On Friday I went to a well-attended (for a Friday night) meeting to launch the Brighton Benefits Campaign. A new campaign group around this issue is very welcome at a time when people on benefits are being criminalised and scapegoated like never before.
Importantly the campaign draws the links between the unemployed and those in low-paid work, and also, in having a trade unionist working in the benefits system on the platform, it got across the important point that benefits workers are not the enemy - many of them being on benefits themselves to survive. In fact it was Gerry Hyde of the PCS union who gave in some ways the most devastating speech as she described the chaotic and under-resourced Jobcentre Plus Network, staffed by untrained temporary workers. Caroline Lucas also made a good contribution and it was good to see the Green Party taking a position on this issue.
There was a time when Brighton had a thriving and campaigning voluntary sector which campaigned as well as just advised and represented claimants. This largely fell away as it was shut down or absorbed by the local state, leaving only the Unemployed Workers Centre as an independent campaigning force.
The establishment of the Brighton Benefits Campaign will hopefully start to redress the situation.