Withington’s unemployed workers ‘suffering at the hands of the government’ can look forward to a ‘radical’ new community service to turn to for help and support as a new centre launches today.
Manchester Unemployed Workers’ Centre, a non-profit organisation set up by Manchester Trade Union Congress, is opening in the south Manchester suburb at 12pm today.
The centre, which is setting up at St Cuthbert RC Church, 3 Palatine Road, will offer support and advise residents on issues such as employment law, welfare rights and trade union membership.
John Clegg, a member of the centre’s Management Committee, said: “The Unemployed Workers’ Centre is a vital service for people suffering at the hands of the Government.
“Claimants are faced with a complex system underpinned by a draconian sanctions regime.”
The launch of the new service follows the announcement of further benefit cuts in the Tories new Welfare Reform and Work Bill and in the wake of the imposition of benefit sanctions.
The Department for Work and Pensions has refused to release the number of people who have died following their benefits being sanctioned, despite more than 240,000 people signing a petition calling on them to do so and demands from opposition MPs.
Oldham Labour MP Debbie Abrahams has been one of the strongest voices in the call for the government to publish these figures.
Earlier this month she said: “It is simply unacceptable that the Department is seeking to avoid scrutiny in such a way.
“The fact that the Secretary of State denied these statistics were kept and accused me of scaremongering, only for this to be refuted by the Prime Minister two days later who promised to publish, shows just what a mess the DWP and Government are in.
“It’s time to truly act in the public interest and publish these figures.
“At the same time, the DWP should also publish details of their 49 Peer Reviews into people who have died after being sanctioned, providing maximum transparency on lessons learned and procedures they have changed.”
Unemployed workers’ centres have been in existence in the UK for years, including a centre in Salford that has been running since 1980, but a Manchester service only began operating in 2014.
The Withington centre will be the first such provision in the south of the city.
Mr Clegg added: “Our trained volunteers can help guide people through the system and ensure they are aware of their rights.”
At the launch in Withington today there will be speeches, a Q&A session and refreshments.
Manchester Unemployed Workers’ Centre will expand its services to North Manchester later this year.