Posts Tagged ‘DWP’

British Gas & Independent Living – 2014

Sunday, May 12th, 2024

British Gas & Independent Living: Two protests on Monday 12th May 2014 in Westminster. the first about fuel poverty and climate change and the second over plans to end the Independent Living Fund which enabled many disabled people to continue to work and have an independent life.


Bin British Gas – QEII Centre, Westminster

British Gas & Independent Living

British Gas were holding their AGM in the QEII centre and a protest outside demanded they stop profiteering from high energy prices and end support for fracking.

British Gas & Independent Living

The protest was called by Fuel Poverty Action who say there were over 10,000 extra deaths last winter because people were unable to heat their homes, while Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013. While they raised gas prices by 10.4% and electricity by 8.4%.

British Gas & Independent Living

They also called for government and energy companies to end support for fracking which as well as threatening water supplies in the UK would also lead to more climate-wrecking carbon dioxide emissions.

British Gas & Independent Living

The campaigners called for greater investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

At the protest were representatives from fuel poverty, pensioner, climate, housing groups and renewable energy co-operatives. After a number of speeches including from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts, people came together too tear up British Gas energy bills.

A giant bill was torn up and Lambeth pensioner, Ellen Lebethe, brought out a poster-size Fuel Poverty Action ‘Energy Bill of Rights.’

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.

Inside the Centrica AGM, a member of Reclaim Shakespeare Company had stood up holding a can of beans and a skull to read a version of Hamlet’s iconic monologue, entitled “To Heat or Eat, that is the question”, and this was read out at the protest. Shortly after the actor came out from the building to tell us about what had happened inside.

The protest ended with people planting 100 small windmills made from folded British Gas bills in the grass outside the QEII centre.

More pictures at Bin British Gas.


Save Independent Living Fund – Dept of Work & Pensions

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was set up in 1988 under the Thatcher government to provided financial support to some of the most severely disabled people in the UK. Its main use was to enable them to have carers and personal assistants so they could live in their communities and for many to continue in useful employment.

The ILF was administered by a separately funded body and was highly cost-effective, providing support at much lower costs than residential care as well as enabling those receiving support to live independent lives Around 18,000 people were being assisted by the fund in 2014.

When the government announced it was scrapping the scheme in England in 2010 it was met with protests by disabled people and in 2013 was taken to court. The government won the case that its decision was lawful, but lost in the Court of Appeal.

A revised proposal was then made by the government to announce once again in March 2014 that ILF would close. A fresh legal challenge failed in December 2014 and the scheme ended in June 2015, with responsibility for supporting disabled people being passed to local authorities who were given funding roughly 12% less than the ILF – and which was not ring-fenced.

Police tried to persuade the protesters to keep to a small area well to one side of the Dept of Work & Pensions but they refused and protested in a larger space in front of the two main doors, which were both locked for the event.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE‘ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

A number of people told their ‘ILF stories‘ of how the fund had helped them and how they feared its closure would seriously limit their lives. DPAC tried to deliver a letter to Minister for the Disabled Mike Penning but were refused entry to the building and no one from the department was prepared to come and receive it.

One of the protesters who had travelled from Newcastle phoned her MP from here wheelchair outside the DWP, and Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside came down to support the protest. She failed to get DWP security to let the protesters deliver their letter but offered to deliver it for them. She was let in through a side entrance to do so then came out and spoke briefly giving her support to the protest.

More at Save Independent Living Fund.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Dolce & Gabbana, Sanctions & Poor Doors 2015

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024

Dolce & Gabbana, Sanctions & Poor Doors Thursday 19th March 2015 -protests at a Mayfair fashion store, the Department of Work and Pensions and another of Class War’s long series of protests at One Commercial St, Aldgate.


Dolce & Gabbana Boycott – Old Bond St

Dolce & Gabbana, Sanctions & Poor Doors

Domenico Dolce and his business partner Stefano Gabbana are apparently well known fashion designers and have a range of over 200 shops in plush areas of cities in 41 countries dedicated exclusively to selling their overpriced clothing. In London I think they have one in Sloane Square as well as the Mayfair store this protest took place outside.

Dolce & Gabbana, Sanctions & Poor Doors

For some reason our media treats anything to do with fashion as important news, and there were more photographers and TV crews packing the narrow pavement than protesters when I arrived making covering the protest difficult, particularly for those of us who prefer to work at close range.

Dolce & Gabbana, Sanctions & Poor Doors

The Peter Tatchell Foundation and the Out and Proud Diamond Group had called the protest in support of the international boycott over homophobic statements by the two designers. Almost certainly a much higher proportion of the shop’s customers are gay than in the general population and Dolce & Gabbana have profited massively from sales to the gay community over the years.

More about the protest at Dolce & Gabbana Boycott.


Unite protest against Benefit Sanctions – Caxton House, Westminster

Dolce & Gabbana, Sanctions & Poor Doors
Gill Thompson, whose brother died after being sanctioned holds her 211,822 signature petition

Unite here and at Job Centres around the country were having a day of action against punitive benefit sanctions on over 2m people which had led to increased poverty, misery and even death. They say the are a ‘grotesque cruelty’ and are often imposed for trivial reasons.

People have been sanctioned because postal delays meant they never got notification of an appointment they missed, or because they were 5 minutes late as a bus was cancelled. Often job centre staff are under pressure to issue sanctions and may be penalised if they do not sanction enough of their clients.

At the protest was Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier, died after being sanctioned. She had brought her 211,822 signature petition calling for an inquiry into benefit sanctions to the protest to present to the DWP.

Among others who spoke was Rev Paul Nicholson of Taxpayers Against Poverty.

More pictures Unite protest against Benefit Sanctions.


Poor Doors Protest Blocks Rich Door – One Commercial St, Aldgate

When Class War read a newspaper article about the separate entrances for rich residents and those in social housing in a new block at One Commercial Street in July 2014 they were disgusted and decided to launch a series of weekly protests outside the block every Thursday evening.

I missed the first of these but you can find reports of almost all of the rest of them, at least 29 in all, on My London Diary. For an overview you can read John Bigger’s article on Freedom in which he gives an insider’s view and assesses the impact of these protests, and the ‘zine’ I published Class War: Rich Door, Poor Door with over 200 photographs from 29 protests is still available. But though this is reasonably priced, postage costs roughly double this – so you really need to buy half a dozen copies or more and give or sell some to your friends. Be warned the print quality in what Blurb calls a MAGAZINE is pretty low.

The protest on 19th March was a lively one and the management at One Commercial Street had locked the rich door and were I think telling the rich residents of that section to enter and leave instead through the hotel at the Commercial Street side of the building. Class War held up banners and posters and some stuck stickers onto the glass of door and large windows. Someone lit a red smoke flare and threw it onto the pavement. There was a lot of loud chanting and some short speeches.

Some younger anarchists present took plastic barriers from the works taking place on the pavement and piled them in front of the locked door. Others took them onto the busy Whitechapel High Street and blocked the traffic.

A man and a woman who had been watching suddenly grabbed one of those present, threw him to the floor and handcuffed him, holding up their warrant cards to show they were plain clothes police. I didn’t recognise the man they arrested who was not one of the regular Class War protesters, and as usual they refused to answer questions about why he was being arrested. But their arrest effectively blocked the only lane of the road which the protesters had not already blocked.

More uniformed police arrived and dragged the arrested man away to a police van, removed the barriers and protesters from the road and the protest continued with Class War holding up flaming torches in front of the rich door.

There were a few more short speeches and then the protesters left as usual after about an hour, leaving their posters attached to the glass on the front of the building by Class War stickers.

More at Poor Doors blocks Rich Door.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.


Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts


Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Roma, Olympic Park and Mind – 2016

Tuesday, October 31st, 2023

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind: After a morning protest by Roma at the Czech Embassy in Kensington I took a walk around the Olympic Park in Stratford before joining the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) who were holding a Halloween Demo at the national office of Mind.


Roma protest Czech Murder – Czech embassy, Kensington

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

Ladislav Balaz, Chair of the Roma Labour Group and Europe Roma Network and others had come to hand in a letter calling for the murder of a young Romani man by neo-Nazi skinheads in Žatec to be properly investigated.

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

The man who had lived in the UK until a year ago was a second cousin of Balaz. He was set upon as he went to buy cigarettes at a pizzeria.

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

Most cases of murders of Roma in the Czech Republic are dismissed by police as accidents and they have already issued false stories about the victim, claiming he was mentally ill and attacked people. The Roma demand justice and equality for everyone in Czech Republic and the elimination of any double standards of justice. Several of the protesters made speeches in Czech as the letter was presented.

Roma protest Czech Murder


A Walk in the Olympic Park – Stratford

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

I had several hours between the protest outside the Czech Embassy and a protest in Stratford High Street and decided it was a good occasion to take another walk in the park at Stratford which had been the site of the 2012 London olympic games and to make some more panoramic images.

It was a year since I had been there, and four years since the Olympics and I had hoped to see the park in much better condition than I found it. Considerable progress had been made in the buildings which are shooting up around it and many of the ways into the park are still closed.

I walked around much of the southern area of the park and found it still “largely an arid and alienating space composed mainly of wide empty walkways rather than a park.”

I took rather a lot of pictures, both panoramic and more normal views before it was time to make my way back through the Westfield shopping centre into the centre of Stratford.

Many more pictures at A Walk in the Olympic Park.


Against Mind’s collusion with the DWP – Stratford

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive came out and spoke to the protesters

The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) came for a Halloween Demo at the national office of mental health charity Mind in Stratford.

They complain that Mind failed to mention the effects of welfare reform, sanctions, or benefit-related deaths in its latest five-year strategy and has dropped its support for the long-running court case aimed at forcing the government to make WCA safer for people with mental health conditions.

Mind’s policy and campaigns manager Tom Pollard had been seconded to work as a senior policy adviser to the DWP and was to start the following day and they demanded the resignation of Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer.

Farmer came out to meet the protesters on the pavement and told them that Mind was still working for people with mental health problems and not for the DWP, and that Pollard’s decision had been entirely a personal one in order to gain more insight into the workings of government rather than to assist them in the any discrimination against the disabled.

The protesters were unconvinced and after he had finished speaking several spoke about how local Mind groups were working against the interests of those with mental health problems. They claimed the local managers were often more interested in empire building than in the welfare of benefit claimants.

More pictures at Mind’s collusion with the DWP.


Access to Work & Harvest Festival – 2015

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Access to Work & Harvest Festival: On Saturday 26th September 2015 I was pulled in two directions, wanting to attend both a protest for disabled people in Westminster and the harvest festival at Grow Heathrow in Sipson on the western edge of London. In the end I managed to get to both, leaving the first early and arriving a little late at the second, going more or less to the end of the Piccadilly line at Heathrow Central and then catching a bus.


Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest – Westminster

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

The Access to Work scheme was set up in 1994 to provide disabled people with funding to pay for extra disability-related expenses which enable them to work, including travel, support workers and specialised equipment. It was a significant milestone in equality for the deaf and disabled in the UK, and at the end of the Labour government in 2010 was supporting almost 28,000 people. Under Tory cuts this number had been reduced by 15% to around 22,000 with many applications being refused by the DWP.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

In 2015 the government put a cap on the amount which could be claimed annually by those on the scheme of around £42,000, applying immediately to new claimants and in a couple of years to those already part of the scheme.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

According to the protesters the cuts would not only prevent many currently supported by the AtW scheme to be able to continue their jobs but would also would lose the government revenue as the current scheme brings in £1.48 for every pound invested.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

Many of those taking part in the protest were disabled people on the AtW scheme who fear they will be unable to continue in their careers if the cuts are implemented, including many deaf people. Many signed with their hands as I photographed them, and the hand, a symbol for British Sign Language was prominent on some of the banners and on at least one face.

The campaigners met in Old Palace Yard and then assembled to march through Parliament Square and a short distance up Victoria Street and then past the Department of Work and Pensions in Caxton House and on to a rally opposite Downing Street.

I left as the rally there was about to start to take the District line and then the Piccadilly to Heathrow Central from where I could catch a 111 bus to Sipson.

More at Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest.


Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival – Sipson

Grow Heathrow which had occupied an abandoned and overgrown nursery in Sipson in 2010 were holding a harvest festival to celebrate another year’s harvest there with ‘music, pumpkins and pizza’ as well as holding an open ‘No Third Runway!’ discussion. which I was keen to attend and take part in.

The discussion was already underway when I arrived a little out of breath after running the short distance from the bus stop, but I was able to ask several questions and make some comments as well as taking pictures. With John Stewart and other campaigners including Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion and Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid taking part it was an interesting discussion, and if fairly small the group taking part was certainly a select one.

As I commented then, “Whatever decision the current government take over the curiously defective considerations of the Davies committee (and I think we may well see some very long grass coming into play) it seems to me unlikely that Heathrow expansion will be deliverable.”

The commision had been set up in order to approve Heathrow expansion and it became official government policy in October 2016. It was supported by a parliamentary vote in 2018, but an application for judicial review by environmental groups, the Mayor of London and local councils ruled the decision unlawful as it had failed to to the government’s commitments to combat climate change into account. The government accepted the court’s decision, but Heathrow appealed to the Supreme Court who overruled this decision.

Although this theoretically allowed the expansion to go ahead, it currently seems unlikely to do so, with increasing environmental concerns, changes in forecasts of future air traffic, increasing costs and also increasing capacity at other UK airports almost certainly make it no longer viable.

After the discussion I took the opportunity to walk around the site to see what had changed since my last visit, and take more pictures. The case for eviction of Grow Heathrow had been recently adjourned until Summer 2016. Half the site was lost by an eviction in early 2019 but the site was only finally evicted in March 2021.

More at Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival.


National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018
Campaigners spell out ‘stopuniversalcredit’ in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall; the ‘#’ was delaying security

Thursday 24th May 2018 was the Unite National Day of Action against Universal Credit and I photographed two of the events in London for this, a protest by a group of campaigners from Camden Unite Community at Tate Modern and a rally outside Parliament which was followed by a march to protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions. The pictures come from these events.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Back in 2010 when the idea of Universal Credit was announced by Iain Duncan Smith it was true that the UK’s benefits system was something of a muddle, and the aim of producing a simpler system which brought six existing benefits together was probably laudable. But its implementation has been a disaster for many.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Those six benefits had each been introduced to deal with particular needs, and though not perfect they more or less worked. Trying to fit everything into a single system has proved to be far more difficult, and many of the decisions made about how the system might work failed to take into account the circumstances in which those on low incomes actually live and the lack of supporting resources the wealthier take for granted, such as friends and family with money and bank accounts with savings.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

When announced, Iain Duncan Smith promised it would make the social security system fairer to claimants and taxpayers, but as it came into being it became clear that the main objective was to cut the cost to taxpayers and to provide what is effectively a handout to companies and organisations which employ workers on low rates of pay.

The plans for introducing UC hugely underestimated the complexities of the system, particularly as it applies to the the most precarious of workers, many of whom are now employed on zero hours contracts with no guaranteed weekly hours of work. There were huge problems with computer systems partly because of the complexity but also because of a failure to understand the problems and to properly specify what was needed.

The real motivation behind UC was made clear in 2015 when George Osborne announced a future £3.2 billion a year cut to the overall Universal Credit budget, reducing work allowances and reducing and limiting the per-child element of support. These cuts were later partly reversed by Philip Hammond.

The transition from the legacy benefits to UC has been extremely hard for many, particularly as some have had a period of up to 13 weeks before receiving their first payment under UC. Food banks have been put under great strain because of this and benefit sanctions. 60% of tenants put onto UC have been forced into arrears on their rents and many have faced eviction.Some have become desperate enough to take their own lives.

Wikipedia quotes a report that in 2018 a million working “homeowners now getting tax credits will have less with the new system and lose on average £43 a week. 600,000 working single parents will lose on average £16 per week and roughly 750,000 households on disability benefits will lose on average £75 per week. Nearly 2 in 5 households receiving benefits will be on average worse off by £52 per week.”

Universal Credit has become a mess and various small changes the successive governments have been forced into making have hardly improved it. There are some measures which could be taken to improve the situation. Large increases in the minimum wage with the aim of moving to a situation where those in work would be adequately paid and not need UC would help. Changes in employment law including the replacement of zero hours contracts by a fair flexible contract system would also make a contribution. But almost certainly the best solution would be to move to a universal basic wage.

Thursday 24th May was the Unite National Day of Action against Universal Credit and I photographed two of the events in London for this, a protest by a group of campaigners from Camden Unite Community at Tate Modern and a rally outside Parliament which was followed by a march to protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions.

More details on the protests on Thursday 24th May 2018 by campaigners at Tate Modern, the rally outside Parliament and march to protest outside the DWP on My London Diary.

Universal Credit rally & march
Universal Credit protest at Tate Modern

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries – 2016

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

On Friday 4th March 2016, campaigners from the Mental Health Resistance Network and DPAC protested outside City Road Surgery where Remploy/Maximus job coaches will “create jobs by prescription.” They say disabled people will be bullied into unsuitable work and lose benefits through sanctions if they refuse – and protest ‘No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries‘.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

Particularly since the Tories came into power in 2010, disabled people have been systematically attacked with cuts in benefits and unfair tests of fitness for work which have led to many suicides.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

What should be a supportive system of Job Centres encouraging and helping people find work has increasingly become a vindictive system reducing the benefits to many for often ridiculous, trivial and arbitrary reasons and attempting to force people into unsuitable jobs. Benefit sanctions can leave people without the necessary means to stay alive for months or even years at a time.

In January 2022, people on Universal Credit, either unemployed or on low paid jobs were told they had only four weeks before they had to look for jobs outside the sectors they had previously worked in, and if job centre staff feel they had not tried hard enough or had turned down jobs, however unsuitable, they would have their benefits cut.

And a few days ago, the government announced an incentive scheme awarding £250 monthly prizes to the staff whose Job Centre forces the most claimants into work and forcing claimants who have been on the benefit for thirteen weeks a to attend a job centre every weekday for a fortnight for “intensive support”.

The government clearly believe that the only incentive is cash, while most of us want jobs that we feel are worth doing and have some interest as well as pay enough to live on. Even Job Centre staff are poorly paid and their union dismissed the prize scheme, calling instead for their poverty pay to be increased. But these staff are generally not evil people, and being made by the government to bully people rather than help them must be painful for many of them as well as their clients.

The protest was a creative and colourful piece of street theatre, if sometimes chaotic, with a man dressed as a doctor wearing an Iain Duncan Smith mask and a name label ‘Dr Iain Duncan Smith, Dept of Eugenics‘ handing out prescription forms for a ‘Mr A Scrounger, 17 Lazy House, Sink Estate, Tory Britain‘.

The forms prescribed ‘Endless Job Coaching in Surgery, Major benefits reduction and PRN (‘pro re nata’ – as needed) Regular Sanctions‘ on the basis ‘Continue until complete cure or death‘ from ‘Dr A Lackey, DWP Surgery, c/o Nudge Unit, Tory Headquarters‘.

Then Maximus ‘Job Coaches’ pounced on the patients to issue G4S or Ingeus Deloitte Ltd ‘work cures’ and red ‘Sanctioned’ notices. Perhaps appropriately one of those job coaches was in costume as a squirrel and had a placard reading ‘Nuts to IDS – Squirrels Fight Back’.

There were also some serious speeches, including from a local GP, Roy Bard of MHRN, Paula Peters of DPAC, and Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union who had come with a banner, drummers and plastic horns to add some noise to the protest.

At the end of the protest DPAC led a march down City Road, with police vainly trying to move them onto the pavement.

The march stopped at the busy Old Street roundabout where they held a noisy protest letting all around know why they were protesting for around 20 minutes blocking all traffic while police tried to move them away. Eventually after police began seriously to threaten arrests they decided it was time to end the protest and slowly moved off the street.

Much more on My London Diary at No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries. You can also see some pictures I took later that day at the launch of the re-born International Times at London is on Fire – IT is back.


PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners – On Wednesday 13th July 2016 I photographed two protests about the inadequate and badly run Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, a protest supporting a cross-party bill to save the NHS from privatisation, a party against replacing Trident and the longest running strike in the history of the City of London.


PIP Fightback at Vauxhall – Vauxhall

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The hardest part of photographing the protest at the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre was actually finding the place, hidden away in a back street. This was one of around 20 protests around the country at the centres where ATOS carry out sham Personal Independence Payments ‘assessments’ on behalf of the DWP.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The assessments are almost solely designed to save money for the DWP, enabling them to ignore medical evidence of need and are carried out by people who are given a financial incentive to fail claimants. They often mean that genuine claimants lose essential benefits for months before they are restored on appeal. They have led to many becoming desperate, with some needing hospital treatment and a few have committed suicide after being failed.

PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


NHS Bill protest at Parliament – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood was later in the day presenting a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles.

People from various campaigns had come out to support the bill, which although it had no chance of progressing into law did lead to a greater awareness of the privatisation which is slowly but apparently inevitably putting our NHS into the hands of private, mainly American, health companies, and eroding its basic principles.

Among those who came out to speak was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott.

NHS Bill protest at Parliament


Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster

Campaigners from Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies along with ATOS responsible for carrying out the shoddy cash-saving PIP assessments.

In particular these assessments are unfair on many claimants whose conditions vary day to day including many with mental health issues. The assessments make no allowances for this and fail to take any account of the medical evidence in coming to their conclusions.

After protesting for some time on the very busy pavement where there were a number of speakers, Paula Peters of DPAC led the group out into the the middle of Victoria Street where they stood with banners and in wheelchairs blocking traffic.

They then marched the short distance to the DWP headquarters in Caxton St, holding a further protest with speakers in the road outside.

Finally they marched past the Houses of Parliament to College Green where the media had set up their ‘Westminster village’ crowded with cameras for Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. Police stopped them as they tried to go onto the grass in front of the TV cameras, and for some time they stood along the side before finally ignoring the police and going on to the green. Where the TV crews ignored the protest.

Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster


Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party – Parliament Square

CND members and supporters were today lobbying MPs against plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion.

In Parliament Square they had organised a ‘Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party’ and there were various Christian groups with placards placards stating the opposition by churches of the different denominations to the replacement, with Buddhists from the Battersea Peace Pagoda adding their support.

Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party


Solidarity for Wood St Cleaners – City of London

Finally I went to the heart of the CIty of London where a rally was taking place in support of cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning at the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE.

By 13th July this had already become the longest-running strike ever in the City of London and it continued into August. The UVW say:

As days became weeks, the inconvenience for white-collar workers at 100 Wood Street rightly turned into a major embarrassment for their employers, and especially for CBRE, the managers of the building. City of London police were called many times, security staff were intimidating, and the tenants were barely coping with a trickle of the former cleaning operation. Eventually, after a surprise flashmob in the CBRE’s lobby, and then a big march to mark the 50th consecutive day, the decision was taken after 61 days to raise all their pay to the London Living Wage!

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/100-wood-street/

Many more pictures at Solidarity for Wood St cleaners.


Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Friday, May 27th, 2022

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters – I had a long and busy day in Westminster on Wednesday 27th May 2015. It was the day of the Queen’s speech to parliament, reading out the intentions of the government’s coming session, and people and groups had come to the area to make their feelings about this clear.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

I usually avoid any occasions involving royalty who I think reflect the worst aspects of our class-based society. We got it right in 1649, when Charles I was found guilty of attempting to “uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people” and although the ‘Commonwealth’ wasn’t a great deal of fun the restoration of the monarchy was a a national tragedy even more retrograde than Brexit.

I don’t want to photograph crowds of sycophantic flag wavers – including many tourists, nor the royals themselves, who many feel are an inbred group of parasites who rose to wealth and power through the theiving, skullduggery and aggression of their ancestors, maintaining their position through a biased military, political and legal system. Certainly we would be a better and healthier nation without them and the class system they help perpetuate.

Royal occasions also bring out the very worst in our police, and this was clearly on show in their actions against Class War and some others who had come to protest at the event. Rather than upholding the law they were making it up on the spot to avoid any possible embarrassment to the Queen, forcing people to move and making arrests without any lawful basis.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Class War had come with their controversial banner showing the political leaders and I managed to get a few images of them was they held it up for a few seconds on the Queen’s route well before she was due to arrive. But they were immediately forced to take it down and told they would be arrested if they continued to protest, with the threat that the banner would be taken from them.

It was a copy of the one that police had seized at a ‘Poor Doors’ protest a couple of months earlier and held in Bethnal Green police station (where they lost it rather than hand it back when they had to admit they had no legal basis to have taken it.) Banners aren’t cheap and Class War funds are limited to a few individuals digging in their pockets, so they rolled it up and moved away.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Police then arrested two men, one holding a video camera, and another holding under his arm a small poster with a message about austerity being stupid. As my caption states “They tell the police correctly that they have committed no offence, but the police decide to arrest them anyway. Just in case.” They were released without charge a couple of hours later.

As a large group of police were following and harassing them, Class War and friends decided to leave for a nearby pub. I followed them, along with a large squad of police, and talked with them as they stood outside quietly having a drink. On the other side of the road were around 50 police standing around watching them, including a squad of TSG, looking menacing for over an hour. I was later told police kept following some of Class War for the next six hours. It all seemed a huge waste of public money.

I’d stayed with Class War so long because it looked likely that the police were going to take action, perhaps make more arrests although no offence was being committed, but also to let the crowds and policing around the Queen’s route disperse, and then made my way up Parliament Street to Whitehall where Compassion in Care were campaigning for ‘Edna’s Law’ which would make it an offence not to act on the genuine concerns of a whistleblower and protect those revealing scandals in social care and other sectors.

This would replace the Public Interest Disclosure Act which has failed to protect the public, the victims or the whistle-blowers. Compassion in Care say that the reccomendations of the then recent Francis review “will do nothing to protect whistle-blowers or encourage anyone else to raise concerns. This is because his recommendations rely on employers and regulators – which include the very same people who have “got away with” cover-ups, ignoring concerns, and victimising whistle-blowers for many years.”

I walked on up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where people were beginning to gather for a National Campaign against Fees and Cuts rally. A group of police were gathered around a man and arresting him, but refusing to answer any questions from a concerned crowd around them as to what was happening. A small crowd followed the police as they took the man to a nearby police van, where a police officer assaulted a young bystander who was then also arrested. Finally as the van drove away, an officer told us that the man was wanted for an earlier offence and the arrest was in no way related to the protest that was gathering. If the police had made this clear from the start all this could have been avoided.

Back in Trafalgar Square a man appeared with a mobile disco and crew and people began to dance. This turned out to be Lee Marshall (aka Disco Boy) who describes himself as an “entertainer prankster DJ host”, and apparently has gained a huge social media following, with his video stunts watched by hundreds of thousands of people and had come to perform in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere in Westminster. He moved off as the rally began.

There was a short rally for the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) with various groups including Class War holding banners on the plinth of Nelson’s column before they set of for the march.

Also in Trafalgar Square were Ahwazi protesters from the Hashem Shabani Action Group whose homeland, which includes most of Iran’s oilfields, was occupied by Iran in 1925. Since then Iran has attempted to suppress their heritage and identity, in part by resettling non-Ahwazi Iranians in the area.

The students and some others at the NCAFC protest then set off to march down Whitehall, where police made an unsuccessful attempt to stop them, at Downing St, arresting several forcefully. There seemed to be little point as police numbers were clearly too few and many protesters were simply walking around them and the barriers as I did.

The Ahwazi protesters had marched with the students and they stopped in Parliament Square for a rally while the rest marched on peacefully around the area for some time stopping to protest outside the Dept of Work & Pensions and the Tory Party HQ before returning to protest noisily in front of Downing Street which was protected by mass ranks of police. They then marched on, I think intending to go towards Buckingham Palace, but I’d had enough walking around.

On the pavement opposite Downing St at the same time as the NCAFC march the People’s Assembly were holding a static ‘End Austerity Now’ protest. I listened to a few of the speeches and photographed them. But it had been a long and rather confusing day and it was time for home.

More on the events of the day on My London Diary
People’s Assembly ‘End Austerity Now’
Ahwazi Arabs protest Iran’s war
NCAFC March against ‘undemocracy’
NCAFC rally in Trafalgar Square
Disco Boy plays Trafalgar Square
Police arrest man in Trafalgar Square
‘I am Edna’ – protect whistle-blowers
Class War protest Queen’s speech


Junior Doctors, Ugandan Election, Benefit Sanctions

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

Junior Doctors, Ugandan Election, Benefit Sanctions. Three protests I photographed on Wednesday 9th March 2016

David Clapson, one of many victions of inhumane Tory policies

UCH rally for Junior Doctors Strike

Junior doctors were on a one day strike against the imposition of unfair contracts which they say are unsafe and they were joined by other trade unionists on the picket line at University College Hospital on Euston Road.

Later in the morning came the rally opposite the hospital I photographed when other health workers and NHS activists came to support them, and also to oppose the axing for NHS student bursaries and the creeping privatisation of the NHS.


Ugandans protest rigged Presidential Election

Elections had been held in Uganda in February 2016, and international observers reported widespread fraud and irregularities with opposition politicians being arrested, voters intimidated and many polling stations reporting results very different to the actual votes cast.

The protesters called on the UK not to recognise Museveni as the legitimate President of Uganda and for the immediate release of Dr Besigye and other political prisoners, as well as action against those responsible for torture.

The protesters, who included the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and Peter Tatchell Foundation were clear that Museveni had lost the election to his challenger Besigye, and having held a high-spirited protest outside the Ugandan High Commission on the corner of Trafalgar Square marched down to deliver a letter to Downing St.


Unite against Benefit Sanctions

Demonstrations were taking place at over 70 job centres across the country against the use of benefit sanctions. Many claimants lose benefits for trivial reasons and for events beyond their control and are left without support. Some are sanctioned for arriving a few minutes late because of traffic congestion or for missing appointments they have not been informed about. I photographed a protest called by Unite Community members outside the ministry responsible for the policy, the DWP in Caxton St, Westminster.

Sanctions mean people lose benefits and are left destitute. Despite government denials at least 95 deaths are known to have resulted from these sanctions and without the efforts of the many food banks the figure would be much higher.

Some campaigners see the use of sanctions as a deliberate and successful attack on the unemployed and disabled by minister Iain Duncan Smith who is responsible for those working for the DWP being given incentives and targets for causing maximum misery and they label him ‘Minister for Euthanasia’.


David Clapson – Sanctioned to Death

Among those at the protest at Caxton House was Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died starving and destitute because he was penalised by the Job Centre for missing a meeting. She delivered a petition calling for an inquest into his death and an end to unfair benefit sanctions which leave claimants without support. Over 200,000 people have signed this and a related petition.