Sunday, 30 July 2017

No bed to rest my head

A word of caution to anyone in the Lambeth area using a one-man-and-a-van service. About a month ago I needed to store a bed in storage unit for a few weeks. On being given a couple of phone contacts to deal with the removal from home to unit I chose Quin Removals, for no other reason than it was the first name on a short list given to me by the storage company.
Moving my bed into storage went fine. A few weeks later I called the same company and arranged a pick-up date, basically asking them to carry out the task in reverse - from storage back to my home. Fine, Quin Removals agreed to take on the job on a given date at the appointed time. 
At the time I was careful to stress the importance of the timing; that it was crucial that the task be carried out on the appointed day as I needed a bed to sleep on. No problems, consider it done was the response I received from the removal guy.
On Monday the bariatric bed was removed, at around midday, after which I emailed Quin Removals to confirm their side of the operation. A few minutes later, this was around 12.30pm, the owner of the company emailed me that he was in Switzerland, there was a problem with his truck, he might be able to fit me in on Friday...oh yes, and that he was stressed out.
Great. There I was facing a large space on which a bed of some description once filled which was now occupied by... nothing. It was only as I stared into the vast void of emptiness that a scary realisation dawned upon me. I was officially bedless. 
Of course that's not the end of the world, I can hear you say. You've still got a roof over your head; and a locked door to ward off external evils. Points I cannot in all honesty deny.
The floor as a bed is not an alien experience to me. Over a varied and multi-faceted life I've found myself in worse sleeping predicaments. Indeed, during my wild licentious youth and early manhood I've woken on and in places that make me blush today. And I'd sooner forget the somebodies I've woken up next to - feelings doubtlessly reciprocated by my erstwhile sleeping partners.
Anyway, before I go wandering too far down my dark and murky yesteryears, disturbing memories best left interred, a word of warning to anyone out there looking to use a small removals company in South London, don't use Quin Removals. They'll let you down, and before you know it you'll be baring your threadbare soul on social media and thus disturbing ghosts best left sleeping in the dusty vaults and seldom visited recesses memories past.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Fuck Frankenstein Foods

The nasty reactionary broadcaster Ian Collins tells us that people in the UK won’t be concerned about chlorine cleaned chickens, meat inflated by hormones, animals pumped with antibiotic, genetically modified food, etc. No, they’ll be led by price.

As I stated Collin’s views are mostly reactionary. He promotes his views in a matter-of-fact way attempting to pursued the listener that his views are reasonable and that his opinions chime with the common man. He leans dangerously to the right selling radio listeners a line parallel to that of the neoliberal movement.

He suggests that if a trade deal with the USA means us allowing chlorine cleaned chickens, meat inflated by hormones, animals pumped with antibiotics, genetically modified food, etc, so be it. According to Collins Americans eat this food all the time, bla blah blah.

Further he insists that if sealing a trade deal with the States means taking on their eating habits, and that in doing so we are doing so for Queen and country.

First of all, Ian, I would like to counter your claim that all Americans eat this kind of food. Rubbish. Sure, most poor Americans are forced to buy this kind of food because they lack the means of choice. You can bet that those with money will be buying better quality food, just as wealthy people in the UK eat better.

I’ll go along with Collins’s view if he can guarantee that the Queen and the wealthy will also subject themselves to eating this food from the USA. People, don’t be fooled by the likes of Ian Collins who are merely mouth-pieces for the neoliberal companies. If you get the chance to go to the States look in their supermarkets, meat and food that isn’t sold by Frankenstein Food Ltd attracts premium prices. Similarly, in restaurants steaks from grass-fed cows are a lot more expensive to their hormone-inflated cousins.

Unemployment down, except for disabled people

According to Papworth Trust January 2016 figures the UK employment rate among working age disabled people was 46.5% (4.1 million), this compared to 84% of non-disabled people.

Despite these dismal figures, and with unemployment down to 4.5%, unemployed people in the UK are still punished. We live with an outrageous situation in this country. When we work we are compelled to pay taxes and insurance at source. A system I fully support. Yet, we are then forced to accept a one-sided social compact. An agreement that sees us funding a welfare state while being denied a safety-net when we seek welfare.

However, low unemployment does not seem to have benefited disabled job seekers. Inordinate numbers of disabled people who can work are denied employment due to discriminatory practices in employment procedures. Difficulties are encountered when disabled people apply for Access to Work. The government now funds fewer items under the scheme; there is an imposed ceiling on the scheme giving some categories of claimant less opportunity to buy in the full support they require; and the scheme creates more red-tape, especially for self-employed disabled workers. The end results? Fewer disabled people in work.

Even with all these influences militating against disabled people gaining employment we’re still facing vicious sanctions when we fail to find work in an ever-shrinking jobs market. Often the only type of jobs on offer are of a precarious nature. They are zero hours contracts, jobs that offer too few hours, short-term contracts and self-employment.

Successive governments have failed to assist disabled workers into meaningful employment. Schemes such as Work Choice have dismally failed disabled job seekers, yet disabled people are continuously punished for failing to secure jobs. Failing to gain jobs that either aren’t there or where they are available, they’re put out of reach to disabled people by discriminatory means, including difficulties in acquiring Access to Work.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mencap, pay the going rate

Mencap claims that organisations like theirs who provide overnight support and assistance to clients with complex learning disabilities will face a bill of £400m if a six-year backpay is imposed. HMRC has stated that support workers who sleep over at their workplace are entitled to the minimum wage for all hours worked. 

Many charities, including Mencap, have been paying their workers a flat rate below minimum wage for overnight shifts; the money topped-up if the worker is woken to carry out support during the shift.

Some 5,500 people work in this sector and it has been calculated that there has been an underpay of £400m over the past six-years. Mencap states that:  "For many smaller care providers across the country the financial impact will be devastating."

Yes, the government’s failure to adequately fund social care and support has impacted greatly on the sector, and doubtlessly has some bearing on this situation. However, as a Unison official points out: 

"Charities and care companies have known for a long time they must pay sleep-in staff at least the minimum wage. But it's only now HM Revenue & Customs is in pursuit that many are pleading poverty and asking for an exemption from the law.”
I have little sympathy with Mencap and the other providers of these services. This is a long-standing issue. The trade unions have been fighting for this group of workers for many years. Indeed, Unite carried out some work amongst its housing workers who carry out sleepovers as part of their work duties.
Mencap and other major charities have been quite silent over the past seven-years. I don't recall Mencap joining in with disabled people in our fight against cuts to social care and support. While we have been out on the streets and actively campaigning through the courts against the closure of the ILF  and the right to decent care packages these large charities have kept their heads below the parapet.