Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Migrants will have to pay at A&E – and all patients will have to prove they are not foreigners to get free NHS treatment

‘Patients admitted to hospital in an emergency will have to prove they are not migrants under government plans to charge foreigners to use the NHS.

As part of proposals to recoup up to £500m from visitors from outside the European Union who use the NHS, hospitals will be required to identify those patients who are not eligible for free care – and make foreigners pay for life-saving treatment they receive on accident and emergency wards.

But the reforms mean that eligible patients will also have to prove they have the right to be treated free of charge.

While the Government has made clear that no one will be denied medical care, they will be expected to prove their eligibility with an NHS number or passport either when they present themselves or once they have been “stabilised”.’

Read more: Migrants will have to pay at A&E – and all patients will have to prove they are not foreigners to get free NHS treatment

Brainwashed by the cult of the super-rich

‘Last week, Tory MP Esther McVey, Iain Duncan Smith’s deputy, insisted it was “right” that half a million Britons be dependent on food banks in “tough times”. Around the same time, the motor racing heiress Tamara Ecclestone totted up a champagne bill of £30,000 in one evening. A rich teenager in Texas has just got away with probation for drunkenly running over and killing four people because his lawyers argued successfully that he suffered from “affluenza”, which rendered him unable to handle a car responsibly. What we’ve been realising for some time now is that, for all the team sport rhetoric, only two sides are really at play in Britain and beyond: Team Super-Rich and Team Everyone Else.

The rich are not merely different: they’ve become a cult which drafts us as members. We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled “aspiration”. Reaching its zenith at this time of year, our participation in cult rituals – buy, consume, accumulate beyond need – helps mute our criticism and diffuse anger at systemic exploitation.’

Read more: Brainwashed by the cult of the super-rich

Britain Isn’t Shirking

Reblogged from samedifference:

IDS was said to be raging about the original. But I think he’ll rage even more about this.

Photo: Mark Williams

The future of "welfare", part two

Reblogged from WatchingA4e:

I've been putting off writing this.  It's easy enough to write about the history of social security, but the future is necessarily speculative.  And it becomes increasingly obvious that there may not be a future for welfare at all.  This appeared yesterday in an article in the Telegraph by Peter Oborne: "Iain Duncan Smith's brave and ambitious programme to reshape the welfare state along the lines envisaged by Beveridge 70 years ago is making some progress."  This is so nonsensical that one must assume that Oborne wasn't taught history at his public school.  Yet this is part of the narrative with which this government is destroying the whole concept of social security.  It will become, again, the punitive last resort of the 1834 Poor Laws.  Running it will be a profit opportunity for private companies, with no involvement of the tatters which remain of the public sector.  There will be a huge role for charities.  Universal Credit, if it ever happens, will signal the final killing-off of the idea of National Insurance.  Benefits, already no longer seen as a right, will cease in their present form.  Welfare will have been reformed out of existence.

This is not inevitable, unless a Conservative government comes in in 2015.  Even with a Labour government, though, the future looks precarious.  One hopeful sign is that some Labour thinkers have talked about returning to the contributory concept in social security.  I believe that this is essential.  Benefits, as of right, should be paid if the claimant has contributed over, say, 6 months in the preceding year; paid at a fairly high level for a limited period - again, say 6 months.  Once those contributions run out, then benefits should fall to a level set as the minimum someone needs to live on decently.  This minimum should be sacrosanct.  No one's income should fall below it.  There would have to be means-testing, but not of the old kind.  And "conditionality"?  Yes, there would have to be the condition that the claimant is looking for work, if that's possible.  Sickness and disabilities would attract the same minimum income but recognise additional needs.
Housing benefit is a huge cost, and it's money paid to landlords, not to the claimant.  There should obviously be a big push on building and buying more housing in the public sector.

And there should, equally obviously, be massive job creation.  That's not easy in a capitalist economy, but it could be done, through local authorities, for instance.  Unless there are jobs to go to, as we are seeing at the moment, long-term unemployment will remain high.

What we need is not tinkering around the edges.  Nor is it the kind of change which this government is engineering, based on personal aggrandisement and contempt.  We need an agreed set of principles on which to base a system which doesn't divide people into skivers and strivers.


Click to visit the original post

See you all next Year xxx

Monday, December 30, 2013

RIP Tim Salter and Denis Jones. Is This What You Wanted IDS?

Reblogged from The Void:


Ever since this Government weren’t elected the question has been raised whether Iain Duncan Smith really is a murderous tyrant, or whether he’s just a fucking idiot.

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter anymore.  The end result of his policies will be the same whichever is the case.  A result as tragic as it was predictable, as poverty not seen in generations returns to the UK.

The recent case of Tim Salter, who committed suicide after benefits were stopped due to the brutal Atos assessment regime, is far from the first death directly linked to welfare  reforms.  At the end of last month two suicides linked to Atos assessments were reported in just one week. Also reported just before Christmas was the death of Denis Jones, a disabled former soldier who died alone five weeks after his benefits were stopped.  Whilst his death was recorded as natural causes a close friends has revealed the horrific circumstances he had been living in, telling the Bolton News that:

“He was dependent upon income support and without it he couldn’t heat his home or pay his electricity bill. He became dependent on food parcels and the generosity of friends but he was crushed under the pressure of it all.”

It is not just the growing number of deaths linked to welfare reforms which gives a glimpse of the terrifying future many of the poorest now face.  The use of foodbanks has rocketed over recent months, even prompting a parliamentary debate from the ever opportunistic Labour Party.  But all of the main political parties, and the Lib Dems, are committed to the demolition of social security, they are merely quibbling about the details.   This is why the largest cause of hunger in the UK – benefit sanctions which can leave people with no money at all for up to three years – have barely been mentioned by any politician.  The reason for this is that Labour are every bit as committed to benefit sanctions as Iain Duncan Smith.  They started it after all.  Things will not magically and suddenly be alright if the Labour Party manage to win the next election.

The appalling truth is that the entire political class seems to have started believing everything they read in the Daily Mail.  The lurid tales of benefit scroungers have been assumed to be a fair representation of the social security system instead of the warped delusions of the swivel-eyed right.

The impression has been given that welfare in the UK is so generous that vicious cuts can be made without anyone getting hurt.  Politicians and right wing newspapers alike have created the fabrications that claimants are living in the lap of luxury, sick or disabled people are probably faking it and that there is a plentiful supply of jobs and cheap housing for those who choose to look.  The reality – which is that those dependent on benefits were already living in desperate poverty even before the cuts – has been completely ignored in the savage chase to blame the poor for the economic crisis created by the rich.

Over the next year, as bungled welfare reforms take place in the most casual and haphazard manner possible, we are set to see the outcome of this manufactured contempt for the poor – and it really has only just begun.  Many people are dependent on discretionary housing payments to meet the shortfall in their income due to the benefit cap or bedroom tax.  These payments will run out soon.  The number of benefit claims sanctioned is likely to soar even further ever more ludicrous conditionality is invented to claim the pittance of Jobseekers Allowance. Reform of Disability Living Allowance, which will see around a fifth of disabled people lose benefits, has barely even begun.  The Atos assessments will continue, and even those judged unable to work may still face workfare.  Possibly hundreds of thousands of claimants face court action due to Council Tax benefit reform.   Housing Benefit caps are fast making many cities completely unaffordable for the poor.  And next April, as food prices, fuel bills, fares and rents continue to soar, all claimants, including many of the poorest pensioners, will face a real terms cut in benefits.

The only question that now remains is just how bad are thing likely to get?  How many people will lose their homes, how many thousands, or millions, of children will go hungry?  How many more heartbreaking deaths will occur like the ones we heard about throughout December?

Iain Duncan Smith either doesn’t care or is truly deluded about the consequences of making the poorest even poorer.  Despite talk of austerity, the rest of the cabinet seem to think that money falls from the sky, which it does if you happen to be George Osborne or David Cameron.  No-one in this Government, and few in Parliament, seem to have any understanding that money actually runs out if you happen to be poor.  To take away the last few pounds that someone needs to survive will not just make them hungry, desperate and depressed but could be a death sentence.

This inhumanity, in one of the richest countries in the world, must be brought to an immediate end.  A massive escalation in the fight against all welfare reforms is the only way to achieve that.

If things seem bleak that’s because they are.  But Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are as bodged as they are brutal.  Without the connivance of charities, functioning welfare-to-work companies, employers, health and social security professionals, housing associations and local councils, all of his policies could turn to dust.  There are many places to inflict pressure or just fuck shit up.  Every weakness in this Government’s plans must be exploited to the full, and new vulnerabilities uncovered.  And every time we find one we should be ramming a spanner in the works, until things start to break.

Stay strong next year, as healthy as you can, and most of all stay alive.  Do not give these bastards what they want.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Skilled jobs will not come through quick fix initiatives such as Enterprise Zones

Another Tory employment flagship employment policy – the resurrection of 1980s style ‘Enterprise Zones’ – is proving to be a new embarrassment for the government.

The government’s communities department (DCLG), which heads up the programme, says it expects that 6,000 to 18,000 jobs are likely to be created by 2015 – just 11 per cent of their original 2015 target of 54,000 new jobs – and that only 4,700 jobs have been created so far.

In March 2011, Cameron announced the creation of 24 Enterprise Zones, based on the 1980s model, which was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in an effort to mask growing unemployment.

Unions warned that Enterprise Zones had been a failure in the 1980s, with few of the new companies remaining in existence after a short-term boom. They also warned that the Zones sucked out employment from other localities as employers took the opportunity to re-locate to the low cost sites.

A study of the 1980s schemes by Andrew Sissons with Chris Brown for The Work Foundation showed that 80 per cent of jobs in the 1980s Enterprise Zones were taken from other places and that they did little to promote lasting economic prosperity.

Sissons’ report said the jobs created a ‘short-term boom’ followed by a ‘reversal back into depression’. It also found that they were hugely expensive. In the 1980s, Enterprise Zones cost at least £23,000 per new job they created.

The 2011 Cameron scheme offered employers business rate relief as well as tax breaks for investment in new kit plus superfast broadband connections.

The DCLG is refusing to say which zones are performing well or badly hiding behind ‘commercial confidentiality’.

However, according an investigation by Jim Pickard and Brian Groom of the Financial Times, six of the zones produced 10 jobs or fewer in the last financial year.

According to the FT 3,080 jobs were created in 2012 – 2013, some 75 per cent of these were concentrated in just seven of the zones and out of 175 sites which make up the 24 zones, only half are ‘likely’ to see development activity even begin by 2015, according to the National Audit Office.

As the FT states:
“The news will be a damper to growing confidence within government that Britain’s economic recovery is feeding through to jobs.”
Among the worst examples are Nottingham, where at the redevelopment of the former Boots site building work will not be finished until the end of 2014 and Harlow Enterprise Zone had no tenants.

Unite has argued that the creation of decent, long-term skilled jobs will not come through short-term, quick fix initiatives such as Enterprise Zones. We need a strategic manufacturing strategy to boost growth and re-balance the economy as Unite is proposing.

Left Foot Forward

Workfare: Councils ''exploiting'' scheme to fill roles left empty due to Coalition cuts

Figures show that the majority of the jobseekers are only given work for a few weeks and do not get a permanent job at the end.

Councils stand accused of “exploiting” the Government’s controversial back to work scheme to employ staff on the cheap.

Town halls are increasingly taking on workers under the workfare programme to fill roles left empty because of cuts.

But figures show that the majority of the jobseekers are only given work for a few weeks and do not get a permanent job at the end.

The mandatory work activity scheme forces jobseekers to take up unpaid placements for up to four weeks. Anyone who fails to participate can lose their benefits for 13 weeks.

The scheme has been branded a “disgrace” as participants only receive their benefits - meaning they get paid as little as £1.78 a hour for a full time job.

Since the scheme was introduced in June 2011 nearly 1,929 people have taken on by 167 councils under the work experience or mandatory work activity programmes.

But only 138 of these were given a permanent job at the end of their placements. Bexley Council in South London took on 71 placements. Many of these were in the library service where the council had shed 35 permanent posts.

But only 138 of these were given a permanent job at the end of their placements. Bexley Council in South London took on 71 placements. Many of these were in the library service where the council had shed 35 permanent posts.

Northumberland County Council took on 44 placements under the mandatory work activity programme but the campaign group Boycott Workfare claims not one received a job at the end of their placement.

In Wales, Newport City Council took on 112 placements under the Work Experience scheme and the Work Programme but only 12 were given jobs in the council.

The disclosure comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith claimed many jobseekers lacked the “motivation” to find work.

Announcing a new crackdown, Mr Duncan Smith accused claimants of making a “lifestyle” choice to live on benefits.

“People who have been out of work for several years or those who are lacking motivation will be required to spend up to six months looking for an applying for jobs in return for their benefits,” he said.

Joanna Long of Boycott Workfare said: “It is a disgrace that councils are making people work for no pay. They are exploiting local people to fill the gaps left by government cuts to public services.

“Workfare is bad news for people in paid work whose jobs it’s replacing. It is terrible news for the people forced onto the schemes who can face benefit stoppages, hunger and homelessness.

“Research shows workfare doesn’t help people find work. People across the country are taking action to stop Osborne’s new six month workfare scheme from launching in April. Forced unpaid work cannot become the norm in the UK.”


Who knows how many will rely on food banks for Christmas dinner in 2014?

Guest Sunday People columnist Katie Piper says it's a tragic sign of our times that the number of Brits using food banks has trebled in a year

First world problems: A London food bank
First world problems: A London food bank

It's a tragic sign of our times that the number of Brits using food banks has trebled in a year.

A shocking 60,000 were forced to rely on them for their Christmas dinner – and who knows what that figure will be by the end of 2014?

Seeing desperate, hungry people queue for food handouts was something we used to see on TV in developing countries, not here.

But like everyone else I’ve come to the sad realisation food banks are an all-too-common feature on the streets of Britain.

The Trussell Trust, which has 400 of them around the country, says 500,000 people have visited them since April.

And with the jobs market still in such a fragile state, food banks are slap bang on our doorstep, not something to be cringed at in a faraway country.

While I applaud the work done by kind people helping those less fortunate than themselves, it’s a disgrace that in this day and age we should have them at all. We should be seeing less of them next year – not more.

The Government needs to get its act together to make sure we have a proper system for people to fall back on.
It shouldn’t be down to charities to be the sole help for those who fall through the cracks.

We are not just talking about the homeless relying on soup kitchens at this time of year – those stereotypes don’t apply any more.

We are not talking about scroungers or spongers who are getting something for nothing.

It’s our work colleagues who have lost their jobs unexpectedly or families who have to cut back on the food shopping because of the astronomical cost of ­heating their homes.

Or it’s the people whose benefits have been delayed by some computer glitch.

Basically, ordinary people are having to turn to charity because they cannot afford to feed themselves. And no one is immune.

At a time when the whole country is facing cutbacks, food banks are becoming a reality for many people.
We could be relying on them ourselves.

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard about a nurse who was made redundant when the unit at her hospital was closed down.

It took three months for her compulsory police checks to come through before she could get another job.

So she had to go to a food bank ­because she was short of money.

If that can happen to a qualified ­professional, it can happen to anyone.

And that’s a disgrace – pure and ­simple. It shouldn’t be happening.

The Government should be making sure food bank numbers are cut by the end of 2014, not increasing threefold as they did this year.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blind man committed suicide after Atos ruled him fit to work

Desperate agoraphobe Tim Salter was left penniless when his benefits were slashed despite his failing eyesight and he faced eviction

Desperate: Tim Salter killed himself after his benefits were slashed following an Atos fitness to work test
Desperate: Tim Salter killed himself after his benefits were slashed following an Atos fitness to work test

A depressed blind man killed himself after he was left penniless because his benefits were slashed, an inquest heard

Desperate Tim Salter struggled to even feed himself when controversial private firm Atos ruled he was fit for work, despite his failing eyesight.

The 53-year-old, who also suffered agoraphobia, was about to be kicked out of his housing association home when he hanged himself in the hall.

A coroner ruled the Government’s decision to axe Tim’s meagre incapacity benefit contributed to his death.

And the former assistant store manager’s sister Linda Cooksey told how his fitness to work test was carried out by a physiotherapist with no ­experience of mental health issues or knowledge of his blindness.



Britain heading for Victorian poverty era: Charity

British society is at risk of heading to the Victorian era crisis, Action for Children warns.
British society is at risk of heading to the Victorian era crisis, Action for Children warns.

British society is reentering the Victorian era crisis with thousands of people calling for help from food and clothes banks, Britain’s leading charity Action for Children has warned.

The charity noted that it has seen the biggest number of calls for help since the 1940s, saying the country is once again at risk of witnessing the poorest resorting to street begging and food scrounging.

Charity spokesperson Jacob Tas said a "staggering" number of families are now turning to food banks to feed their families, with many choosing between having to eat or paying for heating or the rent.
"It's painful and unfortunate that we have now entered in a time when we go back in comparison to the 1940s, it's really horrible for those families who are basically already at the bottom of the food chain that they have to go to food banks to get their food,” he added.
Tas also blamed the increasing number of people seeking help for basic necessities on the economy, unemployment, and the government’s changes to the benefits system and tax reforms and said British households are facing “the maximum squeeze from all sides”.

The charity’s remarks come after Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith has accused the leaders of major food bank charity the Trussell Trust of "scaremongering" and refused to meet its leaders earlier this week.

The Trussell Trust estimated that its food banks have been used by up to 60,000 people across the UK over the two weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

This comes as only 20,000 Britons were fed during the same period in the previous year.

Earlier this month, a group of doctors and academics warned that food poverty in Britain has reached the levels of a “public health emergency that could go unrecognized until it is too late”.

The health experts raised concerns over the increase in the use of food banks and the number of malnourished cases, linking the problem to the rising cost of living and the UK government’s changes to the country's welfare system.

Press TV

Disability Assessment Delays Mean Drivers Could Lose Blue Badges, Campaigners Warn

Disabled drivers could lose their blue badges due to delays caused by new disability assessments, campaigners have warned.

Changes designed to combat fraud, which include a new face-to-face assessment, are causing delays in determining disabled drivers eligibility for blue badges as assessors struggle to keep up with demand.

Andy Pike, Policy and Campaigns Officer at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) told the Telegraph:

“Many disabled people in the UK rely on the blue badge scheme to be able to go shopping, take part in social activities and live an independent life.

“Delays in renewing applications that potentially leave disabled people trapped at home are unacceptable and need to be urgently looked at.”

Read more....

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Disabled Benefit Claimants Presumed Guilty Of Fraud


There is a basic and essential principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This parliament, the authorities and the right-wing media are circumventing that principle by means of propaganda and mass accusations.

It is now assumed within these groups (and elsewhere) that a person in receipt of disability benefits is defrauding the taxpayer. They are standing the legal entitlement to a presumption of innocence on its head.

They are taking apart a vulnerable section of the community and forcing them to prove their innocence of that accusation, not just once, but over and over again.

Wherever there’s any doubt about the validity of a claim, guilt is assumed and the benefits stopped. This happens to thousands of people every week, not because they are defrauding the taxpayer, but because the assessment process is deeply flawed and heavily biased against claimants.

The consequences are extremely serious. People are starving, losing their homes, their already damaged health and in so many tragic cases, their lives.

Added to this outrage is an utterly inadequate appeals system. In the many cases where appeals are eventually successful, enormous damage has already been done to the lives and health of the claimant.

I struggle to believe that this is all the result of catastrophic incompetence. This parliament is eagerly pursuing the same frenzy of contempt and hatred whipped up in the electorate by sensationalist media.

There is no leadership, they are selling their souls for votes and the chance to continue ripping off the nation via dubious expenses claims and the feathering of corporate nests. In any society worth belonging to, this vile witch-hunt would be outlawed rather than driven by the government.

My knowledge of the law is only that of a layman but I have a strong sense of justice. Surely there’s someone out there with enough knowledge and experience to stand up against this social cancer which is destroying this once Great Britain?

Mark Williams

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tory energy minister goes to fox hunt while thousands are hit by power cuts

The Tory was blasted for supporting toffs on horseback rather than trying to do something for the distraught households plunged into darkness

Horseback: Greg Barker MP

Outraged MPs hounded energy minister Greg Barker today for attending a hunt while thousands of families were without power.

The Tory was blasted for supporting toffs on horseback rather than trying to do something for the distraught households plunged into darkness.

At least 50,000 homes have been cut off and around 1,200 flooded during the fierce Christmas storms.
As 109mph winds battered Britain, Mr Barker was ridiculed after he boasted about attending the Boxing Day hunt in his constituency.

Labour MP Tom Watson said: “The energy minister who chose to go hunting during a massive power cut says all you need to know about the priorities of today’s Tories in power."


Reports of damp soar in social housing as residents avoid turning on heating

Condensation dampness – regarded as major public health risk – is said to be increasing, with experts blaming rising energy bills

An explosion in reports of damp and mould in social housing because tenants on low incomes can no longer afford to switch on their heating has emerged as the latest unwelcome sign of Britain's cost-of-living crisis.

Social housing maintenance experts say a new condensation damp phenomenon – which was considered a marginal issue for social landlords until a few months ago – is a direct result of increasing poverty and rising energy bills.

Condensation dampness – regarded as a major public health risk because it can exacerbate respiratory diseases such as asthma – has emerged as a particular problem in northern England and rural areas where social housing tenants have been hit worst by welfare reform policies.

One housing association, Aragon, recently started to monitor reports of damp and mould and discovered they had more than tripled over the past year, a rise it attributes to hard-up tenants not being able to afford to put money in the electricity meter – or being too worried about their finances to turn on the heating.

Aragon housing association's managing director, Aileen Evans, said: "This is about poverty. It is not about a malfunctioning technical component; it is about people who cannot afford to use their heating system. These tenants are choosing not to heat."


Benefit Sanctions UK - Video

Immigration bill could create 'climate of ethnic profiling' – UNHCR

UN refugee agency condemns bill which seeks to restrict access to benefits and force temporary migrants to pay for services

The UN refugee agency has condemned David Cameron's proposed immigration laws over fears they could stigmatise foreigners, deny housing to people in need and create a "climate of ethnic profiling".

In a highly critical document, the office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, raised concerns that the immigration bill will damage communities and lead to the marginalisation of refugees and asylum-seekers.

It comes after Tories reacted angrily to the UN's special investigator on housing, Raquel Rolnik, who warned earlier this year that the bedroom tax was causing "shocking" hardship in parts of the UK.

Cameron has proposed the immigration bill in order to crack down on illegal immigrants, restricting access to bank accounts and private housing, as well as forcing temporary migrants to pay for public services such as the NHS.

However, the commissioner is worried that legal refugees and asylum-seekers will be caught up in the new restrictions, as landlords, GPs and banks will find it difficult to interpret their immigration status. The commissioner said these protected groups would suffer discrimination if the legislation went ahead.

"The provisions of the bill appear likely to result in asylum-seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection being stigmatised in the public mind and in their being denied access to housing or bank accounts," the UNHCR said in a briefing note to MPs.


MP who campaigned for porn filters has site blocked because of porn filters

This is a very short little story indeed but it is just too, too, delicious to not give it airtime. The UK has decided that all ISPs must deploy opt-in pornography filters: so that children are not by chance or mishap exposed to “legal hardcore porn” in the words of the Prime Minister, David Cameron. This is, as you are obviously aware, as a result of a campaign by the usual suspects to insist that teenage boys looking at naked people is going to bring about the very fall of our civilisation.

What the campaign and the campaigners forget of course is that the internet tends to route around censorship. So it only took 24 hours for a Chrome extension to be released that entirely bypasses all such filters. And they also were unaware that creating an effective filter is actually quite difficult. You can’t just block every site that includes the words “sex”, or “porn” or “rape” because there are many sites that use such words but which are not pornography. Which leads to this:

But the changes have led to internet users being denied access to a wide range of organisations including child protection charities, women’s charities and gay rights groups. Among institutions that have found themselves subject to the blocks are the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.

The opt-in filters also deny access to the Parliament and Government websites and the sites of politicians, including Claire Perry, the MP who has campaigned prominently for the introduction of filters.

Given what they do with our money I suppose you can indeed decide that Parliament and the Government are forms of pornography. But it’s that blocking of Claire Perry’s site that is just so joyous. For of course the blocking has come as a result of her using that very same site to campaign in favour of the filtering. Leading to her site having a heavy usage of the words “porn”, “sex” and the like and thus being taken to be itself pornographic.

And I think that’s a much better joke than anything I’m likely to see in the cracker later today.

Coroner rules: Disabled Man, Suicide After Benefits Stopped

A DISABLED Kinver man killed himself after his state benefits were stopped, leaving him "almost destitute" - a coroner has ruled.

Tim Salter, aged 53, who was partially sighted and suffered from mental health problems, was found hanged at his home just days before he was due to be evicted over rent arrears.

His heartbroken family say he fell behind with payments after the Government axed his state benefits - having declared him fit for work under a new regime geared at getting the long-term unemployed off the dole.

Mr Salter's devastated sister Linda Cooksey said: "It just sent him over the edge.

"He must have felt so worthless and that life wasn't worth living.”

Mr Salter, of Meddins Lane, had been registered partially blind since 1994 after an overdose in 1989 damaged his vision.

Previously he'd worked as an assistant sales manager at Owen Owen in Stourbridge in the 80s but he failed to find further employment after leaving. Depression and the suicide attempt followed, after which he never worked again.

Mrs Cooksey, aged 60, said her brother, who was agoraphobic, “never asked for help” and she never imagined changes to the country’s benefits system would affect him.

Relatives only pieced together his dire predicament after discovering a repossession order from South Staffordshire Housing Association in the bin. Dated September 17 - it had given Mr Salter ten days to leave the home he had lived in all his life.

He committed suicide on September 25, two days before the eviction date.

Stourbridge News

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The worst benefit tale yet?

From the facebook page 'The People vs the Government, DWP and ATOS

"Curious if you know if its possible to sue dwp as I lost my child at 20 weeks gestation and believe the stress of being left with no income and then accused of benefit fraud (which I recieved no reply of complaint, or supposed proof or apology) the stress I under went meant I had to take sleeping tablets and started having contractions" 
Dec 24th 2013

Is the Coalition government 80,000 times worse than Herod?

Reblogged from Vox Political:


You may have noticed that yesterday was Christmas – the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose teachings in later life form the basis of their faith.

Jesus was born into a world of politics and political machinations – the Roman world was much the same as our own in this respect – and had an effect on it, right from his birth.

According to one of the Gospels, when King Herod learned that a child had been born who had been named ‘King of the Jews’, he sent spies to find out who this possible usurper was; failing in this attempt, he gave orders for the death of all boys aged two or less in Bethlehem and nearby.

Joseph (husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother) was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt until after the King’s death – then moved to Nazareth in Galilee to avoid living under Herod’s son Archelaus (the Romans had divided the kingdom into three, and Nazareth was ruled by another of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas).

Regarding the Massacre of the Innocents, doubt has been cast on whether the event ever took place. No other account of the period makes reference to it. Some have said that this may be because the number of male children of the right age might have been less than 20.

Since the point of this article is to compare what happened then with current events, here in Britain, it seems best to bookmark the disputed event; we’ll come back to it if we must.

The part we are told under no uncertain terms is that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until Herod’s rule was over. In modern terms, they were made homeless because of political persecution that was so extreme, they had to flee the country.

The situation in the UK today, as stated by Shelter, is no less than 80,000 times as bad.

The charity told us (in November): “Government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.”


Ministers scrap £20m scheme to keep elderly warm

Reblogged from Street Democracy:

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‘Ministers have been accused of “shameful” behaviour after quietly scrapping a scheme to help vulnerable elderly people keep warm – just weeks before its own review found it was universally popular.

For the past two winters, councils have been allocated £20 million to provide emergency boiler repairs, hot meals to frail pensioners leaving hospital, snow-clearing and advice about pay fuel bills.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury calls IDS's remarks "disturbing"

(not satire - it's Iain Duncan Smith)

In an escalation of the war of words between church leaders and the coalition government, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has called Iain Duncan Smith's remarks on foodbanks "disturbing".

Dr Williams makes the extraordinary attack on the Work and Pensions Secretary in an interview with local newspaper the Cambridge News:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The spirit of Scrooge is haunting the DWP

Reblogged from Vox Political:

Reginald Owen as Iain Duncan Smith in 'A Christmas Crisis-loan'.
Reginald Owen as Iain Duncan Smith in ‘A Christmas Crisis-loan’.

Here’s a tale of festive woe from the BBC News website:

More than 32,000 people have not received benefit payments in time for Christmas due to a Department for Work and Pensions “administrative error”.

The cash was due to go into bank accounts on Christmas Eve but will not now be paid until Friday, 27 December.
Most of those affected are first time claimants or people expecting one-off payments such as crisis loans.

The DWP urged them to call the department or a Jobcentre by 5pm to arrange payment within three hours.

A spokesman said the problem had only affected a “limited number” of claimants, totalling 32,200.
“The vast majority of regular benefit payments have been made on time this Christmas,” the spokesman added.

“However due to an administrative issue, a number of one-off or more irregular payments will now be paid on the 27th December, rather than the 24th.

“We have procedures in place to ensure that anyone who has been affected by this and who contacts us today (24th December) will get their benefits paid, usually within three hours.”

Some of those affected include new claimants waiting for their first payment, those owed arrears, people who have applied for Social Fund crisis loans and “in a very few cases” pension-related arrears.

The categories of benefits affected include Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Social Fund and pensions.

We could all put a name to that “administrative error”: Iain Duncan Scrooge – I mean, Smith.

'A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all': WATCH US whistleblower Edward Snowden's 'alternative' Christmas message

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has given this year's Alternative Christmas Message on Channel 4.
He follows figures such as Ali G, Sharon Osbourne and Baroness Lawrence in giving the festive address which is the station's answer to the Queen's message to the nation.
Snowden, who revealed the mass surveillance programmes organised by the US and other governments, discussed the importance of privacy.
The controversial figure argued that mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments of their people is wrong.
He said: “Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information.
"The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us are nothing compared to what we have available today.
"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person."
'A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that's a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.'

He added: 'The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.'


DWP admin error leaves many penniless over Christmas

More than 32,000 people have not received benefit payments in time for Christmas due to a Department for Work and Pensions "administrative error".

The cash was due to go into bank accounts on Christmas Eve but will not now be paid until Friday 27 December.

Most of those affected are first-time claimants or people expecting loans to cover rent and other "essential" items.

The DWP said they would get their money within three hours if they called the department or a Jobcentre by 5pm.

A spokesman said the problem had affected only a "limited number" of claimants, totalling 32,200, and Jobcentre staff were trying to get money to those who got in touch.

"The vast majority of regular benefit payments have been made on time this Christmas," the spokesman added.

"However, due to an administrative issue, a number of one-off or more irregular payments will now be paid on 27 December, rather than the 24th.

"We have procedures in place to ensure that anyone who has been affected by this and who contacts us today (24 December) will get their benefits paid, usually within three hours."

Some of those affected include new claimants waiting for their first payment, those owed arrears, people who have applied for Social Fund budgeting loans, which are a minimum of £100 and are meant to help with the cost of "essential things" such as clothes, rent and furniture.

In "a very few cases" people owed pension-related arrears have also been affected.

The categories of benefits affected include Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Social Fund and certain categories of pension.


Archbishop of Canterbury to highlight UK poverty in first Christmas Day sermon

Justin Welby will call on Christians to 'challenge the causes of poverty'

Mr Welby, who was enthroned in March, will deliver his speech at Canterbury Cathedral today

The Most Rev Justin Welby will highlight the ‘injustices’ facing Britain's poor and victims of conflicts around the world today in his first Christmas Day sermon as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Mr Welby will call on Christians to ‘challenge the causes of poverty’, despite signs of an economic recovery in the UK, when he addresses the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral today.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Trussel Trust chairman slams Benefits system as "inhumane"

Scaremongering? Our 'jumping through hoops' benefits system is inhumane

Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould hits back at Iain Duncan Smith after the Work and Pensions Secretary accused his organisation of "scaremongering"

Unemployed: Job seekers in London Bridge
Unemployed: Job seekers in London Bridge

We reject the suggestion that we have a political agenda. Our interest is the needs of poor people who we see in their thousands every week. It’s got nothing to do with party politics.

The reason we want to see Mr Duncan Smith face-to-face is because he has the responsibility and the power to put things right.

It’s not about scrounging or bad budgeting, many come to a food bank because a health visitor, a social worker or some other respected professional says they have a genuine problem with benefits and welfare.

Others are struggling on low incomes. We want a conversation because there are things that the Department for Work & Pensions and Jobcentres can do to make it better for people in crisis.

They need to be clear on what help is available to those in dire need, such as short-term benefit advances.
When someone is a few minutes late for an appointment at the Jobcentre because their bus doesn’t turn up, they should not be taking money away for several weeks. It’s inhumane.

The process of appeals needs to be faster too. Some people can wait seven months without their correct benefits before a decision is made.

If the DWP helped, it would be something they could be proud of.

Wish to back the Trussell Trust and Mirror food bank appeal?

Police investigate former Thatcher Cabinet minister over child sex abuse

A former Cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher's government is being investigated in connection with historic child sex offences and is facing arrest in the near future, the Sunday Herald has learned.

The former Tory politician is being investigated by detectives leading Operation Fernbridge, which is investigating claims that political figures and others sexually abused boys at various locations in England.

There have already been two arrests: one, a former care-home boss, and the other a Roman Catholic priest.

Scotland Yard said last night that the charges related to seven victims aged between nine and 15, with the alleged offences dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. A third, unnamed man was interviewed but later released with no further action taken.

The Thatcher-era Cabinet minister is believed to be the highest-profile target of Operation ­Fernbridge detectives.

One source close to Operation Fernbridge said last night: "When it comes to who is involved, the police do not care how important or high profile they are - these people will not be getting away with it any longer."

"Police and MI5 knew about the allegations involving [the former Tory Cabinet minister] years ago. He's already been spoken to by police. I'd expect an arrest in the near future.

"If the arrest happens - and I trust it will - it means that there has been a massive cover-up for decades at the heart of British politics. An arrest would blow this apart. We're at a watershed moment. The public must know."

One of the alleged victims of the Thatcher-era Cabinet minister is believed to be so "damaged", however, that he would be unfit to take the stand in any criminal case.

A political source said last night: "It is thought there is lots of intelligence, but it is not yet high enough to reach the bar for an arrest to be made. There's lots of circumstantial evidence that needs further inquiry." The source added that he knew the former Cabinet minister is being investigated by the police, but could not confirm that an arrest was imminent.

A spokesman for the ­Metropolitan Police said no comment could be made on the likelihood of future arrests under Operation Fernbridge.


Is Bedroom Tax On Brink Of Collapse?

Bedroom Tax – the protected pre 1996 regulations – sources and comment. It applies and exempts!

We are re-living a traditional Victorian Christmas – of excess for the few and struggle for the many

The rich are getting richer to an extent that is breaking our society – and our economy – apart.

The rich are getting richer to an extent that is breaking our society.
Foodbank volunteers sort through some of the food donated by people to the Rochdale Foodbank. Photograph: Getty Images.

When it comes to Christmas, we British are gonna party like it’s 1899; watch the TV over the next week and you will see countless images of an idealised Victorian Christmas, probably including families gathering round a tree and urchins gazing through the frosted window of a toyshop.

Unfortunately, this Christmas will be more authentically Victorian than we’d like, not just because Bob Cratchit’s great-great-great grandson is once again struggling to buy festive poultry, but also because while most of us are getting poorer, the great-great-great grandsons of the top-hatted gentry are getting richer to an extent that is breaking our society – and our economy – apart.


Britain isn't eating: IDS's fury as advert campaign says benefit cuts are forcing poor to use food banks

Charity Church Action Poverty, supported by the Church of England, has created this poster campaign which says benefit reforms are diving people to use food banks.
Read more... 

Church Action on Poverty's hard-hitting Christmas campaign is exposing the scandal of hunger in 21st-century Britain.

Posters and online ads reading 'Britain Isn't Eating', highlighting the many thousands of people in the UK who are having to rely on foodbanks because of welfare changes and government cuts, are causing a media stir.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, chief architect of changes that are hitting the most vulnerable, is reported to be "furious" at the campaign, which mimics Conservative attacks on the Labour Party ("Britain's not working") in 1979.

Mr Duncan Smith has refused to meet with the Christian charity, the Trussell Trust, which supports a majority of Britain's growing number of foodbanks. He has attacked the charity as "politically motivated", something it strongly denies.

Ecumenical charity Church Action on Poverty, which has researched the issues in depth, explains its 'Britain Isn't Eating' campaign on its website: "Since May 2013, we have been calling attention to the appalling explosion of food poverty in the UK - and the fact that thousands of people are going hungry because of benefit changes.

"We urgently need an inquiry to find out why our benefit system is making people destitute, and how we can stop it happening.

"In the coming months, we will use a powerful piece of 'subvertising' to make that message heard more clearly. Our 'Britain Isn't Eating' poster parodies the Conservative party's world-famous 1979 election poster. Look out for it in the media and at key events in the coming months, as we continue to press for action."

Last week, government-supporting MPs voted against an inquiry into foodbank use, with some laughing and mocking at stories of hardship - a heartless response which brought condemnation from the President of the Methodist conference, the Rev Ruth Gee, and other church figures.

The official report into the growth of food banks, which was delivered to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in June 2013 has still not been published. There is a campaign by 38 Degrees and others to secure its prompt release.

The UK government, alarmed by growing criticism by charities, churches and other NGOs, is also currently seeking to introduce legislation to restrict or criminalise their campaigning activities a year before an election campaign - leaving the field clear for the main parties and their big money backers.

The Lobbying Bill, which fails to tackle in-house corporate lawyers but seeks to gag community groups and trade unions, is being opposed by coalitions of many hundreds of charities and non-government organisations.

* Find out more about the issues with CAP's 'Walking the Breadline' report

* 'Britain Isn't Eating' campaign

* Petition for publication of DWP and DEFRA report on food banks and hunger

* Truth and lies about poverty, benefits and welfare

* More on the Lobbying Bill


Bishop attacks impact of UK welfare cuts on poorest

The Anglican Bishop of Warrington has said Britain risks "losing the safety net" of the benefit system.

His concerns about the impact of cuts and welfare changes, echoed by churches across the country, come as the impact of piloting the new Universal Credit are piloted in his area and elsewhere this Christmas.

The Rt Rev Richard Blackburn says that the changes, along with serious reductions in public expenditure due to austerity, are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest - contradicting the government's "we're all in this together".

The bishop has circulated his statement to all Church of England clergy in the Diocese of Liverpool, of which he is temporarily in charge while a successor the Rt Rev James Jones is sought.

The government says the new scheme "makes work pay". Critics say that this is disingenuous. Instead of providing well-paid jobs, the UK government's cuts and changes reduces support to people who need it most in order to keep them below a decent pay threshold.

Universal credit one of the government's flagship policies - will merge six working-age benefits into one and make various changes to the way money is paid.

“We daily hear the stories of those forced into desperate choices between food, rent and clothing,” says the Bishop of Warrington in his statement.

"It's clear from conversations with churches in Warrington and Wigan, where universal credit is being piloted, that there are grave concerns as to whether we are losing the safety net that the benefit system should provide."

He said the changes were "long overdue" but there were inevitably "casualties".

Bishop Blackburn said that it was "interesting to see where the casualties fall" as this was a "strong indication of where a government's priorities are".

He added that it was worrying that "governments seem not to care so much" about the fate of the poorest people in society and warned that "those with little or no voice are bearing the brunt".


Iain Duncan Smith's tirade against the Trussell Trust - AAV

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice:

For once the mainstream corporate media has picked up on the appalling behavior of the Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and actually condemned him for it. The criticism was provoked by the contents of a letter written by Iain Duncan Smith to the food bank charity the Trussell Trust, in which he made clear once again his inability to string together anything remotely resembling a coherent argument.

Iain Duncan Smith's arrogant and downright dishonest rejection of an invitation to meet with food bank bosses in order to discuss strategies to cope with the exponential rise in food poverty is yet another demonstration of his refusal to take the issue of food poverty seriously. 

His outright refusal to meet with the charity that has fed over 500,000 people since April, and expects to feed over one million next year is just another example of his absolute contempt for the desperately poor.