Working Links: Biggest Crisis For Probation Services As Company Collapses

Working Links, one of Britain’s biggest providers of probation services which have managed the rehabilitation of offenders for years have gone into administration. Inspectors have criticised Working Links for mishandling its operations to boost profit. Furthermore, problems have been rising ever since Working Links became responsible for running 3 CRCs (Community Rehabilitation Companies) which were awarded contracts in 2015 to supervise low and medium-risk offenders.

Working Links provide probation services in England and Wales. The private company announced its collapse into administration on Friday. The company have been going through financial difficulties and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said they have been aware of the company’s financial strain since last year.

Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, responded to the news that Working Links has gone into administration:

“Our probation system is clearly broken. This is yet another public service severely damaged by Chris Grayling and the Conservatives’ obsession with privatisation. We need a probation system that prioritises keeping the public safe rather than boosting the profits of private companies. Labour is fully committed to returning the probation system to the public sector. The Tories must now do likewise.”

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen:

The Government has been warned about this since the beginning of the privatisation programme. The MoJ said Working Links services would be handed over to Seetec in the meantime. Seetec is a public and business service provider and is also responsible for managing community rehabilitation centres in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

It is no surprise that Chris Grayling MP, the former Secretary of State for Justice was responsible for privatising the care of low-to-medium risk offenders as part of his reforms. The government has been criticised on numerous occasions for mishandling the situation as they have been advised to terminate the contract between the Ministry of Justice and Working Links. Our probation system is broken at the moment due to the privatisation of a service which should have always been in public ownership. The collapse of Working Links also affects thousands of working individuals who have been told not to attend work anymore. Amongst those workers are young adults doing their apprenticeship in both customer service and retail. The Inspectorate of Probation, which inspects this provision for the government, rated the centres covering Dorset, Devon and Cornwall as inadequate. The HM Chief Inspector of Probation published a report into Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC which you can read further in the link below:

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/media/press-releases/2019/02/ddcrc/

 

We Must Treat Immigrants As Our Friends And Not Just Humans.

Racism and xenophobia have infected British politics. The sight of politicians stoking up fear against immigrants no longer seems to shock us; quite frankly, it’s come to be expected. In the same way that hate crime increased in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, so too has hate-filled bigotry infected British politics. It is now considered appropriate for Theresa May to claim EU migrants have “jumped the queue”; charging them £65 for settled status after Brexit. It is now customary for Sajid Javid to deny asylum seekers refuge in the UK. The sight of Tommy Robinson (now an advisor for UKIP) spewing hate on our TV screens has become routine. Anti-immigration rhetoric has become normalised; the Far Right has desensitised us from their bigotry. Their brand of bitter, racist, ugly populism has invaded British politics.

By pandering to the Far Right, the Tories have failed to acknowledge the fact that immigration has been a force for good in this country. Their hard work has greatly contributed to the British economy; on average, contributing £78000 to the Exchequer. EU nationals make up 63000 of all NHS staff, 5000 of all teachers and 92000 of all care workers in our desperately underfunded social care system. Half a million are also employed in low-skilled work across the UK. In all cases, immigrants give more than they take. While the Right may claim that they undercut wages and overstretch our public services (even suggesting they deny the opportunity for young Brits to train as doctors), in reality, they spend money, pay taxes and tend to use the NHS less than most Britons.

However, the fact is many of these types of justifications of the value immigration miss the point entirely. Immigrants are all too often described in economic terms; as robots that work in the country, pay taxes and contribute to our economy. What is less often emphasised is their role as friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates. By reducing their value solely to their economic output, we ignore the vast contributions made by immigrants in transforming Britain into a multicultural, diverse society. Growing up in East London, I was exposed to a vast array of different cultures and learnt so much from my continental peers whether it be how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Polish, or observing Jumu’ah on a Friday with my Muslim friends. They taught me what it meant to be British: tolerant, inclusive and accepting.

Immigration broadens the mind, much in the same way as travelling does; it is no coincidence that nearly all major cities in the UK with higher levels of immigration chose to back Remain in the EU referendum.

The de-humanisation of immigrants in this country has been shameful; seeing them scapegoated for the crimes of the rich has been heart-breaking. Immigration has not fuelled populism, austerity has. The backlash the political classes are now experiencing in response to austerity politics has been redirected towards immigrants; rather than the politicians who underfund our public services, cause stagnating wages and unemployment. The right-wing press has conned us into blaming immigrants for the plight of the working classes. By directing anger at immigrants and brainwashing society into fighting against the enemy within, the politicians are let off the hook.

Why have the ruling classes done this? The answer is simple: to protect their privileged status by segregating the working class; leaving them unable to organise coordinated opposition to this rigged economic system. The white working class and immigrants have much more in common than many Britons would care to admit. Immigrants and ethnic minorities are twice as likely to experience poverty as white groups. Both groups have suffered heavily under austerity. At a time of immense social upheaval and protest (Brexit), the ruling class has employed divide and conquer tactics to subdue the lower classes. Anti-immigration rhetoric has thus been allowed to run riot in our mainstream media.

The effects of this scape-goating have been hard to stomach. Hate crime has increased by 17% since the Brexit vote. The viral video of a Syrian refugee getting bullied in a school in Huddersfield is part of a much wider problem. What shocked me most about this video was the fact that not one child stepped in to defend the poor boy, showing the extent to which years of anti-immigration rhetoric had de-humanised him in the eyes of his peers.

The damning by-products of Boris Johnson’s burka comments and Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster have been made clear. The mainstream media were rightfully shocked and appalled at the depravity of these comments, however, the fact remains that they were given air-time and national coverage. All this does is normalise hatred, treating it as acceptable political jargon: if the politicians are doing it, why can’t everyone? Historians of the future will be damning in their judgements of these politicians and the role they played in transforming Britain from a safe place for migrants to one in which they face hostility.

There has been a political failure to champion immigration as a force for good in this country. As Sir Oliver Letwin rightfully claimed the main parties had “made a terrible mistake” in failing to argue, with commitment and resolve, “that properly controlled migration enriches the country in every sense”. It is the job of progressive politicians on the left to champion the case for immigration. Although this would likely prove electorally unpopular in the current climate, it is vital if we are to alter people’s perceptions and prejudices.

It may seem patronising to champion the contribution of immigrants to this country, but the truth is, many people simply have not experienced these benefits. Those of us that have grown up with immigrants have a duty to educate. Those who have limited experience of immigration are more susceptible to the lies and deception of the right-wing press. By failing to stand up to bigotry, we legitimise it. If we fail to do so, who is going to stand up and defend the rights of immigrants? Clearly, it won’t be our morally corrupt politicians.

There are, however, reasons to be optimistic. The future of British politics is looking bright for immigrants. 32% of MYPs in the UK Youth Parliament are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. In time, British society will be governed by people who reflect our multicultural society. People who will stand up to bigotry in all its forms and reverse the worrying trends we see infecting British politics today. People who have grown up with immigrants, from a vast array of countries, who will treat them not just as humans but as friends.

 

Universal Credit: ‘The Truth’. An Anonymous Account

This individual wished to remain anonymous, but really wanted to share their experiences of Universal Credit:

I started claiming for Universal Credit in November 2018. I was reluctant to claim, as I did not want to be viewed as a ‘scrounger’.

I could not continue without support, as I had reached destitution – I required urgent assistance.

I contemplated suicide a few times, to avoid becoming a societal burden but primarily due to the issues which led to my destitution in November 2018.

I applied for state assistance at the beginning of November, but was informed I could not receive a full payment until mid-December 2018.

I was reluctant to apply for an ‘advanced payment’ as I was informed that it was a loan. I could not afford to accumulate more debt. But, I eventually applied as I was desperate and could not afford the necessities for living. I applied for one-hundred pounds, to help me survive until I received my payment – but the amount I borrowed was set to be deducted from my payment in December 2018.

My payment eventually arrived and I was immediately short on funds again. I was loaned money from friends and family in small amounts. I struggled to repay everyone.

It is even more difficult to find a job due to my autism and I was initially expected to attend group sessions and places I struggled mentally to cope with, but I am now given a bit more leniency. I raised the issue of my autism at the outset, but so many fail to understand my thoughts and feelings.

I wanted to live with my partner, but if I did this (to minimise costs) I would lose the majority of my support, as the state will judge me based upon the income of my partner of almost two years.

I was forced into this situation abruptly due to issues with my studies and this was all unexpected and unprecedented. I feel that I require emotional support, but cannot access it and I also feel awful for becoming a societal burden.

I am struggling to find a job due to my situation and this is exacerbated by the emotional state I was left in – in November 2018. It takes so long for benefit applications to be reviewed and I often cannot afford to wait for these outcomes – as I have also applied for Personal Independence Payments.

My autism leaves me worrying and struggling to engage in daily activities. I am not sure about anything anymore – I just hope I can have someone to assist me with these difficulties. I cannot keep placing the burden on my partner and loved ones – I hope I can get assistance from the NHS.

It is even more problematic that I have to sign a tenancy agreement before I am informed about any possible entitlement for rent support – a system which could leave me in severe debt or homeless.

Money is tight and my thoughts are low. I want help and support. I wish that mental health services would be well funded and supported – I hope I can access counselling and/or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

I support the calls for a ‘People’s Vote’, but I maintain my full support of the Labour Party.

Recent articles, following an exclusive interview with The Guardian, suggest that the Labour Party has altered its course on Brexit – assuming Jeremy Corbyn wins a General Election.

There has been an assumption that if Labour won a General Election, then they would abandon Brexit. Does this assumption have any basis, or not?

The official policy of the Labour Party, from the Conference in 2018 is to support Brexit – but, if the current proposals are dismissed then all options must remain on the table, including a Second Referendum.

The priority has, and will continue to be, a Snap General Election in 2019 – which has been predicted by Corbyn in an interview with the Sunday Mirror.

Corbyn, in the interview which has received a lot of backlash, also reaffirmed: ‘I’m not a dictator of the party.’ He stressed that the official policy cannot be set unilaterally, implying that there is room for manoveour.

He was queried about the official stance that would be taken by the Labour Party, in the event of another Referendum. He responded: ‘it would be a matter for the party to decide what the policy would be; but my proposal at this moment is that we go forward, trying to get a customs union with the EU, in which we would be able to be proper trading partners.’

It is clear that he respects the democratic will of the people, but remains open minded – as he stresses that policies are not set by himself but by the Labour Party.

However, Mr. Corbyn has come under intense criticism from some within the Labour Party. They claim that his comments are a ‘betrayal’ and fail to represent the membership of the Labour Party.

^ Supporter of the Blairite Government, J.K. Rowling, likened recent events to Biblical Stories.

I recognise there are growing calls for a ‘People’s Vote’, but it should be noted that this interview reveals no major changes in Labour’s policies toward Brexit – this orchestrated fury has no foundation and seems to be an attempt to target the leadership of the Labour Party.

I support the calls for a ‘People’s Vote’, but I maintain my support of the Labour Party. We have a choice at the next election – more austerity and more cuts, or a social agenda that truly helps those within the United Kingdom.

Corbyn has been forced into a corner and he requires support – otherwise him and his socialist agenda will be lost for generations. He remains open minded toward Brexit – and his agenda is the official agenda of the Labour Party.

Besides, if I had to pick between a Labour Brexit or a Conservative Brexit, well, the choice wouldn’t be difficult. I would also rather have no Brexit.

If he abandons Brexit then there will be social upheaval, hence it is crucial that it fails but is not abandoned. He is playing the game of politics well and maintains our best interests – we should maintain our support.

Lobbying, protesting, and campaigning are effective tools for voicing concerns and I assure you all that the concerns have been heard by the Labour Party.

Homeless People Need Help, Not Punishment: Labour Party To Repeal Law Criminalising Rough Sleepers

 

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn have announced that the next Labour government will repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824. The Vagrancy Act 1824 is an Act of Parliament which makes it an offence to sleep rough or beg. Anyone who is found to be sleeping rough or begging in public can be arrested.

Labour will say that the priority should be to support the less fortunate and to not criminalise them. The legislation creates further austerity and has a very hostile approach when it comes to dealing with homelessness in this country. Reports have stated that those convicted under the Vagrancy Act can be fined up to £1, 000 and can leave those convicted under the act with a two-year criminal record.

Labour has committed to ending rough sleeping with a plan to reserve 8,000 homes for people with a history of rough sleeping.

Jeremy Corbyn MP said:

The next Labour government will make ending homelessness a priority. We want to build a society which doesn’t walk by on the other side when we see someone in need.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

According to homeless link’s latest publication of research in January 2018, 4, 751 individuals are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night. This indicates an increase of 15 % from 2016- 2017. 600 homeless people have died in England and Wales last year according to official figures.  

In addition, over 300, 000 people are currently homeless in the UK according to Shelter. It is, therefore, no secret that austerity has taken over the UK and the current Conservative government does not seem to understand the importance of keeping the need of the people first. Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire who has also been the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup since 2010, has recently stated that the government policies such as welfare cuts are not to blame for the rise in homelessness but rather the breakdown of families and drug use are. As much as there are many factors that contribute to being homeless, it is ignorant to state that the policies created under the current government have not contributed to the rise in homelessness, with figures even stating the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled since 2010.  The Housing Secretary’s comment has angered many homeless people but also people who are not homeless. They understand that many who are homeless do not want to be and just need the right support system.

It has been reported that a homeless man died on the street after collapsing outside parliament this week. As it seems now, the Labour Party is the only party willing to set up a plan to overcome this crisis. To help the many who are neglected by the current government.

France: Beacon of Hope

I must state that this article refers solely to the masses, not the riotous minority attempting to usurp the movement for their own gain.

These individuals, known as ‘yellow vests’, have started a movement that is spreading across continental Europe – with calls for similar action even being heard in the United Kingdom.

Initially, the movement was a response to the fuel tax rise implemented by French President Emmanuel Macron. However, the movement swiftly grew to encompass a number of issues affecting the lower classes in society – similar issues being experienced by people in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Political austerity is a choice, and this has been recognised by the people of France. Their legislative were failing them, so they rose against the state to express their anger and frustration.

They effectively won, as their legislative were forced to make concessions regarding taxation and wages – if not, the movement would continue to grow and cause disruption across France.

Similar movements have a historical precedent in France – dating back to the 18th Century. France, once again, has sent a message to the people of Europe:

Enough is enough, we do not have to tolerate the systematic exploitation of the lower classes within our society.

This message is universal, just as the values of republicanism were in the 18th Century. France offers a beacon of hope to the rest of the world – especially Europe.

For example, similar movements have emerged in the Netherlands. In Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters marched peacefully across the Erasmus Bridge singing a song about the Netherlands – they also handed flowers to passer-bys.

Sisters Beb and Ieneke Lambermont, two of those amongst the protesters, said: ‘Our children are hard-working people but they have to pay taxes everywhere. You can’t get housing anymore.’ She continued: ‘The social welfare net we grew up with is gone’.

‘The government is not there for the people. It is there to protect its own interests,’ she concluded.

The only downside to this thriving spirit of reform amongst the people is the potential for violence, but violence remains the preserve of a minority denounced by leadership figures. But, the fact remains, opposition is growing.

Should these movements be replicated by people in the United Kingdom? Well, protests serve an important societal function as they help to maintain the balance of power – but the outbreak of violence can often destroy these movements.

The Labour Party Faces New Divisions Over Sex Work

Framed as an attempt to cut down on online sex trafficking, the pair of bills commonly known as the FOSTA-SESTA package became law in the United States in April this year. In essence, this new law was made to crack down on the advertisement of sex work online which in itself has been met with controversy on all sides of the political spectrum.

In the last week, the dispute has moved to the United Kingdom after a group of MPs, headed by Labour’s Sarah Champion brought the debate to Parliament. Ms Champion is openly in favour of the Nordic Model (the criminalisation of the purchase of sex), and wants to pressure the UK government to bring this model to Britain. Even Jeremy Corbyn himself has spoken out in favour of the this model. Divisions within the Labour Party over the issue are growing and many are calling on their leadership to speak out against the proposals and back full decriminalisation of sex work. Whether this actually happens or not, remains to be seen.

A key argument against Ms Champion’s proposals is that the criminalisation of sex work will just drive the industry underground, thus putting sex workers themselves at risk. It is naïve to think that any amount of regulation could completely eradicate what is a well-established industry. The internet plays a vital role in the safeguarding of sex workers. In a study undertaken by Beyond the Gaze, it was found that three quarters of sex workers identified the internet as an important factor in their safety. Through taking their work online, there is access to vital support systems and the ability to vet clients prior to meeting them. The idea then that getting rid of online advertising platforms would protect sex workers from exploitation is misguided to say the least.

In countries such as Greece where sex work is heavily regulated, many sex workers now practice illegally leaving them at the mercy of pimps and trafficking gangs who seek to exploit them. This is a real world example of how criminalisation is not always the best option. The aftermath of the law passing in the US has been the exact opposite of its supposed intentions leading to sex workers being pushed back onto the streets and back into the hands of those who exploited them. For those on the left who hold workers’ rights close to their hearts, this should be a real wake up call.

Sex work in itself is a complex industry and no two workers join the industry for the same reason. There is no denying that exploitation exists and no one calling for decriminalisation is arguing that. The idea, however, that a change in law would somehow ‘save’ those forced into the industry is very wrong. Even survivors of sex trafficking are arguing against the proposed changes and find it bewildering that very few of those in power are choosing to consult them. No industry is without exploitation, such is the nature of capitalism but to make potentially dangerous changes to the regulation of an industry without consulting its workers is dangerous.

Terminology is also important when discussing this issue. A transcript from the parliamentary debate appears to show Labour MPs Jess Philips and Sarah Champion forcing the use of the term prostitute as opposed to sex worker. The sex industry is broad and though there are some who refer to themselves as prostitutes, there are many who do not. In a model motion that is being put to CLPs across the country it is noted just how many different roles are included in the term sex worker. It is not the job of those outside of the industry to decide which is correct. This again is an example of how little dialogue there has been between those within the industry and those in positions of power.

For self-proclaimed feminist MPs to constantly use the argument that they are in some way ‘saving women’ by working to legislate against sex work is again damaging. Regardless of an individual’s thoughts on the morality of sex work, the industry exists and to introduce a law that would be harmful to sex workers of all genders is in no way going to ‘save women’. This rhetoric is far from helpful and takes attention away from the real problem at hand.

The Labour Party in the United Kingdom has historically prided itself on being the Party of the workers; indeed the clue is in the name, so to speak. For many, this fact is fundamental to the debate. As put in a recent article for LabourList, ‘it is self-evident that workers should be the ones to determine how best to improve their working conditions’. The sex industry exists and where an industry exists so do workers who must be protected. The Labour Party must recognise this and treat the industry just like any other. It must listen to the workers, and work to strengthen their rights.