Archives for category: Unemployment

An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month, Cllr. Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills, stressed the importance of apprenticeships before addressing a National Apprenticeship Week event in Birmingham.

He said that the council aims to increase the number of apprentices at the city council, using the apprenticeship framework to reward existing staff through development opportunities. Wards where youth unemployment is at its highest will be targetted, providing meaningful apprenticeship opportunities that will enable people in time to secure permanent employment.

Good apprenticeship programmes combine shop-floor and college based training for an average of three years and require a long-term commitment from the employer. Experienced workers have to nurture the individual apprentice through the time-consuming process – a task which takes them away from their regular duties to some degree.

APS Metal Pressings in Hockley had two toolmaking apprentices last year: Aaron Wilks is in his second year and Ethan Wilkes completed his second year and started a HNC engineering course in September.

One problem is that some companies invest in training apprentices who graduate and then leave to join companies without a training programme who reap the benefits without investing time or money in apprenticeships. Setting out a clear career path, continual appraisals and pay scale increments for apprentices encourage commitment, but there is a case for clearly stated contractual tie-ins for an agreed period of time in order to protect the company’s investment.

On the WM Producers’ site there was news of other apprenticeships and the ‘graduation’ of Kirsty, Professional Polishing’s latest apprentice (left)was celebrated.

Cllr. O’Reilly highlighted the city’s drive to retain talent within Birmingham and  strengthen the local economy by ensuring  the right training and learning opportunities available for anyone who needs it. Skills level in the city region will have a major impact on future economic growth and ensure inclusive growth reaching out to citizens in all parts of our city.

To this end, the city council has developed its ‘Step Forward: Upskilling for Life’ strategy in partnership with the public, private and third sectors, working directly with employers to encourage upskilling of the workforce, co-ordinating support and guidance so people can choose the right qualifications for the career path they want to take.

Cllr. O’Reilly: “The goal is to leave nobody behind.”

 

 

 

 

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BBC online reported last week that England’s rough sleeping population is rising and on December 30th news of Birmingham council’s successful bid for a Rough Sleeping Grant was highlighted on this site. Research by the charity Shelter suggests the figure of 9,560 homeless people in Birmingham as more rough sleepers are seen in the city and two months ago the body of a young man was found in a loading area behind The Victoria pub, in John Bright Street.

The ‘i’ newspaper reports that plans under consideration by Birmingham Council could see £5.2m cut from the “supporting people” budget in 2017/18 and £4.8m the following year – affecting rough sleepers, the disabled, mental health patients, ex-offenders and victims of domestic violence.

Recently a reader drew attention to the Guardian report about London squatters who entered a building on 23 January and accommodated about 25 homeless people, many of whom had been sleeping rough around Victoria Station. After one said that it is criminal that there are so many homeless people and so many empty buildings there was a reference to new government figures which state that more than 200,000 homes have been empty for more than six months – and evictions continue to rise.

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Following the link given for information on the figures for Birmingham updates this month, we found that the total number of currently empty homes in the city is over 400,000:

  • over 60,000 are local authority owned,
  • over 40,000 are owned by private registered providers (housing associations and social landlords)
  • and over 300,000 are privately owned.

More cheering is the work of the city’s Municipal Housing Trust and the reduced use of B&B accommodation – altogether ended by Solihull Council after the raising of concerns in 2013.

Cllr. Peter Griffiths, cabinet member for housing and homes, said in September: “In the last three years we have brought around 1,000 empty properties back into use, providing homes for Birmingham’s citizens and improving neighbourhoods.  Astonishingly, more than 5,000 privately owned properties in the city have been vacant for more than six months and 1,900 have been empty for more than three years.  By speeding up the process through delegating decisions we can build on our success and bring more of these empty properties back into use. “

And today Birmingham City Council’s ambassador for homelessness and tackling rough sleeping, Cllr Sharon Thompson, shows considerable insight into the latter:

“The truth is that we have enough space for all our rough sleepers and our daily outreach staff work hard to encourage them to use both our accommodation and our specialist services. We have hostel beds, a drop-in welfare service and drop-in food service.  We have additional cold weather provision and specialist health services.  Our outreach staff work with voluntary groups, the police and business wardens across the city to break down barriers and encourage rough sleepers to take up our beds and services.

“But 44% of our rough sleepers have mental health problems and 74% of our rough sleepers have substance addictions, so it’s not just a question of a bed and some food.  It’s a big commitment for someone already living a chaotic life on the streets to join a programme to help their addiction”.

An experienced volunteer adds that if these problems are resolved, only regular work can prevent a relapse. Failing this the best alternative is the Emmaus approach. We could use four of these centres in our city.

19 other posts on the important subject of housing are listed here. https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/housing-18-blogs/

 

 

 

 

Kopfkino & Stirchley Baths

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Friday, 10 February 2017 from 19:30 to 22:30

Bournville Lane, Birmingham B30 2JT

0121 464 9072

Suggested donation £5. Pay what you will. Refreshments will be available.

I, Daniel Blake will be preceded by a short film, ‘To Be Home, Stirchley’ by Geoff Broadway

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to local charity SIFA Fireside. The venue is wheelchair friendly. Unfortunately the film does not have sign language or support for the hearing impaired at this time. There is parking, though this is limited whilst work is being done on the Friends Meeting House.

Please visit us by public transport where possible.

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This is a free screening so that it is accessible to all. If you can afford to pay, proceeds from ticket sales will go to local charity SIFA Fireside who improve health and inclusion for the homeless.

There is also a collection box year-round at Stirchley Baths for the B30 Foodbank. We encourage you to bring along donations.

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A Bournville resident draws attention to a research-based brief, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice, which is summarised here.

Setting the scene:

“The West Midlands faces significant challenges to creating an inclusive economy: just under 600,000 people are income deprived and three in ten children are growing up in poverty. A significant minority of businesses report vacancies they cannot fill due to skills shortages – ranging from 18% in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership area to 28% in the Black Country (across England it is 22%). The challenge is not simply to get more people into work: in the UK today 55% of people experiencing poverty live in working households. Creating more and better jobs and connecting people in poverty to opportunities are at the heart of an inclusive growth agenda . . . The West Midlands mayoral area has a low employment rate and high unemployment . . . Ultimately, poverty is harmful to those who experience it, scarring their prospects, worsening mental and physical health and shortening lives. Healthy life expectancy is seven years shorter in Wolverhampton compared to Solihull for men, and nine years shorter for women.”

Advantages of a more inclusive West Midlands economy

For inclusive growth, the quality of jobs created and the skills and capabilities of local residents to take them up is every bit as important as the number of jobs. More jobs with decent pay and prospects, bring economic benefits: each time an out-of-work benefit claimant moves into a job paying the voluntary Living Wage (which is set with regard to the cost of essentials) the local economy is boosted by £14,400 on average.

Inclusive growth that helps to deliver lower poverty would also release resources that could be put to more productive use. An estimated £1 in every £5 spent on public services is linked to poverty, with the costs falling heavily on the health service, education and the police and criminal justice system.  

Education and skills are vital for people to make the most of economic opportunities, but children from low-income backgrounds achieve worse results at every stage of their education compared to those from better-off homes. This deprives businesses of talent. It also reduces people’s earnings potential, reduces the tax take and increases the risk that poverty will be passed from one generation to the next. JRF’s team could with advantage read Hatcher on the relationship between schools and the labour market

JRF has examined the relationship between deprived areas and local labour markets

In the West Midlands mayoral area the proportion of working age adults who are economically inactive (not looking for work because they are studying, looking after family, disabled or sick – 30%) is eight percentage points higher than the national average, and higher than other areas electing mayors.

The vast majority of deprived areas are geographically well connected to local job opportunities particularly in Birmingham, where 99% of deprived neighbourhoods either contain more jobs than working age people or are well connected to other areas with many jobs. This analysis suggests that the primary challenges are barriers to work such as lack of skills, caring responsibilities, health and disability are, rather than access issues such as transport.

An agenda requiring use of the Mayor’s soft power

Inclusive growth is an agenda, not a new policy initiative – and it is an agenda that will require strong leadership from the Mayor, involving:

  • raising ambition,
  • shaping strategy,
  • inspiring action,
  • marshalling resources,
  • drawing in collaborators from the public, private and voluntary and community sectors,
  • holding central government to account for actions that impact on poverty and prosperity in the West Midlands Mayoral area
  • and continuing to fight for the devolution of powers and resources to enable the Mayor to solve poverty.

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The Mayor will have some powers over employment support for people with significant barriers to work (the Work and Health Programme, above, due to be launched in 2017), and more significant powers in relation to adult skills and training. This is an area where the Mayor can make a difference.

The Mayor should help to champion a direct role for citizens too. An inclusive growth strategy must draw on the ideas and direct experience of local people, communities and voluntary and community sector organisations. Inclusive growth is not just the job of the Mayor, but the whole city region – its businesses, employers, institutions, service providers and communities.

To read the 13 page briefing, click here

To discuss in more detail, please contact info@jrf.org.uk

There will be an international conference sharing innovative policies and practice on Tuesday 24 January 2017 – 09:30 to 16:30. Central London, UK – Read more here.

 

 

 

i-daniel-blake-posterIn Bournville yesterday – and at other community screenings – people flock to see the film I, Daniel Blake which director Ken Loach hopes will be a catalyst for change. In it, a middle-aged carpenter who applies for benefits payments after a heart attack encounters a range of problems accessing state welfare payments.

His experience mirrors the experience of many over the years. An account of 82 people who have died or committed suicide soon after dealings with agencies such as ATOS and the government’s Department of Work and Pensions was recorded in the Dorset Eye. At the same time, reports of directors and other officers of the DWP receiving new year’s honours for ‘services to welfare reform’ were published.

The film compellingly shows the systematic inefficiency of automated phone systems (aka call queues) and the struggles of people who have never used a computer to apply online.

Catherine Pickford, an Anglican minister who had regularly worked in the Newcastle foodbank, seen in the film writes:

“I spoke to people exhausted from trudging the streets looking for jobs that they knew they would not have the physical stamina to carry out. I saw people so hungry that they sat in the foodbank eating straight from the tin. I watched people gradually deteriorate, physically and mentally, as insecure accommodation turned into full-blown homelessness. I also spoke to jobcentre employees, who were desperately trying to hang on to their sense of personal integrity while administering a system that they knew to be unjust”.

One Bournville viewer stated that the system is deliberately rigged to delay making due payments. When asked for proof by another at the event, she pointed out that the evidence was clear: although those designing the system are well aware that record numbers are successfully appealing against Government decisions to refuse personal independence payments and employment and support allowance, they do nothing to improve the system.

The film is being cited in many news reports about a planned overhaul of the system for assessing claimants for disability benefits.

SNP MP Mhairi Black has spoken to the House of Commons about “the brutal and sobering reality of what life is like for those struggling most in today’s society” shown in this film and her recommendation is: “Watch it, get angry, and do something to change this horrible system.”

*

Note:

After the Bournville viewing a member of the audience spoke about The Project, based in Longbridge, which saw another increase in the number of people needing its services last year. Its website reports that the levels of support provided have increased in all areas, reflecting the current homelessness crisis facing Birmingham and the UK. It records research carried out by the Homeless Link charity which found that 5196 homeless applications were made just to Birmingham’s local authority during 2015 with 3416 people accepted as homeless. Government figures published in June 2016 showed that at the end of March 2016 there were 71,540 households across the UK living in temporary accommodation.

There will be another community screening in Stirchley Baths on Friday, 10 February 2017 from 19:30 to 22:30: watch this site or access https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-daniel-blake-community-screening-in-stirchley-tickets-31092593785

 

 

In the FT, Robert Skidelsky (below right), Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, advocates the issuing of Gesell money to consumers in parallel with the monetary financing of a public investment programme.

Gesell money?

skidelskyHe recalls that Silvio Gesell’s idea was to give cash directly to households and to give people an incentive to spend the money and not hoard it – just as much of the cash already issued under QE lies idle.- unspent currency notes would have to be stamped each month by the post office, with a charge to the holder for stamping them.

How can this be done today?

Skidelsky points out that smart cards could be created with £1,000 for each person on the electoral register. The cards could be programmed to reduce the value of the balance automatically each week and this would boost its multiplier effect: “There are 46m voters on the register in the UK. Thus £46bn of new money might be injected into the economy (and) the effect on sales and prices would be widespread”.

John Maynard Keynes advocated a public works programmes which would get money into the pockets of workers who would be guaranteed to spend most of what they received from the jobs created and thus generate further spending. The tax on Gesell money does the same. Skidelski continues:

“The issuing of Gesell money to consumers should, therefore, be done in parallel with the monetary financing of a public investment programme. The government should pay for, say, an investment programme not by issuing debt to the public but by borrowing from the central bank. This will increase the government’s deficit, but not the national debt, since a loan by the central bank to the government is not intended to be repaid. Thus the government acquires an asset but no corresponding liability”.

For example, a £50bn programme of transport, housing, hospital, and school-building would not just restore capacity in the construction industry, it would simultaneously increase demand in the retail sector. If you build a new school or hospital you set up a demand for all the equipment needed for them to work.

However, as the prolonged recession and mediocre recovery has destroyed a great deal of industrial capacity, increased consumer demand ideally means increasing the economy’s capacity to meet that demand.

To limit the leakage of the extra spending power into imports, the government should give preference to British firms. An infrastructure programme financed by borrowing from the Bank of England that gives preference to British manufacturers would give Mrs May the industrial policy she is looking for.

The investment programme and Gesell money initiative together spread over, say, two to three years, would inject a total of £100bn of extra spending power into the economy — £50bn on consumer goods, £50bn on producer goods.

Here is a two-pronged strategy both for fighting the next recession and for rebalancing the British economy. And if it is a step too far for a Treasury still mired in Osbornian austerity thinking, it should be taken up by the Labour party.

See also on the Political Concern site: Shinzo Abe and Jeremy Corbyn advocate increased public investment, lower taxation & a high wage policy

 

 

 

A Jamaican correspondent – africanherbsman1967 – alerts us to a post on his wingswithme blog.

He opens:

“Remain for me.

“Not an easy decision despite Cameron’s lackluster campaign.

“David Cameron’s “we’re all doomed” led Remain campaign, should have emphasised that the UK will survive whether in or out of the EU; but would benefit and influence far more if we remain part of the EU”.

Remembering his days working in Britain, our correspondent states that the last Labour government ‘messed up the immigration strategy’ when the EU accepted former Soviet bloc nations such as Poland and Slovakia:

“They ignored the warnings of some of my former colleagues in Whitehall on the immigration impact of such regional changes. Immigration is important to any country’s development. But it has to be measured and beneficial to both host & visitors. British governments should have lobbied harder to get more EU funding to cope with the impending immigration growth.

“Some of the issues raised by the Leave campaign are of importance to all British residents. Especially immigration or – to be more specific – the density of immigration in major towns. The decade plus long increase in the number of EU migrants from Eastern Europe to especially England has been monumental, added to the numbers coming in from wartorn countries.

“This growth has impacted pressures on jobs, wages, public services in particular social housing. Many Brits have waited decades for access to social housing only to see some immigrants gain access to such homes ahead of them. Registering to a local dentist or doctor’s practice 15 years ago was a straightforward exercise. Today you are likely get turned away due to significant growth in immigration.

“Some say that by leaving the EU they’ll get their country back. But in honesty few areas of large private enterprises are owned by UK citizens or taxpayers. Whether it be real estate, manufacturing, technology or even football clubs. Those foreign investors are from the Middle East, Far East, Africa, US and yes, Eastern European. So saying no to immigrants and yes to billions in foreign investment looks a bit lopsided. We need to strike the right balance.

“I feel that remaining in the EU will allow the UK to sustain such foreign investment as foreign investors prefer using the City of London as their financial hub for EU business.

“As a former civil servant I have collaborated with hundreds of public and private sector bodies across the EU for nearly 14 years. I saw first-hand where such collaborations benefited the UK on issues such as reducing bureaucracy, customs reform, national security, anti narcotics, crime & policing, health, information technology, customer services and other front-line services. And on issues such as human rights, privacy laws and worker’s rights, thank heavens we have had the EU to counter some of those policies devised by Tory and Labour governments.

“But I accept the EU project must do better for the UK.

“Remain.

“Just”.

Read the full text here: https://wingswithme.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/brexit-or-remain-dont-panic/

 

 

 

Jim and lion

In Birmingham on Saturday it was remarkable to see a large room full of solid citizens opting to remain with the EU – not one dissenting voice.

air pollution brumThey were people with a concern for the cleanliness of our air, water and the health of people and the natural world, who see the ‘dirty man of Europe’ being compelled to take action (see Craig Bennett) – though not enough has been done, as many thousands still die prematurely from conditions caused or exacerbated by air-pollution.

The other great constituency in favour of remaining in the EU should be those whose working conditions have been safeguarded and even improved by EU legislation.

Why stay with an inefficient, undemocratic and expensivenurse’?

Because faulty though it undoubtedly is, the European Union has improved the economic and environmental conditions of those who have to work very hard for a living, with comparatively low wages.

Cameron's real change

Sadly, despite the efforts of the EU, the current government continues to reduce the help needed by low wage earners, the unemployed, the disabled and young people, whilst passing measures which benefit their already wealthy soulmates.

One dream team: a Corbyn/Lib Dem/Green/Plaid coalition government which would exert pressure on the EU to reform its constitution, ensure that its finances passed the auditors’ scrutiny and wholeheartedly implement good legislation improving the social, environmental and economic well-being of the 99%.

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Has anyone a better idea?

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‘A wonderful crowd of 1,000+ in a wonderful city’ – and thousands also turn out in Coventry, Preston and Liverpool.

The Facebook entry opens with an apology to those who couldn’t get in the room. Site stats indicate that hundreds found news of the event on this site. Jeremy Corbyn summarises: “We discussed economics, education, foreign policy & our hopes for Britain”

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The end of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Birmingham on Sunday afternoon may be seen and heard here’ Final words:

“(I)t’s so exciting that in the summer of 2015, when so much of politics has come alive. People have come together because they want – and they are determined to achieve – something decent and better. Not just in this country but as our contribution to the rest of the world”.

We hope to see a first-hand account written for the Birmingham Press.