So what exactly do our Dear Leaders think they are playing at?

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 So what exactly do our Dear Leaders think they are playing at?

From @julijuxtaposed

Have the Rightists not noticed the irony in their professed disdain for the ‘Big State’ when the Right-winged Coalition is constantly and increasingly nannying the minutiae of our daily lives? They can claim all the love they please for ‘the market’ but this does not entitle them to outsource and corporatise the responsibilities we pay them to hold. Mussolini would applaud. They seek to make our sources of public accountability elusive and faceless entities while making us account daily for our individual worth. The irony is so stark that only a fool, a tyrant or a religious fanatic would overlook it. What will actually become of Government? Is it to be shared among the likes of G4S, Virgin, Atos, Eddie Stobart, Centrica, etc…? And who’s getting the Treasury? Yeah, silly question…

There’s a fine line between pragmatism and cruelty and it is my belief that this government has crossed it with gusto. There’s no need here, for a list of everything that’s wrong: you know what bothers you, I’ve detailed my grievances in other posts and the government is patronising enough for all of us. To me, the lack of trust in and love for the very countrymen and women this collective purports to serve and its individuals’ unseemly delight in their own pomposity is markedly apparent.

What exactly do our Dear Leaders think they are playing at? I’m not referring to the present details but to the bigger, medium- to long-term picture. The final destination, so to speak. Have they not worked out where they’re taking us all with these attitudes and policies? They don’t even have a mandate! It’s easy to infer some grand plan but I’m not sure they are that intelligent – I don’t think they’ve properly translated their vision from ideological abstract to ground-level reality. Iain Dontcare Smith, Gove, That Hunt, Grayling, et al seem to think that if they just ‘clean up’ Society; make everyone obedient to their faith in a crumbling world view, that all will be well again. Hmm… Has it ever been that well for the masses? Has civic life ever been weighted in our favour?

But, really: what does this Coalition envisage are going to be the consequences as the years roll on for, even if/when they are kicked out in a couple of years, the government that will replace it will be hamstrung by, not just the accumulated sham of decades, but by the instinctive enthusiasm in the present to build on every hitherto mistake. And anyway, how much do we trust them to be that much of an improvement, irrespective of your belief in Labour’s good intent? It took a long time to get into this mess and the changes occurring right now are set to cement all that I have come to detest. This won’t be over any year soon.

Either the current political vision will fully come to pass and we will be a Stepford Nation – goodbye soul – or the government will have to become ever more forceful and enforcing. I wonder: how far is the present administration prepared and willing to go to see the fruition of their flawed vision. Keeping a regimented poor will require more than forced labour, punitive policies and food banks. What if resistance becomes the matched force, already overdue, I think, considering how the disadvantaged are growing into the majority and how lives are becoming ever more untenable. ID cards, checkpoints, segregation, armed forces? How authoritarian are they ready to be and to what lengths will they go to justify their actions? Will they even care to justify them?

Fascism is an accusation readily and even casually flung and so easily dismissed as melodramatic labelling but, you know what? I don’t think we can afford to take chances and neither do I buy the counter that our direction of travel can’t be deemed fascistic because it doesn’t perfectly match that which has gone before. The signs are all there, in every area and at all levels, from the House of Commons to the televised sound bite, albeit newly spun, but hey – that’s what the ‘neo’ prefix is for. Nationalistic, yes – in the sense that our rulers are seeking to preserve the sovereign interests and culture of their own realm. The supremacy aspect has morphed but it’s there in the emotive and divisory tactics; in the collusion of type and its subsequent sense of superiority and entitlement that so demonstrates a detachment from ‘other’ – the rest of us, that is. The expectation of dutiful obedience and the attempts to quash resistance are not just atmospheric but manifest in policy, revealing complete disrespect for real human dignity and an utter contempt for democratic process. Even the charge of demagogy can be laid when I think of how we are micro-managed in the least necessary and/or least reasonable areas of our personal lives with all the petty hubris of Greek gods.

That so many in political power (including the media) have only scorn and denial for such fears and perceptions is insulting and short-sighted and does nothing whatsoever to diminish my concerns. They should be mortified. Are we supposed to wait until we have either a neo-totalitarian state or possibly no state at all before we say it is something we saw coming and could have stopped? History is supposed to inform our present, not predict or command the future.

Fascism: from the Latin noun, ‘Fascis’ (s) / ‘Fasces’ (pl) – ‘A bundle of rods with a projecting axe blade. I think it’s as apt a metaphor as its symbolic image ever was.

The cold hard truth of living with Osborne’s ‘austerity’

The Voices Of Austerity – The Cold Hard Truth

Published on Jun 8, 2013

Everything you need to know about what’s going on with the powers that be …. In the UK.
Listen, understand it and share it ….. Good People of the World.

The extremely effective propaganda campaign by both the Tory/LD Coalition and most of the mainstream media has been hugely successful in spreading a mythology about benefits and benefit claimants.  Here are the real statistics c/o Michael Meacher MP:

The Labour Force Survey shows only 0.3% where two or more generations of working age have never worked.

The biggest element of social security expenditure |(42%) goes to pensioners.   Then housing benefit is next, accounting for 20%, of whom one-fifth are in work.   Then 15% goes on children, through child benefit and child tax credit.   Some 8% goes on disability living allowance, 4% on income support mainly for single parents and carers, 4% on employment and support allowance to those who can’t work due to sickness or disability, and 2% on carer’s allowance and maternity pay.   Just 3% is spent on jobseeker’s allowance.

The latest official DWP estimates show that last year just 0.7% of benefit expenditure was overpaid due to fraud, including a mere 0.3% for incapacity benefits.   It is equally false that benefit fraud is increasing.   The figures for combined fraud and customer error for JSA and income support show it halved from 9.4% in 1997-8 to only 4.8% in 2004-5.

Welfare expenditure totaled 11.6% under the Tories in 1996-7, but only 10.7% under Labour up to the crash in 2008-9.

Over the 2003-8 period leading up to the crash, only 37% received incapacity benefit long term, while 38% were on benefit for less tha one year.

Unemployment benefit levels fall well below what research shows most people believe should form a minimum household budget.   A single adult of working age receives just 40% of the weekly minimum income standard, and a couple with two children receive only 62% of the weekly minimum.

The truth is that many of the people claiming incapacity benefits are those with low employability in areas of few jobs.   Unemployment remains at 2.6 million, there are an average of 8 persons chasing every available job, and most employers (given the choice, which in a very slack labour market they have) would prefer not to take on the risk and hassle of emplying a disabled person.   Many people then end up in a situation where they are not fit enough to do the jobs they can get, but can’t get the jobs they can do.

http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2012/11/when-is-labour-going-to-destroy-the-tory-welfare-myths/#more-4463

PTSD victim’s hunger strike ignored by Parliament and banned by Facebook

A Parliamentary Petition for a debate on the hunger striker, George Rolph, has been denied, and on the 14th day of starving himself (3rd June 2013), he was banned by Facebook.
Please sign here: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-house-of-commons-permit-a-debate-on-the-hunger-striker-george-rolph

Why is George Rolph on hunger strike?  This is the explanation in his own words:


An Announcement About My Protest.
George Rolph

“When I began my protest my aim was not hurt or cause distress to anyone but those who should be hurt and distressed because they deserve to be. Neither did I intend to take my life, but to give it in the service of others also suffering under the brutal and cruel regime of ATOS and the DWP.
I did not ask to be placed on disability benefit. My doctor made that decision when he gave me a sick note to take to the DHSS as it was then. He gave me that note because it was clear I could no longer hold down a job. I wanted to work but I just could not do so. I have PTSD.
I sought help for the PTSD but It was almost impossible to find any. This country is way behind America in that regard. My doctor got me a counsellor. She asked me to lay on a couch while she played dolphin music to me. I left in disgust. I wanted help coping with the symptoms, not to be a part of some new age hippy experiment.
I found a psychiatric drop-in centre nearby and went in and poured out my heart to a bored looking man who said virtually nothing. At the end, he left the office and returned shortly after with a piece of paper. He handed it to me; made it clear it was time for me to leave and showed me the door. When I got outside I looked at the paper. It was a list of books to read. One of the titles I remember was “How to contact your inner child.” I was stupefied that this was the level of care being offered to the sick by people being paid very handsome salaries. Sheer, disinterested laziness lay behind that book list!
I took the list to the Library and the girl took it to see if they could order them for me. Some of them cost over £60 one of them was over £100. She laughed and said the Library could not afford to buy books like this and said I needed a specialist reference Library. I threw the paper in the bin.
The level of benefits I was getting placed me just above the poverty line and sometimes, when many bills came together, below the poverty line. I watched my life going down the toilet. I was eating rubbish food. Wearing second hand clothes bought from charity shops. I was never totally on top of bills, so to pay them I would have to eat beans on toast every day for two weeks and vitamin supplements. In Winter I was frightened of turning on the heating. I had a fridge-freezer that I turned onto the lowest safe setting to conserve electricity. I would never have more than one light bulb burning and those were energy saving bulbs. When my hoover burnt out I could no longer clean the carpet and I watched as the grime built up. I could not afford a new hoover.
In time you become inured to living in filth. You stop seeing it because you can do nothing about it. You just try to keep yourself clean and presentable to the world. I wore a false smile everyday so people would not know the strain I was feeling inside. I felt like half a man; a failure; but I went on in the hope that the future may get brighter some day.
One day I saw a job advertised. Working from home in Telesales. I decided to give it a go. Maybe, if I was working from home, I could fit the job around my symptoms. It was a big decision. If I took the job and could not handle it, I would lose all benefits. I took the risk. I worked very hard for three weeks and then I fell apart. It is the nature of PTSD that routines can be almost impossible to maintain. You cannot go night after night with little sleep and remain a fully functioning human being who rises at 7am and works to 5pm. I quit and I lost all benefits.
When my last pay cheque ran out I sat in a house with no power and no food wondering if I would starve or freeze to death first. Finally I went to a local church and began to beg. I had never felt so degraded in my life. An old Scottish couple heard my pleas and came to my rescue. Out of their own pockets they began shopping for three and they paid my power bills too. I now had heat, food and light again. I then went to war with the DHSS, won the battle and my benefits were restored after three more weeks. God bless that Scottish couple. They were a model of what Christianity is supposed to be.
My life returned to a routine of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Just trying to keep my head above water. I used to read reports in the media of people living a life of luxury on the dole and wonder how they managed it. I never read about what it is really like.
Of course, I saw through the government and media agenda on the subject. If they could blame those on the dole for daring to take it, they could hide the truth of what life was like for those honest people living on it. The government needed cash for wars, grand building projects, like high speed rail links and for fiddling their expenses. They did not want to give cash to the poor, but they also wanted to look like they did.
The art of spin.
Then one day the call came to visit an ATOS assessment centre in Croydon. I duly went along. I went without food for two days to pay for the train and bus fairs to get there, but they said I could claim those expenses back. I would have to wait three weeks to get those fairs back though.
I went, I sat through the interview. I passed. Later I was called to do the same again. I went, I sat through the interview. I passed. Then again.I went, I sat through the interview. I passed. Then once more. Same questions. Same responses to those questions. I failed!
They did not tell me there and then I had failed. I found out a month later at a compulsory job centre interview. I had drawn my last benefits that day. All benefits were now cut off.
I was in shock for three days. I could not read, let alone fill out the appeal form I had been given. I would stare at the form but the words would not penetrate my mind. My whole world was crumbling around me. The terrible implications for my immediate future were pounding at my mind.
Bailiffs banging on the door. Power cut off. No food. Eviction for non payment of rent. On the streets at sixty years old. Dying in obscurity down an alley somewhere.
Why? Who did I hurt? Even criminals get a warm bed, three meals a day and clothing.
I was not stealing from anyone. In fact, when a friend gave me £20 for helping load a van when he moved house, I took £10 of it and handed it in the DHSS office in Bromley because I was not allowed to earn more that £10 a week. Why was I now being punished by ATOS for being sick and being honest?
How did I fail? There was no sense or logic to it. If I passed three times and nothing had changed, why had I failed on the forth occasion. This smelt of a whim. Someone at the assessment centre had made a decision that I was going to fail in order to meet their target. They met their target. I met horror.
How do they sleep?
I typed “Dealing with ATOS” into Google and I started reading. What I found horrified me. They had done this to thousands of people and people were dying!
Dear friend and supporter. I am going to make an announcement, but before I do so I want to strain your patience just a little longer. I want to show you what REAL criminal scroungers look like and then I want you to remember that this government and Prime Minister insists we remain a part of this villainous exercise, while at the same time they beat up the disabled in our own country.
This is part of a report from the Times newspaper.
February 22, 2009
By Jonathan Oliver (Times Online)
A LEAKED internal report has revealed systematic abuses by Euro MPs of parliamentary allowances that enable them to pocket more than £1m in profits from a single five-year term, writes Jonathan Oliver.
The auditor’s confidential report, suppressed by the Brussels parliament, discloses the extraordinary frauds used by MEPs to siphon off staff allowances funded by taxpayers.
It shows that some claimed for paying assistants of whom no record exists, awarded them bonuses of up to 1½ times annual salary and diverted public money into front companies.
An investigation into the abuses of staff allowances worth up to £182,000 a year — many of which are paid by MEPs to members of their family — was delivered in January last year but was not published.
A copy of the 92-page report, prepared by Robert Galvin, the parliament’s head of internal audit, has been seen by The Sunday Times. It reveals:
Payments were made to assistants who were not accredited with the European parliament and to companies whose accounts showed no activity.
End-of-year bonuses worth up to 19½ times monthly salary were paid to assistants to allow members to use up their full annual allowance.
Payments, supposedly for secretarial work, were made to a crèche whose manager happened to be a local politician from the MEP’s political party.
Payments were made straight into the coffers of national political parties.
Some assistants doubled their money by banking pay-offs from outgoing MEPs at the same time as receiving salaries from incoming ones.
One MEP claimed to have paid the full £182,000 staff allowance to one person, suspected of being a relative.
The revelations come as British MEPs look forward to an inflation-busting pay rise this year that could see their take-home pay rising by almost 50%.
In his report, Galvin said that overpayments of allowances were common, adding: “Remuneration paid may not always be justified by the real costs of providing parliamentary assistance.” He warned that abuses exposed the parliament to “financial, legal and reputational risk”.
The report was based on a representative sample of 167 payments — out of a total of 4,686 — made during October 2004. It suggests that Galvin unearthed only a tiny fraction of the many corrupt practices employed by some of the 785 members of the 27-nation parliament. His analysis of the 2004 figures then took years to surface within the secretive Brussels bureaucracy.
Dear friend. Can you see?  We are being run by gangsters in expensive suits who are lining their own pockets while they strip all they can get away with from our own people. They are stealing your money while hypocritically blaming the poor for doing the same!
THAT is evil. No matter how you cut it, that is EVIL.
I fought back with the only weapon I had and decided to go on a hunger and water strike in protest and to try and alert as many people as possible to what is going on. I know that politicians willing to do these things are not going to listen to me. BUT I also know that if YOU raise your voices loudly enough they will HAVE TO listen to YOU!
However, there was a flaw in my strategy that I did not take into account. In doing this and making my time so short, I was actually going to be hurting the very people I needed to support me. I have been so moved by people who have been saying to me that they support me 100% but would I please just drink.
My dear friends Jess and Ian, who have been stalwarts in backing my protest have both carried a lot of anxiety about my health and I know many of you have also. One of the biggest problems has been the time factor that my hunger and water strike imposed. A maximum of just 12 days to live but probably shorter than that in reality.
After much soul searching I have decided to drink today, but I shall not eat until victory has been won. I gather I can expect to live for around 60 days without food. That should be enough time to mobilise a huge protest to get ATOS stopped and to demand retribution for the needless deaths that have already happened.
Murder is wrong!  Officially sanctioned murder is just as wrong!
Please. Let us all fight back and for once, let the decent people be heard instead of those evil voices that con, deceive, lie and pervert our country and its values for their own ends.
We have to take our country back. This fight will be one step on that journey. I beg you. Help me to win it so we can help those who cannot help themselves.
George Rolph

Further information here

Why I’m Lighting a Candle to the Many

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Tonight I will light a candle to the many

Contribution from Suzanne Kelsey

Hat tip
Prue Plumridge

I appreciate there will always be huge differences of opinion regarding politics and there will be many thousands of people who have attended Margaret Thatcher’s funeral and I am not affected by this. (although I do take offence at the obscene amount of money it is costing during a time of severe austerity) Also many thousands will have watched it at home caught up in the pomp, circumstance and emotion of the occasion, that is obviously their right just as it is my right not to watch it. I cannot be a hypocrite unlike some of her own party who actually stabbed her in the back, which resulted in a very undignified exit from no.10 in 1990.

Therefore I do hope in the same way people will not take offence if I in my own way reminisce on why I do not think Margaret Thatcher left this country in a better state and show my respect to all those who suffered and continue to do so due to the extreme ideologies surrounding Thatcherism. Her death sad as it is for her family, friends and admirers for me has been a salient reminder of how it all started to go wrong and brought to my attention the major difference between compassionate politics and conviction politics.

Clement Attlee and Aneurin Bevan have long been my heroes; they did so much for the working class people of this country that was in desperate straits after two world wars and the great class divide.

Atlee , or Thatcher n

Attlee introduced the welfare state and the NHS, got rid of the horrendous workhouse ethos and made life bearable for countless millions, not just the privileged few, giving them the right to a decent life, equality, freedom from fear and last but not least aspirations. Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and spearheaded the establishment of the NHS, the most equitable universal health care system in the world. I was one of those able to benefit from this major change in society, I left home and took up further study and subsequently had a decent, fulfilling profession, unlike my parents who in their working class family could not even afford to attend the grammar school they should have gone to after passing their 11 plus, both leaving school at a very young age.

Attlee+and+Bevan

I am therefore lighting a candle for Atlee and Bevan and all they stood for and which tragically are ultimately being destroyed by Margaret Thatcher’s legacy.

  • A candle in honour of Nelson Mandela who did so much for apartheid and whom Mrs. Thatcher called a ‘grubby terrorist.’
  • A candle for the thousands of innocent people murdered by Pinochet and whom Margaret Thatcher called a champion of freedom, who was later charged with genocide.
  • A candle for the thousands of families and communities who suffered and are still suffering due to the destruction of our 150 coal mines, resulting in the importing of very expensive coal from abroad. We had the safest and most organised mining industry in the world; miners had fought long and hard to get this through their unions. I am sure we can all remember the many stories of colliery disasters in the past. However it was still a challenging and gruelling job and like many I felt so desperately angered about what happened to these hardworking miners.
  • A candle for the many unemployed as manufacturing industries were also closed during Margaret Thatcher’s time resulting in 3.6 million plus citizens ending up on the scrap heap, suffering depression and deprivation with crime and poverty doubling.
  • A candle for the 96 Hillsborough victims whose deaths were not fully investigated during her time.
  • A candle for all of those hardworking people who lost money when banks collapsed and all those suffering now due to the current austerity measures because of bank failures. Financial deregulation that Margaret Thatcher introduced, has turned city institutions into avaricious money pits with their strangle-hold on the lives of ordinary people.
  • A candle to the dead and dying public services and the privatisation for profit that Margaret Thatcher introduced and not forgetting the ensuing corporate greed culture that now exists. These services should be there to benefit the citizens of this country who pay inordinate amounts of varying taxes for such services and should not be allowed to line the pockets of the greedy. Overseas companies are now running many of our services inefficiently and for maximum profit and in which many members of parliament have vested interests.
  • A candle for the thousands who ‘inconveniently’ died after they were found fit to work by Atos, another private overseas company demonising the very sick, some of them my heart buddies. (See Calum’s list if you do not believe me)
  • A candle to the present day draconian measures been undertaken by ‘Thatcherism’ that sees many working families struggling and relying on benefits due to the appalling lack of a living wage, rip off utility prices and astronomical rents. Margaret Thatcher opposed even a minimum wage.
  • A candle to the many homeless and those facing that imminent possibility, due to the bedroom tax as there is a drastic shortage of housing. Margaret Thatcher gerrymandered local authorities by forcing through council house sales which may have been good for the council tenant that could afford them but she prevented councils from spending the money they got from selling the houses to build new ones, in fact spending on social housing dropped by 67%…

These are just a few of the policies that I cannot ever condone, there are many more.

Ultimately there is no doubt in my mind that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and I like many activists and campaigners are merely striving to make the world a better, safer and fairer place for the many not the few, with their great sense of entitlement. This is what we have fought for for so long and we cannot allow it to be stolen away, we must protect our rights and particularly those who are particularly vulnerable and fall on hard times through no fault of their own, it could happen to any one of us…No, do not celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death but consolidate and reflecting on where we are heading and remember the famous words of Bevan:

‘‘No longer will wealth be an advantage nor poverty a disadvantage.”

Welfare Wrongs and Human Rights: a summary

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From kittysjones

WElfare wrongs

A summary of discussion with Anne McGuire,

Shadow Minister for disabled people.

The Coalition is not a Government that recognises the intrinsic value and worth of life. It is not a Government that recognises human potential, or values personal growth and development. It is not a Government that values social evolution and progress. Trying to explain these fundamental concepts to a Tory is like pondering how best to describe a rainbow and shooting stars to a blind man with no imagination. Or soul.  

It is common opinion amongst us that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – no matter how much it may be re-designed – is not fit for purpose, and that no-one has any faith in it because of the appalling damage already inflicted on so many members of the disabled community. The overwhelming consensus is that it needs to be scrapped. Atos have no credibilty whatsoever, with most of us regarding them with loathing and fear. Unfortunately, many sick and disabled people also recognise that successive Governments have contracted Atos, trust and faith in Government and Ministers has receded. I explained to Anne that some blame the previous Labour Government for current problems, as they originally contracted Atos to undertake the WCA. I don’t subscribe to this view,  personally, but I raised the point because it’s one that I’ve encountered frequently, and I recognise that it’s an important issue for some. However, I would like to clarify that I don’t hold a previous Government responsible for what the current one does.

Anne explained that the original Labour Party contract with Atos did not happen within a context of welfare cuts, and was very different to the one that the current Government have with Atos.  Labour support some kind of assessment, and the old system typically involved a decision that was made entirely by the DWP, and the decision was regarded as final. Labour had felt at the time that this needed addressing with some form of independent decision-making mechanism.

We know that the WCA has had such devastating consequences for so many sick and disabled people that it would never be trusted again, no matter how much it was redesigned and “improved” by ANY Government. However, the context of the Labour version of WCA, when it was piloted, was a completely different one to present day. There were many more jobs available, we were not in a recession, and there was support available (and well funded) for disabled people who wanted to work. Anne pointed out again that it is in the context of the welfare reforms, which are about taking away essential support, rather than providing it, that the aims of assessment have become grossly distorted. The original aims were intended to support sick and disabled people. That is clearly not the Coalitions’ aim at all.

“A Conservative Government is organised hypocrisy” – Benjamin Disraeli.

Disability living allowance supports many in work, and despite Labours’ pleas for common sense safeguards, according to the Hardest Hit survey, three in ten disabled people stated that without DLA their carer would not be able to work. Carers UK estimates that 10,000 people could lose carer’s allowance as a result of cuts to DLA. Without this vital care, disabled people could be forced to turn to overstretched social care services. Liam Byrne  stated that here must now be an assessment, in the round, of all the changes hitting disabled people: a cumulative impact assessment. Esther McVey weakly said to the Commons that she wouldn’t order one because “Labour never did one.” Labour did complete a review, and informed this Government of the findings, and raised their concerns regarding the piloted WCA. They were completely ignored. Furthermore, Labour never inflicted the concerted attack we’re now seeing on disabled citizens. It was the Coalition that harshly “reformed” and reduced our welfare provision, and not Labour.

The Access to Work fund was re-established by the last Labour Government to ease the transition to work for disabled people, by paying grants to businesses for vital equipment. It was put in place to support people with disabilities, it aimed to reduce inequalities between disabled people and non-disabled people in the workplace by removing practical barriers to work. This fund has seen severe cuts since 2010, which flies in the face of this Government’s claim to “make work pay” for all. By reducing this essential funding, the Coalition have effectively excluded many from work.

Additionally, disabled people with the highest support needs have been left in fear and distress following a Government announcement that it is to callously abolish a key source of independent living support. The Government decision to close the Independent Living Fund and devolve responsibility to local authorities follows a consultation that disabled people claim is unlawful and on which an urgent hearing has been scheduled by the High Court to go ahead on 13/14 March 2013. Labour have also challenged the decision to close this crucial source of support. Opportunity for new applications for this funding was closed in June 2010 by the Coalition. Once again this plainly indicates that the Coalition do not consider the needs of disabled people as important, and clearly demonstrates the extent of their eager ideological drive to strip away essential provision and support for the vulnerable.

It’s important to acknowledge that there are those of us who simply can not work. The Labour Party agree that regardless of the national employment situation and support for those who could and wish to work, we must, as a civilised Society, make provision and support those who cannot work, too. I’m pleased that this important issue was recognised, because as we know, doctors are providing written evidence to the DWP and Atos that verifies people are not fit for work, and that professional and expert opinion and evidence is being ignored by people who are NOT qualified to decide otherwise. DWP “decision-makers” and Atos assessors have no expertise on medical conditions and how those impact on a persons’ capabilities for work. We know that the majority of Atos assessors are nurses or occupational therapists, and that Atos don’t take into account any medical facts at all: the assessment is entirely about “work capability”.

We informed Anne that we are acutely aware that every single part of the assessment process is designed to interpret any capability a person has to complete a task at all, no matter how small, as an indication that they can work. For example, if a person says that they watch TV, that translates as “can sit unaided for at least half an hour”, even if that half an hours viewing is done laid up in bed, propped up by pillows. Huge inferences are drawn from anything that a person can do, and translated into “work capability,” regardless of whether or not person can fulfil tasks without pain, fatigue and discomfort, and it always assumed that people can complete a task reliably, consistently and safely, unless it is explicitly stated that this isn’t the case. Even when it is expressed clearly, it is often ignored and omitted from the Atos reports. Anne acknowledged that there is a significant problem with the WCA descriptors, not least because of the many cases that have been brought to her attention regarding this issue.

Anne recognised that the WCA makes it very difficult for health professionals to exercise their professional judgement. It’s computer-based and has little or no regard to the complexity of the needs of severely disabled or sick persons. This is why the British Medical Association has condemned the WCA as unfit for purpose. Those who have been assessed often feel the opinion of their own health professionals have been overridden or ignored. As Iain McKenzie, Labour MP for Inverclyde, put it: “It is ridiculous to have people making an assessment based on a tick-list that looks like it should be used for an MOT on a car.” Anne has observed and acknowledged that people are having their lives ruined by a system that was designed to support them. It is outrageous; it is inhumane, it is shameful.

Labour conducted a review of the ESA pilot, and by the time they lost Office, they were aware of the fact that there were problems with the Work Capability Assessment: the main ones being that it did not acceptably accommodate fluctuating conditions, or mental health problems. Labour raised their concerns about this with Iain Duncan Smith, but he refused, as previously stated, to undertake an impact assessment, and he pushed the reforms through and made them law, regardless. Furthermore, the WCA was amended by the Coalition to be even less sensitive to how conditions impact on work capability. We know that when Atos were re-contracted by the Coalition, it was in the context of the “reforms”, and Atos are therefore contracted to remove support from the vulnerable. Dr Steven Bick revealed that there are targets imposed on staff at Atos, and  that only one in eight ESA claimants are passed as eligible for ESA (as “unfit for work”) regardless of their actual state of health and their capabilities.

This exposes what a sham the entire assessment process is, because it has been decided in advance that 7 out of 8 will lose their eligibility for ESA, no matter how much a person needs that support, or  how much of a negative impact this will have on the lives of those stripped of their ESA award. It’s therefore not terribly surprising that Atos reports contain so many widely reported “errors”, “inaccuracies” and “mistakes”. These are actually calculated and deliberate lies, which are also attempts at justifying taking away a persons’ benefit, regardless of the impact this will have on their well being and health. This is what Atos are contracted to do by the Coalition. This has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine assessment. It has everything to do with denying people what they are entitled to, and what they have already paid for. It has everything to do with an ideological drive to strip our welfare provision to the bone.

We know that the PIP assessment has targets attached to it, because Esther McVey has indicated this by stating in advance that “More than 300,000 disabled people to have benefits cut”. It is concerning that in making her statement to Parliament, Disabilities Minister Esther McVey set out very clearly the numbers of people who she believed will qualify for the new benefit. But not surprising in light of how the whole legislative process has been conducted by Esther McVey. Conservatives are not known for following established procedure and protocol, nor do they value transparency and accountability.

Labour recognise it is people that are the most vulnerable who will bear a disproportionate share of the  cuts, simply because of the inequality they face in employment means they are more likely to rely on benefits. In other words they are facing a double penalty simply because of their characteristics – disadvantaged in the (somewhat limited) labour market and now targeted by benefit reform. This also raises concern about human rights, since this constitutes discrimination on the basis of “characteristics”, in accord with Labour’s Equality Act.

Anne has voiced major concerns about the mandatory workfare introduced to the ESA Work Related Activity Group, and the sanctions attached to this. She commented: “How can people be punished into work, especially during a recession?” We all agreed that there is a likely contravention of  human rights  and cited Article 3 of the ECHR  –  we believe it has been clearly breached.

Again, I also pointed out that the issue isn’t so much one concerning the availability of jobs, but rather, it is one concerning the fact that people who have been deemed unfit for work by a doctor are being bullied into unlimited workfare and finding jobs, when they cannot, and ought not be expected to undertake these tasks. Anne agreed again that those who cannot work ought to be fully supported, and should not be not coerced into any kind of work if professional opinion is that they are unfit for work.

Once again, the issue of human rights contraventions was raised, and Anne told us that there is a substantial backlog of work, concerning human rights cases, and this is because the  Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – established by Labour – has had its funding severely reduced  this past two years, as stated previously. One cannot help but wonder just how calculated the cuts are in light of the extremely punitive nature of the reforms, and the continued blatant disregard of basic human rights, which is very evident in Tory-led policies. Such a well-coordinated attack on our rights seems unlikely to have happened by coincidence.

Since the meeting with Anne took place, I have remained in regular contact with her, and Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Tom Greatex, Dennis Skinner and my own MP, Kevan Jones. I send out information and articles on a regular basis, to ensure that the continued impact and the consequences of current policies are known to the Labour party. By raising awareness, we can prompt the Opposition to challenge effectively. That is needed, because we have a Government that doesn’t follow procedure and protocol, and does not like to share information regarding its own policies, even to the relevant Parliamentary Committees, let alone with the Opposition.

I am quite serious when I use the term “authoritarian” to describe the Coalition. This is what happens when we become a complacent population, and leave decision making entirely to politicians. Especially Conservatives. We know from history that under Conservative Governments, poverty, unemployment, inequality and civil unrest increase, whilst the wealthy accumulate even more wealth, and the recognition and accommodation of human rights, welfare, and all of our support provisions and programs decrease.

“Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it” –  Boris Pasternak

We need to learn how to be responsible citizens and participate in how our Country is governed. And we must. We do have a choice: we can each contribute something, when we are able, and in our own way, to raise public awareness and demand positive change. Governments must reflect and serve the needs and interests of the whole population, and not just an elite. It’s our duty and responsibility to make sure that they do.

It’s our responsibility to keep the Labour Party informed of our needs, to push for effective challenges to be made against the Coalition, and to promote, prioritise and value social progress, the recognition of human potential, fairness and equality. We set the policy agenda, as voters, if only we will take that responsibility.

The Coalition are dismantling democratic process. David Cameron has already stated that he wants to “reduce” consultations, judicial review, and equality impact assessments, amongst other processes that are essential to human rights safeguarding, accountability and transparency. “It’s not how you get things done” he said of these essential processes of inclusion and democracy. Ask yourself what it is that he wants to “get done”, which requires bypassing democratic process and human rights safeguarding. Clearly, this is a Government that certainly intends to continue to inflict harm.

We must collectively fight the Coalition’s steady attack on our support programs, welfare provision, human rights, and their determined intentions of undoing all that is civilised and decent about our society. We must maintain those (Labour) principles that make society welcoming, supportive and inclusive to all.  It is our own responsibility to recognise the equal worth and potential of every person, and the intrinsic value of each life. It’s an established, historically verified fact that Conservatives never have, and they never will.

Labour are currently consulting with the public on a National level, regarding the policy content of their Manifesto. That’s democracy in action. Make sure you have your say. It matters.

You can also get involved in Labour policy ideas here and here , or you can contact your nearest Labour MP here .

Further reading:-

Full length report of the meeting and discussion with Anne McGuire (Original text)

This is what happens when we do collectively push for positive change and participate: we arm the Opposition with crucial information, detail and cases studies so that they can challenge effectively (from column 1050 onwards.)


The Shadow State: The “dehumanising, degrading” treatment of disabled people

New Statesman

ESA SOS 

Sue Marsh

The ESA Revolving Door Process 

Kitty Jones

Clause 99, Catch 22

Kitty Jones

Back to the Dark Ages as the Tories plan to scrap your Human Rights 

Mike Sivier, Vox Political

Cameron soc reform

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for all of his outstanding artwork

 

WOW – Support The Most Vulnerable?

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WOW – Support The Most Vulnerable?

The Labour Party has a website where any Party member can review comments and make submission to Policy for both the Party itself and, perhaps more importantly, to inform the Manifesto for the 2015 Election.

There are eight areas for Policy Commission and unfortunately within this NO reference to how Labour plans to manage the Economy to ensure adequate provision and support for chronically sick and disabled people.

To this end, in partnership with the people responsible for the WOW Petition  I have submitted the following to the Work & Business Policy section for consideration.

In 2015 Labour could inherit a Welfare State decimated by Cuts and legislation; whilst understanding it is not possible to immediately rebuild such it is imperative that Labour recognises and provides for this people unable to work through poor health and, or, disability.

Building on the “Making Rights a Reality” Paper published by the Shadow Work & Pensions Team, and the e-petiitions – “pat’s petition & WOW; supported by thousands of  people throughout the UK,we call upon the Labour Party to commit to :

An immediate  Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers;

A free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

An immediate end to the current Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association, to be replaced by a fair assessment based upon individual need and not budgets

Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people,

An end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.

A resumption of disability benefits to a recognised level, allowing for the extra costs incurred by recipients of such.

What can you do to support this?

Visit http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/ – search welfare disability, and comment on theSupport The Most Vulnerable submission

Visit  http://wowpetition.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/open-letter-to-liam-byrne-will-labour.html For the latest updates on WOW

Sign up to WOW Petition – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

Share this as widely as possible

Thank You for giving a damn 

#esaSOS: YOUR HELP NEEDED URGENTLY!

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First posted on http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/

#esaSOS: YOUR HELP NEEDED URGENTLY! by Sue Marsh

On January 28th 2013 the UK government is due to make a set of changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The WCA is the flawed ‘fitness to work’ test which assesses whether sick and disabled people can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): a benefit designed to help and support very unwell or profoundly disabled people into work.

Although these changes have been advertised as small ‘amendments’, they will in fact have a huge impact on the way people’s illnesses and disabilities are assessed. Many vulnerable people’s needs will suddenly be able to be overlooked or ignored, meaning they could end up losing the support they desperately need to manage their conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people across Britain need your help to fight these changes!

PROBLEM 1: FALSE ASSUMPTIONS

In the fitness to work test, your needs are assessed by a ‘healthcare professional’ employed by the French private company ATOS. This assessor doesn’t just need to look at your current difficulties. For example, they can also imagine how using an aid (e.g. a wheelchair) might improve your ability to work and make a judgement based on that – without even asking your opinion.

However, soon this “imaginary test” will be able to be used for many more aids (including guide dogs and false limbs!). This means that soon thousands more people could be judged as fit to work, without being asked about why the assessor’s “imaginary aid” might not be appropriate for them.

It gets worse. Even if returning to work may clearly put you at risk, these changes will mean you can still lose your disability benefit – as long as the assessor believes that trying a new therapy or treatment might reduce that risk.  In other words: yet another guessing game, with your health at stake!

 Imagine Bert, who suffers from severe schizophrenia, but is found fit to work because a behavioural therapy may help improve his condition. Yet, in making that decision, the assessor would not have to look at several vital questions: how hard it would be for Bert to get that therapy? How long would an NHS appointment take to organize? Are there private options in his area – and could he afford them if so? What if the therapy doesn’t work, or takes a long time to adjust to? 

 

 

If the government’s rule changes go through, people like Bert who are desperate to work will find it nearly impossible to get an accurate assessment, affecting the quality of their support and even preventing their efforts to get back into work.

PROBLEM 2: SEPARATING PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

The government is also trying to change the way people’s conditions are assessed by dividing health problems into two separate boxes: ‘physical’ and ‘mental’. When looking at what tasks people can do, only the ‘physical half’ of the test will apply to those with physical disabilities. The same goes for the effects of treatment: for e.g., if you’re taking mental health medication, only mental health side-effects will be looked at.

This completely fails to understand the way that many disabilities and illnesses can lead to both physical and mental effects. This is also the case for many common treatments: such as those for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Think of Emily, who suffers severe, chronic pain because of nerve damage to her leg. Emily is among the 49% of chronic pain suffers who also suffer depression as a result of continuous pain. An assessor may see Emily as able to do some work as long as she takes strong painkillers for the rest of her life, meaning she could pass the ‘fitness’ test. Yet the painkillers may not deal with the depression caused by her condition. Painkillers have also often been shown to affect people’s wakefulness and decision-making. So taking the medication may affect Emily’s ability to do a job in a completely new way – yet these new problems would not need to be looked at by the assessor when making their decision! 

 

Pretending the effects of illnesses and disabilities can be separated in this way goes against all medical practice. Going even further, and using this method to ignore sick and disabled people’s needs, is at best hopeless policy, and at worst deliberate cruelty. We cannot let the government treat some of the most vulnerable people in British society in this way.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The main way you can help is by spreading the message about these changes to ESA. The government have tried to sneak them under the radar – the last thing they will want is people talking about them!

Here are some great ways you can raise awareness:

1) Email your MP (you can search by name or constituency athttp://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/);

2) Share this blog post on twitter (using the hashtag #esaSOS), Facebook and other social media; CLICK ON THE BUTTONS BELOW THIS POST TO SHARE ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK

3) Email your friends and family a link to this post – or simply talk to them about it!

 

Again, the main way we can get the government to reconsider is by getting people to talk about the injustice of these changes. So please spread the word as far and wide as you can!

Thank you so much for reading this far. Now let’s make sure these unwanted, damaging benefit changes never see the light of day!

If you want to do more, please sign WOW petition and call on the government to think again.  Sign here http://wowpetition.com and ask all of your friends to sign too.