by Norwich Claimants Union (NCU)

The Norwich Claimants Union represents the coming together of claimants, workers, union representatives and city councillors to oppose and intervene in government policy regarding the deliberate and calculated erosion of the welfare state. To achieve this, the government supported by the mainstream has demonised claimants. They have become the scapegoat for our failing economy and societal degradation.

Since the recession of 2008 this campaign against claimants has gathered momentum. However it is worth remembering that the recession, bank bailouts and austerity programs was the result of the miss selling of financial products, namely derivatives. The effect was to transfer wealth away from our financial system and into the hands of a relatively small number of ruling capitalist elite.

Capitalism is no longer able to employ enough people because it cannot squeeze enough profits from them. Capitalism always puts profits before people. There is currently $32 trillion hidden in tax havens and the global corporations are holding another $10 trillion on their balance sheets unspent. Together this money could create up to 500 million jobs internationally and end the need for people moving from country to country looking for work and with it concerns about immigration.

The ConDems, Labour and UKIP sing from the same hymn sheet. They say the government is broke and that austerity and a cropped welfare state are essential. There is however another picture. The rich and their corporations are on a tax strike that amounts to £120 billion each year (PCS union research). The deficit, the money the government is short each year is £80 billion. This means that if the money from tax avoidance and evasion was collected the government would have a surplus of £40 billion a year, and services could be increased housing improved and there would be enough money to pay off the national debt.

Consider also that for every 1p in benefit fraud there is 10p in unclaimed benefits and 100p in tax avoidance, so why does the mainstream media focus on the 1p of benefit fraud? Austerity is ideological, that is to say the government wants it, as there is clearly no economic justification for it. This is where UKIP comes in and why it is supported by the establishment. Its purpose is to direct working class anger sideways against other workers and prevent it being directed upwards against the real villains; the rich, the banks and the City of London.

The Norwich Claimants Union believes that the system if responsible for unemployment and it therefore has a duty to provide for the unemployed. The media never stops telling us that unemployment is going down, but most of this fall is being masked by zero hour contracts, the movement of claimants into self employment, training and work programs such as workfare. Surely if the unemployment count was really falling and real jobs were being created then income tax would be going up instead of sideways?

The effect of benefit sanctions is plain to see. The media is peppered with articles. The case of the ex-soldier who died after his jobseeker’s allowance was sanctioned. The warning of rising hunger, by a public health expert, a result of extremely harsh benefit sanctions. The return of rickets and increases in malnutrition linked to the reliance on foodbanks, which in part is a consequence of the benefit sanctions regime.

The Norwich Claimants Union says that this is unacceptable, and intervention is necessary now. The Norwich Claimants Union started this summer, 2014, with two people leafleting outside the jobcentre. In the short time we have been operating we have attracted support from the Trades Council, two Green Party councillors, and the Norfolk Peoples Assembly. We now have a committed core of members comprised mainly of claimants, and have been effective in reversing benefit sanctions, helped claimants access hardship provisions, and provided information as to claimants rights.

The Norwich Claimants Union is not just important to safeguard claimants it is important as a safeguard for low paid workers as well. The benefit sanctions regime has the effect of undermining the welfare state, thereby making workers more fearful of being made unemployed. This shifts the balance of power into the hands of the employer and away from the employee, which increases the likelihood of exploitation in terms of low wages and poor working conditions.

The Norwich Claimants Union stands for unconditional benefits. That is to say that we are unconditionally opposed to the use of benefit sanctions. We also believe that benefit payments and the minimum wage are far too low. We stand for a 50% increase in benefits with £100 minimum per week and a programme of building new social housing and rent caps to prevent the exploitation of tenants.

We have many projects in mind to help the most vulnerable in society, but we need your help.

We intend to propose building a national claimants movement. Together we are stronger. Join us.

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