Time to Talk Campaign
The Time to Talk Campaign is aiming to raise the issue of mental ill health at your workplace. We need to encourage employers and employees alike to understand the burden placed on individuals when we fail to ensure that we have robust measures in place. If your employer doesn’t think that this is a real concern, then they should check some of the statistics relating to the cost of failing to deal with mental ill health. Speak to your employer and ask them to look at the impact on their business they can find this information at the links we have forwarded in our toolkit.
Let’s make 2019 the year we deal with the growing issue of Mental Ill Health in our workplaces. It’s time to end the stigma and end the discrimination around mental ill health. The following is designed to assist Safety representatives to ensure we tackle what has become one of the biggest issues facing workers today. The National Safety Committee believe we need to take this issue seriously and we would encourage all our branches to take part in the campaign.
What needs to happen?
Strategy for prevention of work related Mental ill health.
High level commitment to challenging the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. This requires senior management to commit and provide the resources.
A stress management policy. That includes setting up a stress steering group to co-ordinate stress risk assessments. Using management stress standardshttp://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/
A recruitment policy that does not discriminate against those with mental health conditions. The company with nothing to fear will welcome the opportunity to ensure it operates a fair recruitment policy.
A review of sickness absence policies to ensure they do not discriminate against those with mental health conditions. Negotiation of disability passport. Flexible working to support individual needs.
Early access to occupational health services.
Training all staff on mental health (jointly with the BFAWU).
As line managers are expected to deal with workers attendance then it’s essential they have been trained to be aware of issues relating to mental ill health.
The provision of an Employee Assistance programme. Strong anti-bullying and harassment procedures.
If there are Mental Health First Aiders, a system of support for them, including regular meetings?
The BFAWU safety reps and stewards clearly must be involved both in working with their employer around mental health and supporting members with mental health problems this will help in removing the fear, stigma or any discrimination.
Why An Employer needs to Take Mental ill Health Seriously
Mental ill health is a major cause of sickness absence. Conversely, presenteeism - where people attend work when they are not well enough, potentially slowing recovery - can also be an issue connected with mental ill health, as employees may be reluctant to acknowledge or seek help for a mental health issue. Sickness absence and presenteeism both have a significant impact on productivity. The Government-sponsored Thriving at Work report estimates that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, due to absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.
Responsible employers will take an interest in their employees' wellbeing regardless of the business benefits, but an employer that takes active steps to protect and promote the mental health of its employees can potentially see an impact in absence levels, retention and productivity. Employers have a duty to protect and not harm employees to remove risks to both physical and mental health to control and eliminate practices that may harm workers and to make adjustments. Not everyone with severe mental ill health will know the symptoms it is essential that workplace practices don’t harm their employees.
Managers need to understand stress, distress and mental illness, and how to minimise these and offer effective support, irrespective of whether or not the poor mental health is related to organisational factors. The organisational costs of poor employee mental health extend beyond the direct cost of absence related to mental ill health to, for example, raised staff turnover and lower productivity. Poor management leading to decreased wellbeing can also result in less tangible indirect impacts including reduced employee morale, low levels of engagement, employee errors and erosion of trust. Reputational damage may also occur in the event of a high-profile employment tribunal claim, as long-term mental illness is a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (see Disability discrimination and mental ill health).
The Government-sponsored Thriving at Work report estimates that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, due to absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.
Promoting good mental health and supporting employees who have a mental health problem can boost employee commitment to and engagement with the organisation, and enhance employee retention, productivity and performance levels.
Sickness absence, staff turnover and employee morale
Whether or not employees have a pre-existing mental health condition, it is clear that workplace practices can impact on their mental wellbeing. Poor workplace practices can lead to significant ill health through stress, burnout and poor management. There is a clear
financial business case for employers to take positive steps to improve workplace
practices. Office for National Statistics data shows that, in 2016, 15.8 million days were lost because of poor mental health (including stress, depression, anxiety and more serious conditions), accounting for 11.5% of all days lost. However, research has also shown that many employees fear ascribing their absence to mental ill health and will actively cite other reasons.
Being off work for long periods with a mental health problem can affect an individual's ability to cope with the demands of work when he or she returns to the workplace. Extended periods of work inactivity can worsen the physical symptoms of some mental health conditions. However, at least 70% of employees who take absence due to mental ill health do return to work and 83% of employers say that they do not regret hiring someone
who develops or has a mental health problem. Good return-to-work policies, put into action, are fundamental for successful return to work (see Action plans).
If employers do not promote good mental health and support employees who have a mental health condition effectively, this can result in increased staff turnover. Employees who are stressed or have a mental illness, and who do not feel supported by their employer, are more likely to consider leaving the organisation. It is often the case that employees' work situation aggravates their mental ill health. As well as considering resigning from the organisation, which could be seen as a natural and healthy reaction to remove themselves from harm, employees with a mental health condition may become disengaged from the organisation if they do not feel supported. If even one employee experiences low morale, this can affect employees within the wider team. Therefore, employers that do not manage mental wellbeing may experience low morale among wider sections of staff.
Lost productivity and "presenteeism"
Lost productivity among employees who continue to work despite having a significant mental health problem is a major component of the total cost of mental ill health at work. Many employees find it difficult to raise the matters that are causing them stress and distress and that can lead to illness, for example a heavy workload, poor work relations, bad management or unclear work roles, because they are fearful of the repercussions.
Many employees with a pre-existing mental health problem prefer not to disclose it to their employer, and continue to work even though their mental health may be impacting on their ability to do their job. The practice of employees continuing to work even though unwell is known as "presenteeism". Employees in professional jobs and on executive grades are particularly prone to attend work when they are unwell mentally because they are concerned about being stigmatised if they are known to have a mental health problem. In addition, some employees may be concerned that their career could suffer if they take time off sick.
Disability discrimination and mental ill health
Disability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. For a mental illness to fall within the definition of disability, an employee has to show that he or she has a mental or physical impairment; the impairment affects his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities; the adverse impact of the impairment is substantial; and the adverse impact is long term.
Mental impairment covers a wide spectrum relating to mental functioning, including conditions with symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, panic attacks, phobias or unshared perceptions, in addition to mental illnesses.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments in the case of those coming within the definition of having a disability is a unique feature of disability discrimination law, and a failure to comply with the duty constitutes discrimination under s.21 of the Equality Act 2010, unless the employer lacks relevant knowledge of the employee's disability.
The risk of encountering stigma at work and fear of being discriminated against as a result of having a mental health condition understandably prompts some employees to disguise a problem, attributing their underperformance or absence from work to physical health issues. This makes it hard for people with an illness to receive the support they need in terms of reasonable adjustments and professional help. The onus is on employers to make it possible by exhibiting an explicit and demonstrable zero tolerance approach to stigma, from the top of the organisation. It will then be easier for them to fulfil their legal duties concerning the employment of people with disabilities.
Accidents at work
There is an association between mental ill health and workplace accidents; employees who are stressed, anxious or depressed may find it harder to focus on a task. Employers have a duty of care to manage all potential sources of risk, including those arising from mental ill health.
Corporate governance and reputational risk
Failing to manage employees' mental health can damage an organisation's reputation as an employer, particularly if this results in high-profile legal action, for example an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim. Conversely, positioning the organisation as a mentally healthy workplace through the development of positive management and effective wellbeing strategies can strengthen its reputation as a good employer and its corporate responsibility profile
Further information and resources
Any employer who wants to address mental health issues in the workplace needs to look much wider than MHFA, and that is best done in co-operation with unions.
Public Health England and Business in the Community have produced a toolkit for employers on what they should do. This says a good policy will
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call) Email: email@example.com
Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday) or text 86463 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Mind provides confidential mental health information services.
With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental health problems, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind works in partnership with around 140 local Minds providing local mental health services.
Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line
Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am - 4pm Monday to Friday) Email: online contact form
Provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff. Rethink also runs Rethink services and groups across England.
Telephone: 0300 304 7000 (4:30pm-10:30pm)
Saneline is a national mental health helpline providing information and support to people with mental health problems and those who support them.
Telephone: 0808 808 4994 (11am-11pm, free to call) Email: Helpline email form
Crisis Support: Text 'THEMIX' to 85258.
The Mix provides judgement-free information and support to young people aged 13-25 on a range of issues including mental health problems. Young people can access the Mix's support via phone, email, webchat, peer to peer and counselling services.
Telephone: 0800 1111 Website: www.childline.org.uk
ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor for free about anything - no problem is too big or too small.
Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. Elefriends is run
If you're a carer needing support you can contact all of the above as well as Direct
and the Carers Trust, both of whom are able to provide support and advice on any issues affecting you.
What should I do if I'm supporting someone in a crisis?
If the person seems really unwell, and you are worried about their safety, you should encourage them to seek help.
How to support someone in crisis https://www.rethink.org/carers-family-friends/what-you-need-to-know/supporting-someone-with-a-mental-illness/crisis-conflicts
Further reading and resources
Training Courses Available dates
17 January 20 Course already fully booked
Types of courses
What are Mental Health First Aiders
Mental health first-aiders are trained to recognise the signs of mental ill health and provide initial support, in much the same way that physical first-aiders provide immediate help in response to an injury or physical illness to prevent the condition worsening.
Introducing mental health first-aid provision in the workplace may mean that employees are able to access help at an early stage, to prevent a mental health issue developing or becoming more serious. It can also promote a workplace culture where people who experience ongoing mental ill health feel supported and able to continue working, or to return to work successfully after periods of absence. Further
You can find out about the many courses offered by the GFTU at the following website,
Northern College25 January
Fox's Kirkham Min 15 Max 20 Bookings via John Fox
28 Feb No,4 Region Min 15 Max 20
TBC Warburtons Enfield Min 15 Max 20 Booking via Project Worker
BFAWU announces launch of Sexual Harassment campaign and supported by our sisters from Women against rape.
Photo Credit: Raid Studios: Ajit Dutta
Wetherspoons workers in Brighton pubs are celebrating a bumper pay rise following their historic first strike in October . In addition to the pay rises announced, but not detailed, by JD Wetherspoons in their profits warning 07 November 2018, they have been put on a higher pay rate, earning an extra 60p an hour.
This win for the first workers to go out on strike at Wetherspoons adds to the list of victories the workers have experienced since coming together into into a trade union and going on strike for the first time in the pub chain’s history. Their actions have benefited both themselves and workers across the pub chain which has xxxx branches across the UK:
- The annual pay rise was brought forward from early 2019 to November shortly after the strike was announced.
- In the same pay rise, pubs across the country were promised an extra £1 an hour between midnight and 5am, and the 18-20 pay band was removed.
- Significant rota issues in both pubs were addressed, including the abolition of overnight shifts.
- Bullying managers were held to account, leading to a management reshuffle and a member of staff successfully appealing their unfair demotion.
- Workers have continued to organise, expand, and build the campaign to create the change they feel they deserve at Wetherspoons.
Victoria Jordan, a shift leader at the Post and Telegraph, said
“Managers told us we have no support, that we would be ignored and quickly forgotten about – but we proved them wrong. If two pubs in the company can create this much change, imagine what we will achieve as we grow. We are already winning.”
Chris Heppell, kitchen team leader at the Post and Telegraph said
“By organising into a trade union we’ve improved our pubs, won a substantial pay rise for Brighton and changed things we couldn’t have changed alone. We’ve made the company listen to us and take action. We will keep building our union. We want every Wetherspoons worker in the country to be paid a wage we can thrive on. And to have a say in all of the decisions that affect our working lives.”
Elsie Bradley Middle, a bar associate at the Post and Telegraph said
“The pay rise that has come into effect this month has shown that our organising really does work. On top of the company wide increase, we’ve won an additional 40p pay rise for all Brighton pubs. If we can achieve that with just two Brighton pubs striking imagine what we can do when we continue to build and show our strength. This win is just the beginning, join us in the movement.”
Wetherspoons workers across the UK are being encouraged to get in touch with the campaign. They can contact the Wetherspoons strikers by emailing email@example.com.
The campaign will continue to fight for a living wage of at least £10 an hour, including equal wages for all ages, security of hours and for union recognition.
Notes to editors:
For further information or to organise interviews with Wetherspoons workers please contact Owen Espley – Mobile: +44 (0)7861 362 797 / oespley[@]waronwant.org
- On November 07 Wetherspoons re-announced a profits warning, in part they said due to rising wage bill https://d1i2hi5dlrpq5n.cloudfront.net/~/media/files/pdf-documents/investors/2019/q1-trading-update-7-november-2018.pdf?vs=1&d=20181107T062437Z
- The original pay award was announced in response to workers being balloted over strike action: https://fastfoodrights.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/wetherspoons-responds-to-brighton-workers-strike-ballot-by-bringing-pay-award-forward/
The Bakers Foods & Allied Workers Union has renewed the contract with The Lighthouse Group as their preferred provider of expert financial advice to its members. This includes advice on financial planning, mortgages and investments.
General Secretary, Ronnie Draper, commented: “We are delighted to have secured this contract renewal with Lighthouse, which will enable us to continue to ensure that our members are able to access financial planning assistance from a reliable and well reputed organisation, on a truly national basis. We look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with Lighthouse and ensuring that our members are able to secure quality service and consistent professional financial advice”.
Malcolm Streatfield, Chief Executive Officer of Lighthouse commented: “The Board is very pleased that we have secured this contract renewal with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU), which further serves to endorse provides further endorsement of the quality of service and financial planning support which Lighthouse Financial Advice provides to all participating members of our affinity group partners. We very much look forward to progressing further our relationship with BFAWU over the years ahead. The Board remains committed to developing further our affinity partnerships throughout the UK”.
Any members wanting to arrange a complimentary, no obligation, initial appointment with one of their advisers should call 08000 85 85 90, or email; firstname.lastname@example.org
More details can be found on the BFAWU website at: https://www.bfawu.org/lighthouse_financial
Women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood –
“Release us and close this place down.”
Over 40 women in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre have gone on hunger strike protesting against a charter flight tonight that will take traumatised women back to Nigeria. Women from many different countries including, Bolivia, China, Ghana, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Zambia, have come together to take this action.
A case currently in court of people (known as the Stansted 15) who blocked a charter flight from taking off in 28 March 2017, has brought to light the terrible brutality of these pre-booked flights. People are scooped up, sometimes regardless of the status of their legal case, and forced onto planes to fill seats.
One of the women in the All African Women’s Group, a self-help group of women asylum seekers and refugees, was on the flight that was stopped by the Stansted 15 last March. She says:
“I’ve lived in Britain for almost 30 years and have indefinite leave to remain – yet I was taken from my home to Yarl’s Wood and put on a flight within six days despite my lawyer’s protests to the Home Office – I was so thankful to the young people for stopping this flight, they saved mine and other people’s lives.”
Women in Yarl’s Wood are also protesting appalling conditions inside. A dossier by Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) and Women Against Rape documented a decade of rape and sexual abuse by guards, much of which was covered up by Serco, the multi-national company which was granted a £70 million contract to run the centre. Christine Case died there in 2014 due to lack of medical care.
Fidelia from Bolivia spoke to BWRAP, which is co-ordinating support for the hunger strikers, saying that she is severely distressed at being detained.
“I came to the UK for safety as my life was threatened by drug gangs after I spoke out. I’ve been in the UK for over 11 years. I’m a cancer survivor and I need to see a specialist but all I’ve been given is paracetamol! I’ve been held here for seven months for no reason.”
Another woman commented:
“We haven’t had the chance to have a proper legal process. The Home Office has been refusing evidence and documents and want to send us back without even looking at our cases. Being here is mentally disturbing – everyone is damaged, physically and emotionally.”
Women inside Yarl’s Wood are demanding: an end to charter flights, the closure of detention centres, the reinstatement of legal aid for immigration cases, an end to mothers being separated from their children by detention and for rape and sexual abuse to be recognised as torture and therefore grounds for asylum.
Women are available for interviews – please call Cristel on 07456 525227
Black Women's Rape Action Project
Crossroads Women's Centre
25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX
020 7482 2496
Channel 4’s undercover documentary reveals racist, sexist and violent attitudes by some guards https://www.ein.org.uk/news/channel-4-news-investigation-raises-new-concerns-over-yarls-wood-immigration-removal-centre
Rape & Sexual Abuse in Yarl’s Wood Immigration & Removal Centrehttp://www.womenagainstrape.net/sites/default/files/dossier_rape_in_yarls_woodfinaljuly15.pdf
The BFAWU sends our best wishes and solidarity to those fighting against injustice in Iran and calls for the immediate release of those 8 workers imprisoned for demanding their rights to be paid. We also demand the immediate release of the 3 activists and the female journalist who have been taken to an unknown place.
Under Rule 17.1, Branches in Region 5 are being asked to nominate candidates for the position of Organising Regional Secretary in the Region, to take up office on the 1st of March 2019, or as close as possible thereafter.
Nominations should be called for at a Special Branch Meeting called for the purpose, and should reach the General Secretary either in writing or by email (to: email@example.com) no later than Friday the 4th of January 2019. Branches nominating should be aware that, under Rule, all nominees must have at least three years Full Membership and must not be in arrears of any contributions. All candidates must also hold a full and current driving license.
Further details regarding the process have been provided to Branch Secretaries.
We demand a living wage for mothers and other carers because:
· Every worker is entitled to a living wage. Women do 2/3 of the world’s work – in the home, on the land and in the community – but most of this work is unwaged.
· Women are the primary carers everywhere in the world, fighting for the survival and well-being of children and sick, disabled and elderly people, in the home and outside, in peace as in war. Women grow most of the world’s food.
· Most carers, starting with mothers, get no wages and aren’t considered workers.
· Many carers are themselves disabled; many are children caring for younger ones or for their disabled parents; many are grandparents leaving retirement to care for their children’s children.
· Caring is demanding work but the skills it requires are undervalued even in the job market – domestic work, homecare, childcare and even nursing are low paid.
· Valuing caring work would help to close the income gap between women and men. It would also draw more men into caring.
· Financial dependence when caring work is unwaged often traps women in violent relationships.
· Many mothers do several jobs and have to fit time with their children around their job – this is exhausting and stressful for all.
· When mothers are impoverished and overworked, children suffer: hunger, ill-health, violence and exploitation.
· Mothers who have to return to other work soon after childbirth are less likely to breastfeed.
· Workers who take time off to care for children or other loved ones, lose pay, promotion, social security and future pension.
· Devaluing caring work devalues people, relationships and life itself.
· Investing in carers redirects economic and social policies towards survival, health and well-being – for every individual and for the planet which sustains us all.
Caring for others is the foundation of every society, yet this work, done mostly by women, is devalued and underfunded.
We demand that:
1. Every worker be paid a living wage, including mothers and other carers.
2. National and international budgets redirect financial support and resources to mothers and other carers.
Sponsored by: Every Mother is a Working Mother Coalition (US) ● International Wages for Housework Campaign ● Military Families Speak Out (US) ● Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (India) ● Payday men’s network ● Federacion Sindical de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores del Hogar (Peru) ● Single Mothers’ Self-Defence ● Welfare Warriors (US) ● WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)
UK endorsers (June 2015): All African Women’s Group ● Black Women’s Rape Action Project ● Brighton Feminist Collective ● Caribbean Labour Solidarity ● Christopher Alder Family Campaign ● Disabled People Against Cuts ● English Collective of Prostitutes ● Food for All (Camden) ● Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Cuts ● Independent Catholic News ● International Women Count Network ● Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group ● Lactation Consultants GB ● Legal Action for Women ● London Socialist Film Co-op ● Mammas Community Breastfeeding Support Project ● Mothers at Home Matter ● Queer Strike ● Scottish Kinship Care Alliance ● Scottish Prostitute Education Project (SCOTPEP) ● Sex Worker Open University ● Taxpayers Against Poverty ● Women Against Rape ● x:talk
Some prominent individuals: Mumia Abu-Jamal ● Melissa Benn ● Joanna Biggs ● Julia Bradley ● Margaret Busby ● Bob Crow ● Greg Foxsmith ● David Graber ● Eric Huntley ● Selma James ● Bruce Kent ● Sheila Kitzinger ● Ken Loach ● John McDonnell MP ● Martina Navratilova ● Trenton Oldfield ● Susie Orbach ● Gareth Peirce ● Greg Philo (Glasgow Media Group) ● Kate Pickett ● Dame Philippa Russell, Chair Standing Commission on Carers ● Christina Sammoutis ● Emma Thompson ● Vivienne Westwood ● Zoe Williams ● Walter Wolfgang ● Richard Wilkinson ● Matt Wrack
Ask your organization / group / union to endorse
Follow the link and sign the petition Living wage for mothers and other carers petion
Pennine Foods in Sheffield has been working with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) to support English learners – and the joint working is proving a recipe for success with 27 learner completions recently.
learners with Paul Howell General Manager of Pennine Foods and Ronnie Draper BFAWU General Secretary.
To recognise all the hard work learners put in the union and the company, which is part of the 2 Sisters Food Group, held two celebration days where the learners were awarded their certificates.
The success of this site comes from the support from BFAWU reps, Chesterfield College and the company management. The union said that the support for release from the company has been outstanding and the learners are given a 100% paid release to attend classes.
The event was attended by Ronnie Draper, BFAWU General Secretary, Ian Hodson, BFAWU National President and Paul Howell, General Manager at Pennine Foods.
Ronnie said that he:
Enjoyed a great day at Pennine Foods presenting certificates of achievement to all the learners. You can cut the enthusiasm of learners, ULR’s, provider, the company representatives and union officials with a knife. So proud of you all, what you have achieved and the collective benefits you will bring too many in the future. Thank you all”
Ian added that:
It was a pleasure to attend and meet some of the learners. Learning is something that never stops whether the learning is for work or for personal development and completion of any form of learning is an achievement that enhances our lives.”
The opportunities that so many are now talking up in many cases is due to the development of trained learning representatives, enabling people to access learning to improve their lives is an incredible gift that one person can give to another and that’s what our learning representatives are doing at Pennine and across the country.”
Attending these classes has had an effect on everyone in some way, one gentleman in particular the classes has helped him dramatically at work.
Thirumeni Thambirasan, also known as John Cena, by his work friends moved over to England from Sri Lanka.
His first job in England was here at Pennine Foods working as an operative within the chilled department. He has always been extremely hard working found communicating in English a bit of a struggle.
BFAWU Project Worker Lisa Greenwood said:
At Pennine we offer the opportunity to attend English classes which are provided on site. His supervisor encouraged him to join and he approached me for advice.”
Now he has achieved a qualification he is now more confident using the English Language and now he is responsible for his own area and is confident enough to train new team members and using our online computer system Sap.”
Because of how much he has progressed he is now a stand in team leader which greater responsibility. This shows the hard work and commitment he has put in to attending class and achieving a qualification in English.
Lisa added that:
He really appreciates the opportunity at Pennine Foods for supporting his learning with our union learning services. His supervisor is extremely proud of how far he’s come on his learning journey, he’s a real success and we look forward to helping him achieve his next qualification.”
Rachel Vine Lead ULR at Pennine Foods said this wasn't the end:
Learning hasn’t stopped there. In mid November the next group of learners will start with two classes a day. This again is fully supported by the company and a massive thank you to them as this shows the company is investing in their staff.”
Universal Credit is class war perpetrated by a cabinet of millionaires against those struggling to get by in our communities. It is being sold as the most important change in social security for 30 years as it will bring together most of the means tested benefits alongside tax credits for people of a working age.
It’s the Tory government‘s stock answer to any question about poverty in the UK, and especially when referencing the legally binding targets set out in Child Poverty Act 2010 and how they will be achieved. Yet consistently the poverty reducing aspect continues to be revised downwards.
At the start of the process the Tories and Fib Dems claimed 350,000 children and 500,000 working age adults could be moved out of poverty.
The BFAWU demands that Universal Credit is stopped and scrapped,
- Universal Credit must be stopped and scrapped.
- Universal Credit will be impossible to implement with casual and zero hour contract workers. Forcing precarious workers to either choose not to access benefits or to not work.
- Hardship in terms of fuel poverty. Evictions and food poverty will increase massively among people already suffering with hardship.
- Charities will be gagged to hide the figures.
- The effect on the financial autonomy of women. Will increase the risk of domestic violence.
- People who are computer illiterate will suffer disproportionately.
Tory Ministers are well aware that there have been warnings and campaigns from disabled people's organisations, from foodbanks and charities alike for the last several years.
The BFAWU are proud to be working with our Comrades in DPAC who have produced a number of well researched articles on Universal Credit, including by the late activist Debbie Jolly, who warned of its effects as far back as 2010. We agree with their findings this hideous attack on our class must be stopped and Universal credit must be scrapped.
The welfare state was created to deal with the eradication of want, ignorance, idleness, disease and squalor the Tories have always opposed its creation and Universal credit is the Tory destruction of the system that was designed to support all people at their time of need. Universal credit is not constructed to support but demonise and punish those that use its rollout is causing real hardship and has led to some taking their own lives. This itself should be reason enough to reconsider but so ideological attached and uncaring it won’t flinch in forcing our country back to a time when poverty was the norm and charity was the only system of support.
Some of the many hidden cuts to benefits have been highlighted recently in the press.
We know Esther McVey accused Labour of peddling "fake news" at Tory Party Conference in reference to cuts to tax credits. Equally we know that on October 11th during a TV interview that the minister admitted yes some people WILL be worse off. We know that the average amount people stand to lose due to tax credit cuts is in excess of £2400.
Other hidden cuts haven't had such exposure, no longer can two severely disabled people who live together as a couple who each receive currently the severe disability premium, under UC only one can claim for Severely Disabled Premium per household. This is a loss of approx. £30 per week for those households, money that is essential for carers pay and cost of support/mobility devices and adaptations to the home.
A disabled parent with a disabled child claiming disability elements of UC, will also be worse off again this a loss of approx. £30 per week per household, yet that parent is still a carer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to their disabled child.
We know that claimant conditionality agreements are compulsory meaning you have no choice and no right to complain what sort of government forces people to sign a form of NDA only one that has something to hide.
Many of our members and other low paid workers who are on the hated zero hours contracts will also are impacted by the changes.
These workers have to apply for and evidence application for other job roles that would take their weekly hours up to 35 hours a week. Yet many workers on zero hours contracts also have precarious, unpredictably fluctuating hours each week. Often with very little notice of shifts, and are at risk of losing their jobs if found to be applying for work elsewhere.
In a continuation of demonstration of how cruel reforms to welfare are, a worker who loses their job cannot immediately apply for means tested benefits, and with the added minimum wait of 5 weeks for initial payment under UC changes, people are plunged into poverty, if not made completely destitute.
We know that there is a sharp rise in:
- the amount of rent arrears in areas where UC has been fully rolled out,
- the number of evictions,
- the number of homeless people,
- a stark rise in foodbank usages,
- the number of children placed on at risk register,
- the number of medical cases of life threatening malnutrition such as feeders syndrome - a condition normally seen in famine struck areas,
- cases of mental health crisis,
- and a rise in cases of benefits related suicide.
We know that the introduction of the two-child rule has resulted in a rise in cases of pregnant women being attacked by their partners. Media reports have suggested beaten in order to induce miscarriage.
And we know that the loss of financial autonomy for women in male/female couples means that many victims of domestic abuse are trapped in unimaginably dangerous situations, with no means of escape.
We know that the fact that the new system is entirely online means that people who are not computer literate, who have various disabilities, or who have no online access are not only struggling to access the Universal credit application but are also missing out on being able to access it at all, which results in people's payments being stopped altogether.
We know that charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau dealing with complaints appeals and supporting applicants have been gagged from reporting figures. Unable to publicly disclose the volume of or nature of claimants cases and the effects of them.
We'll never know the true number of people negatively affected due to UC, but we know that the current estimated figure of £24 million of rent arrears in Britain is indicative of the seriousness of its impact.
For all of these reasons and more we reject the notion that Universal Credit can be fixed.
We reject the suggestion that there is any place in the policies of a socialist Labour government for a system that directly and purposely causes abject poverty, suffering, destitution and death of our class.
Whether people are in low paid job roles, are unemployed, or are unable to work at all, Working class women, men and children deserve to be supported in their time of need, not punished for circumstances that are beyond their control.
Wages don't increase with the cost of living, benefits rates are going in reverse, there can only be one result if we don't unite to fight this most malicious attack on our class in living history;
The working class will turn its collective back on the Trade Union and Labour Movement in response to us having done the same to them.
STOP and SCRAP Universal Credit.