Report and Photos from Yesterday’s Demonstration Against Benefit Cuts

Around 50 people gathered at Selly Oak Jobcentre yesterday after a man set himself alight there on Thursday as desperation set in following problems with benefit payments. The man is recovering in a burns unit with 2nd degree burns to his legs.

This is not the only incident of people harming themselves because of problems with benefit payments or sanctions placed on them by government imposed measures or workfare profiteers.

Birmingham Against the Cuts believe this incident should be laid squarely at the door of Cameron, Osborne and Ian Duncan Smith who are implementing these vicious cuts and austerity – not benefits claimants or jobcentre workers.

The circumstances which have led to this are not confirmed at the moment. The Guardian has reported that the man was found fit to work by ATOS and was having problems transferring to Job Seekers Allowance. This has not been confirmed yet, and we wait for more details. ATOS run a process called the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which the British Medical Association recently voted unanimously as being unfit for the purpose of deciding whether someone is able to work.

Any problems with the system are amplified by the cuts that have taken place at DWP, with jobcentres losing nearly 10,000 staff members. Quoted in the Guardian the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents Jobcentre Plus staff, says that they feel ill-equipped to deal with the volume of work, vulnerable claimants and cutbacks. One jobcentre telephone adviser told the Guardian that the change had been handled “abysmally” and that they feel ill-equipped and “helpless” when talking to distraught customers on the phone, who are phoning up to ask about other options.”A lot of them are very distressed. They are asking us what to do … how are they supposed to live. And there’s nowhere else we can signpost them to, there’s literally nowhere for them to go.”

Speaking at the demonstration, Tom Holness, a Birmingham welfare campaigner, said that

Any cracks in the system will be widened by staffing cuts and an increased workload due to rising unemployment, and it is inevitable that more people will fall through those cracks. It is important that anyone who is in a situation like this seeks advice and can find support, and I hope that the government will think how the way it talks about benefit claimants actually affects people in the real world who are struggling to get by each day

We wish the man concerned a full recovery, and when more details are confirmed about the exact circumstances that lead to this event, we shall be certain to campaign to get things changed so that this does not happen again.

If you are a claimant in Birmingham, please come to a one-day conference on Tuesday 10th July, at the Unite the Union building, 211 Broad Street. The event is being run by Boycott Workfare and other welfare campaigners and will address various parts of the benefits system. As cuts to the welfare system and advice services continue, we should be making sure that there is still an informal support network to help people negotiate our benefits system.



Filed under Events

6 responses to “Report and Photos from Yesterday’s Demonstration Against Benefit Cuts

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