PCS South West regional secretary James Davies said a conference in Bristol organised by PCS and Unite Community helped to bring together claimants and DWP workers to share experiences and promote common values and understanding.
On Saturday, (14 April) PCS and Unite Community hosted a Mutual Benefits event in Bristol aimed at challenging the changes to the social security system which are having a detrimental effect on both claimants and DWP workers.
Encouraged by the success of the event held in London and the South East in December, we saw this event as an excellent opportunity to come together and share experiences and discuss how we can campaign against government attacks on the social security system in our region.
We used our Mutual Benefits conference to support the objectives of our joint Welfare Charter.
We heard from Fran Heathcote, PCS DWP group president, who opened the event. She pointed out that the dismantling of the two main pillars of the welfare state – the social security system and NHS – is the reason that these events are necessary.
Fran highlighted the ongoing DWP office closures and warned, “The closures mean the public cannot get the advice and the support they need.”
She said it was important for the whole movement to come together to defend the welfare state and urged people to support the TUC’s ‘new deal for working people’ march and rally on 12 May.
Around 40 delegates made up of PCS reps and Unite Community activists from across the South West of England spent the majority of the day participating in workshops based around the main objectives of our joint Welfare Charter.
The themes covered were:
- What we want a social security system to look like
- Universal income and universal basic services
- Representation of unemployed workers
- Welfare delivery and digitisation
- Promoting equality in the labour market and for benefit claimants
It is hoped that the outcome of these workshops will lead to joint campaigning activities in the south west that promote a fairer social security system that provides a safety net for those that need it and better quality jobs for those that deliver it.
Following feedback from the workshops, Steve Preddy, Unite South West’s deputy regional secretary, rounded up the conference with some startling statistics on the impact of Tory austerity measures, describing them as “nothing short of chilling.”
The immediate feedback from the conference has been very positive. By bringing together claimants and DWP workers we were able to share experiences and promote common values and understanding. This will help us to develop a culture of mutual campaigning and solidarity between Unite Community and PCS.