Unite Community Food Aid Guide updated

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The Branch has just updated its A Guide to Food Aid in Leeds. It includes sources of food aid, welfare rights and debt advice across Leeds. It has been compiled with the help of Leeds-based charity, Unity in Poverty Action. We are very grateful for their assistance.

We have used the guide to give out to users of the main Job Centre in Leeds as part of our outreach work. Copies have also been distributed in Leeds, Morley and Pudsey as part of campaigns against benefit sanctions and Universal Credit. Unite Community and supporters have also distributed it to libraries, personal contacts, members of the Labour Party and other trade unionists.

A Guide to Food Aid in Leeds can be downloaded here. Further details of food aid across Leeds are available from the Food Aid Network coordinated by Unity in Poverty Action.

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Following campaign, cuts to school transport to be fully restored!

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DEAL, Unite Community members and supporters demonstrate on the steps of Leeds Town Hall  in April 2018 against school transport cuts for vulnerable young people

In February of last year our branch of Unite Community was approached by a group of parents in Leeds who had been informed that the customary school transport for their children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) was to be cut from start of the current school year.

Instead of minibus travel, Leeds City Council would provide some help with transport costs and, where appropriate, offer travel training so that students could make their own way to school.

The group of students affected would have been those aged 16 years at the beginning of the school year. Many of them had either severe learning disabilities or physical disabilities or both. Similar decisions have been or are being made elsewhere in the country.

The parents formed themselves into an organisation called DEAL (Disability Empowerment Action Links) to campaign with Unite Community to reverse the cut. Following a demonstration on the Town Hall steps last April, media coverage, the collection of hundreds of signatures for a petition, and lobbying, the parents eventually met with councillors and officials in June of last year.

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Following the meeting, the City Council agreed to pause the transport policy for a year and to restore the normal school transport for the rest of their children’s school careers. It was also agreed to offer a personal travel allowance to those families who would like it. But, it was stressed, the allowance would operate on a purely voluntary basis.

Since June, DEAL and Unite Community have continued to meet with the councillors and officers. The City Council agreed towards the end of last year to pause their policy for a further year, but at the last joint meeting in January with campaigners, the Council agreed to reverse the cuts to school transport altogether!

This decision represents a great result for the parents and their campaigning. From Unite Community’s point of view, it shows how we can act effectively to support those facing cuts and how we can work in partnership with community groups. In short, it shows the great value of community trade unionism.

Universal Credit Day of Action on 1st December outside Wakefield Cathedral

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Universal Credit is plagued with problems and is pushing people into debt, rent arrears and poverty. Food bank use has also increased since its introduction.

Unite Community (Leeds & Wakefield Branch) will be outside Wakefield Cathedral (by the steps) on Saturday 1st December 11-2pm giving out information about Universal Credit, talking to people about it and asking them to sign our petition and to help us to campaign against it. Please join us.

Youth Fighting Back by Unite Community’s Tom Costello

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Lancashire Unite Community Youth Officer, Tom Costello, has written a very good  pamphlet, Youth Fighting Back: Young Workers and Trade Unions. This brief but clear and well written account analyses why young people need unions and what unions can do for them. It includes examples of inspirational young people recently taking industrial action at McDonalds and TGI Fridays.

Tom also links trade union activity to the need to get rid of the Tories and to support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

There is also practical advice on what individuals can do to take forward the struggle against exploitation and unfairness experienced by young people.

Tom’s pamphlet makes a great campaigning tool in order to recruit young people to Unite Community and the wider union movement.

How to obtain a copy

A pdf version of the pamphlet is available here and hard copies can be obtained from Tom himself by contacting him on email at: tom_costello1@hotmail.com

Branch publishes food aid guide

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The Sanctions Working Group of Unite Community Leeds & Wakefield Branch has just published an online version of A Guide to Food Aid in Leeds. A sign of austere neoliberal times. Thank you to Leeds-based Unity in Poverty Action for all their considerable help with the guide. A  hard copy will be ready soon. Further details of the guide are available here

How Gramsci’s ideas can help us in campaigning against benefit sanctions

Unite Community member, Gerry Lavery, considers how the ideas of  Antonio Gramsci, one time leader of the Italian Communist Party and political theorist, have helped to inform the work of the Sanctions Working Group of Unite Community Leeds and Wakefield Branch. The harsh yet ineffective sanctions regime stubbornly remains. Until popular perceptions of working-age claimants are challenged in a more strategic way at a local and national level, then the hostile climate that supports sanctions is likely to persist.

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Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Benefit sanctions have had devastating consequences, including death. They have often been applied to the most vulnerable, but have also been linked to poor health, worsening family relations, debt, homelessness and crime. Nor is there much evidence in the UK that they work. But, through Universal Credit, they will remain and be extended to those working and previously receiving tax credits. This policy is known as ‘in-work conditionality’, i.e., unless claimants can justify working a certain number of hours or not pursuing better paid jobs, they could also be penalised. Trials of the policy have already highlighted its potentially damaging impact. Continue reading