Free ESOL classes at CVS provided through Brent Unite Community (BUC)

Brent Unite Community (BUC) is launching free ESOL classes for beginners and intermediate learners. Teachers are local volunteers trained by the union.

BUC will be offering classes at different venues across Brent at different times of the week throughout the year. A 12-week Intermediate Class will run CVS Brent, starting on Wednesday 31st January 2018. Enrolment takes place on Wednesday 24th January at 1 – 5pm. Please see the flyer here. For further information, please contact Robin Sivapalan – email or ring 07974331053.

Career Fair – Wednesday 9th November 10am to 1pm – Pakistan Community Centre

hiredThere will be a free Career Fair open to all at the Pakistan Community Centre, Marley Walk, London NW2 4PU (behind Willesden Green tube station. For more information, email

There will be an opportunity to meet employers, access live vacancies and instant advice and guidance.

Brent Benefit Cap information event

Monday, 7th November, 1 – 3pm (Lunch from 1pm)

Harlesden Hub, Tavistock Hall, 25 High Street, London NW10 4NE

Event outline

  1. Introduction to Welfare Reform and Benefit Cap by Brent Counci
  1. Who will be affected in Brent
  1. Support available to residents and Benefit Changes Toolkit
  1. Question & Answer session

Who should attend?

  • Anyone who has questions and wants to find out more about the forthcoming benefit cap changes (residents, support workers, community organisations).
  • Anyone worried that they might be affected
  • Anyone who has already received notification and needs more info and support
  • Anyone who wants to learn about Brent’s Benefit Cap changes Toolkit

Why Crisis Brent is holding this event?

Crisis Brent are concerned that many of our clients, their families and friends and many in the community as a whole are still not fully aware of how the new benefit cap changes may affect them and their housing. We have liaised with the council to hold an information session in Harlesden to ensure the proposed changes reach local people.

Apprenticeship opportunities available in Brent


Not quite Alan Sugar and ‘The Apprentice’ but opportunities are available for residents aged 16-24 who are looking to start their careers.

Brent Works Apprenticeships provide roles for local young people, helping them gain a nationally recognised qualification, practical experience and earn a salary. The team work across a variety of industries, with opportunities available for many career paths.

Vacancies can be viewed on the website, and for more information contact the on 020 8903 6825 or email

Ward Working Money invested in Shaping Futures Project

Last year, ward working funds from Dudden Hill were invested in the Shaping Futures project. We allocated a quarter of our spend on this because we realise the importance of it.

The project involved a series of workshops to help young people develop key skills and find future employment.

Given that our youth unemployment rate is 9.4% in Brent, it is important that we invest in this area. The project was run by Cricklewood Homeless Concern.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Another bad year for jobs?

Unemployment (Photo credit: born1945)

2011 was a bad year for unemployment and underemployment and, if the latest Labour Market Statistics are any guide, 2012 looks like being at least as bad. These statistics, which mainly cover the three months to end January 2012, show that:

Unemployment was 2.67 million, up 28,000 over the quarter and 148,000 over the past year. The unemployment rate was 8.4% of the economically active population, up 0.1% on the quarter and at a level which was last exceeded in October 1995 (when John Major was Prime Minister).

Unemployment amongst JSA claimants was 1.61 million in February, up 7,200 on the previous month and 162,000 on the previous year. This left the claimant rate at 5%, unchanged from January but up 0.5% on the previous year.

Youth unemployment was 1.04 million, up 16,000 over the three months to end January and equivalent to 22.5% of economically active 16-24 year olds. However, separate figures showed that the unemployment rate for black youth has been rising at almost twice that for white youth and that unemployment amongst young black men has risen from 28.8% to 55.9% in the past three years.

Underemployment also increased with the number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time jobs up 110,000 to 1.3 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

On the slightly less negative side, there was a fall in long-term unemployment – by 12,000 in the number of those unemployed for over a year and by 25,000 in those unemployed for over two years. However this still left 855,000 in the former category and 405,000 in the latter. There was also a fall in the economically inactive rate for 16-64 year olds not working but not included in the unemployment figures. Numbers in this group fell by 27,000 to 9.3 million, giving an inactivity rate of 23.1%. However, the fall was largely due to the effects of a government campaign which contributed to cutting the number of people in the long-term sick category by 67,000 to 2.09 million. In addition to this, the number of job vacancies increased by 15,000 to 473,000 but this still left an average of 5.6 unemployed people chasing every vacancy.

Unfortunately these crumbs of good news appear unlikely to presage a downturn in unemployment, as the economy is still flat-lining, consumer spending and business investment are at historically low levels, companies are still going bust and the recent budget did little to change the situation. The public sector, which cut 270,000 jobs last year, is also continuing to make cutbacks and recent Office for Budget Responsibility projections indicate that a total of 700,000 jobs will have gone by 2015 and 880,000 by 2017. There is also likely to be a post-Olympics jobs cull in certain sectors, including in Balfour Beatty where an estimated 1,500 jobs are believed to be at risk.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Employment rights’ roundup

Unfair dismissal – Employees currently have to be with an employer for one year before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal, but this qualifying period is increasing to two years with effect from 6 April 2012. However it is important to note that there are transitional arrangements which mean that anybody whose period of continuous employment began before the above date will still be able to make a claim after one year’s service. Employees who begin work on or after 6 April 2012 will have to work for two years before they can submit a claim.

Employment law consultations are taking place on a number of proposed legislative changes at present, including on further changes to unfair dismissal legislation, redundancy consultation periods and TUPE. George Osborne, Minister for Misery, has been urging employers to support proposals which will allow small businesses to get rid of staff under a compensated no-fault dismissal law, without the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. If enacted, this will allow unscrupulous employers to fire staff almost at will and will significantly reduce the rights of the 13.8 million people who work in Britain’s 4.5 million small businesses. There are also consultations under way on reducing the 90-day consultation period which applies when it is proposed to make 100 or more employees redundant. And there are proposals to reduce transfer of engagement rights by making it easier for employers to cut pay and conditions after a TUPE transfer has taken place. The TUC fears that this proposal, if enacted, will lead to even more outsourcing and will erode the terms and conditions of already low-paid service sector staff, including in cleaning and catering.

Accident reporting is to be made easier for employers from 6 April 2012 when changes are made to RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). Incidents currently have to be reported to the Health & Safety Executive when a worker is unfit for normal work for over three days following an accident. That period is now being increased to over seven days, which safety’ campaigners fear is sending the wrong message to employers about the importance of the incidents/injuries in question.

Criminal records – Changes are being proposed to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which will mean that fewer ex-offenders will have to report spent convictions to employers when applying for work. The new proposals mean that community service orders will be considered spent after one year (rather than four at present). Custody sentences of up to six months will be considered spent two and a half years after leaving prison (rather than seven), custody sentences of six months to two and a half years will be spent six and a half years after leaving (rather than 10) and sentences of between two and a half and four years will be spent after 11 years (rather than never, as applies now).  Custody sentences of over four years will still always have to be declared, as will convictions for people who want to work with children.

Bullies beware – A scientist has won an employment tribunal award of almost £30,000, for constructive and unfair dismissal, after he faced a ‘barrage of shouting’ and unpleasant and derogatory treatment from a professor in Manchester University. This is yet another reminder to those in authority that they must treat people at work with dignity and respect.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Mandatory ‘work for dole’ schemes have not gone away

The coalition’s ‘work for dole’ policy suffered a setback at the end of February when they were forced to drop benefit sanctions against young people on the Work Experience scheme. Unemployed 16-24 year olds will still be able to volunteer for placements on this scheme but, crucially, they will be able to leave it without having their Jobseeker’s Allowance cut, as had been happening previously. Despite this victory, however, there are still several other schemes where it is mandatory for the unemployed (and disabled) to work for their benefits and who will lose their benefits unless they do so.

Work Experience is the coalition’s entry-level scheme for introducing the young unemployed to the world of work (if not to the world of payment for work). It is run by Jobcentre Plus and applies to 16-24 year old JSA claimants who have been unemployed for between three and nine months. Jobcentre Plus advisers arrange the work placements, often in high street stores or supermarkets, and can authorise limited funding to help with travel or childcare. Apart from this, the only ‘pay’ is the claimant’s Jobseeker’s Allowance of £53.45 a week, or £1.78 an hour for a 30 hour week.

The Work Programme applies to JSA claimants aged 18-24 who have been unemployed for nine months or longer and to claimants aged 25 and over who have been unemployed for a year or more. It can also apply to long-term sick and disabled people who are recipients of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), but who are viewed as having some capacity for work or who are expected to be fit for work within three months.

Participation in the Work Programme is mandatory for the above claimants and involves being referred by Jobcentre Plus to an outside ‘provider’ who is paid to help claimants get into work. The referral period lasts for two years and during that period involvement in work-related activity (which includes actual work) is mandatory.

Claimants who are required to participate in the Work Programme but fail to do so ‘without good cause’ will incur a benefit penalty. For JSA recipients, this involves a loss of benefit for two weeks for an initial failure, but this can rise to four and 26 weeks for repeated failures. For ESA recipients, the penalty is a benefit reduction of 50% of the value of the ‘work-related activity’ component of ESA for the first four weeks of not taking part (£13.37 a week at 2011/12 rates), followed by a reduction of 100% of the value for each subsequent week (£26.75 a week at 2011/12 rates). This means a loss of up to 28% of benefit for those aged 25 and over and of up to 33% for those aged under 25. Decisions on ‘good cause’ and sanctions will be made by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decision makers, rather than by Work Programme providers, and can be appealed.

Mandatory Work Activity is a compulsory scheme aimed at people ‘who have little or no understanding of what behaviours are required to obtain and keep work’ or, in other words, who are not considered to be doing enough to find and keep work. It can apply to anybody who has been unemployed for three months or more but the DWP has admitted that it will mainly affect claimants in the 25-49 age bracket and ethnic minority and disabled claimants.

The scheme gives Jobcentre Plus managers and advisers the authority to instruct selected claimants to participate in work placements for up to 30 hours a week for four weeks. Mandatory Work Activity is delivered by contracted specialist back-to-work providers and can include unpaid work in charities, cleaning companies, government offices and high street chains. Claimants who fail to participate, fail to complete a four week placement or lose a place due to ‘misconduct’ will be sanctioned (lose benefits) for 13 weeks. A second failure will lead to a six month sanction and a third failure could lead to a three year sanction, if welfare reform proposals currently making their way through Parliament are enacted.

When the DWP launched this scheme, they predicted that 10,000 people a year would be referred to it but over 24,000 were referred in its first six months.

The Community Action Programme is a scheme for claimants who have been out of work for two years or longer and which can involve them in having to work for their benefits for 30 hours a week for six months. Limited funding should be available for travel and childcare costs and participants are also offered help with job searching.

The DWP guidance note states that the scheme placements ‘must deliver a contribution to the local community’ and this can mean having to work in charities or other not for profit organisations working in the community. However placements can also be in private companies if some link or benefit to local communities can be shown.

Involvement in the CAP is mandatory and the same draconian benefit sanctions apply to it as apply to the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.

JobCentre Plus - frontage
JobCentre Plus - frontage (Photo credit: lydiashiningbrightly)

The coalition is planning to pump a massive £5 billion into the above schemes but is hard to see how effective they can be in an economy where unemployment is rising and an average of over five people are chasing every job vacancy. It is also hard to see how effective they can be when there is generally no requirement to provide work training, no limit on the number of placements in particular companies or workplaces and no real monitoring to ensure that employers do not abuse the scheme for their own benefit.

As the TUC’s Brendan Barber said, in relation to the young unemployed: ‘Work experience can be useful and helpful for many young people but it needs to be designed to help the young person, not to provide free labour for employers or to displace paid staff.’ It is also hard to see how schemes can be successful if other action is not being taken to kick-start the economy and get it growing again. As the Right to Work Campaign said: ‘The solution to the jobs crisis is to invest in jobs and training, reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance and scrap tuition fees, so that instead of rotting on the dole queue the million young unemployed can get into employment or education.’

The jury is therefore still out on how effective these schemes will be and, whilst the coalition expects them to help 40% of unemployed participants into work, early indications suggest that the success rate is closer to 20%, and the National Audit Office suggests that 26% is a more likely outcome. And, of course, some participants who find work will have done so under their own steam, rather than as a result of what the schemes have done for them.

Yet there is one area where the schemes have already proven themselves a roaring success and that is in the amount of public money they have pumped into A4e, Avanta, G4S, Igneus, Serco, Working Links and all the other companies which have been taken on to provide back-to-work support to the job seekers referred to them. For example Igneus, an Australian company run by Theresa Reid (wife of ex Aussie PM Kevin Rudd) is already believed to have signed up to contracts worth £727 million. And Emma Harrison’s A4e (which is currently under investigation over alleged fraudulent activities) is believed to have signed up to contracts worth £438 million, which helps explain how Ms Harrison was able to pay herself £8.6 million in dividends in 2010.

The Work Experience and ‘work for dole’ schemes may or may not prove beneficial to jobseekers but there is already no doubt that they will prove a bonanza for the large number of private sector providers contracted to deliver them.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Employment rights’ roundup

Statutory redundancy pay, for most people, is calculated on the basis of a week’s pay per year served. However those under age 22 only get a half week’s pay per year and those aged 41 and over get one and  half weeks’ per year. Only 20 years’ service can be taken into account and there is a cap on what can be claimed for each week. That cap has been £400 a week for the past year but it was increased to £430 a week from 1 February 2012. The absolute maximum anybody can get in statutory redundancy is now £12,900 (20 years X 1.5 weeks’ a year X £430).

Unfair dismissal compensation paid by Employment Tribunals involves a basic award which is calculated in the same way as statutory redundancy and has the same cap on what you can claim for a week’s pay. A compensatory award may also be made, to compensate you for what you have lost since being dismissed. The maximum compensatory award had been £68,400 but this has been increased to £72,300 from 1 February 2012.

The qualifying period for unfair dismissal protection is currently one year, which means that you can only make a claim for unfair dismissal if you have been employed for 12 months or more. However, the qualifying period will increase to two years from 6 April 2012 and anybody dismissed over the coming period will have to be careful not to fall foul of this change.

Statutory maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay will be increased from £128.73 a week to £135.45 a week with effect from 1 April 2012. Statutory sick pay will be increased from £81.60 to £85.85 a week from 6 April 2012.

Protective awards can be made by Employment Tribunals in cases where employers planning redundancies do not consult properly with unions or with employee representatives elected for consultation purposes. Up to 90 days pay can be awarded to redundant workers, both as compensation for denial of their consultation rights and as a punishment for the employer who has not consulted properly. Readers will have been delighted by the recent USDAW announcement that thousands of redundant Woolworths’ workers are to share in a £67.8 million protective award following a complaint to a Tribunal. It is to be regretted, however, that some from small stores will not receive any award because collective rights do not apply in workplaces with fewer than 20 workers.

An award of £933,115 has been made to Unite member Elliot Brown after an Employment Tribunal found that he had been unfairly dismissed and subjected to systematic discrimination, bullying and harassment by an NHS Trust in Manchester. This is one of the largest ET awards yet and it should serve as a warning to employers that discrimination, bullying and harassment have no place in the workplace.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.