Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kate Green's First Disability Speech

Reblogged from Diary of a Benefit Scrounger:

I've just seen Kate Green's first speech as Labour shadow minister for disabled people.

It rocks, and is so different to what we were hearing just two years ago, it's hard to put the two together.

Just one thing. But to me it's a big thing.

When Alf Morris, also Labour and the first minister for disabled people passed his ground breaking legislation, he called it the "chronically sick and disabled people's act."

I've campaigned primarily by trying to re-introduce that original intent back into the narrative. I always, always say "sick and disabled" and it's gives me great pleasure that it has become so universal that even DWP documents and statements now use the phrase. Language matters and if we don't want politicians - and the public - to get away with two dimensional attitudes to disability, we can't use two dimensional definitions.

Otherwise, as I said, it rocks :

"It’s a great pleasure to join Unison here this morning. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to be invited to your equalities conference, and I think I recognise some of the same faces! But I have to tell you this is my very first speech in my new role as shadow minister for disabled people – so I hope you’ll be a little kinder to me – you know so much more than I do, and you will have much more to tell me than I can tell you.

Writing this speech has however been made much easier for me by a very helpful article which was published last week by my predecessor Anne McGuire.

I know Anne is well known to you, and I can imagine there was real dismay when she announced she was stepping down from the frontbench.

She’s been an expert, passionate and committed advocate for the rights of disabled people for many years, she was a highly effective minister when we were in gvt, and I know she’s a very hard act to follow.

I’m very glad to say that she’s also my good friend.

Anne in her article last week wrote that the last three years have been the most threatening for disabled people and their families, and I could not agree more.

After years of progress – under both Tory and Labour governments – the DDA, Making Rights A Reality for Disabled People, the signing of the UN Convention – under the Tory-led coalition it feels we have gone back to the dark ages.

Disabled people have been – I think it’s not an exaggeration to say this – they’ve been vilified, while the support that they rely on has been slashed, without a care for the long term or the human consequences.

According to campaigners, disabled people have been hit 9x as hard as non disabled people by austerity cuts.

And such support as has remained in place is increasingly being confined to the most severely disabled .

Yet such an approach is simply counterproductive.

It will lead to greater isolation, reduced social participation, worse health outcomes, less chance that disabled people will be able to participate economically.

It will pile up costs and anguish for disabled people, their families, communities, and ultimately the public purse.

Yet even as disabled people are taking the hit, every day it seems there’s a drip drip of stories in the media that repeatedly portray them as scroungers, skivers, or frauds.

So I want to say very clearly – what’s being said, insinuated and implied, is wrong, it’s cruel and it’s shameful.

It creates division, and it feeds into quite despicable levels of abuse and violence.

It underlies unacceptable levels of hate crime against disabled people, and we need to call time on it now.

Labour will continue to stand against this, and condemn misleading and inflammatory portrayals of disabled people – and I want to lay down the challenge to government ministers: you should be doing so too.

But while there’s so much for us to be angry about under the present gvt, today I want to think ahead about how Labour would approach disabled people’s rights.

I hope some of you will have contributed to the work that Anne and Liam Byrne set in train to consult widely on what a Labour government could do to make disabled people’s rights a reality.

We’ve asked Sir Bert Massie to chair a taskforce advising us on how we should take our thinking forward in the light of what we’ve been told, and I’m very much looking forward to discussing ideas with Bert and his team.

But, you know, I’m already clear about the guiding principles that we as a Labour government will follow.

Ed Miliband has talked powerfully of how we are a One Nation party.

That means a vision of a better Britain, in which everyone has a stake, everybody plays a part, prosperity’s fairly shared.
And nowhere could our notion of being One Nation be more tested than in the way in which we include disabled people and stand up for their rights.

So every policy Labour develops will be about including, not isolating disabled people.

It will be about respecting them, celebrating the contribution they make, not demeaning and insulting them.

And disabled people themselves will be co-producers in decision-making about them and their lives.

Of course, every individual will face different circumstances, no two disabled people have the same lives or needs.

But we should not be satisfied until every disabled person can achieve their full potential.

Now, we’ve said we will be tough on benefits spending. That doesn’t mean blaming or demonising people, but it does mean being tough on what it is that prevents every disabled person is from participating as they could.

For many, that includes being in work.

And I think we have much more to do to address the disadvantage that disabled people face in the labour market.

Why are disabled people less likely to be in work, to earn less if they are in work, or to progress less than non-disabled people?

What barriers are in their way? And more important, what do we do about it?

I truly believe the gvt has missed a huge trick in its annual reviews of the WCA. It could have taken the opportunity to think big.

But nowhere have ministers asked – what would need to change to enable more disabled people to work and to thrive at work?

Instead they’ve concentrated – crudely – on sorting people into those who can work and those who can’t, and putting more pressure on individuals they think could work.

I simply don’t buy that binary approach. People’s lives are more complicated. Conditions are more nuanced. Work – and contribution – comes in many forms.

So I want to look very hard at all aspects of disabled people’s employment chances, not just go round beating up on Atos (though they deserve some of that), not just a bit of tinkering with the WCA.

I want to see our labour market strategy linked much more closely to our industrial strategy.

And I want us to learn from what were able to try in govt – whether that’s Work Choice, A2W, P2W, NDDP – and take a hard look at what worked and what did not.

On social care, my colleague Liz Kendall and I want a sustainable model that ensures we don’t get into a situation where disabled people end up becoming increasingly dependent for want of often quite small amounts of care.

The government clearly thinks responsibly for caring can be thrown more and more on families.

But that’s not always feasible, it’s not fair, it’s not economically effective, and it’s not what many disabled people want.

We need a system that preserves people’s independence, that is a springboard to their wider participation in society, not a means of putting them out of sight and out of mind.

And on financial support for disabled people, well look, I’ve always known that a secure and decent income is a prerequisite for full social engagement – whether that’s about participating in education, employment, being able to volunteer or participate in community activity, care for your kids, enjoy and live your life.

You know we won’t be able to reverse every benefit cut when we come into government, though we’ve already said we’ll abolish the hated bedroom tax – and 2/3 of those affected by it are disabled people.

But I’ll tell you this: I am all too aware that the cost of living crisis is felt acutely by disabled people, as the extra costs associated with disability pile up.

So it will be my priority to make sure that every measure we announce to address the cost of living crisis that families face under this out of touch, arrogant, millionaires’ gvt – that every one of our policies goes the extra mile to work for disabled people, their families and carers too.

I’m conscious of how much of your time I’m taking. It’s because there is so much I want to say.

So let’s treat this as the start of a conversation, not the end of a speech.

When I heard Anne was standing down, I too was dismayed – but I have to tell you my very next thought was that I passionately wanted her job.

I know how bad things have become in just three short years, but I know we can do so much better for disabled people. I know it can be better than this.

With your support, I very much look forward to getting to grips with the challenge. Please let’s stay in touch.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Internal memos reveal fresh attacks on benefit claimants and job centre workers

The government is changing the rules to make it harder for disabled people to appeal when it takes away their benefits.

And they are clamping down on job centre staff who try to help claimants, in an effort to break an “appeals culture”, according to internal memos seen by Socialist Worker.

People claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) can be stripped of it if they are deemed “fit for work” in controversial tests run by companies such as Atos Healthcare, known as Work Capability Assessments (WCA).

WCAs have come in for massive criticism from doctors as well as disability campaigners, and almost 40 percent of people who appeal against a WCA decision are successful.

The high appeal rate has been a huge embarrassment for the government—as it exposes how arbitrary and unfair their assessments are.

But instead of changing the system the government is making it harder to appeal against it.

From now on people who wish to appeal must do so by a tribunal instead of through the job centre. Job centre staff have been strictly instructed not to download and print the forms for claimants, but tell them to find the forms themselves from the tribunal service.

This is a process that many claimants will find difficult, particularly if they lack internet access and printing facilities or suffer from mental health problems or learning difficulties.

Before they can even lodge a tribunal appeal, claimants have to ask the government to reconsider. There is no time limit for this process, and during this time claimants will not be allowed to claim ESA (disability benefit).

They can claim other benefits, such as jobseekers’ allowance (unemployment benefit), though this may later be counted against them when they argue that they need ESA.

Once they move to tribunal appeal they can claim ESA again—but job centre staff have been told not to make them aware of this right unless they explicitly ask. And WCA decisions are to be sent directly to job centre advisors in the hope that this “contributes to a reduction in appeals” too.

One job centre worker told Socialist Worker, “The government sees job centre staff as part of the problem for helping claimants stand up for their rights, and they are trying to curtail that.”

Instead of moving the goalposts they should scrap the unfair WCA system altogether.

Another defeat for Workfare

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice:

In February 2012 I reported on the Court of Appeals judgement that Iain Duncan Smith's mandatory unpiad labour ("Workfare") schemes were unlawful on the grounds that the rules were unintelligible, and because Iain Duncan Smith had exceeded his powers by applying the rules without first seeking the approval of parliament.

Little did I know at the time that Iain Duncan Smith (with the collusion of the Labour party so-called opposition) would attempt to undermine the Appeal Court ruling by retroactively changing the law. The hastily scribbled piece of legislation (which was rushed through parliament in a single day) changed the rules so that had they been written that way at the time, they would have been intelligible, and they would have had parliamentary approval.

It is quite clear that using retroactive laws to undermine the courts opens the door to fascism, because it sets the appalling precedent that if the courts declare the government has acted unlawfully, the government can simply rush through legislation to retroactively change the law to make their unlawful actions lawful and nullify the judgement of the courts. This precedent essentially puts government ministers above the law of the land. It is absolutely appalling that (apart from a few objectors that defied the party whip to vote against it) the Labour so-called opposition went along with this appalling attack on the legal system.

Instead of simply undermining the court by retroactively rewriting the law of the land, Iain Duncan Smith also decided to go even further in order to put the courts in their place. On the very same day that his rotten piece of retroactive workfare legislation was rushed through parliament, he  launched a Supreme Court appeal against the Appeal Court ruling that his schemes were unlawful. He was clearly working on the assumption that the courts would have to accept that his retroactive 2013 laws applied, meaning that they would have to eat humble pie and declare his vicious mandatory labour schemes lawful.

Subverting a court judgement by retroactively changing the law of the land was bad enough, but attempting to humiliate the courts in order to demonstrate to all that he himself is absolutely above the law of the land was the act of a man that has absolute contempt for any authority other than his own.

The problem for Iain Duncan Smith and his minions at the DWP is that the Supreme Court defied him and upheld the Appeal Court ruling. Here is the full transcript of the Supreme Court judgement.

The Supreme Court explicitly recognised that the 2013 Retroactive Workfare Bill was a deliberate attempt to undermine the courts: "The 2013 Act was plainly intended to 'undo' the decision of the Court of Appeal" . They also reiterated that scheme was unlawful at the time "what Ms Reilly was told about her obligation to take part in the [workfare] scheme, as a condition of receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, was unauthorised and wrong as a matter of domestic law".

At the conclusion of the judgement the judges returned to Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive law, stating that had it not been for the retroactive lawmaking exercise, the ruling of the appeal court would have been fully upheld "Accordingly, were it not for the 2013 Act and the 2013 Regulations, we would have affirmed the order of the Court of Appeal" (which shows how much of a spectacular own-goal the Labour party scored by colluding with Iain Duncan Smith to rush the retroactive laws onto the statute book). The judges admitted that the passing of retroactive legislation adds a significant complication, and that they have yet to work out an appropriate response: "In the light of the 2013 Act and the 2013 Regulations, however, a more subtly expressed form of order will be required, and we would invite counsel to try and agree the appropriate wording".

Whatever the case, Iain Duncan Smith's decision to appeal the ruling of the Appeal Court now looks like a spectacular case of hubris, because not only was his appeal rejected, but there now exists a court ruling which explicitly states that he deliberately attempted to undermine the law of the land with his retroactive lawmaking exercise.

This leaves us with the question of what Iain Duncan Smith will do next. Given the brazenness of his response to the ruling of the Appeal Court, it wouldn't surprise me if Iain Duncan Smith and the Tories attempted to rush through legislation to retroactively abolish the Supreme Court so that this judgement never happened, and it would hardly be surprising if the Labour so-called opposition colluded with the Tories to help them rush their retroactive abolition of the courts through parliament in a single day, as they did with the Retroactive Workfare Bill in March 2013. 

Frank Field blasts 'impatient' ministers over welfare reform delay

Frank Field blasts 'impatient' ministers over welfare reform delay 

FRANK Field has waded into the Government after further delays to its flagship welfare reform policy were announced this week.

Disability benefit changes for England, Scotland and Wales have been held-up because the Government has been unable to assess claimants in time.

The move represents another delay by the Department for Works and Pensions, which initially hoped the policy would apply to all new claimants across Britain by the end of October.

Now Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will replace Disability Living Allowance only for claimants in certain areas.

The change to the reform timetable means only those in Wales, East and West Midlands and East Anglia will transfer to PIP.

Mr Field, MP for Birkenhead, said: “With Universal Credit and PIP hitting the buffers within a matter of weeks, this latest hammer blow goes to show how impatient and unrealistic the Government has been in its handling of welfare reform.

“In trying to over-egg the pudding, ministers have heaped uncertainty onto hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people across the country, who don’t know if and when they may lose vital support, such as access to the Motability Scheme.”

Ministers said assessments were taking longer than expected and the scheme would now be phased-in more gradually.

Since June this year, all new disabled claimants have had to apply for PIP, and all current claimants whose circumstances have changed had been due to start moving to the new benefit on Monday.

Most claimants will now continue to claim DLA until 2015, after which point they will be sent information about reapplying for PIP.
  • Over the next few years the Government is moving around 3.3m DLA claimants, aged 16-to-64, to the new benefit - PIP.
  • DLA - worth between £21 and £134.40 per week - is available to disabled people who have difficulty walking or need help to look after themselves.
  • Under the PIP system, which introduces regular written and face-to-face medical assessments, claimants will receive a daily living component of either £53 or £79.15 and a mobility component of either £21 or £55.25.
  • The Department of Work and Pensions says the new system will be simpler and fairer and is essential to control costs, which have risen to £13bn per year since DLA was introduced in 1992.

Defeated again over work schemes: IDS loses his case in court

Reblogged from Vox Political:

Victory at last: The Supreme Court's ruling means vindication for Cait Reilly, who has spent nearly two years battling against a system that costs the taxpayer millions while failing to increase employment.
Victory at last: The Supreme Court’s ruling means vindication for Cait Reilly, who has spent nearly two years battling against a system that costs the taxpayer millions while failing to increase employment.

It’s a return to the drawing-board for the man we call ‘Returned To Unit’ after the Supreme Court ruled against Iain Duncan Smith’s Workfare appeal.

The five Supreme Court justices upheld a Court of Appeal decision, made against the government in February.

The case had been brought by Cait Reilly, a geology graduate who, while unemployed but volunteering at a local museum in order to gain experience towards getting a curator’s job, had been ordered by the Department for Work and Pensions to work for her benefits, stacking shelves at Poundland.

It should be remembered that Poundland is perfectly capable of employing its own workers on full wages. At the time, it ran 390 stores nationwide and made £21,500,000 profit in 2010 – enough to employ extra staff at all its branches and still make a good profit.

The amount it was saving by not paying Ms Reilly, coupled with the fiscal multiplier that adds around 60p to every pound she would have earned if she had been an employee, means Poundland could have made a £1,188.48 profit from the work she was doing for the firm at the taxpayers’ expense.

Total profit for all companies using benefit recipients on ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ between June 2011 and July 2012 (878,000 people): £894, 416, 090 – nearly £1 billion.

Loss to the taxpayer: £16,933,000 (not including payments to Work Provider companies).

Together with another claimant, Jamieson Wilson, Ms Reilly brought a judicial review against the scheme, claiming it was a violation of human rights under article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights: “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour” – and the government lost the case.

Mr Justice Foskett stated: “Her original complaint arose from what she was wrongly told was a compulsory placement on a scheme that (a) impeded her voluntary efforts to maintain and advance her primary career ambition and (b) having embarked upon it, from her perspective, did not offer any worthwhile experience on an alternative career path. It is not difficult to sympathise with her position from that point of view.”

At the time (August 2012), the right-wing media slanted their reports to make it seem that Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson had lost, but this was soon rectified because the government appealed against the ruling, which stated that, if Ms Reilly had been properly informed of the regulations, she would not have been led to believe she was being put into forced labour.

The problem for Mr… Smith was that Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson were not the only ones to have been misled in this way, and the ruling opened up the government to claims for compensation, from thousands of benefit claimants, for millions of pounds that had been taken away from them because they had refused to take part in the ‘work-for-benefits’ schemes. The illegality of the regulations meant the DWP, under Iain Duncan Smith’s supervision, had broken the law more than 228,000 times – RTU is a criminal more than a quarter of a million times over.

In any case, evidence quickly piled up, proving that Workfare doesn’t work. During its first 14 months, only 3.53 per cent of jobseekers who took part in the government’s mandatory work activity programme – of which Workfare is a part – actually found a job for six months or more. They would have had a better chance of finding a job if the work programme had not existed.

This did not prevent the Department for Work and Pensions from appealing against the ruling and, in February, the Court of Appeal responded – by upholding the claim that the scheme was unlawful.

This meant that anyone who was penalised for refusing to take part, or for leaving the scheme once they had started it and realised what it was, could claim back the Jobseekers’ Allowance that had been withdrawn from them for non-compliance. The payout could have been as high as £130 million.

Smith wasn’t going to have any of that! He launched emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of the decision and change the regulations retrospectively, making it impossible for benefit claimants to demand payouts of between £530 and £570 each for decisions made while the illegal rules were in force.

Lawyers and campaigners branded the DWP’s move as “repugnant” and “unbelievably disgusting”, saying it undermined the rule of law. This blog concurs with that assessment. It is an appalling abuse of governmental power.

But the government succeeded in undermining the rule of law after all but a few members of the Labour Party allowed it to pass, having negotiated a few “safeguards” that have proved to be useless in practice.

Fortunately, some people have a little more backbone and Ms Reilly and Mr Wilson took their case to the Supreme Court. It is from this body that today’s – final – judgement has come.

Now comes the nitty-gritty.

After the introduction of the emergency law, the solicitors Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who represent Reilly and Wilson, lodged a judicial review accusing RTU of conspiring to undermine basic human rights by enacting the retroactive legislation. They say they will continue to pursue that judicial review after their success in the supreme court.

A spokesperson for PIL said: “Following today’s judgment, any… jobseekers can object to sanctions that have been imposed and seek the repayment of their benefits. It is truly staggering that Duncan Smith has found himself in this position even after fast-tracking emergency retrospective legislation through parliament. We intend to work with advice organisations to ensure that, following this ruling, affected individuals have the right information and assistance.”

It seems the firm believes the retrospective part of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 is no longer valid. That means all 228,000 Workfare victims who were penalised by the DWP will be able to claim their compensation and force the £130 million payout.

Not only that, but it seems reasonable that a legal penalty should be imposed on ‘RTU’ himself. Not only did he enforce the schemes under the illegal regulations, but he also imposed a lengthy and costly legal battle on those who stood up against it, even though it had been found to be wrong in law.

Who knows how much hardship this has caused to people who were already on the breadline before his brutal sanctions were imposed?

How much despair has he caused to people who had no other means of support?

Has anybody died because of this – through health problems, mental health issues leading to suicide, or for other reasons?

It is time for the people who have been most seriously affected by this to get together and start talking to lawyers – Public Interest Lawyers might be a good place to start – about getting restitution from the man who caused this mess.

The taxpayer may well have to foot the bill for the illegal benefit sanctions, and that is only right. They should never have been imposed in the first place and this will only set matters straight.

But the individual minister who caused this should not get away without paying a personal penalty.

Let’s have some accountability in government, Mr… Smith.

Victory For Cait Reilly – Workfare Was Illegal Says Supreme Court

Reblogged from The Void:


A unanimous verdict at the Supreme Court has judged that the workfare schemes in the Cait Reilly case were illegal.

This follows the DWP’s appeal after a lower court had found that the almost all the  Government’s workfare schemes were illegal.  Iain Duncan Smith was forced to rewrite the law after this judgement retrospectively making these schemes legal.

That will not be overturned by today’s judgement, although a Judicial Review has been launched by lawyers questioning the legality of this decision.

The judgement can be read at:

When Iain Duncan Smith rewrote the law on workfare he did not include the Community Action Programme.  This was the six month period of workfare on which George Osborne’s mass workfare scheme announced at the Tory Party conference is based.  It is hard to see how this scheme, which is due to begin in April next year, is now legal unless it is placed before Parliament.

Supreme court to make final ruling on Poundland case

Judgment to be passed on dispute between Department for Work and Pensions and Cait Reilly over 'workfare' schemes

Cait Reilly Poundland
Cait Reilly outside Poundland. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

The UK supreme court will hand down judgment on Wednesday morning in what is expected to be the final chapter in a long-running dispute between the Department of Work and Pensions and former jobseeker Cait Reilly over the legality of so-called workfare schemes.

In what has come to be known as the Poundland case, the court will decide whether it was lawful for the government to force tens of thousands of jobseekers to work for free for between two and twenty-six weeks, including at the discount retailer.

The DWP appealed against the verdict of three judges at the Royal Courts of Justice in February, who unanimously declared that almost all the government's "work for your benefit" employment schemes were unlawful.

The three judges, Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton, found that the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, did not have the power to create new employment programmes and schemes at a stroke of the pen and should have issued parliament with the full details of the coalition's growing number of schemes.

In the judgment, Burnton said parliament was "entitled to encourage participation in such schemes by imposing sanctions". "However," he added, "any scheme must be such as has been authorised by parliament."

After the ruling struck down the legal basis of the DWP's employment schemes, the department was expected to be liable for a £130m rebate to jobseekers who had been sanctioned using the powers of the scheme.

However, in order to avoid paying back rebates to around 250,000 claimants, the government introduced a controversial emergency law that retroactively made hundreds of thousands of sanctions legal.

Campaigning group Boycott Workfare told the Guardian that because of a backlog created by the case, sanctions first raised over a year ago were only now being docked from claimants, causing confusion and distress.

Following the emergency law, Public Interest Lawyers – which have been representing Reilly and her co-claimant in the case, unemployed lorry driver Jamieson Wilson – lodged a judicial review accusing Duncan Smith of conspiring to undermine basic human rights by enacting the retroactive legislation. That judicial case was put on hold pending the outcome of Wednesday's supreme court ruling.

In a short statement, Public Interest Lawyers said: "We are awaiting the supreme court's judgment after what have been lengthy proceedings."


Britain told social inequality has created 'public health timebomb'

UK is failing its children, women and young people on a grand scale, says Marmot report on links between inequality and health

Child poverty
In Britain one child in four lives in poverty, the report says.

Women and children in the UK would have longer and healthier lives if they lived in Cyprus, Italy or Spain, and Britain is facing "a public health timebomb", according to a study by an expert on inequality and health.
Sir Michael Marmot, who is known worldwide for his work on the social determinants of health, says much of the rest of Europe takes better care of its families. Life expectancy for women and death rates among the under-fives are worse in the UK, where there is also more child poverty.

The public health time bomb Marmot describes is caused by the large number of so-called Neets – young adults who are not in education, employment or training.

Women in the UK can expect to live to 83, but those born in a number of other European countries will live to a riper old age: in Germany and Cyprus, their life expectancy is 84, while in Italy, France and Spain it is 85.

And while child mortality rates in global terms are low in the UK, at 5.4 deaths per 1,000 among the under-fives, many countries do better. Some of those are in eastern Europe, such as the Czech Republic, with 3.4 deaths per 1,000 births, and Slovenia with three. Most countries in western Europe do better than the UK. Greece has four deaths per 1,000 births and Luxembourg has three. Iceland has the lowest child mortality, at 2.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, and Finland is next best, with 2.9.

The report points out that there is a recognised relationship between poverty and under-five child mortality.   In the UK, the report says, one in four children live in poverty – more than in many other European countries. Iceland has the fewest in poverty – one in 10 – closely followed by Norway, Denmark, Slovenia, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Only half the children living in poverty reach what the report defines as "a good level of development" by the time they are five, compared with two-thirds of the others.

"Good quality early-years provision can help improve outcomes, especially for the most disadvantaged," the report says. "However, childcare is expensive in the UK, and many people cannot afford to utilise it or go back to work after having children.

"All children aged three and above are eligible for 15 free hours of early-years education per week. In addition, from September 2013, the most disadvantaged two-year-olds will be also be eligible. Local authorities will be responsible for funding these places, and there are concerns regarding the effect that this will have on other services available to families."

The report, by a team of international experts led by Marmot, is published by the UCL Institute of Health Equity, which he leads, and the World Health Organisation. It looks at the disparities in health and social, educational and economic circumstances of the 53 countries of the European Union and recommends policy changes to their governments.

Marmot is particularly concerned by the plight of the Neets. "Unemployment may be falling in the UK, but persistent high levels of the number of young people over 18 not in employment, education or training is storing up a public health timebomb waiting to explode," he says. "We are failing too many of our children, women and young people on a grand scale.

"I would say to any government that cares about the health of its population: look at the impact of their policies on the lives people are able to lead and, more importantly, at the impact on inequality. Health inequality, arising from social and economic inequalities, is socially unjust, unnecessary and avoidable, and it offends against the human right to health."

The UK is an unequal society in many respects, but it is an exemplar in its provision of healthcare. In the NHS, it has universal healthcare, offered through one of the most equitable systems in the world, says the report.

But Marmot says action needs to be taken to reduce inequalities in UK society so that people are less likely to become ill.

"In the UK, as in other European countries, health follows a social gradient: the lower the position on the social ladder, the worse the health," he says.

"Action to improve everyone's health and reduce the social gradient in health needs to start at the earliest age, before people become unwell. Good quality early- years provision must be a priority for all children.

"There needs to be a broad range of social policies, including improvements in every child's start to life, [and] adequate social protection that can act as a buffer against low income over the life-course and provide a minimum standard for healthy living."


4 kidney transplants and dialysis 3 times a week - but dying Derek was STILL 'not disabled enough'

Derek McInally was turned down for Disability Living Allowance despite being sicker than his previous appeal 10 months earlier

Ordeal: Derek McInally and his carer and twin brother Ian
Ordeal: Derek McInally and his carer and twin brother Ian
The last time Derek McInally was turned down for part of his disability benefits he waited 13 months for a tribunal.

By the time the date arrived, he was in the early stages of recovery from a double kidney transplant.

At his tribunal hearing, the judge looked over the top of his glasses at the lawyer for the Department for Work and Pensions.

“He’s dying of kidney disease,” the judge said. “How much more ­disabled do you want?”

So in February 2012, Derek’s Disability Living Allowance was reinstated in full.

Since then, his health has deteriorated ­dramatically. In June that year, his kidney transplant failed, and he had to restart dialysis.

He now had four failed kidneys inside him, and was ­seriously ill. Dialysis was three times a week for four hours. He was frequently laid out by infections.

Yet, incredibly, in December 2012, Derek, 48, was told he had to re-apply again for ­Disability Living Allowance.

Even more ­unbelievably, given he was even sicker than at the previous tribunal, he was turned down again – this time not just for part of his benefit, but for the full allowance.

“The people assessing me haven’t even spoken to my consultant,” Derek told me.

"They spoke to my GP who I’ve only met once to ask for an asthma inhaler.”

His twin brother Ian was deeply worried.

"Derek was so depressed when he was turned down again that he didn’t want to carry on with dialysis,” he said.

Protesters demonstrate against IT company Atos's involvement in tests for incapacity benefits
Unfit: Campaigners protest against ATOS in August

“He can’t understand why they keep turning him down.

"He has four practically dead kidneys in him but he doesn’t need disability benefits? It’s like they are calling him a liar.”

On Tuesday morning, I emailed the Department for Work and Pensions to ask them what possible reason they had for stopping Derek’s Disability Living Allowance.

At 1pm, he contacted me to say he had had a call from the DWP to say his benefit had been reinstated.

Derek was delighted that he no longer has to worry about his benefits. But the toll on his mental and physical health over the past few months has been immense.

Derek used to work fitting cavity wall insulation and Ian in retail. Now Ian is Derek’s carer and they live in a two-bedroom council flat in Durham.

“I’ve been told if I stop my dialysis I would be dead within a month,” Derek says.

Until yesterday, the brothers stood not only to lose DLA, but also Ian’s Carer’s Allowance.

“We could also have lost the roof over our heads,” Ian says. “We’re already ­struggling as it is. I do a good job taking care of him, but have to do it on very limited money. There is a lot of personal care involved. One of Derek’s kidneys has ­calcified and he’s developed a hernia.

“Yet the original letter from the DWP said he doesn’t require any assistance.

"A man who has dialysis three times a week. I do all the shopping, cooking and cleaning for him.”

Incredibly, even when disabled people’s benefits are reinstated there is no redress built into the system – and no regulator.

The General Medical Council says it is not the regulator for ATOS Healthcare and attempts by the Work Test ­whistleblower Dr Greg Wood to ask the Care Quality Commission to investigate have been refused.
Derek has no one to complain to except the DWP.

Yet, while they have been awaiting various appeals and tribunals, the McInally brothers have been struggling to heat their flat, to eat well or to buy the cleaning products that will keep Derek’s home free from infection.

Iain Duncan Smith
Architect: Ian Duncan Smith

“The cleaner our home, the better Derek’s chances are,” Ian says. “But cleaning products are so expensive. The cost of stuff just keeps going up.

"Our fuel bills are high because Derek is always cold because of his illness. We had to take loans out to pay our old suppliers.

"Now we can’t afford to put the gas on. Does David Cameron sit there freezing to death?”

DLA – worth between £21 and £134.40 a week – is available to disabled people who have difficulty walking or need help to look after themselves.

It is the benefit that is supposed to be changing to PIP – Personal Independence Payments – but at the weekend the Government announced massive delays to the new system.

Now disabled people like Derek are living in complete confusion as to what system will assess them in the future – even while they are facing an uphill struggle to claim under the current rules.

The DWP said that Derek McInally’s case highlighted some of the problems with DLA that they hope to resolve under PIP.

“Under PIP, claimants will have a face-to-face assessment and systematic reviews – something missing in the current system,” a spokesperson said. “And these reforms will ensure the billions we spend give more targeted support to those who need it most.”

But disability groups say PIP has been designed to remove 500,000 DLA ­claimants from the welfare system. There will be even less money available to help.

It is a fortnight since Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover, tore into “cruel, ­heartless ATOS” at Prime Minister’s Questions, offering a flash of hope to millions.

But, in the end, ATOS is only one ­administrator for a welfare system so fundamentally flawed it is no longer fit for purpose.

The heartless organ-grinder is Iain Duncan Smith.

Read more Real Britain columns from Ros Wynne-Jones here

Workfare: Supreme Court to give verdict on “Back to Work” schemes #workfare #jsa #poundland #ids

From Public Interest Lawyers:

PRESS RELEASE 29 October 2013

On Wednesday 30 October 2013 at 9:45am, the Supreme Court, with five judges sitting, will deliver its verdict on the appeal brought by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions against a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal.

In February 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Regulations (1) under which most of the Government’s “Back to Work” schemes were created were unlawful and must be quashed. The immediate effect of the judgment was that all those people who had been sanctioned by having their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the Back to Work Schemes were entitled to reclaim their allowance.

Iain Duncan Smith appealed the judgment to the Supreme Court but at the same time he also fast-tracked retrospective legislation, the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act, through Parliament. The legislation sought to retrospectively make lawful what the Court of Appeal had declared unlawful in an effort to ensure that the DWP would not be required to pay back millions of pounds to individuals who had been unlawfully sanctioned. That legislation is subject to separate judicial review proceedings which have been stayed pending determination of this appeal.

Our clients who brought this case are:

Cait Reilly: In November 2011, Cait was forced to leave her voluntary work at a local museum and work unpaid at a branch of Poundland under a scheme known as the “sector based work academy”. She was told that if she didn’t carry out the work placement she would lose her jobseeker’s allowance. For two weeks she was made to stack shelves and clean floors. Poundland got free labour whilst she gained nothing and received no training. She was not given a job interview at the end of the two weeks and the museum where she volunteered was left short staffed.

Jamie Wilson: In November 2011, Jamie, a qualified mechanic, was told that he had to work unpaid, cleaning furniture for 30 hours a week for six months under a scheme known as the Community Action Programme. Whilst he desperately wanted to find a job he objected to doing unpaid work that was completely unrelated to his qualifications and would not help him re-enter the job market. He refused to participate and as a result was stripped of his jobseeker’s allowance for six months.

(1) Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise) Regulations 2011

Earl's Court tenants rise up against greedy developers

West London resists plans to knock down council homes for luxury flats

Greedy developers desperate to knock down hundreds of council homes in west London face a national campaign organised by the tight-knit community they want to destroy.

Earls Court residents, local businesses and councillors staged an all-day rally on Saturday to boost their fight against property firm Capco.

Capco wants to demolish 760 homes on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates as well as the 76-year-old Earls Court exhibition centre to make way for a handful of posh flats.

The Save Earls Court campaign is set to become one of the most significant battles between people power and corporate greed in the country.

Hundreds of people joined in the I Love Earls Court day of action to plan a counterattack against the profiteers.

Callous London Mayor Boris Johnson and so-called Communities Secretary Eric Pickles have already approved the development, stitched up between Capco and Hammersmith & Fulham council.

But activists say it is not too late to save Earls Court and plans are in motion to link up with other campaigns across London and the country.

Earls Court Area Action Group’s Sally Taylor, who lives on the West Kensington estate, told the Morning Star that a joined-up campaign would be essential to prevent the demolition from encouraging other developers to turf out council tenants.

She said: “We’ve been told by the council that we would be moved into like-for-like accommodation but I’m not buying that.

“The demolition will break up our tight-knit community that goes back decades and our communities will be ghettoised and shunted into less-desirable areas to make room for luxury flats to cater for businessmen on fleeting visits.”

Frederick Podmore, 79, welcomed the campaign group into his home on the West Kensington estate where he has lived with his wife Joyce since May 15 1972.

“Money can’t buy memories,” he said. “We’re very upset but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Rail union RMT has also thrown its weight behind the campaign as the demolition threatens the Lillie Bridge Tube depot, putting jobs and vital maintenance work at risk.

One campaigner said the union’s support had given them “the courage and morale to continue the fight and organise.”

Local restaurant manager Spencer Parsons warned that knocking down Earls Court exhibition centre could release deadly asbestos dust.

He said: “My main worry is the loss of business literally overnight.”

The huge events held at the centre are responsible for up to half of the local economy
Hammersmith Labour MP Andy Slaughter said the next stage would be to take legal action.

He said one issue for a judicial review would be the council flogging off the site “at gross undervalue” — knocking off up to a quarter of its value.

Mr Slaughter also pointed out that Capco’s plans made a mockery of Hammersmith & Fulham’s aim for 40 per cent of new developments to be classified as affordable housing, instead offering just 10 per cent.

That is “not just wrong, it’s perverse.”

The Suffering being caused by benefit sanctions

Reblogged from Benefit Tales:

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau has published a report on benefit sanctions, what they are given for and how they are affecting the people who’s benefits have been taken away (minimum period of 3 weeks, maximum of 3 years!) 

The vast majority of people receiving these sanctions had no other source of income, and have been left destitute and with lasting long term debt. 

The number of sanctions handed out  has rocketed from around 130,000 in 2009 to 2 million in the past year. 

Most of the people being sanctioned are on Job Sieekers Allowance, but there’s a sizeable minority on invalidity benefits.

The report makes shocking reading and I recommend following the link at the bottom of this article to read the whole thing. 

Here’s what some people reported as happening to them because of these sanctions:

Most people had had to cut down on food (70%), and/or on heating (49%) and travel (47%). 

Almost a quarter of respondents had had to ask for a food parcel.

Some respondents had been left in a very desperate state:

Buy damaged food, market scrounge about at end of day

Used the skip from the local shop for food

Starved and lived off what I had. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas so had to get ready-to-eat food. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days with just bread and a block of cheese that my friend kindly gave me as it was past its sell by date.

Begged in the city.

Slept on a park bench and in empty shed.

I stopped doing anything and have become agoraphobic.

For those with children, it was particularly hard to cope:

Went without meals so my son could eat. My sanction should have been for a week but they took 8 weeks to pay me again, despite me constantly phoning etc. I also complained and received no reply.

And there were other adverse effects on children:

My daughter stopped attending school. I couldn’t afford the taxi she needed to get her there without distress and trauma.

Other consequences of the sanction

The final survey question asked respondents for any other comments on the effects of sanctions on them or their family. More than 150 respondents took the trouble to complete this question, often with extensive accounts of the serious long-term effects on their own physical and mental health, the social and material impact of serious financial hardship, and the adverse effects on their family’s well-being

The possibility of ending up homeless because of rent arrears was a frequent worry:

Because my housing benefit wasn’t paid for 3 months and still hasn’t been reinstated I’m facing eviction and I’m a full time carer to my adult son.

I’m worried housing benefit won’t be sorted in time for my rent as this could make us all homeless yet again and the council have no homes. Last time we were homeless was a result of fleeing domestic violence and me and my five children were put in B&B by the council in two rooms.

Several people said they had been unable to leave the house because of lack of money:

It’s all getting too much. We are now prisoners in our home, no point going out, can’t buy or do anything

The anxiety created by the imposition of a sanction had a serious effect on mental health for many people. A number of people described feeling suicidal because of the stress of the situation and several said they had made suicide attempts. For those with pre-existing mental health problems the effect of the sanction was to exacerbate their condition:

I suffer from severe mental depression and this has definitely not helped my condition. Still currently without any money even though I am doing full time work experience and not sure how I am going to eat until the sanction is lifted.

I was on ESA due to a nervous breakdown in 2009 and have not been given even the slightest chance of recovery as I have had this constant & losing battle with DWP/ATOS ever since. I stay with a friend who feeds me, but have been suicidal for a long while now. I have now given up completely on claiming any benefits at all, as I can no longer face the prospect of the never-ending challenges. I have absolutely no hope left in me at all.

I had no income, and had to borrow from my parents (who are also on benefits and don’t get much income. It has affected me mentally, and I am severely depressed and having anxiety attacks which I have never had before becoming a jobseeker! I believe this is going to affect me in the long run, and I will find it difficult when I do find work, because I am now petrified of speaking to people. I was very confident and bubbly before I became a jobseeker, now I tend not to leave my house unless necessary.

I wasn’t long out of a safe house for domestic abuse I tried to commit suicide and my doctor had to put my medication up and I have to get someone to collect them weekly.

For others there had been effects on their physical health, because of lack of money for an adequate diet or because of stress, or both:

I had to ask my mum to help me with my gas and electric and wasn’t able to fed myself properly and [that] didn’t help as I have coeliac and my family were appalled that I had to live like that for 4 weeks. My health suffered because of it.

I’ve lost over 2 stone in weight through lack of food.

The stress has made me physically sick with irritable bowel syndrome, which I haven’t suffered with for many years. I have previously battled depression and am hoping I won’t end up back on antidepressants again.

I am a type 1 diabetic and I ended up being hypoglycaemic several times.

We couldn’t afford a meal each day so often didn’t eat for days on end. I suffer with hypoglycaemia and need to eat, so this left me with many black outs, confusion, incredibly weak and sick.

I lost weight and got ill. I felt like a scavenging wild animal, not like a human. It’s a miracle I didn’t end up homeless.

The sanction had wider impacts on family relationships in some cases:

My mum has been taken to court and fined for not being able to pay the shortfall in council tax and is struggling to pay the rent arrears accrued when I was sanctioned and the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces – I feel like a burden on her and have felt suicidal on more than one occasion.

The stress put us both in hospital with stress-related problems. We were refused hardship payments but later got this [revoked] because we went to CAB and Shelter. It had a massive effect on our son, who at one point was being considered for going into care because we couldn’t provide for him.

My partner also cares for me so he was left incredibly stressed and upset from this situation due to firstly no money (he has to look after me full time pretty much) and secondly my conditions and mental state became so hard to cope with (it also affected his mental health, he attempted suicide when he could not cope).

At 52 years of age I lost my home and my 21 year-old son, who has had to move in with his girlfriend’s family. We are both sofa-surfing with absolutely no hope for a future of any kind…I stay with a friend who feeds me, but have been suicidal for a long while now. I have been kicked out of my mother’s household due to being sanctioned and I’m now homeless.

This had a devastating effect. I am separated so couldn’t have my children as couldn’t afford the bus fare to travel for them.

For those living with children, the effects of the sanction were particularly hard:

It was so difficult. Had no gas or electric. Sent my children to my mum’s 5 out of the 7 days of the week.

For nearly a month I didn’t get any money before I got hardship [payment]…At this time I was pregnant with my daughter and had another 2 kids in the house…If it wasn’t for my child tax credits and borrowing money I wouldn’t have been able to feed myself. We done without heating during the winter because I couldn’t afford to pay for gas.

I went begging on the streets to get money to buy food as my partner is 7 months pregnant

Many respondents wrote at considerable length about their feeling that they had been very unjustly treated.

Whilst I was on the sanction I visited jobcentre on 3 different occasions to ask how I was to live on no money for 4 weeks? On each occasion I was told there was nothing they could do. I later found out that the correct procedure was to give me a hardship form to help me out. I eventually got the form and handed it in.

The jobcentre have since rejected the claim as it was handed in too late. I sent in 3 reconsideration requests explaining the jobcentre was at fault for not telling me I could claim this and again all 3 requests denied…I feel the jobcentre have deceived me to avoid paying out money.

A number felt that the limitations which their ill-health placed on their ability to work, or the kinds of work they could do had not been given adequate consideration:

I am epileptic and can’t apply for certain jobs that’s why I am limited, I apply for 5-10 jobs that I can do, but it’s not enough.

I can’t work, I take 23 pills a day and I’m also diabetic, yet the group they put me on was for work? They have no right to take money away just like that. Totally unfair, I’ve lost half a stone as I can’t buy enough food to eat and as a diabetic I’m supposed to eat 5 small meals a day. No chance. As I don’t, I’m open to foot infection, eyesight problems, coma or death or amputation. I’m worried sick. Also stress brings on a relapse of other condition.

There were numerous complaints from respondents that they had not been told about the sanction, and had only discovered when they found their money had stopped, that they didn’t understand the reasons for the sanction or that the sanction had been imposed unreasonably, given their circumstances.

I believe it was the Work Programme that had been in the wrong in the first instance for not reimbursing claimants travel expenses when they should be, yet I was the one punished for not attending 1 hour of job search when I couldn’t afford to go.

The original sanction letter made no sense and I couldn’t understand it at all either. It didn’t give any dates as to when or IF the sanction would end.

I had no idea I had been sanctioned until I got a letter from the housing association stating that my housing/council tax benefit had been stopped due to suspension of JSA which I wasn’t even claiming

In other cases the injustice stemmed from poor administration which led to a sanction being imposed when the claimant was not in any way at fault:

I was sanctioned for not supplying information regarding my job search. The forms I was given did not ask for [this] information.(The wrong paper work was given) My paper file was ‘lost’ during the appeal process, and was ‘found’ in secure waste awaiting shredding, My file (the one being destroyed) contained information that refuted the validity of the sanction.

I was sanctioned by the DWP on their error. They never changed my address when I sent in a change of address form. They later admitted it was completely their fault and an admin error. They left me without payments for six months and didn’t reply to a single letter and they wouldn’t speak to me on the phone as they held old details for me.

Respondents felt that it was unfair that the expectations with which they had to comply did not apply to the agencies they had to deal with:

The sanction was so annoying. A4E missed three appointments. When I attended they said to go home. But I miss one appointment and get sanctioned.

The sanction I got was for not attending triage…It was them that mucked up the dates and I was the one that paid for their mistake.

Read the whole report here:!350&app=WordPdf&authkey=!AJTbB-gzwsSCayQ

Co-operative Bank snapped up by vultures

Nick Matthews on what the future might hold for the supposedly ‘ethical bank’

May 9 2013 will stay long in the memory for many co-operators. 

It was the day of reckoning for the Co-operative Bank. It was the day the great unravelling began, the day credit ratings agency Moody’s downgraded the bank’s debt rating to “junk” status. 

It said that the bank was vulnerable to potential losses and warned that it may need “external support” if it could not strengthen its balance sheet.

In a massive piece of understatement the bank said it was “disappointed” by Moody’s decision. 

The news preceded the resignation of chief executive Barry Tootell and the collapse of a bid to buy 631 branches from Lloyds Banking Group.

This unravelling has now ended with the enemy inside the gates. 

US hedge funds, sometimes described as “vulture funds,” Silver Point Capital and Aurelius Capital Management now have significant stakes in the bank — presumably intending to do to us what they usually do with the distressed assets of developing economies.

Now Moody’s, ever helpful in these matters, says that the Co-operative Bank will be forced to “take the axe” to costs. It is worth pointing out that the issues the bank faces are not dissimilar to those faced by the rest of the banking sector. 

Some banks have had to be nationalised, all have had to be recapitalised. So the environment for banking has certainly worsened dramatically. 

But this crisis has been caused by bankers themselves — by their ridiculous growth strategies and reckless lending, risk-taking and selling of products that they themselves did not understand in a mad greed-driven feeding frenzy.

The Co-operative Bank had prided itself that it was different, that the mutual sector — or at least what was left of it — had weathered the storm better than the joint stock banks. It encouraged people who had an ounce of ethics to “switch their money.” 

Now we find, according to no less than the ex-CEO of the Co-operative Group and the current chairman, that there is a crisis of governance at the group. 

We need to unpack these comments because governance has several elements to it. 

Is there something inherent in large-scale co-operatives that makes them difficult to govern? 

Was there a healthy culture at the group — ie was there an open and respectful relationship between those who represented the interests of the members and the professional management? 

And what were the qualities of the key personnel, the senior executives of the group and the bank and the lay chair of the bank and the Co-op Group? 

To answer these questions a review is being carried out by Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the King’s Fund and former chairman of the committee for standards in public life. 

His job is to examine the trail of poor decisions that led us to this situation, “to look at the management structure and culture in which those decisions were taken; lines of accountability which governed those decisions; and the processes which led to them” and “to identify lessons which can be learnt to strengthen the Co-operative Bank and the wider Co-operative Group and the co-operative business model generally.”

Clearly we should wait until the results of that report which will be available at the group AGM next May. 
There are nonetheless a few things that are now obvious.

First that we should have no confidence in the advice from group chairman Len Wardle or ex-CEO Peter Marks about what to do next. 

We should have stopped listening to them a long time ago. 

And it is inconceivable to me that Wardle could contemplate retaining his chairmanship until May — he should have already gone. 

Second a co-operative bank with a minority member’s stake may be “ethical” in intent, but it is evidently not, in my personal view, a co-operative. 

And if it persists in using the name it should be asked to desist — just as the brand Co-operative Travel, which the group sold to Thomas Cook, has to disappear after a certain period. 

That said, the current CEO of the group Euan Sutherland has handled the situation well despite the dreadful hand he has been dealt.

Here’s hoping this amputation of the Co-op’s crippled banking arm stops the bleeding and protects the body of the Co-operative Group from any further liabilities.  

It is sobering to remember that none of the demutualised building societies have survived the transition.

Nick Matthews is vice-chairman of Co-operatives UK. He writes this column in a personal capacity.

Child poverty survey reveals cold facts about freezing homes

Reuters / Jas Lehal
Reuters / Jas Lehal
The reality for a growing number of children in poor families in Britain is cold, damp houses and not enough to eat, a new survey by a leading children’s charity reveals, as living standards decline for most people across the country.

More than 50% of all poor children in Britain are living in houses they say are too cold, while a quarter said their homes had a damp or mold problem, a survey published by the Children’s Society charity reveals.

The study asked 2,000 children, aged between 10 and 17, for their views on poverty. At present there are three million children living in poverty in the UK, and that figure is set to rise despite claims from numerous governments that tackling child poverty remains a priority.

Beth Hersfeld in emailed comments to RT said that the UK compares poorly with its European neighbors in terms of the number of children living in poverty.

As well as carrying out the survey, the Children’s Society is launching a children’s commission on poverty, to record and help address the concerns of children living below the breadline.The idea is “to get children’s voices heard” said Hersfeld because “children are the most affected yet they are the least heard.”

76% of children who said their family “wasn’t well off at all” said that they often worried about how much money their family had and more than 53% said their home was too cold last winter; 26% said their home was damp or had a mold problem, while 24% said they were much colder than they would like them to be.

55% said they felt embarrassed by the fact that their family was poor and 14% said they had actually been bullied because of it, with some receiving insults like “council house kid”.

More than half the children surveyed said they thought child poverty has increased over the last decade and nearly half thought it would get worse again over the next two years.

“This is a damning incitement of how children feel about their chances of their future and the opportunities they will have in life,’ Hersfield told RT.

“For millions of children up and down the country, poverty is a grinding reality – and it is getting worse. Many families are facing stark and unacceptable choices, like heat or eat. This is disgraceful in any country, especially in one of the world’s richest,” Matthew Reed, the chief executive for the Children’s Society, said in a statement.

Children’s Centers in crisis

A separate survey published on Tuesday by another charity, 4Children, shows that an increasing number of families are using the services offered by children’s centers, despite the fact that many are being starved of cash due to local government funding cuts.

Their research reveals that over the past 12 months, 66% of centers are operating on a decreased budget, but 73% are dealing with an increased number of families. A third say that they expect to be offering a reduced number of services within a year.

According to the study, over a million families used the services of children’s centers and they are supporting two-thirds of disadvantaged families with children under the age of five.

“The past twelve months have seen existing pressure on families mounting, with increasing strain on job security, household finances, relationships and widespread anxiety. Our census shows that more and more families, particularly those in the greatest need are turning to Children’s Centers to help pull them through these tough times,” Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive of 4Children, said in a statement.

She added that local authorities are under extreme financial pressure because of the coalition government’s austerity drive and warned that long-term social and financial reward come from keeping the centers open and not closing them down.
She also said that it is essential for services such as ante-natal midwifery clinics to be run through Children’s Centers, to ensure that families have the full range of help and support they need.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions was quick to pass the buck and blame the last government.

“Despite paying out 170 billion in tax credits alone, the previous government failed to meet their target to halve child poverty by 2010. While this government is committed to eradicating child poverty, we are taking a new approach by finding the root causes of the problem and tackling these”, he told the Guardian. 

An estimated 5.3 million households live in fuel poverty in Britain and this figure is expected to rise to 9 million by 2016. Meanwhile the so-called Big Six energy companies have year on year raised prices for gas and electricity.

Neil Clark, a freelance journalist and regular contributor for RT, thinks the UK government could do more to control the constant rise of energy bills.

"Any government that genuinely represented the interests of the British people would have taken tough action by now against the Big Six. The government could have ordered the companies to freeze, or better still, reduce prices," he wrote in an opinion peice for RT.

The recent price rises have already caused a political stir in Westminster and on Tuesday MPs summoned the bosses of the Big Six to justify the price hike in front of the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC).

They are arguing that they were forced to raise prices because the wholesale price for gas had gone up substantially in the last two years, a claim that the industry regulator, Ofgem refutes.

Majority of British industry now owned by foreigners - Michael Meacher MP

The aim behind the flotation of Royal Mail was to enhance populist capitalism by maximising the number of individual shareholders.   It hasn’t worked out that way.  

As in the heyday when 750,000 persons bid for BT shares when the former telecoms monopoly was sold off in 1984, this time round more than 700,000 individuals applied for the Royal shares.   But exactly as happened 30 years ago, the great majority of these individuals quickly sold on their shares in order to realise the capital gain as the price rose two-thirds above the IPO, valuing the company at £5.5bn far above the the £ original price offer.  

 Furthermore the Royal Mail offer has hardly opened up share ownership to new investors at all, since around 90% of the applications came from existing clients.   But there are deeper lessons to be drawn from the overall pattern of share ownership which are even more sobering.

In 1963 individual ownership of UK shares amounted to 53%, while overseas investors totalled only some 7%.   Since that high point in personal ownership, the proportion held by individuals has been in persistent decline for half a century till today it amounts to no more than 10%.   The election of Mrs. Thatcher in 1979, with the first tranche of BT shares offered to the public in 1984 followed by British Gas shares offered in the Tell Sid campaign in 1986, made no perceptible change in the pace or momentum of decline whatever.  

There is no sign that this time round it will be any different.   Whereas half of all Americans own a share or fund and in Sweden it is 80%, in Britain the proportion of share-holders remains as low as 30%.

Michael Meacher MP

UK Disability History Month launch event

You are invited to the launch of UK Disability History Month 2013

Celebrating Our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to the Institution or Isolation.     

Tuesday 19th November 2013

 5.30 (6pm start) – 8pm

Abbey Community Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, London SW1 P3BU


Christine Blower, General Secretary NUT

                                                          Liz Carr, Comedian

Jackie Downer, CEO The Quality Company

Kirsten Hearn, Chair Inclusion London

Prof.Mike Oliver, Writer

Prof. Jan Walmsley, History of Learning Difficulty

Chair-Richard Rieser, Coordinator UKDHM

Light refreshments will be provided.

Launch Co-sponsored National Union of Teachers

Please RSVP to or call 07907346273