Fighting for your rights

Dave Knight on a campaign group’s efforts to support vulnerable people

Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights

Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights protesting outside Leytonstone Jobcentre Plus

Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights is a local organisation that supports benefits claimants and campaigns on the problems they face.

Local benefit claimants and others meet every month to provide support and organise campaigning activities. The group is run by a small committee that includes benefit claimants.

Founded in 2016, in its short life to date the group has taken up the cases of claimants badly treated, campaigned against unfair changes in the benefits system, and sanctions against claimants which leave them penniless and vulnerable.

Recently some of the most vulnerable people have had their benefits reduced. For example, disabled claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) have seen their special disability premium abolished, leaving them up to £80 per week worse off.

Further benefits are often administered incorrectly, as recent official reports have highlighted. One person had appealed in May 2017 against a refusal of ESA. The group took up the huge delay in arranging the appeal and helped at their hearing. They were successful and finally awarded close to £2,000 in 2018 after waiting 15 months from the point they launched their appeal.

We see that Universal Credit (UC) has worsened the lives of many claimants. For instance, sanctions against unemployed people are about four times more common when those claimanta come under UC. The current plan is to move every benefit claimant, including working families claiming tax credits, to UC next year. Working families face on average a loss of £50 per month. About 80,000 people in Waltham Forest would be affected.

Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights campaigned against the closure of Leytonstone Jobcentre Plus. The closure means Leyton and Leytonstone claimants face extra expense and longer travel to attend the Walthamstow branch. This increases their risk of being sanctioned if late for appointments.

Our group brings unemployed people together to try and break down the isolation many claimants suffer, so they can share their experiences and knowledge and become empowered by knowing how best to defend their rights. Monthly meetings are held at Harmony Hall in Truro Road, Walthamstow, at 2pm on the third Thursday of every month.

All are welcome to come along for tea, biscuits, and conversation about issues that affect claimants. The group supports claimants having problems, so part of the meeting always looks at issues that anyone might have at that time.

If you would like the opportunity to meet with other benefit claimants to chat in a friendly environment about your experiences and what you would like to see changed, then why not give Waltham Forest Stand Up For Your Rights a go by attending one of our meetings?

For more information contact Julia Poynter: