Thursday, February 28, 2013

What outsourcing did to charities

We learned on Monday that another charity, Sue Ryder, has pulled out of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.  See the article on the Civil Society website.  They've done so after a sustained attack by the Boycott Workfare campaign.  The PDSA has also withdrawn from the scheme.  The first comment under the article, by Linda Bush of Inspirit, is an excellent summary of what's wrong with the notion of compulsory volunteering.

Sue Ryder and the PDSA are both charities in the old sense of the word.  But many charities morphed into "the voluntary sector", which then became "the third sector".  The transformation happened as the Blair government began to outsource everything in sight, and many organisations which had been formed as groups of volunteers working on particular areas of need changed into professionally run outfits dependent on contracts from local or national government.  They were not, at first, competing with the private or public sectors, but that began to change.  The voluntary sector was involved with New Deal from the outset.  As that evolved into a wholly outsourced business and then became Flexible New Deal, there was nothing to distinguish these organisations from the private sector other than the fact that didn't have shareholders.

Meanwhile, other specialist organisations, dependent on funding from government or from councils, found that the money was being diverted to the Work Programme, and to keep going they had to sign up as sub-contractors of the primes, the private sector.  It has worked for some, but been disastrous for others.

And what of the remaining charities?  They still had to raise funds for their work from the general public, and that meant using volunteers.  But increasingly they have been used as a convenient place to put people who are being made to work.  They've taken people sentenced to community service.  They've taken people on "work placements" under welfare-to-work schemes.  And now they are taking people who are being compelled to work for their benefits.

Many charities and voluntary sector organisations need to take a long, hard look at what they are doing and why.  The whole outsourcing agenda has changed them.  Has it been a change for the better?
Watching A4e

MPs condemn Work Programme

A COMMITTEE of MPs has called on the UK Government to investigate whether private companies running its employment programmes are deliberately not referring hard to help people to charities.

Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee has published a damning report into the UK’s Work Programme claiming it is failing unemployed people, particularly young people and those with disabilities.

The committee fears that people with the least skills and experience are being dumped by the 18 private sector companies running the Work Programme, who are funded on a payment-by-results basis.

It claims there is evidence that the contractors, including two based in Scotland, are ‘creaming’ off people who are most likely to find work and ‘parking’ those whose employment prospects look worst.

Between June 2011 and July 2012, only 3.6% of people referred to the Work Programme moved off benefit and into work, less than a third of the target of 11.9%.

The performance was so poor that it was actually worse than the government’s own expectations of the number of people who would have found work if the programme didn’t exist

Labour’s Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “None of the providers managed to meet their minimum performance targets. The best performing provider only moved 5% of people off benefit and into work, while the worst managed just 2%.

“The Programme is particularly failing young people and the hardest-to-help.”

She added: “The difference between actual and expected performance is greatest for those claimants considered the hardest to help, including in particular claimants with disabilities.

“The department’s own evaluation suggests that these claimants have been receiving a poor service from providers. Creaming and parking are clear policy concerns which we share with the department.

“Despite assurances that it would do so, the department has not provided the further analysis which would demonstrate whether or not creaming and parking was taking place.”

Prime contractors are able to subcontract support for people with barriers to employment to other agencies, including charities.

Research from the Third Sector Research Centre last week, however, revealed that charities are receiving few or no referrals. As a result, some charities have had to withdraw from the programme.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is funded by the Scottish Government to run Community Jobs Scotland, which provides six-month jobs for young people in Scottish charities. An evaluation has shown that 40% find employment.

Donna Mackinnon, director of employment services at SCVO, said that it had refused to take on Work Programme subcontracts.

“The Work Programme is not helping unemployed people and it is not helping the third sector,” she said.

“Through welfare reforms, this government is stripping 20 per cent off the amount it spends on disability benefit by reassessing people as fit for work. It is a disgrace that these people are then being dumped by the Work Programme as too difficult to help.

“There is a wealth of expertise in Scotland’s third sector that could be used to help people develop the skills and confidence they need to successfully find work.

“But instead of investing in charities and in people who want to work but need help to do so, the government is pouring billions of UK taxpayer’s money down the drain.”

She called on the UK Government to scrap the Work Programme.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The Work Programme gives support to claimants for two years and it hasn’t even been running that long yet, so it’s still early days. We know the performance of our providers is improving.

“Previous schemes paid out too much up front regardless of success, but by paying providers for delivering results, the Work Programme is actually offering the taxpayer real value for money.”

Government sided with bankers over bonuses, says TUC

TUC LogoThe TUC has accused the government of siding with bankers ahead of ordinary people over the capping of bonuses across Europe.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For all their tough talk on bonuses, the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London are today standing up for the cosy pre-crash arrangements in the City, when bankers pocketed billions of pounds of undeserved bonuses and reckless decisions brought us to the brink of financial ruin.

“But ordinary people, who have been made to pay for the folly of bankers, have longer memories and will not tolerate a return to the pre-crash status quo.

“The EU is absolutely right to push ahead with its bonus cap, and the UK government should start siding with the interests of the electorate and the wider economy, rather than the rich and powerful elite in the City.”

Union News

Fightback against the DWP []

Our fightback against the DWP started at 12 noon today with the following release..please share widely…



Now’s YOUR chance to strike back! contains a letter that has, today, been sent to every single Chief Constable, Police & Crime Commissioner, selected news outlets for syndication, the Electoral Commission, the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Meacher MP, the Independent Police Complaints Commission and others, including the PCS Union, to which many of the Job Centre staff belong.

The letter deals with a matter raised in a press release received from Hampshire Constabulary on 22 February this year, in which it was reported that a Polish national had been sentenced to six years imprisonment for keeping people in servitude. This man enticed his fellow countrymen to come to England, where he forced them to live in substandard accommodation, appropriated their wages and left them with insufficient money to live on. By means of threats he kept them under his thumb. You can see the press release at the link given here.

What this man was doing is no different to the methods being employed by the Job Centres to force people to work for money which is already legally theirs by threatening to withdraw it if they do not obey – the “comply or starve” method. This is legally classed as forcing people into servitude (see the press release) and the fact that the Polish man was sent down for applying it to people has set a legal precedent that MUST now be applied to every single Job Centre clerk who has ever sanctioned a job-seeker; to every Atos employee who has ever caused a disabled person to lose their benefits by deliberately mis-assessing them in accordance with the internal targets exposed by Channel 4 and the BBC; to every Job Centre director and government Minister who has been complicit in the implementation of this illegal policy.

The ongoing commission of this crime was reported to Hampshire Police via a PCSO on 22 February. It is now the 26th and has been no response from Hampshire Police. The general distribution of the complaint and its various attachments has therefore been the next step in the process.

YOU can now help this process if you will be so kind, by visiting the link and following the instructions on the main page. As you will see there are several ways in which YOU can add YOUR voice to the call for the perpetrators of this ongoing crime to be arrested and charged according to the law.

Thank you for your interest. I have been Writing For Justice. I hope you will be willing to copy and share the letter and its attachments.

Please copy and paste this message to your own wall so as many people as possible can become involved.


!! NOW !!

War of words over work programme [Vox Political]


The Department for Work and Pensions seems to love pushing the public around, but has a real problem when the public pushes back.

Don’t these people understand that they are civil servants?

The system of government is described as a mechanism by which the public elects members of Parliament to serve the interests of the majority, and MPs in turn are supported by the civil service, which is constituted to ensure that those interests are promoted and safeguarded in a practical and legal way.

When MPs get it wrong – as they clearly have in the case of mandatory work activity (MWA) – and the public makes its wishes known, it is not the place of the civil servants to subject those people to derision or to describe them in derogatory terms – even when the harshest language is used to describe the scheme.

That is free speech.

Having looked at the Sue Ryder Facebook page, I have to admit that the charity has a point when it describes “recent online lobbying using strong and emotive language” as the reason it has chosen to quit the scheme.

However I would dispute that it is withdrawing to protect staff from an online campaign of harassment, and I would want to see proof that the claims made about its volunteering practices – with regard to people on mandatory work activity – were misleading.

The simple fact is, the scheme is morally repugnant to the majority of people in this country and Sue Ryder should never have taken part in it. If the charity had stayed away, it would not have exposed itself to criticism.

Behind this lies another simple fact: Any flak taken by Sue Ryder is merely incidental to the escalating war of words between an unrepentant Department for Work and Pensions and an increasingly-embittered British Public.

This is a dialogue that has been running for many years now. It started reasonably enough but the intractability of the government department (civil servants, remember) and the misleading propaganda it purveys has provoked campaigners to increasingly strong reactions.

So perhaps Sue Ryder should put the blame where it belongs – with the Department for Work and Pensions.

The DWP is quoted by the Guardian as saying it was “deeply regrettable that a small number of people have targeted charities and subjected them to intimidation and abuse in an effort to disrupt the operation of this scheme”.

This statement is factually correct. Only a small number of people have subjected charities to intimidation and abuse.

The vast majority – and they number in the tens of thousands at the very least – have been polite. They have put their objections in writing, making reasonable arguments against mandatory work activity.

But they don’t get a mention in the DWP’s slanted appraisal of the situation.

So you see, it is the DWP’s language that is provoking and escalating hostilities. Until that organisation wakes up and remembers that it is an organ of the public will, accepts the majority view that Workfare/MWA is entirely abominable and agrees to put an end to it, the only option open to the rest of us is to find increasingly more strident terms in which to raise our objection.

My own opinion is that this goes back to the general election of 2010. Remember at the top of this article, where I said the mechanism of government is based on the principle that the public elects MPs to represent the will of the majority? In 2010, that didn’t happen.

No political party gained a majority of the vote. The Conservatives wormed their way into office by making a deal with a party that got far fewer votes than even they did. As a result, we are seeing minority-interest policies being forced upon the masses by a minority-interest party that should never have got back into government.

The only way to protest against its policies is to argue against them and to boycott those organisations that support them, and if a government department like the DWP is willing to combat this reasonable behaviour with propaganda then it must expect a savage backlash.
And so must Sue Ryder.

So let’s not have any more whining.

Vox Political

'Austerity is devastating for the world's poorest', the Human Right Angle

The international human rights lawyer challenges government policies on their excessive impact on the poorest

Magdalena Sepúlveda: 'Austerity is devastating for the world's poorest'

As the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Chilean lawyer Magdalena Sepúlveda is proving to be one of the most vocal international opponents of austerity. Since being appointed by the UN in 2008, just as the financial crisis hit, she has staunchly argued that austerity policies all over the world are having a "disproportionate impact" on the poor and are undermining the human rights of vulnerable people.

Sepúlveda will be in the UK on for a public event, Austerity on Trial, at the London School of Economics that will pit opponents and defenders of austerity against one another. Speaking in advance of her visit, she leaves no room for misinterpretation of her analysis.

Her words come close on the heels of warnings from a consortium of UK charities that the government is in danger of reneging on its human rights obligations because welfare cuts are leaving thousands of families short of food.

The "cumulative effect" of multiple, ill-thought-through policy changes is devastating for vulnerable individuals and damaging to social cohesion, Sepúlveda believes. In some countries austerity measures "are really ideological," she suggests. "[Governments] are using the [financial] crisis as an excuse to implement a certain agenda."

Source; Guardian

Chancellor fails his own economic test [Grahame Morris MP]

Easington MP Grahame Morris has called for the Chancellor to step aside after the loss of Britain’s triple A credit rating.

The Chancellor was summoned to Parliament yesterday to answer urgent questions about Britain’s credit rating downgrade by ratings agency Moody’s. The downgrade was the first since modern national debt rating began in 1978.

The Chancellor staked his economic credibility on maintaining Britain’s credit rating. In the 2010 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto – Benchmarks for Britain – safeguarding Britain’s credit rating was the number one priority.

In 2009, as Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, said it would be “humiliating” for Britain to lose its international credit rating.

In addition to the credit rating downgrade, the Independent Office for Budget Responsibility show the government is likely to borrow at least £200bn more than it planned by the end of the parliament despite its tax rises and spending cuts.

Speaking after yesterday’s urgent questions to the Chancellor, Mr Morris said:

“The Chancellor is in denial if he thinks the economy is on the road to recovery, and that the policies of austerity are working. We are just weeks away from some of the cruellest and most damaging cuts with the introduction of the bedroom tax, and cuts to benefits for working families.

Despite all the pain, the economy is not growing, unemployment is rising, and the Government are going to spend £200 billion more than it planned.

The Chancellor has failed his own economic test. The credit rating downgrade shows that austerity isn’t working and according to George Osborne it is “humiliating”. No one has any confidence in the downgrade chancellor, who has delivered nothing but misery for millions of families.

The Prime Minister must act to restore the Government’s economic credibility, which will never happen while the Chancellor continues to ignore the economic consequences of austerity”

Grahame Morris MP

I’m all right Jack, Sod the rest


The title says it all does it not because that is were we are heading as a nation and this and similar images I will put here is a snap shot of what lies ahead all because of a few millionaire in parliament who cannot see the wood from the tress.

There was a debate in the commons today about bedroom tax only many Conservative and Liberal Democrats will be none the wiser because they were not there, you quite rightly would have thought on a subject so important to many they would have been doing the job they was elected to do by us and be their filling the commons to the brim but no it will not effect them so they believe they can be excused and that is an all to similar senorio that happens time and time again.

111021_rich_poor_gap_reut_328We already have two many citizens destitute and homeless often and if not in all cases through no fault of their own, it could be through lack of money and thus being evicted, it could be due to a marriage break up, it could even be because of an illness and/or mental health and having no family indeed the reasons are endless and as I said above in nearly all cases it is a circumstance not of their choosing and you would think this only happens in a 3rd world nations well think again because it is wide spread and happens in every major town and city in the UK.

There is no sign of it abating either and Government policy and legislation will just make a bad and embarrassing situation for the UK a lot worse.

Most of us do not want the riches and luxury lifestyle many aspire too all many of us want is a life that is moderately comfortable, a home and enough money to meet the ever rising cost of energy surely that is not too much to ask.

work-with-homeless-peopleWe in the UK have this “I’m all right jack sod the rest attitude” and that HAS to change as David Cameron PM very recently said in India “The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world” now just think a moment….. if that is the case why are their so many homeless citizens and if that is the case just where exactly is all this money going? make any sense to you I hope not because it does not to me and the fact remains if that is the case there would be no need for anyone to live without a home.

Many more WILL be homeless in the coming months due to the bedroom tax all because a few MP’s wanted to snatch a miserly £14 per vacant room out of citizens already tight budgets and that is the most ill thought out piece of legislation I have ever come across.

On Friday 28th February 2013 I will be sleeping rough that night in Salisbury Cathedral I am doing it for a few reasons, to help raise funds for a very important homeless charity, to support a very good friend Jessica Mccarnun who has been campaigning on the bedroom tax issues, but more importantly because I have empathy with everyone who does not have a home.

Jessica’s Donation Page is below please if you can afford it help her in our efforts even if only 50p it all helps.

Diary of an SAH Stroke Survivor

ESA appeals nightmare confirmed

Created on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 23:45

Claimants could be left without any income replacement benefit at all when challenging a decision that they are fit for work, the government has confirmed.  Once the new system of mandatory reconsiderations before appeals is introduced, employment and support allowance (ESA)claimants will lose their right to be paid the assessment rate when they first challenge a decision.

Instead, they will have to try to sign on as available for work and claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or manage without either benefit until the reconsideration has been carried out.  Only once an appeal has been lodged will they be able to reclaim ESA.  The decision to refuse to pay ESA during the reconsideration period was confirmed by Lord Freud on 13 February, when he told the House of Lords:

“I turn now to ESA. At the moment, if someone appeals a refusal of ESA, it can continue to be paid pending the appeal being heard; this is not changing. What is changing is that there can be no appeal until there has been a mandatory reconsideration. So there will be a gap in payment. In that period-and I repeat that applications will be dealt with quickly so that this is kept to a minimum-the claimant could claim jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit. Alternative sources of funds are available. Of course, he or she may choose to wait for the outcome of the application and then, if necessary, appeal and be paid ESA at that point.”

However, there is no time-limit for how long the DWP can spend carrying out a mandatory reconsideration.  Given the ever increasing workload and ever decreasing staff numbers, the probability of reconsiderations being carried out in weeks rather than months does not seem high.

In addition, some people attempting to claim JSA may find Jobcentre Plus staff attempting to refuse to accept their claim on the grounds that, because of their health condition, they are not available for and actively seeking work.  This may be particularly the case as claimants are likely to be required to continue submitting sick notes in relation to their ESA claim whilst presenting themselves as fit for work in relation to their JSA claim.  Claimants may well find themselves  in the nightmare scenario of being found too fit to claim ESA but too sick to claim JSA.

Even the start date for the new mandatory reconsiderations for ESA is the subject of confusion.  DWP and ministerial statements refer to a start date in April for PIP mandatory reconsiderations and  October  for ESA.  The draft regulations, on the other hand, give a start date of 8th April for PIP and 29 April for ESA, JSA and universal credit mandatory reconsiderations.  We’ll keep you posted.

The plot against the NHS: unite to defeat the health sharks


The National Health Service is perhaps the greatest single achievement of the British people in the 20th century. Outstanding for both efficiency and fairness, it is unsurprising that it remains one of the most popular institutions in Britain.

A survey of 20,000 patients in eleven industrialised countries found that the NHS was almost the least costly healthcare system of them all, and, at the same time, offered among the highest levels of care. The survey further found that healthcare per head averages twice as much in the US as in the UK, and that one in three people in the US avoided seeking care because of the cost.[1]

Little wonder that a YouGov opinion poll revealed that 71% of British people were opposed to the privatisation of the NHS, and only 7% in favour.

As Colin Leys and Stewart Player explain in their 2011 study The Plot Against the NHS: ‘the NHS has not only worked well, providing high-quality, equal care for everyone, free of charge, at low cost: it is also the historic achievement of millions of people – those who fought to establish it, those who have spent their lives working for it, and everyone who has paid their taxes to build it up over the more than 60 years since it was created. Its founding principles of comprehensiveness and equal access for all have been core values of modern British society.’[2

The roots of Tory hostility

And that is one reason the Tories have always hated it. When the NHS was founded in 1948, 69% of the British people rated it a ‘good’ thing, and only 13% ‘bad’.[3] Yet the Tories in Parliament voted solidly against.[4] So popular did it become immediately thereafter, however, that continued open opposition would have been politically fatal. The Tories accepted the fait accompli for three decades – until the neoliberal counteroffensive against the welfare state began to gather momentum under Margaret Thatcher from the late 1970s onwards.

A paper prepared by the Central Policy Review Staff, a Tory government think tank, made some radical suggestions for cutting public spending in 1983. Student loans should replace grants, benefits should no longer rise in line with inflation, and the NHS was to be abolished and replaced by a system of private health insurance, with charges for doctors’ visits and higher prescription charges. Thatcher was in favour, but a majority of the cabinet regarded the proposals as too politically toxic at the time.[5] Now, of course, they think the time has come.

The Tories are not hostile to the NHS simply because they are rich enough to go private and therefore do not care about the service on which the rest of us depend. They are hostile because the NHS enshrines forms of social organisation that are inimical to the interests of the class they represent. Instead of profit and greed, instead of competition and the anarchy of the market, there is public service, rational planning, and full and equal access for all, at the moment of need, in a place nearby, regardless of ability to pay.

This contradiction – between overwhelming public support for the NHS and the festering antagonism towards it of the Tory rich – has now been providing the framework for debate about the NHS for 12 years. It is a contradiction that has been mediated by systematic and institutionalised lying.

The privatisation plot

What Leys and Player call ‘the plot’ to privatise the NHS was hatched in 2000 by Tony Blair’s New Labour government. That year the Independent Healthcare Association, representing private healthcare corporations, negotiated a ‘concordat’ with the Department of Health. Reflecting on this, Tim Evans, the Association’s lead negotiator, looked forward ‘to a time when the NHS would simply be a kitemark attached to the institutions and activities of purely private providers’.[6]

It was the beginning of a ten-year siege of the NHS, with a drip-drip of politically orchestrated media critique providing the cover for wholesale marketisation and outsourcing. Then, following the Con-Dem Coalition election victory in May 2010, a Trojan horse was constructed to bring the entire structure down: the Health and Social Care Act. The black heart of the Act is privatisation: the selling off of healthcare provision to profiteers. Because this is so deeply unpopular, every stage in the passage and implementation of the Act has been hedged about with a thicket of lies.

There is no reference to the Act or to the privatisation of the NHS in either the Tory or Lib-Dem 2010 election manifestos. When former Health Minister Andrew Lansley was challenged during the passage of the Bill, he assured Clinical Commissioning Groups that it was ‘absolutely not the case’ that they would be ‘forced to fragment services or put services out to tender’. Similarly, Health Minister Earl Howe said that ‘clinicians will be free to commission services in the way they consider best’ and that ‘they will be under no legal obligation to create new markets’.

Lying for their class

These statements were lies. New regulations are now being introduced concerning ‘procurement, patient choice, and competition’ – neoliberal code for privatisation. Government healthcare regulator Monitor will be required to compel health commissioners to open up virtually all services to competition, either through a process of competitive tendering, or through the exercise of ‘patient choice’ using a shopping list of services from the ‘Any Qualified Provider’ market.

‘There is no doubt that Monitor are preparing the ground for a competitive market,’ said Labour’s Philip Hunt, ‘and that we’re on a journey to competition, marketisation, and privatisation.’

This, of course, is a journey ordained not just by New Labour and the Con-Dem Coalition in Britain. It is also the policy of the EU. What radical economist Costas Lapavitsas calls ‘the holy trinity of austerity, liberalisation, and privatisation’ is now hard-wired by treaty into the workings of the entire European economy.[7] The welfare states constructed after the Second World War are being sacrificed as working people across the continent are driven by their rulers into a ‘race to the bottom’ with precarious workers in newly industrialising countries, and into funding a succession of monster bailouts designed to prop up the banks and the property portfolios of the super-rich.

The long-term objectives of the neoliberal counteroffensive which began in the late 1970s have, in other words, now fused with the short-term crisis management of the lords of finance-capital. The NHS is one of the potential casualties: it is being slowly ground into the disparate marketised fragments of a private healthcare system in which the rich will get premium service, the majority will be fleeced, and the poor will get nothing. The combination of £20 billion of scheduled cuts, of PFI schemes which turn healthcare funding into private profit, and the sinister hidden agenda behind the misnamed Health and Social Care Act will, if we do not act to stop it, destroy the NHS.

The defence of the service will involve confronting and defeating immensely powerful vested interests. More than a million people work in the NHS and more than a million use it every day. The annual budget is more than £100 billion. The sharks of corporate capital are already buying up great chunks of it, and, as the more honest of them admit, their intention is eventually to take the lot. If they do, access to care will be rationed by ability to pay. If they do, health care in Britain will be returned to the 1930s.

There are three great forces in modern British society: the state, the corporations, and the mass of working people. The state and the corporations are working in harness to destroy the NHS. We have to build great movement of ordinary people to defend it. To do that, we have to unite. Every health activist, every NHS campaign, every health workers’ union branch, everyone who cares about the NHS, needs to build the People’s Assembly on 22 June this year.


1. Colin Leys and Stewart Player, 2011, The Plot Against the NHS, Pontypool, Merlin, 10.
2. Leys and Player, ibid., 10.
3. Michael Foot, Aneurin Bevan, 1945-1960, St Albans, Granada, 192.
4. Foot, ibid., 189.
5. Hugo Young, 1990, One of Us, London, Pan, 300-301.
6. Leys and Player, ibid., 1.
7. Costas Lapavitsas et al, 2012, Crisis in the Eurozone, London, Verso, 180-181.

From the Coalition of Resistance site

300,000 over-70s 'too poor to stop working'

300,000 pensioners aged 70 and over are still working as they are ‘too poor to stop’

  • Many women in 70s are cleaning people’s homes or offices
  • ONS study relates to 193,000 men and 111,000 women
PUBLISHED: 11:00, 27 February 2013 | UPDATED: 13:33, 27 February 2013

Many women in their 70s are cleaning people's homes or the local offices, or sitting behind the tills at their local supermarket (posed by model)
Many women in their 70s are cleaning people’s homes or local offices, or sitting behind the tills at their local supermarket (posed by model)
More than 300,000 people who are aged 70 and above have a job, with many blaming the fact they are too poor to stop working, official figures revealed yesterday.


The ballooning number of older workers highlights a social revolution in Britain with people forced to work at an age when many assume they would have stopped years ago.


The figures, compiled exclusively for the Daily Mail by the Office for National Statistics, shows 193,000 men and 111,000 women are still working at the age of 70 and over.


The National Pensioners’ Convention warns the majority are ‘ordinary, working-class people who are having to take jobs because they can’t make ends meet any other way.’


A spokesman added: ‘Anecdotally, they are not exactly doing jobs like becoming the Governor of the Bank of England.’


The ONS’s research also reveals a clear gap between the types of job that older men are doing compared to those that women are doing if they are still working in their sixties.


For older men, the most common jobs are managers, directors and senior officials. For women, they tend to do more low-skilled jobs, such as being a cleaner or a secretary.


It comes as a report, also published by the ONS, shatters the traditional dream of retiring at the age of 65 with a comfortable pension and dreams of foreign travel.

In reality, many women in their 70s are cleaning people’s homes or the local offices, or sitting behind the tills at their local supermarket.

More than a third of men and nearly a quarter of women ‘stopped working after the age of 65’, it said.

While the majority work part-time, around a third of people who are still working after State pension age are ‘employed full-time’, according to the ONS.

At present, a man reaches State pension age when he is 65 and a woman currently reaches State pension age at the age of 61 and six months.


But both these ages are being increased. By 2020, the State pension age for both men and women will be 66, rising to 67 by 2028 – and it will keep on rising to 68 and beyond.


For many pensioners, it is a positive choice. They enjoy their job, find it satisfying and are also keen to remain active in their old age.


But many others are being forced into working – or even going back to work after retiring – because they simply cannot afford to stop.

The self-employed make up a greater proportion of the workforce post-retirement than pre-retirement (left), while the retirement age has been steadily rising since the turn of the century.
The self-employed make up a greater proportion of the workforce post-retirement than pre-retirement (left), while the retirement age has been steadily rising since the turn of the century
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: ‘Given more of us are living longer, it’s important people can choose to work for longer and fund their retirement.


‘That’s why we made it illegal to sack someone just because they reached the age of 65.’


Keith Simpson, chief executive of Skilled People, a recruitment website for people over the age of 50, said he is ‘absolutely sure’ the trend of people delaying their retirement will increase.


He said: ‘We asked people if they will have to work beyond the age of 65 to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Nearly 70 per cent of people said “yes”.’


It comes as just a third of private sector workers are saving into a company pension. Of those who have one, it is typically worth just £26,000, which buys an annual income of just £850.

The self-employed make up a greater proportion of the workforce post-retirement than pre-retirement (left), while the retirement age has been steadily rising since the turn of the century.
Graph showing the rise of older workers since the mid-1980s
New rules forcing bosses to pay into a pension for their workers are designed to stem the growing pensions crisis, with up to 11million workers being ‘auto-enrolled’ into a pension.

But a separate report, from the insurance firm Aviva, found 37 per cent of private sector workers will opt out and refuse to save into a pension.


It warned the success of the Government’s scheme ‘hangs in the balance as many workers focus on making ends meet in challenging economic times’.


The National Association of Pension Funds warned Britain is ‘miles off course when it comes to saving enough for its old age’.


Last night, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: ‘We have said we expect around a third of people to opt out of automatic enrolment.

‘Our ongoing advertising campaign is achieving high levels of awareness among employers and individuals of the need to put something aside so they can afford a decent quality of life in retirement.’

Daily Mail


George Osborne, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer

With all the theatrics going on in Washington, you might well have missed the most important political and economic news of the week: an official confirmation from the United Kingdom that austerity policies don’t work.In making his annual Autumn Statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was forced to admit that his government has failed to meet a series of targets it set for itself back in June of 2010, when it slashed the budgets of various government departments by up to thirty per cent. Back then, Osborne said that his austerity policies would cut his country’s budget deficit to zero within four years, enable Britain to begin relieving itself of its public debt, and generate healthy economic growth. None of these things have happened. Britain’s deficit remains stubbornly high, its people have been suffering through a double-dip recession, and many observers now expect the country to lose its “AAA” credit rating.

One of the frustrations of economics is that it is hard to carry out scientific experiments and prove things beyond reasonable doubt. But not in this case. Thanks to Osborne’s stubborn refusal to change course—“Turning back would be a disaster,” he told Parliament—what has been happening in Britain amounts to a “natural experiment” to test the efficacy of austerity economics. For the sixty-odd million inhabitants of the U.K., living through it hasn’t been a pleasant experience—no university institutional-review board would have allowed this kind of brutal human experimentation. But from a historical and scientific perspective, it is an invaluable case study.

At every stage of the experiment, critics (myself included) have warned that Osborne’s austerity policies would prove self-defeating. Any decent economics textbook will tell you that, other things being equal, cutting government spending causes the economy’s overall output to fall, tax revenues to decrease, and spending on benefits to increase. Almost invariably, the end result is slower growth (or a recession) and high budget deficits. Osborne, relying on arguments about restoring the confidence of investors and businessmen that his forebears at the U.K. Treasury used during the early nineteen-thirties against Keynes, insisted (and continues to insist) otherwise, but he has been proven wrong.

With Republicans in Congress still intent on pursuing a strategy similar to the failed one adopted by the Brits, this is a story that needs trumpeting. Austerity policies are self-defeating: they cripple growth and reduce tax revenues. The only way to bring down the U.S. government’s deficit in a sustainable manner, and put the nation’s finances on a firmer footing, is to keep the economy growing. Spending cuts and tax increases can also play a role, but they need to be introduced gradually.

Before the last election there, which took place in May, 2010, the U.K.’s economy appeared to be slowly recovering from the deep slump of 2008-09 that followed the housing bust and global financial crisis. Just like the Bush Administration (2008) and the Obama Administration (2009), Gordon Brown’s Labour government had introduced a fiscal stimulus to help turn the economy around. G.D.P. was growing at an annual rate of about 2.5 per cent. Once Osborne’s cuts in spending started to be felt, however, things changed dramatically. In the fourth quarter of 2010, growth turned negative and a double-dip recession began. So far, it has lasted two years. While G.D.P. did expand in the third quarter of this year, the Office of Budget Responsibility, an independent economic agency that Osborne set up, has said that it expects another decline in the current quarter. For 2013, the O.B.R. is forecasting G.D.P. growth of just 1.3 per cent. With the economy so weak, the O.B.R. says that the unemployment rate will tick up from eight per cent to 8.2 per cent next year.
That austerity has led to recession is undeniable. Despite the Bank of England slashing interest rates and adopting a policy of quantitative easing, consumer and investment spending have remained depressed. Osborne places much of the blame on continental Europe, Britain’s biggest trading partner, but that’s a lame excuse. It was perfectly clear back in 2010 that Europe was headed for trouble. The proper reaction to a negative external shock is to loosen fiscal policy, not tighten it, much less tighten it violently. But Osborne was determined to go ahead with his grisly exercise in pre-Keynesian economics.

If all the pain he has inflicted had transformed Britain’s fiscal position, his policies could perhaps be defended. But that hasn’t happened. Back in 2009, the O.B.R. predicted that by the end of 2013-2014, the deficit would have fallen to 3.5 per cent of G.D.P. Now, the O.B.R. says that the actual figure will be 6.1 per cent. And since most of its forecasts have proved too optimistic, this might well be another underestimate. Even by Osborne’s preferred measure, which adjusts the headline figure for the state of the economy and doesn’t count capital spending, the deficit won’t be eliminated before 2016-17 at the earliest. The debt-to-G.D.P. ratio, which Osborne originally said would peak at about seventy per cent, has now hit seventy-five per cent, and it is forecast to come close to eighty per cent in 2015-2016. It was supposed to start falling next year. Now, it is set to keep climbing until at least 2017-2018.

A comparison with what has happened on this side of the Atlantic is illuminating. For the purposes of the natural experiment, the U.S. can be thought of as the control. In adopting a fiscal stimulus of gradually declining magnitude over the past four years, the Obama Administration has administered what was, until recently, the standard medicine for a sick economy.

As one would have expected on the basis of the textbooks, the American economy, while hardly racing ahead, has fared considerably better than its British counterpart. Between 2010 and 2012, G.D.P. growth here has averaged about 2.1 per cent. For the U.K., the figure is 0.9 per cent. What may be more surprising—at least to those of you who have been listening to the deficit hawks—is that the United States, while sticking with Keynesian stimulus policies, has also managed to bring down the size of its deficit, relative to G.D.P., almost as rapidly as hairshirt Britain has. Back in 2009, at the depths of the recession, both countries had double-digit deficits. Today, the U.S. deficit stands at about seven per cent of G.D.P., and the British deficit is about five per cent of G.D.P. But with the U.S. growing faster than the U.K,. the gap is set to close. Next year, according to the latest forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office and the O.B.R., the U.S. deficit will be considerably smaller than the U.K. deficit: four per cent of G.D.P. compared to six per cent.

Let’s go over that one more time. Having adopted the policies of Keynes in response to a calamitous recession, the United States has grown more than twice as fast during the past three years as Britain, which adopted the economics of Hoover (and Paul Ryan). Meanwhile, the gaping hole in the two countries’ budgets has declined at roughly the same rate, and next year the U.S. will be in better fiscal shape than its old ally.
Read more:

DWP so upset about workfare withdrawals that it lies [Boycott Workfare]

It seems that the DWP is upset that charities keep pulling out of its forced work schemes. So upset that it has decided to lie to the Guardian about the campaign against workfare. Its spokesperson said: 

“It is deeply regrettable that a small number of people have targeted charities and subjected them to intimidation and abuse in an effort to disrupt the operation of this scheme. In so doing they deny many people the opportunities and help they need to get back into work.
“We’re grateful for the continued support of charities in helping unemployed people re-engage with the system and move closer to employment through Mandatory Work Activity.”
The Boycott Workfare campaign has issued a short response:
“It is deeply encouraging that a large number of people have contacted charities and made the perfectly reasonable request that they withdraw from this scheme which does not help people into employment. In so doing they have denied the DWP the opportunity to intimidate and abuse claimants through workfare and sanctions.
“We’re grateful to those charities who have left the scheme for helping unemployed and disabled people to avoid forced unpaid work and the withdrawal of benefits.”
:) Keep up the good work people! In the last fortnight four charities have withdrawn from workfare, and even before that the government was complaining “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.” Let’s make the week of action on 18-24 March count!

Boycott Workfare

Italian election: Social media campaigning CAN translate into votes

The Italian election was a litmus test on whether social media campaigning and support can translate into actual votes. The result is a resounding yes.

Bell Italian Elections
“REVIVAL” by Steve Bell
‘Nine months ago, the comedian-blogger (Beppe Grillo) was polling at 5% nationally. Yesterday he took over 25% of the vote: a rise practically unprecedented in modern European politics. It has taken a lot of people by surprise, including the pollsters.’
“The mainstream parties are finished! They won’t survive for long”, announced Beppe Grillo, in typical style, on his Five Star Movement’s online television channel late on Monday night. For a long time political scientists have predicted that the internet would lead to the decline of formal political parties – and Beppe Grillo is showing how.

Nine months ago, the comedian-blogger was polling at 5% nationally. Yesterday he took over 25% of the vote: a rise practically unprecedented in modern European politics. It has taken a lot of people by surprise, including the pollsters.

What accounts for this meteoric rise? Two weeks ago, Demos released a report based on a survey of almost 2,000 Facebook fans of Grillo and his Movimento 5 Stelle [M5S] movement. The answer is a fascinating and powerful mix of anti-establishment rhetoric, new technology and old-fashioned rallies and local action. Head on the internet, and feet on the ground, as Grillo himself puts it.

His message is a simple one – that Italian politics is corrupt, elitist, and closed – and it is striking a chord. His supporters come from across the spectrum; they are neither clearly left nor right. They are all, however, angry about the state of democracy in Italy and Europe. Our survey showed only 2% trust parliament and only 11% trust the press.

Grillo appears to be an authentic, straight-talking alternative, even if he is policy-lite in certain areas, including on the economy. In a shrewd move that demonstrated his apparent lack of self-interest, he ruled himself out of standing for election, by banning those with a criminal record – he describes himself merely as the spokesman or “guarantor” of the movement. Movimento’s new parliamentarians are a remarkable mix of teachers, housewives, unemployed, young, old and much else. Ordinary people like us.

His skill has been to channel Italians’ general frustrated apathy into a powerful political movement, spurning mainstream media to talk to them directly through Twitter and Facebook. Grillo has, by an enormous margin, the largest social media following of any politician in Europe: he has more than one million Facebook friends, and a similar number of Twitter followers – Bersani has about a quarter of that (as does David Cameron). His blog is the most widely read in Italy.

Crucially, he uses this to make things happen offline, encouraging his virtual supporters to meet and discuss the issues he raises on his blog in real world “meet-up groups” – and there are hundreds of them. Feeling part of something, his supporters are motivated: while 51% of Italians said they would “never” participate in a boycott, only 9% of Beppe Grillo’s supporters say the same.

According to my estimates, he has around a quarter of a million supporters who consider themselves members of the movement: an army of volunteers and door-knockers that would previously have taken years to recruit. The medium and the message fit hand in glove: the media is a racket, so circumvent it. Politics is closed – especially the party list system – so elect members online.

That is why his election rallies have been by far the most well attended of all the candidates, and why the pollsters didn’t see him coming: his voters turned out more consistently than anyone else. The same thing happened in Germany with the Pirate party in the recent Berlin election, where pollsters dramatically underestimated their support. Polling companies have some work to do.

This election was a litmus test on whether social media campaigning and support can translate into actual votes. The result is a resounding yes. The melange of virtual and real-world political activity is the way millions of people relate to politics in the 21st century. Formal membership of political parties is plummeting, while social media following – Facebook groups or Twitter followers – is growing fast. Grillo has shown how to use them.

Other parties will try to replicate his success. In some ways, they will struggle. I can’t see Ed Miliband holding a “fuck off” day aimed at the establishment, or Nick Clegg calling David Cameron a “psycho dwarf” any time soon. But the appetite for anti-establishment parties is growing.

Grillo’s message has resonated in a country where faith in government, parliament and the media is low and falling. According to recent surveys, the UK public feels much the same: while 88% of Italians don’t trust political parties, 80% of Brits feel the same way. Social media politics as pioneered by Grillo – citizen-led, brazen, open, democratic – is what happens when politicians appear too distant, too elite, too different from the people they represent. The established parties need to take note.

Italian elections: austerity challenged

‘In retrospect, 25 February 2013 may go down as the day when Europe’s austerity policies, at least as originally conceived, finally hit the buffers.’
Italians this week have voted their discontents, their divisions, and their fantasies. Not so very different, then, from other European electorate

Editorial The Guardian
Italians this week have voted their discontents, their divisions, and their fantasies. Not so very different, then, from other European electorates. But in Italy the political system, in part because of Silvio Berlusconi‘s malign institutional heritage, seems perfectly designed to magnify all three.

The result has scared Brussels and Berlin, scared the markets, and scared Italians themselves. What have they wrought? Is Italy headed for permanent political crisis? And could this vote endanger the already threatened common currency, with all which that implies for Europe and its future?

Asked a few years ago whether he was worried about the political situation in his country, an Italian economist replied: “I’m not worried, but I am desperate.” There is indeed something about Italian politics, at least since the rise of Mr Berlusconi, which induces a state of chronic desperation. Italy “has been in a political, economic and moral crisis for the past 20 years,” observed one shrewd student of its affairs, “as it never really succeeded in achieving agreement over reforms” following the collapse of the old party system in 1992. Well, it is still far from that today, although the efforts of Pier Luigi Bersani to tempt the Five Star movement of Beppe Grillo into a common reform programme may offer some hope for the future.

Five Star campaigned, in essence, on the Italian equivalent of the American slogan “Throw the bums out”. It did not entirely succeed in that: Mr Berlusconi, the biggest villain of the piece for the grillini, has ended up in a powerful position in the upper house, although he cannot veto the Bersani-Grillo partnership which, if it happens, may turn out to be a way forward for the country.

But, so far, how the Italians are going to get out of this mess is anybody’s guess. A grand coalition of left and right is a possibility, and so is the deal between the centre left and the Five Star movement which Mr Bersani is exploring . But how would either cope with a renewed economic storm, interest rates shooting up, austerity packages unravelling, grim messages from Angela Merkel? How long could such unnatural marriages last?

And if such a government set out to call fresh elections, perhaps with a new electoral law, how would the established parties avert an even greater triumph for Beppe’s people? That would not clear up the mess: it would merely create a new one. So, on one level, this was yet another election which failed to solve Italy’s chronic political problems. On another, it was a verdict on the German-led austerity policy which is Europe’s current remedy for its common currency and other economic ills. Mario Monti, austerity’s main man in Italy, went down with a bang, and Mr Grillo’s pledge of a referendum on the euro certainly played a part in the success of his movement.

This was an Italy saying no to austerity. And, with unemployment at more than 11%, according to a recent article in Le Monde, more than 100,000 small firms, the backbone of the Italian economy, closing in 2012, and the number of graduates leaving the country reaching a million, that is an understandable negative.
Such a verdict cannot be wished away.

It is of course far from the first such judgment.

The backlash against austerity has brought down incumbent after incumbent across Europe, and, most recently, François Hollande’s victory owed something to his pledge to fight austerity.

But Italy is the eurozone’s third-largest economy, and the vote there this time went less to candidates promising to soften or contest austerity, like Mr Hollande and Mr Bersani, than to those saying, or hinting, that they would reject it.

The German government will be forced to reconsider – or, rather, to reconsider even more than it already reluctantly has.

France, coping with its own slipping economic performance, also has difficult choices.

In retrospect, 25 February 2013 may go down as the day when Europe’s austerity policies, at least as originally conceived, finally hit the buffers.

Powered by article titled “How Beppe Grillo’s social media politics took Italy by storm” was written by Jamie Bartlett, for on Tuesday 26th February 2013 15.36 Europe/London

Osborne hasn’t just failed: this is economic disaster


‘When you add in the cuts to core public services, tax credits, housing and disability benefits that will hit the poorest hardest, this isn’t just an economic disaster. It’s a human one measured out in blighted lives for years to come, delivered in the service of a programme that has already failed in its own terms – while shrinking the state and cosseting the corporate sector.
‘Given the Cameron coalition’s legacy and the cuts and tax rises it’s planning well into the next parliament, the danger is that Labour locks itself into continuing austerity in a bid for credibility.
‘As the experience of its sister parties in Europe has shown, that would be a calamity for Labour – but also for Britain.’
~ Seumas Milne
See also: David Cameron vows to press on with deficit reduction ‘We have to go further and faster,’ says prime minister as Bank of England officials disagree over best strategy

It would be comic if the consequences weren’t so grim.

There is no economic failure, it turns out, which cannot be hailed by George Osborne as a vindication of the policies that brought it about. Faced with the decision by the credit agency Moody’s to scrap Britain’s AAA rating, the chancellor declared it was yet another reason to stick to austerity – and the “clearest possible warning” to anyone who might think of breaking with it.

No evidence from the real world, it seems, can divert Osborne and David Cameron from their chosen course. The pronouncements of agencies such as Moody’s, which gave the US investment bank Lehman Brothers a ringing endorsement just as it was about to bring down the global financial system five years ago, shouldn’t be taken too seriously in themselves.

But for Osborne and the coalition, safeguarding Britain’s credit rating has been a central justification for the most swingeing programme of cuts and tax increases for 90 years. Along with slashing the deficit, cutting borrowing and bringing down debt within five years, it was a central test of market confidence that Osborne and the coalition set for themselves.

And they have failed on every single one. The structural deficit and debt targets have had to be abandoned, as austerity plans have been extended to 2018. Borrowing is now forecast to be £212bn higher than planned over this parliament. Moody’s downgrade report gives a clue as to why that might be: “sluggish growth” is now expected to “extend into the second half of the decade” with a consequent “high and rising debt burden”.

In other words, Cameron and Osborne have failed in their central goal of cutting the deficit and debt precisely because their austerity policies – combined with a refusal to get a grip on the banks, falling real wages and the boomerang effect of the eurozone crisis – are squeezing the life out of the economy.

“Sluggish growth” is a polite way of putting it. Britain isn’t just facing the possibility of a triple-dip recession, after the economy shrank in five out of 10 quarters since the summer of 2010. It’s now in a fullblown depression. We’re no longer talking about the risk of a Japanese-style “lost decade”. The country is in the middle of one, and it stands to be worse than Japan’s in the 1990s, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s own projections.

The economy is stagnating at best, delivering the second-worst performance of the G7 economies in the past two years – after Italy. There has already been a fall in living standards unmatched since the 1920s, with the average worker losing around £4,000 in real terms over the last three years. On current forecasts, real wages will still be at their 1999 level in 2017.

Now the falling value of the pound will intensify that squeeze, with little chance of the benefits for exports in a hollowed-out industrial economy where investment is still 15% below its pre-crash peak. That failure to invest, by corporations sitting on a £777bn cash mountain, has also fed into an alarming drop in productivity.

In these conditions, a fall in unemployment to 7.8% is treated as good news. But that has depended both on a sharp increase in involuntary part-time working and the productivity slump, which threatens to entrench lower living standards in the longer term – while the much-vaunted “rebalancing” of the economy has yet to materialise.

When you add in the cuts to core public services, tax credits, housing and disability benefits that will hit the poorest hardest, this isn’t just an economic disaster. It’s a human one measured out in blighted lives for years to come, delivered in the service of a programme that has already failed in its own terms – while shrinking the state and cosseting the corporate sector.

The Tories and their Liberal Democrat allies naturally still blame their predecessors’ profligacy. New Labour must of course share the blame – along with the entire City-bedazzled political class – for promoting a deregulated, private debt-fuelled financial system which crashed and burned across the western world. But the claim that its own spending (with a deficit of less than 3% when the crisis hit) caused the crisis itself is an absurdity.

Polls show most people in Britain realise that, and increasingly oppose the government’s reckless austerity. But without the unequivocal promotion of a decisive alternative, the risk is that falling living standards and deteriorating privatised services come to be seen as the new normal.

The shape of that alternative is clear enough: a large-scale public investment programme in housing, transport, education and green technology to drive recovery and fill the gap left by the private sector, underpinned by a boost to demand and financed through publicly-owned banks at the lowest interest rates for hundreds of years.

There’s no evidence that extra borrowing for growth – as opposed to increased borrowing to pay for contraction, which the bond markets have barely blinked at – would lead to a confidence crisis. And the government already owns controlling stakes in two of Britain’s biggest banks that it could use right now to boost lending and finance expansion.
Instead, ministers are arguing about how to sell off the 82% public stake in RBS, when even Margaret Thatcher’s former chancellor Nigel Lawson wants it fully nationalised. Meanwhile the restive Tory right is pressing for still deeper cuts. Osborne is expected to announce some new infrastructure spending in next month’s budget just as tax cuts for the richest and the corporate sector are about to kick in.

None of that is going to turn round the scale of the coalition’s economic failure – which leaves Ed Miliband with a crucial choice. Even if growth picks up in the next couple of years, there’s no prospect of a full recovery under the coalition. And after years of falling living standards, Labour’s chances of re-election are clearly growing.

So far Miliband has backed a limited stimulus, slower cuts and wider, if still hazy, economic reform.

Given the Cameron coalition’s legacy and the cuts and tax rises it’s planning well into the next parliament, the danger is that Labour locks itself into continuing austerity in a bid for credibility.

As the experience of its sister parties in Europe has shown, that would be a calamity for Labour – but also for Britain.

Twitter: @SeumasMilne

Powered by article titled “George Osborne hasn’t just failed – this is an economic disaster” was written by Seumas Milne, for The Guardian on Tuesday 26th February 2013 22.00 Europe/London

Food Poverty: UN Special Rapporteur Finds Austerity, Food Banks And Working Poor In UK 'Extremely Worrying'

Food banks must not be allowed to become a permanent fixture in the UK and Europe, or used by governments to "clear their conscience" and neglect their duty to protect the country's poorest people, a top UN official has warned.

The emergency food banks are now accepted by governments as the norm, which they “absolutely should not be”, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter told HuffPost UK.

It is the UK’s government’s duty to protect the poorest in society and part of their duty under human rights law, de Schutter said.

On Monday night, the UN representative spoke about starvation in developed nations, at a talk organised by the charity Just Fair, alongside food bank charity chair Chris Mould of the Trussell Trust.

UN Protocol means he cannot comment on specific UK government policies.

But it is the working poor in Britain that most concern him, the fact that 62% of children in poverty are living in families where at least one of the parents has a job is “very striking” he told HuffPost UK before his speech.

“That is very worrying. It is really unacceptable. It shows wages are too low, people have to work part-time and not by choice, or that minimum wage legislation is not adequate. But it is worrying to see that in a country like the UK.”

The horse meat scandal here too has not escaped his attention. “It is one more reason for us to be discontent with the mainstream food system. People have seen what it looks like and they don’t like it.

“So governments must do more to promote alternatives, small farmers, small food systems. And it is not necessarily cheaper to eat these processed foods.”

Last year, De Schutter published a damning UN report into Canada, and the failure of one of the world’s richest nations to protect its poorest citizens.

The country relies heavily on foodbanks, an emergency food system which is growing in Britain, feeding 260,000 people last year.

“I admire them, but this is not a substitute for social policy which provides people with the right welfare support.

“It is not OK for governments to clear their conscience by these food banks taking over when it should be their responsibility. It should not become a permanent feature. And yet food banks are increasing, very strikingly so in the last five years.”

Mould, of the Trussell Trust, told the talk on Monday night he envisaged every town in Britain would soon 
have a food bank.

“But it should be the same as every town having an ambulance service. It’s for emergencies. If you need a food bank all the time, you need to be signposted to something more permanent that can help.”

In the same week, Downing Street, during PMQs, stated that foodbanks are there for people who ‘feel they need a bit of extra food’ and that benefits were set at a level that means people should not go hungry.

The inequality in countries like Canada and the UK is almost more shocking that starvation elsewhere, De Schutter said.

He told HuffPost UK: “Rich countries have more of a duty towards their poor. They can meet their duty to the poor, and therefore they should not excuse their job in meeting it, because of austerity.

“We are on our way to a having a permanent underclass, people living in poor neighbourhoods that have no opportunities to choose different ways to feed themselves, fewer role models to follow and poverty transferred through generations.”

De Schutter said the UN’s human rights representatives were concerned that governments were using austerity as an excuse not to tackle inequality and the problems faced by the poorest in society.

“It is a concern for human rights committee at the UN that governments now have an austerity programme that do not take into account the needs of the poor," he told HuffPost UK.

“And when you have a highly unequal society you have a large group of people with an interest in things not changing. It makes robust social policies more difficult to adopt."

De Schutter acknowledges that starvation is not what occurs in developed nations, like it does in the Sahara or south Asia, but “it means people too poor to choose diets that are healthy for them. They develop diseases, they have health problems.

In the run up to the event Just Fair Patron and Shadow Equalities Minister, Kate Green MP, stated that, "the coalition government says ‘we’re all in this together’.

"But children should not be ‘in this’ at all. Nor should desperate families hit by benefit cuts or unemployment, or those in working households who earn too little to make ends meet. That is why I believe it is time for us to debate the introduction of a legal duty on the UK government to ensure an adequate standard of living for all."

Jonny Butterworth, director of Just Fair, said "It is unacceptable that the seventh richest country in the world cannot ensure a basic threshold of decency for all of its people.

He urged de Schutter to make a similar mission to the UK as he had to Canada, saying the UK “could benefit greatly from a full country visit.”

De Schutter told HuffPost UK has been invited to do an official mission to look at food poverty in the UK, by the government, but has declined due to other commitments. But he praised the government for being “willing to look in the mirror.”

A DWP spokeswoman told HuffPost UK: "We welcome the contribution of voluntary organisations for the work they do with local communities. That is why Jobcentre Plus - for the first time - is now referring people to their services.

"Universal Credit will be gradually rolled out over four years from October 2013 and will directly lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty as well as encourage many to move into work with the knowledge they are better off in work than on benefits."

"Despite paying out £171bn in tax credits over the last decade alone, the previous Government failed to meet their target to halve child poverty by 2010 and far too many children were left behind.

"This Government remains committed to eradicating child poverty, but we want to take a new approach by tackling the root causes including worklessness, educational failure and family breakdown."


  • Trussell Trust foodbanks have fed over 260,000 people since April 2012.
  • Trussell Trust foodbanks fed 128,697 in the entire 2011-12 financial year.
  • The Trussell Trust is opening 3 new foodbanks every week.
  • At the beginning of December 2011 The Trussell Trust had launched 149 foodbanks nationwide, we now have 292 launched nationwide: almost doubling the number of foodbanks in the last year.
  • Trussell Trust foodbanks will give emergency food to over 15,000 over two weeks of Christmas.
  • During that period in 2011, the trust fed 8,500 people.