenous and migrant workers.

The European Union is looking to change laws and regulations to migrant temporary agent workers which may not match ‘our’ values. There have been multiple treaties and policies that the UK has either managed to not sign up to or negotiate progressive changes at the ratification stage. Jeremy Corbyn talks of these potential EU developments in employment policy, which we won’t be part of as we’re leaving the EU if he gets his way, but neglects to reassure the audience what domestic levers could be used. I found the speech to be clouded and he was confusing incredibly important issues with migrant labour when it really didn’t need to be; as it’s an issue across the entire UK workforce.

It is clear that  if Jeremy Corbyn genuinely wanted to help with this issue he could have dealt with it without referring to migrant agency workers. I don’t feel it was appropriate or relevant to do so, especially with all the misinformation and falsely created tension around immigration. I do feel it was opportunistic and yet he chose to make that speech in one area of the UK where we are crying out for migrant workers to come and join our workforce in Scotland. If Corbyn really had an understanding of what Scotland needs he would back Scotland having all immigration and workers’ rights devolved to Holyrood. This way we could see the end exploitative precarious working conditions and set an immigration policy that reflects our values and our needs for the future.

We Need to Talk About Libya

Reading Time: 3 minutes
image1-1
Teresa Durran

There were many more casualties resulting from the Twin Tower attacks than the 2,974 people who died in New York that day on 9/11. As well as those poor souls, there have been countless thousands killed in the resulting war on terror carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the fall out still continues, with victims continuing to be created in the wake of the chaos inflicted across the Middle East.

The latest iteration of this appeared in reports which came via CNN, who have recently published an investigation they have been carrying out in Libya following reports about slave auctions. Incredible as this is to believe in 2017, the evidence they have amassed looks pretty convincing. There are still thousands of people trying to reach the Mediterranean who cross Libya’s borders each year. This has contributed to the wave of boats trying to cross the Med, which is of itself a tragic tale of greed, need, prejudice and misery; figures complied on 24/10/17 show that more than 18,800 people had been intercepted so far this year, with over 111,000 successfully reaching Italy, the vast majority of whom travelled from Libya.

However, latterly Libyan coastguards (and militias) have been attempting to address this, and crossings have therefore dropped sharply since the summer. Nonetheless, migrants and refugees still continue to travel to Libya, which has led to a surplus of would-be passengers. People smuggling has become big business in the country, so the people behind it have done what any good capitalist would and diversified. If you believe people smuggling represents a good opportunity to make a profit, why would you baulk at extending this to slavery? What would be the difference to you between herding hundreds of people in a boat and sending them to an uncertain fate, and parading them as goods for sale at an auction?

Although the 1926 Slavery Convention was ratified by Libya in 1957, slave auctions have resurfaced there partially because of the instability caused by the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. He was undoubtedly a brutal dictator, but his overthrow highlighted the dangers of creating a power vacuum, and over half a decade later, Libya is no closer to being stable. Although there were no shortage of Western countries willing to get involved in air strikes under the auspices of NATO in 2011, there doesn’t seem to be a similar impulse to help deal with the fall out. As a result, Libya has effectively two governments operating out of Tobruk and Tripoli, a shattered economy and its own internal refugee problem. Small wonder that there seems to be little resource or will around in the country to deal with slave auctions.

CNN casting an international spotlight on this may bring about change; certainly, several countries seem to have been galvanized into action. One headline reads ‘Burkina Faso recalls ambassador to Libya over ‘slave markets’ report’ while another says ‘France pushes U.N. to impose sanctions over Libya migrant crisis’. However, Donald Trump’s war of words with CNN has proved a gift to the Libyan media; as he had repeatedly denounced the network as peddlers of ‘fake news’, the Libyan broadcaster Libya 218 has used trump’s tweets on the subject to doubt the veracity of the slave auction story, saying;

“Here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to secure an as yet hidden political objective.”

What a mess. An ill thought out ‘war on terror’ initiated by the US post 9/11 brought, as widely predicted, greater instability to an already frighteningly unstable part of the world. The knock-on effect of this enabled NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war and the instability resulting from that and other nearby conflicts created the conditions for the slave auctions. And now their reporting may well be hobbled by the current US president, who is ignorant of, and entirely careless about, the effect of his words abroad. While he rides up and down in his golden elevator and continues his privileged life by other, more lucrative means, the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free will just have to continue to yearn.

Justice for Terrell

Reading Time: 2 minutes
image6
Victoria Pearson

This report contains images some readers may find distressing.

 

The police watchdog, IPCC, is investigating after a 15 year old child was severely injured during an attempted arrest in South London on Tuesday night, needing hospital treatment.

Screenshot_20171123-085347
The boy, Terrell Decosta Jones-Burton, was treated in a critical care unit in a south London hospital for a split lip, lost teeth, broken jawbone, bruising on the brain and abdominal pain. His condition is currently described as “stable”.
Police say they were contacted by a woman at around 9pm who reported that her phone had been stolen by a male Youth who had then fled on a bicycle. A short while later police attempted to detain Terrell. According to their statement;

“While being detained, [Terrell] came off his bicycle and was taken by the London Ambulance Service to a south London hospital where he remains in a stable condition with facial injuries.”

It’s not clear from the police’s statement exactly how he “came off his bicycle”, and they have not elaborated further at this point. His injuries – which potentially include internal bleeding – would appear to be extremely severe and extensive if they are the result of a simple fall.
Terrell’s mother Shereen Jones, who posted pictures of her son’s injuries to the hashtag #JusticeForTerrell, says that he was heading home from the shops when he was attacked by police.

‘He has no criminal record and no involvement with the police.’

She added.

Speaking on her facebook page, Terrell’s mother Shereen said:

“Was all of this necessary over a phone? Police brutality on young black boys has to stop.”

Statistics confirm her accusation of brutality, showing the UK’s largest police force do use force disproportionately against black suspects.
Rotherhithe, where Tuesday’s incident took place, has seen a recent spike in robberies of mobile phones snatched from pedestrians by muggers on mopeds, bicycles or on foot, and police are struggling to deal with a 13% rise in crime amid their budgets being squeezed, but nothing excuses this level of force used on anyone, much less a minor. Children deserve to feel safe on our streets, and they deserve to feel protected, not afraid, of police while going about their daily lives.
We will bring you more information as the story develops.
Anyone who may have witnessed the police interaction with Terrell Decosta Jones-Burton is asked to contact IPCC investigators on 0800 029 4687 or southwarkparkroad@ipcc.gsi.gov.uk.

Free Jaggi Now

Reading Time: 2 minutesScottish man held without charge in India

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

A 30 year old Scottish man, Jagtar Singh Johan from West Dunbartonshire, has been arrested and denied legal representation while holidaying in Jalandha, Punjab, India.

Screenshot_20171111-173438

Jagtar- Jaggi to his friends – was in the area for his wedding, and was shopping with his new wife when he had a sack thrown over his head and was bundled into a van by men in plain clothes, who the family found out later were policemen.

The Indian authorities have so far refused to give any information regarding Jagtar’s welfare or whereabouts to any UK MPs, or the British High Commission, although police have suggested in Indian media reports that his crime is that he had been “running a magazine” in the UK that outlines the atrocities of the 1984 Sikh genocide, and “influencing the youth through social media.”  

As far as we are aware, running a magazine is not a crime in the UK,  and it’s hard to see how India has jurisdiction to arrest a UK citizen for activity carried out in the UK even if it were. But since Jagtar has had no legal representation, is being held without charge, and has had no trial, he can’t even make his case.

His family has been in touch with several UK MPS, including his local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, who has expressed concern for his constituent and offered full support to his family during this distressing time. He has also contacted The High Commission of India in London and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on their behalf. The UK foreign office is yet to comment.

Fears are growing that Jagtar is being mistreated. Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“We are deeply concerned for the mental and physical wellbeing of this young man who got married on 18th October and was spending time with his wife before returning to the UK.”

He went on to add that he was;

“disturbed by the lack of urgency and action taken by the British High Commission in both Delhi, the mission in Chandigarh, and the Foreign office in London. They have failed to make contact with senior police officers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of this young British man.”

 

This should be the happiest time of newly wed Jagtar “Jaggi” Singh Johan’s life. Instead, it has turned into a nightmare.

How to help

You can follow the story and help raise awareness by  using the hashtag #FreeJaggiNow and copying in the UK Foreign Office, @foreignoffice.

Contact your MP or MSP  (find them here) and put pressure on them to bring this Scottish man home. If you need it,  the Sikh Federation (UK) has a template letter you can adapt.

You can also contact to the foreign office:

King Charles Street
London

SW1A 2AH

Universal Chaos

Reading Time: 3 minutes
image6
Victoria Pearson

Screenshot_20170923-163343

A shocking government briefing paper written by David Webster of the Child Poverty action Group has come to light exposing the failings of the Tories flagship Universal Credit system, including skyrocketing sanctions against pregnant women, and people with mental health problems.
The scheme, which the government agreed in its universal credit white paper (pdf) was justified due to the “huge social and economic cost” of “welfare dependency” has already been accused of “failing thousands of people” by the Citizens Advice Bureau,  “failing working parents and vulnerable people and the government is far too slow at tackling its flaws,” and  “failing to make work pay, pushing people further into rent arrears and leaving them vulnerable to eviction from private landlords.”

But despite food bank usage soaring in areas where universal credit has been rolled out , the government have doggedly stuck to their disastrous policy.
The DWP has published new figures for the proportion of Universal Credit and ESA claimants who were under sanction at a point in time. For Universal Credit this proportion is stated to have varied between 3.0% and 5.4%. However the Benefit Sanctions Statistics Government Briefing states that the correct figures are approximately 6.7% to 12.0%.

New figures are also published for the duration of Universal Credit and ESA sanctions. The median Universal Credit sanction length is shown as 31 days, but, according to the briefing, after allowing for repayments of hardship payments, the true median would be about 52 days, or over 7 weeks.
Given that the group most likely to be sanctioned are those with mental health problems, and pregnant women, we are faced with the stomach churning reality of our most vulnerable members of society being left with no money, mounting rent and council tax arrears for weeks on end, with little to no support.  It’s no wonder that benefit claimants feeling suicidal is so common that Iain Duncan Smith was forced to release training guidance to DWP staff on how to allow rejected claimants for Universal Credit to talk about their intention to kill themselves.
The Universal Credit regime has similar lengths of sanction to those of Job Seeker’s Allowance for the various ‘failures’, – 310,000 of which have proved to be baseless since may 2010 – but there are some critical differences.
Sanctions are lengthened by being made consecutive, not concurrent, pushing people deeper and deeper into debt. Hardship payments under Universal Credit are repayable, making people scared to take them up in case they can’t repay them, and pushing them further into debt if they do. We know that stress can be extremely damaging to pregnant women and their unborn child, so we have to ask; who exactly does this benefit? What social and economic benefit does endangering pregnant women give us, exactly?
Given that repayments are made at the rate of 40% of benefit – the same as the amount by which a hardship payment is lower than the benefit – this means that for claimants receiving hardship payments, Universal Credit sanctions are in effect 2½ times as long as their nominal length.

All sanctioned Universal Credit claimants must also demonstrate ‘compliance’ for 7 days before applying for hardship payments, and must reapply for each 4-week period. The 80% hardship rate for ‘vulnerable’ claimants is abolished. For a pregnant woman these conditions will mean skipping meals, being unable to travel to essential antenatal appointments, and being at higher risk of dangerous health conditions such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure leading to pre-eclampsia, low birth weight and even miscarriage.
Official statistics – which have been described by the Benefits Sanctions Statistics Briefing as “far short of compliance with the requirements of the UKSA” – released on 14 September show that the take-up of income-based JSA has fallen from 69% in 2009/10 to 56% in 2015/16; the sanctions policy has been successful in driving people off benefit, and also out of the reach of government programs designed to help them, such as training and education schemes.

Perhaps the Tories feel proud of that. But when the crushing weight of evidence has, for years now, proven that the Universal Credit system is unjust, dangerous and not fit for purpose, that it punishes the vulnerable with no net benefit whatsoever, you have to wonder what is stopping Theresa May from performing one of her famous u-turns. One can only conclude that punishing the most vulnerable is the aim.
You can read the full text of the briefing here (reproduced with kind permission from the author)