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Universal Credit -‘broken and unworkable’


Universal Credit is a broken system and it is unworkable.

Addressing a UNITE trade union rally marking a day of action against the Universal Credit benefits system,  Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry has said that the new system is consciously cruel, is unworkable and has to go

“”We have heard the stories and witnessed at first hand the assessments which leave vulnerable people with little or no benefit entitlement and which compound the problems they already have”, Joanne said

“At a personal and individual level the stories are as unbelievable as they are heart-breaking.  But we must not allow that to blind us to the bigger picture”, she warned

Universal Credit is a broken system and it is unworkable. But more than that, it is ‘conscious cruelty’

Punishment                                                                                                                  “It has been designed deliberately to make life even harder for the most vulnerable in our society. It targets those most in need and it punishes them for seeking benefits”, she said.

“We never see a system which pursues tax dodgers with the same level of intensity. We never see a system designed to flush out and penalise corporate greed and corrupt financial practices”,  stated Joanne

“And the reason why the most vulnerable are always, always  the ones to pay the price, is because the entire social and economic system is designed to deliver that very outcome”, she said

For those people who have to undergo medical assessments before receiving benefits the reality can be even grimmer.

Targeting the most vulnerable                                                                          “Demeaning and humiliating interviews resulting in hurtful and insulting outcomes confirm that Universal Credit is ‘conscious cruelty. The most  vulnerable in our society yet again bear the brunt of the social policies of right wing governments”

“But let us be clear” Joanne said, ” this need not be the case. Sinn Fein and the DUP kicked welfare reform decisions into touch. They surrendered the fate of thousands of vulnerable local people to the Tory Party and the Westminster government”,

They could have intervened, they should have intervened … but they did not! Today they will tell us that there was nothing that they could have done. Ironically that’s exactly what they did – nothing!

We haven’t had an Assembly here for almost two years. That is the priority and the concern that these parties place  on people in need of help and support.

Our message from this rally today should be clear and unambiguous. Universal Credit is broken and unworkable – it has to go!

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Child poverty and deprivation an indictment of DUP and Sinn Fein

Joanne Lowry and Chris Bailie: ‘ thousands of local children and their families continue to suffer a hardship and deprivation that will haunt them for the rest of their lives‘.

Following the recent  report by the United Nations into austerity measures across the UK, two Workers Party representatives have drawn attention to  the appalling levels of  child poverty and social deprivation in North and West Belfast.

“These two areas have some of the highest levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland”, Joanne Lowry and Chris Bailie have said

“Almost 20,000 local children live in homes haunted by poverty.  That means families with increasing debts, choices between ‘heat or eat ’, teenagers with a limited or non-existent social life and an increased risk of chronic illness. Children living in poverty also consistently under-perform at school and find it harder to get a job when they leave”, they said

Highest levels                                                                                                          The highest levels of poverty are to be found in the Collin Glen and Falls areas in West Belfast and Ardyone, New Lodge and Cliftonville in North Belfast

Research by Save the Children has shown that around 20% of parents in poverty say their children have to go without new shoes when they need them and a large number of children in poverty say they are missing out on things that many other children take for granted, such as going on school trips and having a warm coat in winter.

“The introduction of Universal Credit, cuts to health and education budgets, pressures on community, voluntary and youth services all compound the problems already affecting thousands of  local families – many of them with a least one partner working”, Chris and Joanne said

“It is unforgivable that while in Government Sinn Fein and the DUP refused to implement the promised Anti-Poverty Strategy and sent powers relating to Universal Credit  to Westminster. As a result thousands of local children and their families continue to suffer a hardship and deprivation that will haunt them for the rest of their lives”.

“If there is a more important political priority than addressing child poverty, then perhaps some local MLAs would like to tell us about it”, the duo concluded.

Council should be supporting health and social care workers

NIPSA protest

Party members supporting the NHS at today’s protest at the Belfast City Hall

Workers Party representative in South Belfast Patrick Lynn has called on Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee to reject a planning application for a Private Health Village at the Kings Hall complex on the Lisburn Road.

“This is a straight forward argument “, he said,  “health services are not safe in private hands”

“Our city should not be facilitating and supporting private healthcare providers at a time when the NHS is underfunded and overstretched. Developments like these will only place additional pressure on our local hospitals and their staff”, Patrick added

“I fully support the call by the trade union movement to have this application rejected. Belfast should be rallying behind the work of our local health and care staff not helping to undermine it.

“Belfast City Council should be showing its support for local healthcare workers as they battle to secure the Agenda For Change terms and conditions which have been agreed in England, Scotland and Wales but not in Northern Ireland”, Patrick concluded

Universal Credit: unfair and fundamentally flawed

 

Universal Credit#1a

Workers Party representatives Chris Bailie  (Oldpark), Patrick Crossan ( Colin), Joanne Lowry (Court) and Patrick Lynn (Botanic) with Kevin Higgins ( centre) Policy Officer with Advice NI

A public meeting organised by the Workers Party has heard of the anguish and suffering being inflicted by the Universal Credit system as it nears the end of its role out across Northern Ireland.

A screening of the film I Daniel Blake  was followed by a presentation from Kevin Higgins, Policy Officer with Advice NI and a question and answer session on the details of the new system.

Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits payments for new claimants including housing, childcare, support for people with disabilities, carers and people too ill to work.

Fundamentally flawed                                                                                          The meeting heard that the Universal Credit system is a fundamentally flawed and unfair system and that its introduction has resulted in rent arrears, debt, ill-health, homelessness and an increased reliance on food banks.

Lone parents and people low paid employment are amongst the most affect groups

It also takes at least five weeks from the claim to the first payment many families in North Belfast, Newtownabbey and Ballymena – the most recent areas where it has been introduced are unlikely to receive a payment before Christmas.

Added to those concerns is the fact that to register for Universal Credit, claimants will need an email address, a bank account, access to a computer and be computer literate. That places many people at a disadvantage right away. These restriction are not only unnecessary, they are also unjustifiable

Held to account                                                                                                        Of course, if we had a functioning Assembly we might be able to halt the roll out of Universal Credit, or at least make significant amendments to it. But we don’t. Sinn Fein and the DUP in particular need to be held to account for ducking their responsibility for welfare reform and handing it over to the Tory government.

Help and Support                                                                                      Help is available through face to face advice or by telephone from the independent advice centre Advice NI

The telephone helpline is 0808 802 0020 and the email contact is welfarechanges@adviceni.net

‘Shared’ is not Integrated

shared educationLast week was ‘Shared Education Week’. “Ironically”,  says Gemma Weir,”its theme was Sharing the Present – Shaping the Future’. 

The Good Friday Agreement placed a statutory obligation on the Executive and the Assembly to facilitate the development of integrated education. They have not only singularly failed to honour that requirement, they have collectively connived to avoid it.

I accept than many pupils, teachers and parents see some merit in shared education, but shared education is not integrated education. That is no accident.

Divided and segregated society                                                                         The political power bases which have been secured and developed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement depend absolutely on a divided and segregated society. That is the basis of both the DUP’s and Sinn Fein’s joint electoral and political strategy.

Gemma 2aa

Gemma Weir

The deliberate and scurrilous replacement of integrated education with the myth of shared education is a social, political and educational scandal. It goes way beyond the collective and premeditated decision of the DUP and Sinn Fein to ignore their legislative requirement to promote integrated education. It demonstrates, if further proof were needed, that both these parties have taken a decision between themselves to carve up Northern Ireland into two sectarian camps and feed off the fear, mistrust and ignorance that it generates.

Reinforces division                                                           The truth is that it’s not even shared education: it is temporary and limited contact more often than not an add-on rather than an integral part of learning and teaching. All the while it serves to reinforce the divisive concept of ‘separate but equal’

Given the efforts of Sinn Fein and the DUP over twenty years it is not surprising that integrated education remains undeveloped. While the number of pupils attending integrated schools inches up year on year, the increases amount to less than half of one per cent of the total school population. Based on that level of progress it could take up to five hundred years to achieve a fully integrated system.

Meanwhile the foundations of the self-serving sectarian politics of Sinn Fein and the DUP remain secure.

The idea of ‘shared’ education shaping the future looks anything but hopeful.

Drugs: ‘playing catch up is not enough’

NVTV

Chris Bailie (left) speaking to NVTV about the drugs problem in North Belfast

Speaking after recording an interview with local TV channel NVTV Chris Bailie of the Workers Party said that drugs are ruining lives and ruining communities.

“The drug problem always seems to be several steps ahead of the attempts to address it. Playing catch up is not enough and the gap between the problem and the responses seems to be getting bigger”

Long term investment                                                                                               “Drug and substance abuse are caused by many factors and we can’t just ignore the need for long term investment in areas like North Belfast to help turn that around. Factors like social deprivation are more than a set of statistics – they have  real consequences for real people, and ‘escaping’ into a world of drugs is just one of them”.

“I fully support those who recognise that many young people trapped in a cycle of addiction  need help and that they need it urgently. We need a number of local initiatives to reach out to them and provide the support, guidance and help that so many of them desperately want. We need a much wider awareness of the extent of the problems caused by drug abuse – not just to the individuals involved but to their families and to the community.”.

RAPID scheme                                                                                                           The RAPID scheme (Remove All Prescription and Illegal Drugs) which provides a way of safely disposing of illegal and prescription drugs locally has been in existence for a number of years and is a positive scheme which I have no doubt has saved lives . Family and friends need to feel confident and supported in  taking drugs off the streets. That  is the right thing to do. “, Chris said

“The answers longer term lie in turning north Belfast around into a vibrant community with employment prospects, leisure opportunities and hope and prospects for young people. When we next hear about or witness the results of drug abuse we need to ask ourselves why our local politicians have not delivered the type of society where optimism has replaced despair.”, Chris concluded

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The Drugs&Alcohol Coordination Team can provide information and guidance around drug and alcohol related issues and link people or organisations to sources of help and support

https://www.drugsandalcoholni.info/thenidacts/

 

Clinton award “deeply offensive”

clinton pic.jpg

Hillary Clinton has a long history of supporting US aggression across the globe 

“Serious questions must be asked about the decision by Queens University to award an honorary degree to Hillary Clinton”, the Workers Party has said

“Students, lecturers  and university staff have every right to call  University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer and the Senate to account for this deeply offensive and sycophantic gesture”

The citation quotes  “exceptional public service in the USA and globally”as justification for her honorary degree. It is hard to believe that the  people of Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya and Serbia share that assessment”, the statement said

“It is shameful that an educational institution like Queen’s University seeks to associate itself with a US politician like Hilary Clinton: a hawkish reactionary and free-marketeer”,

“At a time of great poverty and inequality Clinton unflinchingly champions market economics and has a long history of support for aggressive interventions across the globe and for the expansion of NATO and its war machine,“ the Party statement concluded.

Newsletter coverage

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/education/queen-s-university-honorary-degree-for-hillary-clinton-shameful-and-deeply-offensive-1-8662763

Party makes legacy submission

Legacy

More than 3,600 people were killed during ‘The Troubles’ and many thousands more were injured, many still suffer today

The Workers Party has submitted its views on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.  Its submission opened with an acknowledgement of  “...the hurt, distress and on-going suffering of many victims’ families, friends and loved ones“.

“We are also acutely aware of the significant and on-going mental pressures and disadvantage endured by many Trouble’s survivors”, the Party said

“We therefore endorse approaches which place the needs of victims and survivors at the core of this process and are balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable.

It is against this backdrop that we welcome the Secretary of State’s ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’ consultation paper and the opportunity to comment on it.

Read the Party’s submission in full: Legacy Response_ Workers Party

Photo credit: Abbas/Magnum Photos

 

‘Civil Rights are rights for everyone’

Guildhall1

Marian Donnelly (centre) addressing the NICRA 50th Anniversary Festival

Marian Donnelly, speaking on behalf of the Workers Party at a NICRA 50th anniversary festival in the Guildhall, received enthusiastic and sustained applause when she re-affirmed that the civil rights campaign was aimed at introducing democratic reforms in Northern Ireland and was for the benefit of all citizens – not any particular section of the community

“The civil rights campaign was about civil rights for all”, she said. “One Man one Vote was about securing  the right to vote at local government elections for everyone not for Catholics nor for Protestants, but for everyone”

Optimism and hope                                                                                                     “The early days of the civil rights campaign were filled with optimism and hope”, Marian recalled. “Despite the intervening years and all that has happened, I retain that optimism and hope today.

“Our society remains deeply divided and sectarianism has become institutionalised into our  very structures of government. But that can and will be challenged and overcome” she said.

“When people gather to mark the 100th anniversary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association I hope that they will be able to say that everything we sought has been achieved and secured. But most importantly that they will be able to say that they are now living in a socialist society”, concluded Marian

 

West Belfast is better than this

JoLO Homelessness

“We all need to work together on solutions rather than scapegoating those who are trying to make a difference”, Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry said in response to recent criticisms of the Welcome Centre at Townsend Street

“I understand perfectly the genuine concerns that local people have about drug addiction and the risks it can pose, but we also need to be concerned about homelessness, mental health issues, domestic violence and vulnerability”, said Joanne

Damaged society                                                                                                         “We live in a very damaged society which is often all too ready to write people off and throw them on the scrap heap. West Belfast ranks amongst the areas of highest social deprivation. That has been the case for decades and it is being made worse by the refusal of the main political parties to form a government.

“ It is crazy to pretend that cuts to public services, welfare reform,  a lack of affordable public housing and high levels of social deprivation will not result in the kind of problems we are witnessing on our streets”, Joanne said.

Political decisions                                                                                                       “It is even crazier to point the finger at, and lay the blame on, those organisations and groups that are trying to alleviate the distress and despair that those political decisions have caused.

“Be angry by all means but direct that anger at a system that devalues human beings and at the political parties which play along with that and which fail to represent the most vulnerable and needy in our community”, added Joanne

“I met this week with staff of  the Welcome drop-in centre  to talk about their work and the concerns of local residents”, said Joanne “I have nothing but praise for the difficult and often thankless work that they undertake. They need our support not our condemnation.

Caring and compassionate                                                                                     “West Belfast can be a caring and a compassionate community. We need to demonstrate that now more than ever and appreciate the complexities of the problems being faced. Organisations like the Welcome Organisation are worthy of our backing and our support for the challenging work that they do.

“Our justified anger should be directed at the political parties that have presided over the social decline that results in groups like the Welcome Organisation being needed”, Joanne concluded

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