The Right to Work: Right to Welfare (R2W) group have been active since the summer of 2012, when a group of experienced PPR activists began organising with people who were out of work and on benefits at the Social Security office in Corporation Street, Belfast.  Against the backdrop of rising unemployment and the most radical re-shaping of our welfare system in its history, the work of the R2W group has received acclaim for its innovative approach to asserting rights in the time of austerity.

Commenting on the R2W group, Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said, “The important work being done by the Right to Work: Right to Welfare Group in Belfast, Northern Ireland to hold the government accountable through the grassroots development and use of human rights indicators and benchmarks is crucial and should be praised as a promising practice to be followed.”

Following the  REAL JOBS NOW public meeting in January, one of the Belfast City Councillors who agreed to Champion the REAL JOBS NOW policy, has provided information to the Right to Work: Right to Welfare (R2W) Group which indicates that 116 jobs have been created so far from Belfast City Council’s Investment Programme.

While Stormont debates welfare reform; Job Seekers and people in receipt of disability benefits sanction ‘decision makers’ for stopping money 21,386 times in a year.

United Nations human rights expert, Maria Virginía Brás Gomes, recently visited Belfast and held discussions with local PPR groups campaigning for improvements on housing, employment, mental health and social security rights.  

Ms. Brás Gomes is a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and will be examining the UK government’s human rights performance in 2016.

According to the government website ‘NI Direct’ social security sanctions (which are punitive measures taken by government officials to stop or limit the amount of social security money people receive), are not impacting people in Northern Ireland yet.

One year after the REAL JOBS NOW motion was passed with cross community political support at Belfast City Council, training and employment support organisations from across the city came together with Councillors from City Hall and the R2W group to discuss the urgent need to ensure full implementation of the REAL JOBS NOW! motion.

Give Belfast City Council a New Year’s Message to deliver for the Unemployed

Where are the REAL JOBS NOW that Belfast City Council promised in January 2014?

The Right to Work: Right to Welfare group launch 3 minute campaign video explaining the progress on the REAL JOBS NOW policy in the ten months since it was passed. The group are campaigning to see council take3 simple steps to ensure meaningful social clauses for the long term unemployed in all upcoming council expenditure.

Last week, the Right to Work: Right to Welfare (R2W) group met with new Belfast Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, to discuss the ongoing failure by the Executive to progress key human rights standards, which is impacting people who sign on at dole offices across the city every day.

The group approached the Mayor after her acceptance speech in April, where she stated her intention to bring her office “out of City Hall and into people’s lives” in order to “connect with those who at times feel invisible in our city”.

‘Council passed our motion last year and we need results now’

Towards effective social clauses at Belfast City Council

Last month (16th April 2014) the R2W group wrote to Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó’Muilleoir and all Belfast City Councillors’ expressing their shock and disappointment at information received through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which showed that their REAL JOBS policy had not progressed in the five months since it was passed by councillors on the 6th January.

The FOI revealed that not one email had been sent, not one report compiled, nor had one meeting taken place on the progression of the motion. This inaction of a fully resourced Council is to be contrasted with the determination of a group of long term unemployed people working hard to make the policy a reality.

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