Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Hidden homeless


Here is a link to a piece written by young rapper Speech Debelle who made a TV programme that was broadcast on BBC Three the other day about homelessness. I've included it  for In My Shoes because this young woman was eloquent on the subject of hidden homelessness.

Friday, 25 May 2012

London living wage and hotels

There was some good news on the jobs front yesterday if you are one of the 850 staff who work in one of the eight hotels in London managed by the InterContinental Hotels Group. But the fanfare of publicity comes with a caveat - there's always a but.

The managing director for the UK and Ireland, Stephen McCall made the announcement: "We've made a commitment to become a London living wage employer in all the London hotels we manage...over the next five years."

The Living Wage Campaign was started by the campaign group London Citizens in 2001. Since that time the Living Wage Foundation has accredited over 100 Living Wage Employers.

The reason the story caught my eye was that hotels in London are notoriously poor employers. So the fact that an international chain has made this commitment is something of a surprise. OK so they're not going to fully implement it for five years, but I think the fact that IHG have made a public commitment is a start.

I know of one hotel near Tower Bridge where if you queue up from 6.30 in the morning you stand a good chance of getting a day's work - and this has been the case for years. You are paid a pittance and they don't ask too many questions, they hassle you to clean as many rooms as possible, but they'll pay you cash at the end of the day.

I've never worked there but have pointed people I know in that direction - they tell me it's awful and that they shout at you constantly. This is only one example I know of but you do hear of horror stories often. All of which puts what IHG in quite a good light.

On the subject of  the London living wage the Evening Standard carried out a survey of the shops on Oxford Street before Christmas just gone. There was only a handful of those shops that paid the London living wage. This is supposed to be London's premier shopping street. It is clearly not so first class for the workers!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Work Programme - how come it doesn't work very well?

I think we all know what the Work Programme is - it is a compulsory scheme for those claiming Job Seekers Allowance for 12 months or more. I've written about this before; http://inmyshoesnorthlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/welfare-to-work-new-way-with-new.html

It says on the Directgov website that  it is: "delivered for Jobcentre Plus by specialist organisations, called 'providers'. Your provider will give you all the support you need to find and stay in work,"

So the DWP wrote to me and said I'd failed to go to an appointment and unless I came up with a valid reason, they were going to "sanction" my benefit - which means; cutting it off. I knew I'd missed the appointment, when I'd signed on they told me - all these buggers are linked up on some giant computer.

So I rang my adviser that afternoon, her words to me were: "Oh, maybe I didn't send you out a letter, don't worry, you're getting a new adviser, I'm being promoted, I'll let her know - she's really nice."

The morning after I'd received the threatening letter from the DWP I rang the office that sent it. I explained the nature of my call to be told by the man on the other end - who doesn't know me from Adam, that he has "proof" that I'm not keeping up with my responsibilities. I point out to the man that he should be a little more careful with the language he uses and agree to write them a reply. I ask if there is a time limit, he tells me I have five working days and that I need to contact my provider.

The funny thing is if you need their help, or you're trying to get signed on say, it will take them weeks to sort it out. If they want to cut your benefit off, you have five working days to stop them!

So then I get another letter, this time from my provider telling me of a mandatory appointment warning of dire consequences should I fail to attend. Funny thing is, it is for the day when I am working. I am now working part-time at Poached Creative. My provider knows this. When I ring the new adviser to reappoint it turns out there is no record whatsoever of when I work, although my file does tell her that I am working part-time.

My point is, if the Work Programme providers are employing people who can't cope with sending out letters, can't manage basic record keeping and fail to communicate basic information to their colleagues, how in heaven's name are they going to "give you all the support you need to find and stay in work."?

And this "specialist organisation" promoted this woman!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Bully-boy landlords

My landlord served me seven days notice the other day because I'm in arrears - I wasn't especially worried as he often says this. The amount we're talking about is less than £150!

When I say landlord, I mean one of the two managers of the place where I live. I live in a Bed and Breakfast cum hostel. The deal is that Housing Benefit pay my rent and I pay a surcharge on top of that of £25 per week. This is to cover electricity, heating, hot water and breakfast. (Breakfast is two sausages, two eggs, baked beans and two toast.)

The next time I saw this man he assured me he meant it "this time". It wasn't until I spoke to one of the security people on the front door who forewarned me that Mr X was really gunning for me and had spoken to the lawyers that I became alarmed.

So I took myself down to the jobcentre to use their free phones and phoned the advice people at Shelter. I knew I had very few rights as I only had a licence to live in my room, nothing like a tenancy. I was under the impression that due to the length of my stay, my landlord had to give me more than a week's notice.

When I got through and spoke to one of Shelter's advisers she quickly disabused me of this notion. I didn't have a legal leg to stand on - I had no more rights than a guest in a hotel who hadn't paid the bill! The adviser was able to give chapter and verse on the small claims court in terms of getting my stuff back, and also to point me in the direction of Community Legal Advice for any future difficulties.

So I went back to my room, packed up three boxes of important bits and pieces, stashed these in the room of one of the few people in my B and B I can call a mate, along with my suit and a leather jacket. I  then wrote a careful note to the landlord with future payment dates and pondered my lot.

The thing that really pissed me off was that it was so arbitrary, that I could become homeless on just the whim of someone else! Come the morning, nothing happened.