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'Can this be England?'

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'Can this be England?'

Post by Kitkat on Wed 11 Feb 2015, 13:02

"As a jobcentre adviser, I got ‘brownie points’ for cruelty"

Former jobcentre adviser Angela Neville has written a play to expose the harsh reality of the benefits sanctions regime
Angela Neville, 48, is describing events she witnessed as a special adviser in a jobcentre that prompted her to write a play about her experiences.

“We were given lists of customers to call immediately and get them on to the Work Programme,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I’m sorry this can’t happen, this man is in hospital.’ I was told [by my boss]: ‘No, you’ve got to phone him and you’ve got to put this to him and he may be sanctioned.’ I said I’m not doing it.”

Neville worked as an adviser in Braintree jobcentre, Essex, for four years and has written a play with two collaborators, her friends Angela Howard and Jackie Howard, both of whom have helped advocate for unemployed people who were threatened with benefit sanctions by jobcentre staff.

The title of the play, Can This be England? is an allusion to the disbelief that she and the others feel at how people on benefits are being treated, she says. And she unashamedly describes the play, in which she also acts, as a “dramatic consciousness-raising exercise”.
Full story in  The Guardian

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The rules apply even if the campaigning is entirely non-party political. Where two or more organisations mount a joint campaign they must jointly remain within the cost limits, further limiting how much they can spend.

So, for example, campaigns relating to food banks, homelessness or benefits cuts would all be likely to fall within the terms of the Lobbying Act.

As a result of uncertainty about the law, fear of getting caught up in huge amounts of costly administration and concerns about being targeted by politicians many charities are remaining silent during the election period.

One charity which wished to remain anonymous told the commission:

“We are re-considering our usual manifesto activity leading up to the election.

“Although none of it is intended to be – or has ever been – party political, there is now a risk that certain politicians will try to make examples of anything we do and try to harm us financially or harm our reputation.

“For this reason we have to be careful about what we say. Even though the issues are very serious and we need to be hard-hitting in our communications to all politicians.

“Anything we say is now at risk of being wilfully misinterpreted.”

The Commission on Civil society has recommended that the Lobbying Act should be repealed.

You can download a copy of Impact of the Lobbying Act on civil society and democratic engagement here.

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