Project Zero is a stable project offering access to community support for claimants of Universal Credit, other legacy benefits and potentially people who need support under the new developing Social Credit system. Modelled on the old Claimant Collectives Project Zero is set up to promote community support, personal autonomy, and the development of empathy through community.
Universal Credit is neither a social security nor welfare benefit system. It is the first attempt at a Universal Basic Income but is structured in such a crude way it leaves those who are caught up in the Universal Credit system wide open to what is known as structural violence.
Structural violence is a concept made famous by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. "Structural violence is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people … neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.” -Dr. Paul Farmer H/t Carlita Ortega Bravo
If you are claiming Universal Credit or indeed any other legacy benefit it's necessary to be also a part of a community or a member of a support community. This is because the Department of Work and Pensions no longer provides social security or even welfare benefits but has been privatized into a corporate system and has no interest in providing support for social issues. Project Zero is about providing community support to claimants of Universal Credit (and other legacy benefits).
People can become unemployed, or incapacitated and unable to support themselves for a wide variety of reasons - a lack of opportunity, a lack of experience or 'marketable' skills, a disability, health issues, mental health issues, or for issues which lie beyond their control, such as a lack of infrastructure in their local community, a lack of accessible employment opportunities, and so on. Each and every case of unemployment or incapacity is unique and individual and varies from person to person or household to household.
For this reason any social security system, in order to work for the benefit of everyone who needs support through benefits or financial support, needs to have three core characteristics:
- a sense of mutual trust between government department and individual claimant
- a sense of community between civil servants representing the government and individual claimants, and also between individual claimants themselves
- flexibility in the types of support accessible to address specific issues and break down specific barriers based on the individual life experience of the individual claimant
The problem with the Universal Credit system is that the structure of the system is a corporate organization system which is based on an authoritarian top down 'one size fits all' system. This system is characterized by strict, inflexible criteria to qualify for support and a system of rigid inflexible rules which need to be followed by the letter. If you are fortunate enough to fit within these narrow criteria and are able to follow the strict rules then Universal Credit should work out for you and support you. But if you do not fit within these criteria or are able to follow the rules Universal Credit will work against you and you probably will not receive the support you need from the Universal Credit system without additional support from somewhere else.
The key issue of both Universal Credit and Social Credit is automation and how decision making capabilities in both the Universal Credit system and the new, developing Social Credit system will be given over to technology and automated computerized systems. Universal Credit is a fully automated system which is online only and it is envisaged that once it rolls out completely in 2023 or 2024 it will be online only without the need for Job Centres or work coaches. The only human contact and interface will be through call centres. We believe that this will be a disastrous move for many claimants of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. If you have spent any time on social media platforms such as Facebook, Google or Youtube you will be aware of just how often computer based algorithms can get things wrong, we are against the removal of live human contact from social support systems and if you care to look through our developing projects here on Qultura you will understand how important and necessary human social interaction is.
What is Social Credit?
Social Credit is a completely different system from Universal Credit and was first implemented by the Department of Communities in January 2019 (we believe). Social Credit is a score from 100 points which is assigned to everybody and is based on their trustworthiness, personal authenticity, and how well they cooperate and interact with government departments, local authorities and partnership organizations. Information about your score is taken from the Electoral Roll and the Government and local authorities workj with various partnership organizations including social media platforms, email providers and many different organizations. Social Credit is being developed as part of 5G technology and the increased capabilities for data sharing and automated decision making systems.
Digital transparency - sharing personal data and information
Currently the Government is promoting Social Credit as an opportunity to share your personal data and information freely to gain points and help assist machine learning or automation (automated decision making processes) to help develop the 5G digital network, which is also known as the IoT (Internet of Things) but which is also known as the Control Grid. This is to help develop the sharing of personal data and you might have come across such technology if you claim Universal Credit, use the You.Gov website, social media, self-service checkouts and other digital solutions such as when you check in to use a screen when attending an appointment at your doctor's surgery. Apparently if you are willing to share your data and personal information freely you can receive better service from government departments, be able to replace your passport quicker, receive quicker decisions and outcomes and more efficient processing when using government or NHS services.
Smart metering, monetization and the control grid
The 5G technology offers a new level not just in automated decision making but also in surveillance and what is known as the control grid. Eventually once it rolls out many different things can be made 'smart' by inserting a microchip and assigning the item it's own IP address in the broadband everywhere network and such 'smart' items include vehicles, meters, household appliances, computers, smartphones, bank machines, automated checkouts, reception check in systems, and even containers for medication and tablets. The Government is partnering Huawei, the Chinese technology manufacturer to help develop this new 5G network which as it rolls out will expand to pretty much everything you use.
How Social Credit scores work
Social Credit scores are designed to score personal authenticity, trustworthiness and levels of cooperation with the government, various government departments, and partnership organizations and you can score additional points through sharing your personal data and information with the network and being digitally transparent. However you can lose points as well, by withholding data and personal information, and participating in activities which are deemed to be harmful, disruptive, extremist, or counterproductive and these will result in a loss of points off your Social Credit score.
What can happen if you lose points?
While sharing your personal data and information and being cooperative with the system can result in better service from say government departments and partnership organizations if you lose points this can result in more restrictions being imposed on access to various services, restrictions on such things as where you can travel, making online purchases, loss of employment, loss of housing, restrictions on your ability to use the internet, access your accounts on social media, email, access to your bank account, restrictions on benefits (benefit sanctions) and even accessing support from other organizations. These restrictions are collectively known as the 'active denial system'.
Association and disassociation
Furthermore your Social Credit score is not just about your relationship with the government and its partnership organizations, but your Social Credit score can be affected by the Social Credit score of everyone else in your life as well. This means that if a work colleague, a friend or a family member loses Social Credit points, you can also lose Social Credit points as well through association. It is believed that you will be able to formally disassociate yourself from people in your life if they adversely affect your Social Credit score.
The current mindset of the Government and DWP is that work is a cure all for all issues and there is a lot of pressure put on benefit claimants, not just Universal Credit claimants, to move into work as quickly as possible and to stop claiming benefits. This pressure often forces benefit claimants into work when they are not ready to move into work, or it forces them into work which is unsuitable for them under threat of a loss of income and the ability to live.
This is counter to how you actually resolve issues, which is through kindness, empathy, community support and patience. If you attempt to resolve issues in any other way you will inevitably resolve an issue by creating another issue. More to the point, if you seek to resolve an issue on a personal issue through entering the workplace prematurely, or by doing work for which you lack the necessary experience or skills, you also run the risk of making whatever issues you're going through someone else's issues as well. For example if you enter employment not having full control over a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, you create an issue which other people have to deal with, such as an employer or other work colleagues.
Lack of support in the Universal Credit system
The Universal Credit system is focussed on work and work-related issues. It does not provide any support for any issues which are not work related. You have an account, a journal, a work coach, a case manager, a Claimant Commitment, access to various call centres. You are expected either to work or be seeking work and if you fail to do so sufficiently you run the risk of being sanctioned and losing money through having your payments of Universal Credit reduced.
If you are unable to work you can apply for Limited Capability for Work (LCW) and/or Personal Independence Payments to be excused some or all of your jobseeking requirements. However there is no support or allowances made for other issues which can be going on in your life which prevent you from moving into work or becoming financially independent. There is a wide range of such issues which can prevent you from working, such as the need to look after children, mental health issues, sickness, chronic illnesses, a disability, and you could be experiencing such things as a lack of skills, a lack of experience, a lack of money, housing issues, or even have self-esteem issues, a lack of self-confidence, and face various emotional and psychological barriers or you simply don't have the right social support network or people who are supportive towards you. There's a lot of people in the Universal Credit system who are personally isolated or who just don't have sufficient contact with their local community.
It is disingenious to claim that the issues experienced by a large number of people who rely on Universal Credit all come down to a lack of work, yet the focus of much of the community support accessible to claimants of Universal Credit and other benefits all seem to focus on helping them back into work or finding a job without addressing many of the other issues which are experienced by people living on benefits.
There are other charities and other organizations which also deal with specific 'hard' issues such as a lack of food or with debt, such as food banks and debt management services but there is often little or no support for issues which come from the social stigma connected with claiming Universal credit and other benefits.
It cannot be denied that there is a certain stigma connected with claiming benefits, be it Universal Credit or other benefits. Both the Government and the media share responsibility for creating this social stigma through directly stigmatizing benefit claimants for being lazy, unproductive or even antisocial. While there are many organizations designed to help people into work, and charities and other organizations such as food banks and debt management services which help to address specific 'hard' issues such as a lack of food, or debt, there are many different issues which aren't being addressed which occur as a result of the social stigma. The employment market is not a level playing field by any means and if you are claiming benefits be it Universal Credit or other benefits you can be judged by others. This can create various issues and barriers which can make the life of Universal Credit claimants much harder and create barriers which can prevent them from accessing opportunities for either support or work.
Examples of issues which often aren't being addressed
Social stigma can create various issues which can serve to make your life as a claimant of Universal Credit or other benefits much more difficult and challenging or exclude you from accessing various opportunities. These issues cannot be fully discounted or overlooked because you do not have the resources, the knowledge or awareness to overcome the stigma, and the stigma can create various barriers and issues which affect you directly in life. These issues include:
- a sense of personal isolation
- a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem
- a lack of opportunity for social interaction
- a lack of opportunity for meaningful occupation or to pursue interests
- a lack of contact with other people in your local community
- feelings of loneliness or a lack of empathy
- fear of being stigmatized, excluded, rejected or marginalized
- a feeling that you do not have any control over your own life
- a sense of conflict over what you want to do in life against what other people expect you to do
Project Zero is a community support project for claimants of Universal Credit (and other benefits) which is part of the empathy based Qultura community. This is not another welfare to work type project but is set up to create a community of people who share common ground through claiming Universal Credit and other benefits irrespective of where they live in the country. Please also bear in mind that Project Zero is also designed to support people who have lost points in the new, developing Social Credit system and create opportunities where they can improve their Social Credit scores.
As Project Zero is part of the Qultura community and has no relationship whatsoever with the DWP or any other organization (other than to exist in the Universal Credit system) the emphasis of Project Zero is on developing empathy. Empathy is the ability to connect to other people as it is the development of connections between self and other. The intended focus of Project Zero is on the development of empathy, and this involves the development of connections between self and other.
Empathy is the most important life skill you could ever learn, because empathy is the ability to connect self and other, and your ability to connect to other people. It doesn't matter who you are, your survival in life depends on other people and how you connect to them. Empathy is all about the ability to see things from someone else's perspective other than your own. If you can connect to someone else through empathy you can understand what they are going through and their individual perspective on life, just as other people can connect to you and understand what you are going through in life and your perspective.
Therefore empathy is an effective antidote to individualism (on which our social and cultural values are based) and social stigma. Empathy is also the opposite of apathy. It is a critical part of the social interaction which can result in having a job application being processed further, being granted an interview, or being offered a job, just as it's a fundamental part of the process of getting support or even getting part of your Universal Credit claim processed further. Developing empathy is an important part of social interaction and getting your needs met.
However despite this fact the entire Universal Credit system (and by extension the benefits system) and much of what constitutes support is focussed on functionality, not empathy. It's functionality which sees you as a mere economic unit and interchangeable with different work roles, whereas empathy is the understanding that you can only take up a limited range of opportunities for work because this is related to your life experience, your skillset, and your interests.
Empathy is developed by developing connections both to oneself and to other people. To be able to do this you need to be connected to a community of people. Unlike our other stable projects where you can just get involved in a single project based on your interests and desire to get involved, Project Zero is developed as a stable project all by itself but you are encouraged to participate in other Qultura projects and even create your own projects and appeals.
Development of empathy is ideally something which should be happening all the time. This is because you change, other people change, and you need to have social interaction with other people in order to develop within yourself and you also need to have opportunities for social interaction to see what works and what doesn't. Otherwise you can stagnate as an individual. However if you are stuck within the Universal Credit system and are without work or stuck within a specific work environment you can miss out on opportunities for social interaction and not have much opportunity to develop empathy through others. Developing empathy should not be underestimated, because it's what gives you your personal power and ability to connect to people, and in the often harsh environment of the Universal Credit or benefits system, where you can also end up isolated, it's often what can make the difference.
Project Zero is a community support project developed specifically with Universal Credit claimants in mind, but is also good for other benefit claimants and people who have lost points in the new developing Social Credit system. The underlying principle of Project Zero is the development of empathy through the development of community as a means of working against social stigma and social exclusion.
There's a Project Zero support group or community which is hosted within its own group on MeWe, an alternative social media platform to Facebook. We do not host Project Zero on Facebook because Facebook is a known Social Credit partner organization and we have no control over where any data or information you post to such a group would end up. We do know for example that Facebook works with the DWP and the Government, whereas we are fairly sure that MeWe doesn't. Access to the Project Zero support group is by invitation only because there is a very strong emphasis on community support and the development of empathy. This is not an environment for political activism nor for being judgmental towards others. You can post about anything you like in the Project Zero support group, and posts do not need to be strictly about benefits or work related issues.
Then you have the wider Qultura community. When you sign up for Project Zero you automatically become part of the wider Qultura community and can participate in other Qultura projects, volunteer, become an activist, or reverse your participation to get community support. You can also create your own projects and if you have reversed your participation, create your own appeals. You can find out more about how to do all these things in the wider 'Community' and 'Projects' sections of this website.
The concept and strategy behind Project Zero is the exact same as that of the old claimant collectives from the old UB40 'dole' system of the Margaret Thatcher government - before they were turned into Job Clubs. The guiding principle is exactly the same. Get involved and be there for others so that they can be there for you. No money changes hands between anyone involved in Project Zero. You can help develop the community in one of three ways:
You can help develop the community through volunteering and activism. You can do this by getting involved in the wider Qultura community and by undertaking various tasks which help develop the community or by creating your own volunteering and activist roles and offering to undertake certain activities and tasks which in turn help you to develop experience. In some roles - such as the Cooking for Community project, we can arrange for free training through Wandsworth Council (for example if you want to get into catering) or you can put forward your own proposals and suggestions.
You can also help develop the community by participating in our online support groups and forums on MeWe and also on our Community Message Boards through sharing your own experience and insights and knowledge. This help develops a resource of information and insight which is helpful to other people as well.
You can also help to develop the community by seeking support yourself for your own needs. You can do this through reverse participation and the creation and development of appeals which you can then use to seek support from the wider community and society. Once you have reversed your participation you can create appeals to solicit pledges of support from the wider community and society. You can find out more about reversing your participation in the 'Community' section of this website and you can find out more about appeals in the wider 'Projects' section of this website.
If you have everything you need for a Universal Credit claim then you have everything you need to get involved in Project Zero, where you need the following:
- access to the internet through a computer or mobile device
- membership of the Qultura community - if you haven't signed up you will automatically be signed up
- an account and profile on MeWe, a social media platform
- a current live claim for Universal Credit (or other legacy benefit)
If you need more information please feel free to message us and ask.