It comes as no surprise to read that food bank usage has shot up in areas where Universal Credit (UC) has been rolled out in full.
In fact, in areas that have UC, food bank referral rates are more than double the national average.
In these areas, everyone who makes a claim automatically goes onto UC. This causes chaos and results in rent arrrears—and people ultimately having to use food banks to survive.
Under the new system people have to wait weeks to receive benefits, which leaves them in a desperate situation.
And UC represents a drastic cut in living standards.
My union, the PCS, is campaigning with Dpac and other organisations to get changes to UC. The helpline has changed from one that charges you 55p a minute to a Freephone number.
And there have been improvements, particularly in Scotland where some elements of UC have been devolved to the Scottish government.
The PCS’s position is that UC should be paused and fixed. Personally, I don’t think it can be fixed, and Dpac is fighting for UC to be scrapped.
The Tories are rolling out UC because they want to make it as hard as possible for unemployed people. It’s political, it’s part of Tory ideology that people should “take responsibility” for their own circumstances. But UC gives claimaints less choice than before.
Our chances of stopping UC will depend on how strong the campaigning is. The Tories will say issues only arise with specific cases.
But to scrap it totally is not straightforward. The old system of jobseeker’s allowance and the regime of sanctions has problems with it too.
We need to scrap the system altogether, give people better benefits when they need it, and actually support people who want to get back to work.
Steve West, PCS DWP GEC (personal capacity)
I’m one of over 300 people who has recently come back from the Social Work Action Network (Swan) conference. It was, as it always is, an exciting event to be at.
It was useful in terms of getting experiences of problems that are very similar both at home and abroad. We discussed the rise in racism, increase of austerity and how these issues hit us at work.
The conference looks at how social workers are sometimes asked to respond to these questions problematically.
But the experience of being at conference means that workers aren’t isolated, and we get the chance to talk to other practitioners, activists and students.
Crucially we can discuss how to resist the pressure to administer austerity.
One of the workshops that was particularly inspiring was listening to Cast—a refugee and migrant group that’s active in Essex. They’re completely voluntary and it was great to listen to what they’re doing to help one another, and how they have embedded themselves in a community.
It rebuffs all the myths about asylum seekers being helpless and about not wanting to integrate.
Lots of different people come to Swan—there are academics, Unison union members and Momentum supporters.
Swan means that, instead of feeling beaten up by your day to day experience of work, it’s an opportunity to create better social worker practice.
Helen Davies, east London
Ofsted’s history shows why we need to bin it
Reading Sam Lorde’s review of Education, Education, Education (Socialist Worker, 25 April) was very poignant for me.
It was set on the very same day that I and other staff at Islington Green School were told we had failed our Ofsted inspection.
We launched a campaign to get the Ofsted ruling overturned.
After a long campaign it was revealed that the Tory-appointed Ofsted boss Woodhead had overruled his own inspectors who had decided Islington Green was not a failing school.
Ten years later, shamefully, the school became an academy.
Jeremy Corbyn promised me at a meeting that he would campaign to bring all academies and free schools back under local democratic control.
If he becomes prime minister I look forward to him keeping his promise, and scrapping Ofsted too.
Ken Muller, north London
Take on all racism, not just in Labour
Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey is right to criticise the disgraceful behaviour of right wing Labour MPs.
Writing in the New Statesman, McCluskey said “Corbyn-hating” MPs were trying to “smear” the Labour leader.
They are desperate to undermine Corbyn’s left project and opposition to the West’s wars across the Middle East.
Whether it’s bombing Syria or Israel’s attacks on Palestine, the Labour right continues to line up with the mass murderers.
I’m all in favour of McCluskey’s combative tone in the article.
But if you’re going to be that angry you have to talk about the whole project.
The thing that’s really infuriating and needs arguing over is the apartheid state of Israel that’s funded by our government.
We have to aim fire at the way that racism is being used in wider society to undermine the left.
It’s not enough to reduce the argument to the Labour Party.
The Tories have yet again shown themselves to be the party of open racism and the beating of war drums.
Tom Kay, east London
Open up the libraries now
I recollect that London councils revealed over a decade ago that there were some 750 libraries in London. I wonder what that figure is now?
In Barnet, the Tory council specialises in outsourcing libraries to community-based “hub” organisations. But opening hours have been slashed, and services cut back.
D Sheperd, north London
Racist May has got to go
I read with interest about Tory racism and the Windrush scandal. Theresa May must be forced to go, she should be sacked and jailed for five years. And she should be sued—why should the tax payer pay for her mistakes?
Rani Shergill, on Twitter
l foresee more tears for Theresa May. She thought her hostile immigration policy would make her popular but it has backfired spectacularly.
Peter Hepworth, on Twitter
Be ready for Trump visit
On reading the news about Donald Trump’s planned visit in July, I say let’s have a protest of millions.
We need to protest on the streets of London to tell Trump he’s not welcome. Or even better, stop him setting foot on British soil, we don’t want that evil racist man here.
Martin Sean Beck, on Twitter
It’ll be a typical Tory visit, no schedule, no structure, just a smash and go.
Paddy Hanrahan, on Facebook
An unlucky Royal name
I notice the latest Royal baby has been called Louis Arthur Charles.
I can’t help but recall that both Louis and Charles were kings who were beheaded.
Perhaps he will be better off being called his snappy official title—the Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge.
Janet Dyer, east London