Thursday, August 30, 2012

Austerity by way of the Colonies: Workfare in the UK

The taxi took an altern­ate route to the air­port that day, the day before the Queen’s Jubilee parade, to avoid the very early morn­ing rehears­als of mil­it­ary per­son­nel, horses, and oth­ers involved in orches­trat­ing the impend­ing cel­eb­ra­tions. Arriv­ing at my des­tin­a­tion 22 hours later, in a time zone 13 hours behind GMT, I went to the Guard­ian web­site and saw the head­line “Unem­ployed Bussed in to Stew­ard River Pageant”. Had the jet­lag affected my cog­nit­ive capa­cit­ies, or had the gov­ern­ment actu­ally forced the unem­ployed poor to sleep under bridges and to work, for no pay, for the cel­eb­ra­tion of the 50th year of the Queen’s sov­er­eign reign? This seemed more feudal than Dick­ensian. The fero­city of Tory aus­ter­ity meas­ures had forced cit­izen into the role of humble sub­ject in the most abject, if not deris­ible man­ner imaginable.

As I de-​planed at Heath­row some time later, attempt­ing to ignore the ever more per­verse HSBC ads that line the jet bridge (the ‘where you see global destruc­tion, we see a new mar­ket’ vari­ety now being replaced by ever more absurd and deli­ri­ous cap­it­al­ist fantas­ies such as ‘one day we will all fly organic’) an art­icle in the FT was brought into my view: the High Court had ruled that the work­fare scheme was not in viol­a­tion of the Art­icle 4 rights of Ms. Reilly and Mr. Wilson.

Ms. Reilly and Mr. Wilson had sought judi­cial review of the Jobseeker’s Allow­ance (Employ­ment and Enter­prise) Reg­u­la­tions 2011, and more spe­cific­ally, the SBWA (Sector-​based Work Academies) and CAP (Com­munity Action Pro­gramme) pro­grammes, alleging that these two work­fare schemes were ultra vires on a num­ber of grounds, and that in addi­tion, the schemes viol­ated their Art­icle 4 rights under the ECHR.

How is it that com­puls­ory, unpaid labour in order to receive an unem­ploy­ment bene­fit does not con­sti­tute a viol­a­tion of Art­icle 4 of the European Con­ven­tion on Human Rights? Mr. Justice Fos­kett of the High Court found the fol­low­ing with regard to the Art­icle 4 claim:
For my part, I do not see any mater­ial dis­tinc­tion in prin­ciple between Van der Mussele in terms of the mat­ters con­sidered in that case by the Court to render the require­ment on the applic­ant law­ful and the schemes or pro­grammes under chal­lenge in the present case: each can be seen as a step towards obtain­ing even­tual employ­ment for the per­son con­cerned. But whether that assess­ment is cor­rect or not, it does have to be said that the sbwa scheme, and indeed the CAP, are a very long way removed from the kind of colo­nial exploit­a­tion of labour that led to the for­mu­la­tion of Art­icle 4. The Con­ven­tion is, of course, a liv­ing instru­ment, cap­able of devel­op­ment to meet mod­ern con­di­tions, and views may reas­on­ably dif­fer about the mer­its of a scheme that requires indi­vidu­als to ‘work for their bene­fits’ as a means of assist­ing them back into the work­place. How­ever, char­ac­ter­ising such a scheme as involving or being ana­log­ous to ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from con­tem­por­ary think­ing.” (para 174)
It is inter­est­ing, as Rahul Rao notes in a recent blo­g­post on the Olympic nar­rat­ive of Great Britain’s his­tor­ical achieve­ments, to see where and when colo­ni­al­ism is remembered and where it is for­got­ten. Legal judg­ments are of course, an enter­pris­ing genre for those inter­ested in texts about national iden­tity. This fairly com­plex judg­ment is com­pel­ling for a num­ber of reas­ons, but here I want to note how the brief ref­er­ence to colo­ni­al­ism reveals a moment in which the colo­nial is made to stand in as a ref­er­ent against which con­tem­por­ary Brit­ish policies and in this case, work­fare schemes, are meas­ured. The judg­ment also reveals a bewil­der­ing attach­ment to a vis­ion of the Brit­ish state in which the private and pub­lic spheres are dis­tinct; so sep­ar­ate in fact, that com­puls­ory labour at the behest of the State, for the bene­fit of the private sec­tor seems to cast this labour out­side of what is cur­rently cog­nis­able by the judge as forced or com­puls­ory labour under Art­icle 4 of the European Con­ven­tion on Human Rights. Let’s break it down a bit.

Van der Mussele involved a trainee bar­ris­ter who alleged that com­puls­ory pro bono work viol­ated his Art­icle 4 right. (Yes, the word chutzpah came to my mind too, but put­ting aside cri­ti­cisms about the rather wide range of uses to which the ECHR has been put, it is a very inter­est­ing read.) The Ordres des avocats in Bel­gium had rules whereby trainee law­yers would be assigned cases to rep­res­ent indi­gent lit­ig­ants on a pro bono basis. Some­times, the cases would con­tinue after the pupil­lage had ended, which was the situ­ation in this instance. The European Court of Human Rights found that no viol­a­tion of Mr. Van Der Mussele’s Art­icle 4 right had occurred. The Court laid out 2 con­di­tions that must be sat­is­fied in order for an Art­icle 4 claim to be sat­is­fied: 1). The labour must be “per­formed by the per­son against his or her will, but either the oblig­a­tion to carry it out must be ‘unjust’ or ‘oppress­ive’ or its per­form­ance must con­sti­tute an ‘unavoid­able hard­ship’, in other words be ‘need­lessly dis­tress­ing’ or ‘some­what har­ass­ing’” (Van der Mussele, para 37). In this case, the Court held that neither of these con­di­tions had been satisfied.

Sig­ni­fic­antly how­ever, they did find that Mr. Van der Mussele’s con­sent to per­form pro bono work at an earlier stage, upon enter­ing his pupil­lage three years prior, did not mean that he had con­sen­ted to each and every assign­ment of pro bono work sub­sequent to that (para 36). More broadly, the issue of con­sent is cent­ral to, although not determ­in­at­ive of the claim of forced or com­puls­ory labour. Inter­est­ingly, the 29th Report of The House of Lords Select Com­mit­tee on the Mer­its of Stat­utory Instru­ments con­sidered the work­fare Reg­u­la­tions. As noted by Mr. Justice Fos­kett, the Com­mit­tee wrote the fol­low­ing in rela­tion to the Explan­at­ory Memor­andum provided by the DWP:
The [Explan­at­ory Memor­andum] states that par­ti­cip­a­tion in cer­tain ele­ments, for example the Ser­vice Academies, is to be by mutual con­sent, but this does not appear to be borne out by the legis­la­tion. DWP explain that ‘this aspect of sup­port and con­di­tion­al­ity for cus­tom­ers is not reflec­ted dir­ectly in these Reg­u­la­tions because it applies before a Jobseeker’s Allow­ance recip­i­ent is referred to any of the ini­ti­at­ives covered by the Scheme’ (Q7). It is not clear what pro­vi­sion there is to pre­vent a harsher sys­tem being imple­men­ted admin­is­trat­ively at a later date.”
In this case, the CAP scheme, aimed at the long-​term unem­ployed, is man­dat­ory. The SBWA scheme is vol­un­tary, how­ever, Ms. Reilly was told by her Job Centre Plus Advisor that work­ing at Pound­land was man­dat­ory. The sanc­tion in both instances is a loss of benefits.

Put­ting the ques­tions of vol­un­tar­i­ness and con­sent aside, let’s look at the two reas­ons for Mr. Justice Foskett’s con­clu­sion that Ms. Reilly’s Art­icle 4 right had not been viol­ated. Unlike Mr. Van der Mussele, it really stretches any reas­on­able and cred­ible under­stand­ing of the nature of her unpaid labour at Pound­land to find that this was aid­ing her in find­ing employ­ment. Ms. Reilly, a gradu­ate in geo­logy, had made it quite clear that her aspir­a­tions lie in work­ing in the Museum sec­tor. Fur­ther­more, and it may seem quite obvi­ous to many people, but there are com­pel­ling and per­suas­ive argu­ments that work­fare schemes do not actu­ally assist in get­ting people back into paid work. The Court seems to have missed an oppor­tun­ity to eval­u­ate the valid­ity of the work­fare schemes as to whether they actu­ally do ful­fil this legis­lat­ive objective.

And to the second basis of the Court’s con­clu­sion: of course a work­fare scheme is not the same as slavery. Of course work­fare is not the same as inden­tured labour, or mul­tiple other forms of forced labour that mil­lions endured dur­ing colo­nial rule all over the globe. But how curi­ous it is to import into con­tem­por­ary human rights jur­is­pru­dence colo­nial slavery as the stand­ard against which any claims to forced or com­puls­ory labour are meas­ured. Enga­ging in what one might call a pecu­liar sort of relativ­ism, it becomes impossible to ima­gine con­di­tions under which a claimant might be suc­cess­ful in an Art­icle 4 claim against the State.

Let’s engage in some spec­u­la­tion. It seems as though there might be two forms of bifurc­a­tion at play here, one is the spectre of the racial and its asso­ci­ation with ideas of enslave­ment and free labour. Is unfree, forced or com­puls­ory labour some­thing that can only, in a colo­nial or imper­ial ima­gin­ary, be asso­ci­ated with black bod­ies, or altern­ately, the body of the traf­ficked woman forced into pros­ti­tu­tion? Mod­ern day anti-​slavery cam­paign­ers focus for the most part on the situ­ation of women (and chil­dren) who are traf­ficked into pros­ti­tu­tion or domestic slavery. Suc­cess­ful Art­icle 4 claims have been brought by a Togolese woman who was forced to work for no pay for sev­eral years in a house­hold; and a Rus­sian woman forced into pros­ti­tu­tion in Cyprus. The lat­ter cat­egory, con­sti­tuted by a par­tic­u­lar lib­eral vis­ion of the power­less vic­tim par excel­lence, (see Juli­ette Hua’s excel­lent work on this topic) also involves a par­tic­u­lar kind of racial­iz­a­tion of Cent­ral and East­ern Europe women. In a colo­nial, pro­gress­iv­ist under­stand­ing of his­tory, white inden­tured labour to the Amer­icas is far in the past, and slavery and con­di­tions of forced labour, and per­haps, simply being in a state of unfree­dom is an unfor­tu­nate afflic­tion that marks the lives of the ‘global’ poor; but appar­ently, not the unem­ployed and poor in the U.K.

The second dicho­tomy at play reflects a refusal to account for the nexus between pub­lic and private spheres. The gov­ern­ment has not only dra­mat­ic­ally pushed New Labour’s privat­isa­tion of basic social wel­fare pro­vi­sion and edu­ca­tion agenda along way for­ward, but through work­fare schemes, provides the private sec­tor with free labour, which des­pite the rad­ical dif­fer­ence in polit­ical con­fig­ur­a­tion, seems some­what sim­ilar in form and effect to an imper­ial author­ity for­cing people to work for the bene­fit of private industry.

To add another inter­est­ing wrinkle to this tale of exploit­a­tion under aus­ter­ity is the fact that some of the bene­fi­ciar­ies of the work­fare scheme are char­it­ies, private organ­isa­tions that are, in what appears as a throw­back to the 18th and 19th cen­tur­ies, increas­ingly provid­ing social wel­fare ser­vices that are no longer provided for by the state. At the same time, char­it­able status is bene­fit­ting vari­ous organ­isa­tions, such as fee pay­ing inde­pend­ent schools, in ways that are prob­lem­atic to say the least. The Upper Tribunal decision in AG v The Char­it­ies Com­mis­sion for Eng­land and Wales, and the Inde­pend­ent Schools Coun­cil of Octo­ber 2011, which held that fee pay­ing inde­pend­ent schools can have char­it­able status even though stu­dents who can­not afford the fees are clearly pre­cluded from bene­fit­ting from all that these schools offer, led to a redefin­i­tion of what con­sti­tutes a ‘pub­lic bene­fit’ in rela­tion to fee pay­ing char­it­ies. In a move that seems to run counter to an increas­ing reli­ance on char­it­ies to provide social wel­fare and to run pro­grammes such as the work­fare schemes, the Tor­ies have attemp­ted to cap tax relief on char­it­able dona­tions by rich people, lead­ing W.G. Runci­man to con­clude, quite simply, that char­ity law is a mess.

The claims by both Mr. Wilson and Ms. Reilly bring before the court the just­ness of a work­fare scheme that forces thou­sands of bene­fit recip­i­ents to work for free on pen­alty of los­ing their bene­fits. With hous­ing and dis­ab­il­ity bene­fits, legal aid, and a range of other social wel­fare pro­vi­sions hav­ing been sav­aged by a gov­ern­ment that has also cut thou­sands of pub­lic sec­tor jobs, a sound ana­lysis of the leg­al­ity of the work­fare schemes requires a con­tex­tu­al­ised ana­lysis of con­tem­por­ary con­di­tions, not those of the early 20th or late 19th cen­tur­ies, even though for those bene­fit recip­i­ents who slept under the bridge on the eve of the jubilee cel­eb­ra­tions, one might be for­given for think­ing they had some­how slipped far into a past era.

Brenna Bhandar is Lec­turer in Law, Queen Mary, Uni­ver­sity of London.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dad committed suicide after housing benefit cut…

A desperate man who lined up three kitchen knives before stabbing himself twice in the heart, blamed cuts in housing benefit.

Unemployed Richard Sanderson took his own life after writing three suicide notes which were laid out neatly on a bed in a meticulously planned act.

In one to his wife he wrote: “Don’t come into the bathroom, this time I will most certainly be deceased”.

Mr Sanderson, who said he could not face the thought of his family being homeless, stabbed himself twice in the heart with a kitchen knife on May 29 at home in Augustus Road, Southfields, after  years of being unable to find work finally took its toll, an inquest heard.

The 44-year-old former helicopter pilot wrote three suicide notes – two for his wife, Petra, and one for the police – after carefully planning the suicide over several days.

This followed a failed attempt less than a year earlier.

Coroner: Man ordered by Job Centre to give up training course

After returning a verdict of suicide at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Tuesday, August 23, Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “What I find particularly tragic in this case is this act appears to be pursued by a  man who was not suffering from an illness and appears to have made a considered act in response to his inability to find employment.

“The fact his housing benefit was about to be cut and the family would be at risk of having nowhere to live, and being ordered to give up his training course because of the Job Centre’s rules,  would appear to be especially poignant and tragic.”

In February, Merton  Council estimated up to 3,000 residents would be made poorer by the coalition Government’s policy of cutting housing benefits, which will decrease by between £5 and £400 a week from November,  depending on the size of the property.

“80,000 Londoners at risk of eviction”

Annys Darkwa, who runs St Helier-based Vision Housing and helps find homes in Merton for ex-offenders, said tragic cases like this would become more frequent in the coming months because housing  benefit cuts would hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

Mrs Darkwa said: “We are going to see this happen more and more as we expect 80,000 people across London to be evicted due to housing benefit cuts.

“It is especially concerning in Merton where mental health provision has disappeared. What’s going to happen to people who think they’re all alone and commit suicide because they think there’s no  one to help them?”

Mr Sanderson, who was also a window cleaner, met his wife while travelling in South Africa in 1995 before the pair eventually settled in Wimbledon in 2007 to find better work prospects in London.

Widow: Council cut our housing benefit by £30 a week

Mrs Sanderson got a job but was made redundant in 2009, while Mr Sanderson constantly struggled to find work and was unable to complete training as an electrician because the job centre would not  continue to pay his benefit because his training stopped him from being available for job interviews.

He tried to commit suicide the first time in June 2010 by crushing up 150 tranquiliser pills which he swallowed with a glass of whisky.

He was found at home unconscious but still alive by his wife.

Mrs Sanderson, who did not attend the inquest because she thought it would be too upsetting, gave a statement to police in which she explained the first suicide bid was done so she and their  nine-year-old son could benefit from a life insurance policy payout worth 2.5m South African Rand (about £210,000), which she soon cancelled after the suicide attempt.

A psychological report by Dr Joanne Turner, who examined Mr Sanderson at St George’s Hospital, said he did not exhibit any signs of mental illness or depression and claimed to be “embarrassed” by  his suicide bid.

But in her statement, Mrs Sanderson revealed: “In March or April [2011] we received a letter from [Wandsworth] Council which said our housing benefit would decrease by £30 a week, forcing us to  move but leaving us with nowhere to go.”

“Despite this, I hadn’t noticed any major change in Richard’s mood. I don’t know why he killed himself. We had planned to go to Wimbledon Common the next day.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UK coalition’s real agenda : Behaviour change to suit policy: House of Lords [reblogged]

Silver tongued programme for the slave mentality

 In all cases brought before the court, evidence is the key.

Blinded as we are to the insidious moves made by successive governments in finance, as they shift the countries revenue collection from income tax to service tax, and Value Added tax (VAT), they must also do something about the way in which we the masses, understand what is happening without understanding what is happening.

I know frustrating is it not, but of course that is the nature of the game called politics.

In 2011 a meeting was had in which a dark doctrine from an equally dark cult was discussed and rubber stamped for the full term of this three party coalition, I mean, when you have Tony Blair back as the Olympic legacy don,[1] and Nick Clegg, the occult arm to this coven of deceivers, claim, he was ready to enter talks for a possible coalition with the Old New Labour under Ed Miliband at the next general election.[2] Blighty we have a problem?

The Science and Technology Select Committee met to give life to a policy of Behaviour Change, for the population and the civil service, and through education direct to the children. If we take Lord Adonis as an example, former director of the Institute for Government[3] that have big plans for allowing Academies to become boarding schools, we can’t go wrong. Such an agenda has even more sinister harmonics when we consider the Olympic push to pick your children off the street, taken to what they call ‘a place of safety’, to be returned once the parents have satisfied corporate psychiatrist’s and corporate social workers they are indeed as insane as they are.[4] Academies are to be used as such places of safety which will open the doors to child removal in order the Academy can demand a huge tariff charge off the taxpayer to board the child until the psychiatrist’s release the child.

The expanding use of psychiatry in the corporate system takes on a whole new meaning when we consider the elite of this craft are lobbying to legalise paedophilia, begging the question what kind of mind does one have to be, to be classified as normal to a psychiatrist?[5]

Using the Olympics to make that behavioral change with the aim of forming a fitter nation, specifically with the children, it appears this coalition government backed by the House of Lords, are implementing the same programme as that under Hitler and the Third Reich and his gymnasium programme. They called it Eugenics in order they could form their idea of the Aryan master race by changing the behaviour of the entire population to mimic the traits of the master race. With a population on its knees after the war reparations, a position we are heading to suffer with the current batch of blithering financial experts Inc, holding the fort, begs another question; to what end is this readiness for war moving?…Erm…war.

Externalising the hierarchy and its methods appears to be the time-frame we experience today, with the elites presenting what was a secret control mechanism, into the open in order they can gain statutory consent for that control mechanism, without giving the population the real facts until the consent is gained. This is how the dictatorship is to be formed through consent. In the conclusion document at the bottom of this report, it would appear they have all the consent they require through various licensing and school statute demands, already in the bag, as they decide to hell with the need for consenting taxpayers to the whims and willies of the Institute for Government, they will intervene and change policy without the taxpayers even being aware of the fact.

To position the populations in the trance like state, required in order they do not fully grasp the contract on offer, a contract pushed with menace, is to first educate them below the level of comprehension apportioned to the world of the solicitor, the lawyer, both dealing almost entirely in statutory rules of commerce while claiming them to be law, and we fall for it.

In that context the game is rigged from the start and the reason for the use of behavioral strategies to allow the deception to operate uninterrupted. They have achieved this in these times by programming adults back to the school mentality, whereby they obey instruction without question, speak to any head teacher, and teachers today, and witness the childlike attitude coming back at you, the same in the civil service, specifically the Jobcentres, more so in their sub contractor operations carrying out the work programme mind job, which have the feel of a pre-school mentality.

Openly today proved in the document from the House of Lords, we can see how the corridors of real power play the masses like sheep… because the people act like sheep.

As with a court of law let us get to the evidence, the introduction to the document states :

“The Government welcomes this timely exploration by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee into the use of behaviour change interventions to achieve policy goals.”

The Coalition’s Programme for Government rejects “the assumption that central government can only change people’s behaviour through rules and regulations” and promises that “our government will be a much smarter one, shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage support and enable people to make better choices for themselves.”

Shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past, means further shunning our constitutional civil system, the use of the term ‘smarter one’ and intelligent, has to coincide with the rise and huge expansion of intelligence agencies. Better choices for themselves has to coincide with the deceptive nature of statute rules, deceptive in the first instance in that they present themselves as law. A statute is never law, it is a contract containing the rule that enforcement of its agreed terms can be enforced ‘as if the power of law’, and contracts have to be consensual.

Under the heading of Government Activities they state :

“Behaviour change theories can help us to understand why individuals behave the way they do. They can also help policy makers frame choices for individuals in order to ‘nudge’ them into behaving differently and regulating their own activities.”

They then cite particular organisations and publications the coalition through various government departments have taken into consideration in forming their strategy for behavioral change :

“Drawing on a range of academic literature including seminal publications such as Robert Cialdhini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge, and David Halpern’s Social Capital and Cabinet Office, Department of Education and the Government Economic and Social Research Team MINDSPACE: a joint collaboration between the Cabinet Office and the Institute for Government.” [3]

Clearly presented in the introduction is the evidence that not only is the coalition government operating behavioural modification programmes against the cash stricken population, so to is the House of Lords, and indeed the corporate Crown. That they intend to expand such modification until ‘their’ policy aims are met. The question at this juncture would be to determine whether the policy of the Cabinet is in any way the same policy as that the people want?

In a simple answer the word NO stands tall as it is clear the cabinet’s aims are the aims of the corporate realm, a realm in which ‘the people’ have no input or recourse, as such evidence comes to the fore that the political class and the judiciary are not upholding the constitutional realm.

In Promoting and co ordinating government activities, they state :

“The new Government wants to increase the amount of joint working between Departments when designing, implementing and evaluating behaviour change interventions. A closely related theme in the Coalition Programme for Government Agreement – that of changing the culture within Whitehall to move away from a reliance on conventional regulatory and legislative approaches – means that we can expect a richer mix of interventions being used to achieve our policy goals.”

In effect they want to ensure every department in Whitehall operates as the think tanks determine, how this stands with Cameron’s pledge to remove quangos and such is beyond this investigation.

Under the title Engaging beyond Government, leveraging other sectors sector more effectively, they state :

“The involvement of private and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector organisations will be crucial for us as we apply behavioural insights to achieving our policy goals. A core idea of the Big Society is that we encourage ‘people to help people’ rather than assuming that the state and conventional public services are the answer.”

The crucial point here is the fact all such charitable trusts and volunteer services are forcing signatures to statutory contracts, so their help as they call it is no such thing, it is nothing other than capitalising on peoples desperation and trapping them within yet another statute contract.[6][7]

“We will be building on efforts to strengthen charitable giving; we hope charitable organisations become an increasingly important partner of Government – helping us develop a mix of conventional approaches and “nudges” that encourage citizens to give more of their resource (time and money) to good causes. We will also be building on work undertaken by departments such as DECC, which successfully engaged with utility companies in the design of its Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP). Utility companies will be central to the roll out of the Green Deal, helping install energy efficient devices in homes.”

The push for charity merging with government has to be taken in context with the fact charities pay zero tax, are unaccountable, and today are becoming limited entities and thus with limited liability, raising another question… where is democracy?

On page 9 of the document they cite a case study involving the HMRC and debt collection, they state :

“HMRC is carrying out a rapid transformation of its entire debt collection approach. As part of this work they have re-written their tax collection letters, to experiment with different messages to see which prove most successful in terms of people. The key changes they have made to the letters are to include a range of triggers designed to influence the behaviour of the recipient and to spell out the choices the taxpayer could make upon receipt of the letter. Early results indicate that these letters have been very successful typically generating a response rate of around 50% and in some instances the response rate has been as high as 85%.”

“An example used was to state in the first line of a letter is ‘9 out 10 UK citizens pay their self assessment tax on time funding the public services from which we all benefit” This letter was intended to indicate to those who had not paid that they were in the minority and therefore not displaying normative behaviour. It was used in the first campaign which has been evaluated and which successfully cleared 86% of the debt portfolio compared to 57% cleared in the previous year. However, although HMRC believes the letters have made a material difference to the success of our collection strategies, they are not able to isolate their impact because we have made a number of other changes simultaneously.”

In the transcript of the meeting they move to question and answers :

Q12 Lord May of Oxford:  What is the role and the intended remit of the Cabinet Office’s behavioural Insight Team? What’s it designed to do? In what ways will it make government make best use of behavioural change theory?

Dr David Halpern : (right) In some sense, it comes from the coalition agreement. It’s a way of expressing its objection to assumptions that the Government can only change people’s behaviour through rules and regulations and trying to move to : “Our Government will be a smarter one, shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage, support, and enable people to make better choices for themselves”. In some ways, it’s a tool to make that a reality.

Such a polite way of stating that the cabinet behavioral insight team will act as the enforcer to ensure their own policies become the policies of the elected government, while presenting it as guidance in order the elected politician’s  make better choices for themselves. This could be taken to mean ‘yes’ to all evertything the say means bigger salary? (page 20-21)

Also worth noting is the fact it was Lord Sainsbury that requested of Dr David Halpern[8] he draw up the plan for the Institute of Government,[3] so he would say that wouldn’t he?

Q18 Lord Warner : I just wanted to get a feel from all four of you. Do you see your role as reactive——you wait for the departments to come to you——or do you busy yourself, poking your noses into the departments, if I may put it that way, when you know there is a topic that is floating around there that you think it ought to be involved with?

Dr David Halpern : Maybe I should have said that the team has a steering group. Obviously, it expresses some views about topics we should go into. That steering group includes Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, Steve Hilton from Number 10, Polly Mackenzie from the Lib Dem side, and Robert Devereux, who is head of profession for policy-making. So it is a very strong group.(page 24)

Q22 Baroness Perry of Southwark : Don’t you think that regulation should at the very least be based on evidence? You mentioned, for example, the tobacco regulation of putting the cigarettes down under the counter or whatever. The evidence where this has been tried is that it makes absolutely no difference at all. Why regulate something that all the evidence shows isn’t going to make any difference whatsoever in people’s behaviour? The amount of educational initiatives on sex education for teenagers has not reduced the number of teenage pregnancies and so on. Shouldn’t regulation, regulatory intervention, at least be based on the evidence of its effectiveness?

Dr David Halpern : Well, absolutely. I’m afraid I’m going to agree with you all the way on this in as far as all policy, frankly, should be based on evidence——if possible——and especially these kinds of issues. On the very specific examples you’ve mentioned, my own reading of that literature would be the former on cigarettes; you can make a reasonable case that reducing the prominence of cigarettes is likely to have some, albeit very modest, effects, on the basis of at least some meta-analytic studies. (page 27)

Q35 The Chairman: So are you saying between you that this will be easy to take forward or continue to be taken forward when the Behavioural Insight Team has gone? In a sense they will have embedded it into government?

Dr Rachel McCloy: I think the Behavioural Insight Team gives this a great impetus. I think once you get a network going it’s dependent upon the people who are involved and the enthusiasm there. There will be challenges to it, but I don’t think it’s either wholly dependent on myself being here or the Behavioural Insight Team being here. I think it’s becoming more of the language of government or part of that. (page 35)

The  aim of the sinister network is to make the language of the political world to be the script they are pushing at any given time, how they are to achieve this system is glimpsed in the following exchange :

Q40 Lord Crickhowell: I’m sorry I wasn’t at the start; I was at a funeral. I’m just slightly amused by the most recent exchange. Pardon me for coming in. I’m reading Jonathan Powell’s book on Machiavellian government, which I suggest you all go away and read quickly. He has a passionate piece about how you’re all absolutely marvellous at stopping things happening or saying why they shouldn’t happen, but extremely poor about using creative ideas and getting things to happen. He has a very interesting section on it. Do you think that’s unfair?

Richard Bartholomew: It’s certainly not my experience that civil servants are primarily motivated to stop things happening. I think there’s tremendous energy and passion amongst my younger colleagues, and hopefully me too, in terms of new initiatives and different ways of doing things. (page 37)

The whole agenda at this point is about replacing current civil posts with their new breed youngster, and exact replica of the Third Reich.

Session conclusion

From a second report from the committee, and their conclusions to the idea of behavioural change, we are further enlightened as to the mentality of the committee itself.

They have determined that the consent of the people is no longer an issue when determining when the government (Institute of Government) can intervene in the policies of our nation to counteract the peoples behaviour towards thwarting any aspect of their agenda, in order they get the right behaviour to implement their agenda :

Ethical acceptability and “public permission”

2.16.    Some witnesses suggested that the ethical acceptability of an intervention was related to its level of public acceptance, or popularity, or even the degree to which its use was based on “public permission”.24 We are not convinced by this link. For example, levels of public acceptance for interventions might improve after their introduction, as happened for example with the ban on smoking in public places.25 Moreover, the very fact that the degree to which the public accepts, or welcomes, an intervention can change over time suggests that this is likely to be determined by assumptions about the impact of the intervention which had perhaps initially been based on incomplete information. Consequently, it may be ethically acceptable for governments to introduce a measure even though it is unpopular if there is strong evidence that it will be effective and beneficial. For example, the ban on smoking in public places was not ethically unacceptable despite the fact that it initially had only modest levels of public acceptance.

2.17.    It is important to note, however, that a measure which does not have public support is, in general, less likely to succeed. Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Clinical Excellence at National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) drew our attention, for example, to the adverse impact of using pricing as the primary mechanism of control of alcohol in Scandinavia,26 and Ms Milton appeared to agree when she observed that “the trouble with nannying is that it can be hectoring, and produce the opposite effect”.27
Distinction between individuals and business

2.18. The discussion so far has focused on interventions which affect individuals. It was suggested to us that the arguments for the ethical acceptability of an intervention are different if it applies to businesses rather than individuals. Professor Thomas Baldwin, Professor of Philosophy, University of York, summed this up as follows :

“… it is individual persons whose status as rational agents is a fundamental value of liberal society; but commercial organisations are not rational agents of this kind … So they do not merit the kind of liberal freedom from interference which applies to individual persons, and there is, therefore, no principled objection to regulating them in restrictive ways. What they can nonetheless demand is that they be regulated only in ways which are effective, well-motivated, and fair; and they can argue that if the ends sought by regulation can be achieved by voluntary codes, then this approach should be tried first. So here too there is an intervention ladder which starts from voluntary codes and ends up with restrictive formal regulations. But in this case the relevant considerations are primarily pragmatic rather than principled.”28

We agree with Professor Baldwin insofar as he points out that different considerations should apply to interventions which affect individuals directly than those which affect commercial organisations directly. The latter are more likely to be pragmatic, rather than ethical, considerations.


2.19.Though governments must consider the acceptability of any behaviour change intervention, there is no set of rules against which to determine whether or not an intervention is acceptable. Rather, ethical acceptability depends to a large extent on an intervention’s proportionality. Proportionality can be determined by looking at the scale of the problem the intervention is designed to solve and the evidence that it will be effective in doing so. This should be weighed against ethical considerations including intrusiveness, restriction of freedom and transparency. We do not believe that levels of public acceptance or “public permission” are a necessary pre- condition of an ethically acceptable intervention, but given the potential impact of low levels of public acceptance on the effectiveness of an intervention, this must be relevant to any policy decision.

2.20. The idea of the Government intervening to change people’s behaviour will often be controversial, and so it is important that ministers are always able to explain the evidence-base of any proposed behaviour change intervention, and why it is a necessary and proportionate means of addressing a well-defined problem. (page 14-15)

So it would appear evidence according to the House of Lords is only that they provide via some crap think tank which Cameron pledged to throw out of our system…

[1] Clegg looks for coalition with Labour
[2] Tony Blair back as Olympic Legacy don
[3] The Institute for Government
[4] Operation Staysafe
[5] Psychiatrists and Professors are Lobbying to Normalise and Decriminalise Paedophilia
[6] Barnardos Cashing in on Slave Labour Under the Work Programmes
[7] In Profile : The Trussell Trust
[8] Dr David Halpern

Further Study
Froebel Education Method and the Third Reich
Froebel in the technocratic age twisting the minds of the children
BAE Systems, LEGO, and the Froebel Education Method
Boy to Girl Synthetic Chemistry, the Hermaphrodite Mind
Psychiatry and its Views on Education
T@vi$t0ck 2012 : The Constitution Unit


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Daily Mail's attack on mentally ill actress

Stack of newspaper, pile of newpapers, media,The Daily Mail has published ‘cruel, unnecessary attack’ on actress diagnosed with a mental illness - Emily Lloyd

Her crime? Daring to be seen in public without full make-up and a perfectly matched outfit. The piece disapprovingly describes her as ‘dishevelled and downcast’, notes her ‘mismatched outfit’ and claims that ‘the last two decades have been less than kind to the Bafta winning actress’ who was ‘once a radiant and glamorous woman’.
The fact that this thinly veiled attack is dressed up as faux concern, makes it even harder to stomach.
The paper goes on the explain that Emily has struggled with various mental health problems over the years including schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder.
Rethink Mental Illness CEO, Paul Jenkins said: “This is a cruel, unnecessary attack. We can’t speculate on the current state of Emily’s mental health, but if she isn’t very well at the moment, this is the last thing she needs. To ridicule someone in this way, who is known to have a history of serious mental illness is breathtakingly insensitive.
Brilliantly, readers of the online version of the story have been overwhelmingly supportive of Emily in the comments section. One of our supporters got in touch with us to say a lot of the critical comments have been deleted and that aspects of the article have been changed since the original piece was published. A sign perhaps that the Mail realise they have overstepped the mark.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Workfare & Sanctions: Using Benefits to Blackmail

Gillian Wilkes, from the West Midlands, was recently made redundant after working all her life. She describes her shock at the Job Centre’s treatment of claimants, and explains the reasons for her refusal to participate in one of the government’s workfare programmes.

Following redundancy I had to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. I read the rules and regulations to ensure I didn't fall foul of any stipulations and dutifully carried out my job search.

However, at my fourth signing on appointment I was told by the advisor that because I had not applied for two jobs within the last fortnight, my search was not adequate and that my benefit would be stopped. I pointed out that I had completed the required six 'tasks' on the agreement, which included contacting two companies to see if there were any job vacancies available. The regulations did not stipulate that applying for 2 jobs was a condition of receiving benefit. The advisor didn't agree with me and informed me that my job search would be sent to the 'Decision Makers' to see if the doubt was justified. In the meantime, my benefits would be stopped immediately for two weeks.

I was horrified as my disabled husband and I had no other income (his claim is linked to mine). Those two weeks without money were the most humiliating of my life. We had to ask for food hand-outs from friends and family, couldn't pay any bills and had to scrounge tins of food for our dogs and cat. After both of us working for 45 years (I'm 60 and my husband is 63) and paying a lifetime of tax and contributions, we were being punished because I hadn't applied for two jobs.

That was in May and, to date, I have still not been notified of a decision by the Decision Makers. I appealed against the sanction and heard nothing. When I contacted the appeals department, I was told that my case would not be heard until around September.

‘Granny Groundworker’

Then, after signing on for just ten weeks, my advisor said she was referring me to the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) programme. She handed me a letter without any explanation of what it was about. I asked her for some details and she mumbled something about skills.

A week later I received a text message from a company called Groundwork West Midlands telling me I had been referred to them. I checked them out on the internet and discovered they were an environmental company that trains young people in ‘groundwork’. I then started to worry what this was all about. Am I to be trained as ‘Granny Groundworker’, I wondered.

I then received a letter from this company, thanking me for attending an engagement meeting or telephone interview (I had been offered neither), and informing me that I was to start my MWA programme on the Monday coming. It said I must participate for 30 hours a week for four weeks at ‘Acorns’. The letter stated if I did not have good reason for turning up then, for my first offence, I would lose my benefit for 13 weeks, and for my second offence I would lose it for 26 weeks.

What am I now? A criminal it seems! I was simply told that I must dress smartly in black trousers and white shirt. There were no details about the work or the company so I contacted them to request some information.

Acorns turned out to be a charity shop. Now, I don't wish to sound like I am above charity shop work, as I know charity shop workers do a wonderful job, but what skills am I going to learn that will help me find the sort of job I am seeking? I do not need discipline or time-keeping lessons. I have worked as an Administrator, Secretary and Finance Officer for the past 45 years but now I am just being used for free labour.

Adding ten hours a week travelling time amounts to a 40 hour week but I would still have had to sign on, attend interviews and complete a job search every day. That means I would have had to complete my job searches in the evening. I would have thought it was illegal to expect people to work day and evening.

The Department for Work and Pensions contradicts itself as this programme stops people from doing the very thing they need to be doing: looking for paid and fulfilling work.

I have paid enough tax and contributions in my lifetime to cover the cost of my benefit so I find it insulting that after just a few weeks of claiming, I am expected to work for every penny. The programme is a total waste of taxpayer's money, which would be better spent on skills courses for the young unemployed, not placing the older, experienced generation on these money wasting programmes.

Money owed

I have now read other people's accounts and experiences on the internet regarding this MWA and believe advisors pick on claimants that have been sanctioned before or have challenged them over other issues. I personally believe it is very wrong they can use a claimant's benefit to blackmail them. Why should someone's welfare be in the hands of some judgemental advisor who is anxious to show her superiors that she is fulfilling her quota? There doesn't seem to be any way of complaining about this or challenging the referral without going to the very people who have placed you on the programme in the first place.

The DWP claim the sanctioning of benefits has stopped on ‘workfare’ programmes but it is clearly continuing. The greedy employers who exploit the unemployed should try living themselves without income for 26 weeks. They would soon back out of this scheme.

I have refused to attend this program and have now received a letter warning me that my benefit may be sanctioned. Fortunately, my husband is now entitled to receive Pension Credit so I can sign off JSA.

I will fight for a refund of my sanctioned benefit from May. After all, I feel it is money I am owed and will sue for it in court if necessary. I hope others will do the same.

And I will continue to campaign against the injustices of this MWA program, both for the benefit of those who do not have the means to fight back and for taxpayers in general, who are not aware of how their contributions are being used.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to read this.

Corporate Watch

Monday, August 13, 2012

Daily Mail deletes 'Arbeit Macht Frei' advice to unemployed graduates

The Right Minds article that included an offensive paragraph

The Daily Mail has been embarrassed into deleting an offensive paragraph from an online contribution to its website.

A piece headlined Why our new legions of unemployed graduates need to adjust their expectations, by Dominique Jackson, contained this extraordinary paragraph:
"The German slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is somewhat tainted by its connection with Nazi concentration camps, but its essential message, 'work sets you free' still has something serious to commend it.
There is dignity to be gained from any job, no matter how menial, and for young people at the start of their careers, there are valuable lessons to be learned from any form of employment, whether that is on the factory floor, on a supermarket till or in the contemporary hard labour camp of a merchant bank or law office."
This grotesque lapse in taste was removed from the article once its presence was revealed on the Twittersphere.

There was no mention of the deletion despite the fact that three (of the 29) commenters on the article - which was posted on 4 July - pointed out that it was entirely inappropriate.

One of them, gloworm, glos, wrote: "Somewhat tainted? By the deaths of considerably more than a million men, women and children? I understand the point you are making, but to write off a phrase like 'Arbeit Macht Frei' as somewhat tainted demonstrates such a complete lack of feeling for context that... Christ, words fail me."

Yet the editor of Mail online's Right Minds comment section didn't feel it necessary take it down at the time.
Tom Chivers, in a Daily Telegraph blog today, wrote:
"Somewhat tainted, yes, Dominique. I mean, admittedly reductio ad Hitlerum is a logical fallacy, but nonetheless I think there might be lower-hanging fruit to reach for when it comes to inspiring slogans."
And the New Statesman's Alex Hern, in noting that the Mail was practising its usual "editing by Twitter" recorded that the Jackson piece had "mysteriously been updated" (at 11.39am) within minutes of the story going viral. Updated means deleted, of course.


Index on Censorship's news editor, Padraig Reidy, managed to get a screenshot of the undeleted paragraph before the Mail censored itself, as the twitpic above shows.