Friday, January 31, 2014

Bedroom Tax: Disabled couple win appeal on human rights grounds

The couple live alone in three bedroom Local Authority property. The appeal tribunal accepted that they needed separate bedrooms and that it was discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights to fail to treat Housing Benefit Claimants, who need an additional bedroom on account of disability, differently from those who do not need an additional bedroom.

The tribunal also found that the property was only a two bedroom property because the third bedroom measured 7′ 1″ x 9′ 6″ (63.3 square feet) and was too small to be occupied by an adult as a bedroom on a full time basis.

In applying the bedroom tax in this case the Local Authority breached Article 1, Protocol 1, European Convention of Human Rights, which provides a right not be deprived of possessions, and Housing Benefit is a possession for these purposes.

For more on the Human Rights Act see Factsheet F1 – human rights act

As a result of this decision the bedroom tax does not apply.

The DWP has been monitoring bedroom tax appeal decisions and has announced its intention to take two earlier decisions in Fife to the upper tribunal.

Nearly Legal have a regularly updated page of bedroom tax appeal decisions at

For more on the bedroom tax see Factsheet F57 – the bedroom tax.

Disability Rights UK

Atos: Heart-attack victim in cash-axe shock

Reblogged from Benefit tales:

A MAN forced to give up work with heart problems had his benefits axed for failing to complete a capability assessment... after suffering a heart attack during the examination.The man, who received employment support allowance, was required to attend a work-capability assessment to assess his suitability for work.

During the appointment he was told he was having a heart attack, forcing the nurse to stop the assessment.

Read more… 330 more words

The Kettle Box: The New Symbol of Britain

You might not have heard of 'kettle boxes' before. They sound innocuous enough; maybe, with the right kind of marketing, even a bit fashionable. Whole meals you can prepare with nothing more than a handy electric kettle.

What might you find in a kettle box? Dried soup. Instant mash. Porridge you make just by adding water. And of course that student staple, Pot Noodles.

No kettle? For you, there are 'cold boxes'. It may be harder to sell these as a culinary fashion item. They're for people who need to prepare food without heating or hot water. In comparison, the kettle boxes are positively upmarket.

This is Britain today. Staff at the Trussell Trust, which coordinates a network of food banks, have come up with the idea of kettle boxes and cold boxes because they're seeing people who cannot afford to heat their food, or simply don't have what's required to do so. Morecambe Bay food bank is giving out a couple of each of these every week to its clients.

When government apologists tell you their welfare reforms are working, they don't tell you about the people surviving on kettle boxes. They know most people won't ask.


Tom Watson MP on Tory reality

David Cameron says we are all in it together but his actions tell a different story

When monied interests call the shots, it’s always the VIPs that win.

We’ve recently learnt a lot about our unequal country.

David Cameron is building a VIP society, where money and status count more than anything else.

So when a switch tripped in the comfy Chipping Norton home of the PM, the engineers battling to restore power to thousands of storm victims were diverted to mend it .

Though no DIY buff, lifting a finger and flicking a switch on a fuse box is even within my limited ability.

Number 10 spin doctors were forced to issue a statement blaming a ‘leaky roof’ for the problem Our PM has clearly not fixed his roof when the sun was shining.

This week we’ve also learnt, that if you’re hungry, so hungry you take discarded food from supermarket bins, you will be arrested.

Thank heavens the Crown Prosecution Service saw sense, dropping charges against ‘bin dippers’, who were taking food destined for landfill sites.

Yet it begs the question: why is all this waste food thrown away anyway? Can the supermarkets, with all their logistical ingenuity, not give the waste to the food banks that feed hungry families ?

Where is the government minister who is making this his or her cause in Cameron’s VIP Cabinet?


Cameron 'running scared' from his own MPs over immigration rebellion

The PM abstained on backbencher Dominic Raab’s Commons proposal to make it easier to deport foreign criminals even though Theresa May said it would be illegal

Scared: David Cameron
Scared: David Cameron
David Cameron has been accused of being “scared” of his own MPs after having to rely on Labour votes to see off a Tory rebellion over immigration.

The PM abstained on backbencher Dominic Raab’s Commons proposal to make it easier to deport foreign criminals even though Home Secretary Theresa May said it would be illegal.

Mr Cameron was spared further embarrassment when Labour and Lib Dem MPs helped defeat Mr Raab’s amendment by 241 votes to 97.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper said: “I can think of no precedent for ministers abstaining on an amendment as they are scared of their backbenchers.

“The Home Secretary told the House the measure was illegal, then refused to vote against it.


SHOULD Atos be calling you for an assessment?

Reblogged from Same Difference:

Just spotted at ATOS Miracles. Please share widely.

Re: Medical conditions, home visit or assessment centre...

This is from the Atos-DWP contract:

Unsuitable for calling to a Medical Examination Centre.

Age >75 years
Age <12 years

Both Blind and Deaf
Registered Blind (needs to be seen in own environment)
Cases accepted under the Special Rules defining Terminal illness.
Amputation of both legs…

Read more… 326 more words

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What you’re not being told about EU verdict on social security

Reblogged from Vox Political:

“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation that could affect the well-being of many millions of people.

But Council officials say national courts refer to these international standards when deciding on relevant cases, meaning benefit claimants could try to use the Council’s ruling to boost their case for a higher award.

In response, our ever-more-right-wing government could decide to withdraw from its dealings with the Council altogether, meaning our citizens would no longer have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. Many Tories – like Philip Davies - have long held this desire!


Parliamentary Committee recalling IDS for grilling on Universal Credit v3.0

Click to visit the original post Reblogged from brianwernham:

Today it has been announced that the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee is recalling IDS on Monday (3rd Feb 2014) to grill him in detail on the money wasted so far on Universal Credit (v1.0 written off and v2.0, the temporary fix) and why the new 'digital solution' (a.k.a. v3.0) will succeed when the previous two versions have failed to deliver...

Double your dole, Eurocrats tell UK: Ministers told current handouts are ‘manifestly inadequate’

‘Eurocrats sparked fury last night by ordering the UK to double dole payments.

The Council of Europe claims the handouts given to Britain’s jobless are ‘manifestly inadequate’.

Ministers have been told they are in violation of the European Social Charter – potentially opening the door for claimants to take the Government to court to get more money.

But ministers say obeying the diktat from the Council, which oversees the controversial European Court of Human Rights, would cost the UK billions of pounds and plunge efforts to reduce the deficit into chaos.

To comply, Jobseeker’s Allow- ance (JSA) would have to be hiked by £71, from £67 to £138 a week.

Last night Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith accused the Council of Europe of ‘lunacy’.’


Why Are Banking Executives In London Killing Themselves?

‘Bankers committing suicide by jumping from the rooftops of their own banks is something that we think of when we think of the Great Depression. Well, it just happened in London, England. A vice president at JPMorgan’s European headquarters in London plunged to his death after jumping from the top of the 33rd floor.

He fell more than 500 feet, and it is being reported by an eyewitness that “there was quite a lot of blood“. This comes on the heels of news that a former Deutsche Bank executive was found hanged in his home in London on Sunday. So why is this happening? Yes, the markets have gone down a little bit recently but they certainly have not crashed yet. Could there be more to these deaths than meets the eye? You never know. And as I will discuss below, there have been a lot of other really strange things happening around the world lately as well.

But before we get to any of that, let’s take a closer look at some of these banker deaths. The JPMorgan executive that jumped to his death on Tuesday was named Gabriel Magee. He was 39 years old, and his suicide has the city of London in shock…’


Britain's ten poorest areas face biggest council cuts - as rich Tory authorities get budget rises

Deprived boroughs in Liverpool, London, Manchester and Middlesbrough, will lose ten times more from the government than the ten richest according to research

Communities Secretary: Eric Pickles
Communities Secretary: Eric Pickles
Britain's 10 worst-off areas will suffer the biggest council cuts – as some rich Tory authorities get budget rises, research shows.

Deprived boroughs in Liverpool, London, Manchester and Middlesbrough, will lose ten times more from the government than the ten richest.

The reason lies in funding formulas used by the Tory-led Government which hits Labour-held areas hardest.

These local authorities will have their budgets slashed by an average 16.9% during this Parliament, but Tory-controlled councils will lose just 6.6% and Lib Dem councils, 7.8%.

But Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is hitting worst-off areas harder.

Liverpool will lose 27.1% in funding from 2010-15, Hackney in London, 27%, Manchester City Council, 26%, Middlesbrough, 24% and Birmingham, 23.3%.

But Tory-run Wokingham, one of the richest areas in England, will get a 1.1% rise and Education Secretary Michael Gove’s council of Surrey Heath will receive a 0.9% increase in funding.


Greedy employment agency bosses mis-selling worthless insurance to temporary workers

The Mirror's investigative columnist Andrew Penman uncovers a 'shabby practice' which lawyers claim could make the minimum wage 'meaningless'

Persuader: Blue Arrow interviewer 'Cosman'
Persuader: Blue Arrow interviewer 'Cosman'
The Government has promised to investigate how low-paid temporary workers are conned into buying worthless accident insurance by greedy bosses.

And the Mirror is happy to pass on our own evidence – because we’ve just gone undercover to show how the rip-off works.

One of the recruitment firms we investigated was Blue Arrow – which could be embarrassing for the ­Government because of its links to Tory peer Lord Ashcroft.

After posing as a jobseeker, a Mirror reporter was offered catering work on the minimum wage by Blue Arrow, working at Wembley Stadium.

But first the Mirror mole was told about the supposedly “optional” ­accident insurance scheme.

The Blue Arrow interviewer, who only gave the name Cosman, said: “This covers you in case anything happens at work – you trip, you fall down the stairs, I don’t know, you get cut with a knife, you get burnt with hot water or whatever.

"We recommend everybody to do it because if, God forbid, anything should happen to any of you guys we don’t cover anything.

“It’s for your own safety, plus it’s not a lot of money.”

He said the cost was £2.50 monthly depending on the number of hours, but we’ve seen Blue Arrow payslips showing it deducted £2.50 weekly – and even had the cheek to put the payout under the heading “benefits”.The Mirror has also seen evidence that the corporate cost of insurance such as this can be nearer 3p a week per worker.

Workplace: Wembley Stadium

Whatever the amount, Blue Arrow was deducting money from wage packets when there was no need for the insurance at all because the catering at Wembley is provided by a company called ­Delaware North, which automatically insures all workers.

A spokesman for Delaware North said: “Any person who works for Delaware North, whether engaged directly or via an employment agency, is covered by our employers’ liability insurance.

“No charge is or has ever been made by us to any worker for this insurance cover – it is provided as a matter of course.”


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fury As Former Tory MP Says Food Banks Make People Poorer

Former Tory MP Edwina Currie, has once again caused fury after criticising the work of food banks, arguing that they end up making people poorer and put local shops out of business.

Writing for The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, Edwina Currie claims that the Trussell Trust is “having a field day”, as they do they not own a “single food bank” preferring to “merely advise” other organisations – the Trussell Trust operates over 400 food banks nationwide – citing the “170 per cent increase in people using food banks” in the previous 12 months.

Edwina Currie argues that “anyone with their wits about them can grasp” that the more food banks there are supplying free food, the more “takers” they will have queuing at the door. In addition, she claims that as the use of food banks is equated to a rise in poverty, “well-meaning groups” are using the data as a stick to “beat the government” with. However, in their bid to “do something to help” they “may be perpetuating the problems that brought people to their doorstep in the first place”.

In her opinion there are three categories of people who use food banks:


The end of free speech and free protest in the UK

Click to visit the original post

It's farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won't go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments.

While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits.

Three charged with stealing food from skip behind Iceland supermarket

Crown Prosecution Service claims there is ‘significant public interest’ in prosecuting men arrested for taking discarded food

A man will stand trial next month after being caught taking some tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese from the dustbins behind a branch of Iceland.

Police arrested the men as they left the area with a holdall and trolley containing food. The total value of the items taken allegedly amounted to £33 and they were of low value, consisting of tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes.

Initially arrested for burglary, the three men were charged under an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after being discovered in “an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food”.

Police returned the items to the Iceland store. The men were held in a police cell for 19 hours before being released, May said.

Read more…

Shame on you, Job Centre! Getting people off the dole isn’t getting them into work!

Reblogged from Vox Political:


One of Vox Political‘s many astute commenters made an extremely good point about government schemes to get people (a) off the dole and (b) into work. They said the fundamental question we should be asking the DWP is: “How many people have you turned into productive taxpaying workers who do not claim any benefits at all?”

It is as though they were prescient and could predict the way the debate has developed this week, firstly with the bogus DWP press release that has allowed some of us to suggest that we should judge the DWP by results, not targets; and now with the declaration by the Commons Work and Pensions committee that Job Centre Plus staff should be rewarded for the number of people they get into work, not just the number they get off the dole.

It seems this is an idea whose time has come.

Employment minister Esther McVey’s time – like that of her boss Iain Duncan Smith – has been and gone. Do not expect her to do anything about this.

Job Centre staff are currently given incentives to get benefit claimants off the dole, and this has led to wholesale abuse of the system of sanctions which can mean people are banned from claiming benefits for three whole years after a third ‘offence’.


Stalin, Ian Duncan Smith and Terror as Corporate Management Technique

Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili, aka Stalin: Thuggish Dictator of the Soviet Union

Ian Duncan Smith pic
Ian Duncan Smith: Thuggish Dictator of the Department of Work and Pensions

One of the other books I've been reading lately is Alex De Jonge's biography of Stalin, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1986). During his career Stalin is estimated to have killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens - though the real figure may be a high as 45 million or over - through a series of purges and artificial famines as he transformed the Soviet Union into the military and industrial superpower that was to dominate half of Europe and challenge America for world mastery for the next fifty years.

Not So Hidden Ideology Behind The DWP’s War On Women

The impact on women of austerity policies has often been assumed to be an unfortunate side-effect driven not by ideology but simple bad luck.  Women are more likely to work in the public sector, and therefore were hit harder by mass job losses.  More women than men are single parents, and as such more women have suffered due to the benefit cuts.

Few in mainstream politics have suggested this was intentional – instead the impression given is that this has represented a lack of thought or care about the needs of women.  Undoubtedly the result of a sexist society, but still pretty much business as usual, particularly for the Tory Party.

The reality, which has gone almost unnoticed even during a much discussed feminist revival, is that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms represent an attack on women’s autonomy which is unprecedented in the UK’s recent history.  And this assault – which by and large only affects women who are poor – is driven by an ugly and out-dated fantasy of Victorian family values which come directly from the mystical beliefs of the Secretary of State himself.


Cold-home casualties

An end to fuel poverty is affordable and achievable, but the opportunity is being lost in the continuing clamour for cuts, writes Alan Simpson

The current ‘energy debate’ is in danger of descending into little more than an unsavoury slanging match. Ed Miliband’s price freeze proposal was a brilliant opening ploy. But in the vacuum that followed, it looked more like a policy space the Labour Party didn’t know how to fill.

The moment called out for a radically different plan of what tomorrow’s energy market must look like. All it triggered, however, was a debate dominated by the political crazies.

Egged on by the Tabloid Tories, David Cameron’s resurgent right are blaming everything on ‘green’ taxes, and demanding their repeal. Behind a rallying cry of ‘Only pollution can save the poor’, Cameron’s crazies are calling for the deregulation of everything that might make a dirty industry clean up its act. The sad thing is they are getting away with it. Decarbonisation targets are being abandoned, zero-carbon homes are off the agenda, renewable energy is under attack, ‘Warm Home’ grants are replaced by Mickey Mouse ‘Green Deal’ loans... And now they even want to abandon their legal duty to end fuel poverty.

Annual cull

Britain has some of the poorest housing stock in Europe. Around five million households live in government-defined fuel poverty. Every 1 per cent increase in energy bills throws another 40,000 households over the fuel-poverty line. When this year’s figures are published, we will again see ‘excess winter deaths’ of 20,000–30,000 people.

This has become an annual cull: the cold-homes casualties that Britain tolerates because we lack a decent housing renewal policy. It is a scandal dressed up as a statistic.

Read more... 

Atos boss accused of 'living in a parallel universe' after claiming hated benefits assesor is popular with public

 Joe Hemming was savaged by a cross-party committee of MPs after claiming that the public was 'satisfied' with the controversial private contractor's performance 

Cloud cuckoo land: Atos boss Joe Hemming
Cloud cuckoo land: Atos boss Joe Hemming
The boss of hated benefit assessor Atos was yesterday accused of “living in a parallel universe” after claiming the public was “satisfied” with the job his firm was doing.

Joe Hemming made the claim after being hauled before MPs to explain the firm’s botched handling of the Government’s “work capability assessments” which try to get people off benefits.

Angry MPs told Mr Hemming thousands of their constituents were still in desperate circumstances because incorrect assessments had stripped them of vital financial support.

Mr Hemming, appearing at the Commons Public Administration Committee, said: “Atos is proud of the work it does.

“We have a real passion for delivering services to the citizen in a way that continues to satisfy the way the citizen wants to be served.”

Labour MP Paul Flynn accused Mr Hemming of suffering from a “reality problem”.

He asked: “Do you live in some kind of bubble somewhere – some kind of parallel universe?”

Mr Flynn added he had been forced to listen to “vacuous nonsense”.

He was joined by Tory and Lib Dems in attacking the firm.

Lib Dem Greg Mulholland said Atos’s name was “severely damaged for good” over their handling of vulnerable claimants.

And Tory MP Robert Halfon said: “You don’t provide good service and there is no redress.”

He said the majority of his constituents thought the service from Atos was “appalling”.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Job seeker gets a shift at Subway but comes away without any dough

Student on the breadline wanted to earn a decent crust but Subway didn't pay him for his sarnie making efforts

Barmy: Subway didn't pay worker
Barmy: Subway didn't pay worker
A student has told how he worked a full day at Subway for no pay after applying for a job at the sandwich giant.

Matthew Parnell was taken on for a trial at the world’s largest fast-food firm, believing he would be monitored and offered a post. But the 17-year-old said he ended up working a shift about six weeks ago and never heard from bosses again. He added: “I was briefly told how to make a sandwich , then for the rest of the day I worked like anyone else there.

“The manager was hardly there so I can hardly see how I was being reviewed. I felt exploited.”


People forced to use food banks after wrongly losing benefits say MPs from all parties

Many on the dole are being “sanctioned” when common sense dictates that they should not lose the cash, the cross-party Commons select committee said

Many on the dole are being “sanctioned” when common sense dictates that they should not lose the cash, the cross-party Commons select committee said
Desperate measures: People are having to revert to food banks

Desperate measures: People are having to revert to food banks Desperate measures: People are having to revert to food banks

Jobless people are being forced to use food banks after wrongly having their benefit docked, MPs warn today.

Many of those on the dole are being “sanctioned” inappropriately when common sense dictated that they should not lose the cash, the cross-party Commons select committee said.

Some are having to rely on food handouts as a result, experts told the Work and Pensions committee.

The way that Jobcentres assess claimants does not take enough account of their circumstances, the MPs said in a damning report.

And the system pressurises staff into getting them off of benefits rather than into work.

Chairwoman Dame Anne Begg called for a review of the Jobcentre Plus (JCP) targets and sanctions system.

The Labour MP said: “JCP’s performance is currently measured primarily by the proportion of claimants leaving benefit by specific points in their claims.

“This takes no account of whether they are leaving benefit to start a job or for less positive reasons, including being sanctioned or simply transferring to another benefit.

“We believe this risks JCP hitting its targets but missing the point. JCP must be very clearly incentivised to get people into work, not just off benefits.

“The processes by which JCP currently establishes claimants’ needs are haphazard and prone to missing crucial information about a person’s barriers to working, including homelessness and drug dependency.

"A more thorough and systematic approach to assessing claimants’ needs is required.”

The civil service PCS union that represents Jobcentre staff said that political pressure had led to more people having their benefits docked.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “No one joined the employment service to be in conflict with the people they are there to help, but this government is seeking to punish the unemployed, sick and disabled.

“This political pressure is making life intolerable for claimants and staff alike and we fully support the MPs’ call for a much wider review of the effect that sanctions are having.”


Monday, January 27, 2014

Hungry families begging their doctors for food vouchers

GPs face deluge of patients who say they need charity handouts for their families to survive on rations

Lifeline: Food bank demand is rising
Lifeline: Food bank demand is rising

Hungry families are pleading with doctors to give them the nod to use food banks.

GP surgeries are said to be at breaking point with queues of desperate patients booking appointments to claim vouchers.

Doctors – along with social workers, health visitors and social organisations – are allowed to refer people who need rations.

Experts warned yesterday that the scramble is the latest sign of a “public health emergency” as hard-up families struggle to put food on the table.

And they say the rising number of those seeking food handouts is stretching resources to the limit.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

US Contractors running British prisons introduce torture regimes

He was taken to hospital in handcuffs, then returned to his cell. Two days later he was taken back to hospital and kept in handcuffs for five long hours. His condition worsened. The cuffs stayed on. His heart stopped. Medical staff tried and failed to resuscitate him.

Another dying man had been taken in handcuffs from his Harmondsworth cell for treatment in hospital. He stayed cuffed while sedated, stayed cuffed while undergoing an angioplasty. Eventually the handcuffs were removed. Seven hours later he was dead.

A shocking report on Harmondsworth, the British immigration lock-up run by GEO, America's second biggest prisons contractor. Who are the GEO Group and what do they stand for?

Harmondsworth guards routinely subjected detainees to long periods of solitary confinement without reason, the inspectors reported. Muslims were more likely than others to be isolated.
Hunger strikers were monitored excessively, and for reasons that had nothing to do with their medical needs. Some were held regardless of clear medical grounds for release.

Benefits stopped 'to meet targets', PCS union claims

People looking for work have had their benefits stopped to meet government targets, the PCS union claims.

The union, which represents many job centre staff, said they had been under "enormous pressure" to stop claimants' Jobseeker's Allowance.

Some claimants said they had benefits withdrawn for "genuine mistakes" such as missing appointments.

The government says sanctions are a "last resort", and strongly denies the union's claim.

"Job centre staff are under enormous pressure to implement sanctions on unemployed people," PCS union north-east regional secretary Simon Elliot said.

"Staff are faced with the threat of sanctions themselves in the form of what they call performance improvement plans if they don't impose sanctions.

"If you look at the guidance for implementing the performance improvement plans it clearly states that it's a measure against targets."

Source; BBC

One million denied disability benefit

Disabled charities attack fit-to-work tests after 1m people denied benefit

Government figures show 32% of new sickness and disability benefit claimants found fit to work from 2008 to 2013

Disabled activists protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Disabled activists protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2013 during a legal battle over the work capability assessment

Disability charities have renewed their criticism of fitness-to-work tests after the government said almost a million people who applied for sickness benefit have instead been found fit for work.

The applicants were denied benefits after undergoing a work capability assessment carried out by private firms contracted to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). But disability charities said the tests were unfair and the system was failing to give people the support they needed to get a job.

The testers assessed 32% of new claimants for employment and support allowance (ESA) as fit to work and capable of employment between October 2008 and March 2013 – totalling 980,400 people, according to the figures published by the DWP on Saturday.

More than a million others withdrew their claims before reaching a face-to-face assessment, because they had recovered and either returned to work or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation.

Under the old system, 2.6 million people were on incapacity benefit when ESA was introduced in 2008.

In August 2010, 900,000 people had been claiming the sickness benefit for more than a decade.

The minister of state for disabled people, Mike Penning, said: "With the right support, many people with an illness, health condition or disability can still fulfil their aspiration to get or stay in work, allowing them to provide for themselves and their family."

The employment rate for disabled people has increased gradually over the years to 45%, a DWP spokesman said.

ESA is an income replacement benefit provided to people of working age who are too ill to work because of a health condition or disability.

There were 2.49 million people on ESA and incapacity benefit as of May 2013. ESA replaced incapacity benefit, income support and severe disablement allowance for new claimants from October 2008.

Philip Connolly, the policy manager for Disability Rights UK, said: "They are finding people fit for work when they aren't and they are not even giving them the support they need to get a job. It is a disgrace.

"People should go online and read the test, and judge for themselves whether the test is fair. They will almost always come to the conclusion that it is not."

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said the work capability assessment should be more than an exercise in getting people off benefits.

He said: "The fit-for-work results are only half the story. We should be talking about getting a million more disabled people into work.

"Disabled people are pushing hard to find jobs and get on in the workplace. Nine in 10 disabled people work or have worked. Yet only about 50% of disabled people have a job right now.

"They face massive challenges when it comes to finding and staying in work. We need to make sure that as the economy picks up disabled people are not left behind. We've got to start by supporting more disabled people to find and stay in work."


FREE IDS Mask--!

A Free Iain Duncan Smith Mask for use on the Demonstrations

Just click the picture for bigger version

Download ~ Print ~ Then put your pants on expenses
Duncan Smith Mask

Read more: Atos National Demo

IDS ridiculed over 'freedom from benefits' waffle

Disability campaigners pour scorn on millionaire minister Iain Duncan Smith

Disability campaigners poured scorn on millionaire minister Iain Duncan Smith yesterday following his comparison of benefit cuts to ending slavery.

The Tory Minister for Work and Pensions became an object of ridicule after lauding his regime of savage benefit cuts and sanctions before an audience of politicos at his right-wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.

Mr Duncan Smith said his guidance on "the journey from dependence to independence" was "part of our party's historic mission - just look at Wilberforce and Shaftesbury."

William Wilberforce and the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury were 19th century politicians known primarily for pioneering anti-slavery legislation in England.

Disability activists planning a day of action next month against reviled welfare contractor Atos derided the speech.

Campaigner and Where's the Benefit? blogger Steven Sumpter dismissed the comparison as "deluded."

"It's definitely getting rent and food money that traps me, not my illness at all.

"And as for that mobility allowance - that keeps me trapped in my house. That car it pays for enslaves me. I should be freed from its grip," he said.

Leeds-based activist Ian Morrison called the speech "a complete and utter joke."

The real Benefits Street could be found wherever Atos opened an assessment centre, he said.

"I'm an ordinary guy who's worked all his life. I've paid into national insurance under the taxation system in this country.

"That's what it's for - to help when something goes wrong - but now I'm being blamed for claiming it because I'm a 'burden on society'."

Mr Morrison said many people were scared of publicly protesting for fear of retaliation, but disability benefits were "life or death."

Mr Morrison said the February 19 day of action had already seen a 144 pickets confirmed across Britain.

"February 19 is going to be a day that this country has never seen before," he said.

For more information visit

Morning Star

Are the DWP Falling Apart at Every Level? PIP and the Cap

This month DPAC ran two articles , one on PIP being sanctionable evidenced through a DWP Freedom of Information request (FOI) response (we put our own FOI in on this on the day) and the other on DWP information of cuts to the benefit cap for couples without children 

The PIP being sanctionable issue had a lot of attention – how could they possibly do this? Kate Green responded to DPAC on Twitter, after asking questions and obtaining info and documents from the Parliament library to say PIP wasn’t sanctionable, other MPs said they would raise questions on this. John Pring of DNS News also contacted the DWP and their view was PIP wasn’t sanctionable. But we were all confused, none more so than the DWP, it seems. On 23rd January the DWP issued an apology ( yes really: an apology) and said they had made a mistake: PIP is not sanctionable

We are still not entirely clear how PIP fits in with ‘withdrawal of benefits’, linked benefits to PIP and other puzzles set up by minsters and the DWP which it appears that the DWP themselves cannot properly follow either.

The second story on the benefit cap information and its cut was also clarified by DWP –they didn’t apologise this time, but again they got it wrong! The cap wont be cut, at the moment anyway. 

We are all trawling through these cuts they call reform, and its difficult enough, given 2 cock ups in 3 weeks by the DWP, plus all those emails that DPAC gets through its mail box from people whose lives are affected by DWP incompetency-we ask: are the DWP falling apart at every level? If so UNUM will be pleased


Papers Please: Checkpoints in London ‘Because of Terrorism’

‘A photograph taken in London’s Park Lane underscores how authorities are randomly using dubious unspecified terror threats to set up ‘papers please’ checkpoints where innocent passers-by are searched by police.

The sign in the photo reads, “SECURITY OPERTION: Officers are conducting patrols in this area to deter and disrupt terrorist activity. There is not specific intelligence to suggest terrorist activity in this area but terrorists need to plan and prepare by observing possible targets or transporting equipment and material around.”

“Police activities, including stop and search, will make it harder for terrorists to operate. Your co-operation and patience will help keep London safe.”’


‘Bedroom Tax’ Bleeding Councils Dry As More Than 200,000 Desperate Families Plead For Rent Aid

The coalition government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’, or spare room subsidy, is having a devastating effect upon local authority finances due to a shortfall in Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funding, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.

Over 200,000 ‘bedroom tax’ victims have approached their local council for help in paying their rent through Discretionary Housing Payments in the last six months, after being hit by an average 14% cut in their Housing Benefit.


Mentally unfit refugees unfairly targeted by Home Office

The charity Asylum Link Merseyside cites case of victim of torture denied health assessment and sent back to Pakistan

Kashani Jamil

Kashani Jamil said he was tortured by the Taliban. Photograph:

The Home Office is covertly targeting the most vulnerable asylum seekers – those considered mentally unfit, or victims of torture – for deportation as part of the government's hardline stance on immigration, according to lawyers and charity workers.

Lawyers claim that asylum seekers are being forced to leave the UK without having a proper psychological or health assessment, both obligations under human rights legislation and UK immigration rules.

A spokesman for Asylum Link Merseyside said the government had started selecting the most vulnerable cases for removal. He said: "This is a concerted attempt to deport those with mental illness: it ties in with attempts to whittle down the backlog of such cases as quickly as possible. It's horrible."

Shamik Dutta of Bhatt Murphy solicitors in London said: "The Home Office has repeatedly been criticised by our courts for unlawfully detaining the victims of torture and those suffering from mental illness. It is therefore inevitable that some of those people go on to suffer the terror of unlawful removal."

One case is that of a Pakistani man who, his caseworkers claim, was deliberately denied a full psychiatric assessment or access to a lawyer before he was deported and left to fend for himself on the streets of Karachi. Kashani Jamil, 34, was removed from the UK on 26 October last year, despite the fact that the British Red Cross, Refugee Action and a Merseyside mosque had all registered disquiet about his capacity to make informed decisions.

His caseworker, Durani Rapozo, a complex-needs social worker at Asylum Link Merseyside, said: "The Home Office moved Jamil from one detention to another to avoid him being seen by solicitors and doctors so that he did not have proper health assessments."

Following the concerns, a specialist consultant was due to give him an urgent psychiatric assessment on 19 September last year. The day before, however, he was taken by the Home Office to a removal centre, where attempts to get him released were seemingly ignored. When Rapozo requested a rule 35, which means alleged torture victims are released and assessed by a doctor, Jamil was moved to another removal centre the day before a GP was scheduled to visit him.

"This should not happen in 21st-century Britain and makes me as a professional ashamed of our asylum system. Rushing to deport a vulnerable client with mental health needs who is a victim of torture is immoral and degrading, hence constitutes a breach of his human rights," said Rapozo.

Jamil claims he was tortured by the Taliban in Pakistan and forced to drink kerosene, with the result that he can now drink only milk and eat biscuits and tuna – requirements Rapozo claims were ignored by officials.

In an email to the Observer, Jamil described how during the flight from the UK his belongings were lost and that on arrival in the southern Pakistani port city he was confused.

"I was under the effect of my heavy medicine but had got medicine for just next day," he wrote. "I hadn't got money even to buy water so I was very upset I asked money to people like a beggar. Because of my limited movement I couldn't get any chance for treatment. After three months of hiding from the Taliban and due to my PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] I am like a zombie.

"Every night flashbacks are killing me, I always feel like I am in a detention centre and can't eat or drink properly. I don't know how with my deteriorated memory and hallucinations I can survive."

In a letter to the home affairs select committee calling for an investigation into Jamil's dilemma, Rapozo writes: "The Home office dumped Jamil in Karachi and they lost all his belongings and diary that had vital contact numbers for family/friends in Pakistani and he is struggling with hearing voices. The detention of Kashan worsened his health and letters attached shows how traumatised he was in detention."

Jamil is currently in Ajman, UAE, after Rapozo put his sister in touch with him, but his temporary visa means he will have to return to Pakistan soon.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ed Balls promises 50p top tax rate would return under a Labour government

Ed Balls today vowed that a Labour Government would restore the 50p tax rate for people earning over £150,000 a year.

The Shadow Chancellor said the move to restore the top tax rate from 45p to 50p for high earners would be a fairer way of slashing Britain’s deficit.

It comes after Chancellor George Osborne’s controversial decision to cut the 50p rate, introduced by Labour, to 45p from April 2013.


Iain Duncan Smith: 'Offensive, misleading and out of touch'

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s latest comments on welfare and benefits are offensive, misleading and out of touch, say critics.

In a speech to right-wing think tank the Centre for Social Justice, which he helped set up, Mr Duncan Smith likened the receipt of benefits to slavery, compared his role in cutting welfare with the work of abolitionists, defended the bedroom tax, praised the Benefits Street programme which has been accused of caricaturing the deprived community it depicts, and massaged his department's much-criticised record on Universal Credit.

The Work and Pensions Secretary also claimed that policies and pronouncements which anti-poverty campaigners say amount to attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in society represent a "cultural shift", and declared that cutting the welfare budget was necessary to create a more secure society.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady reacted with astonishment to these claims.

“Iain Duncan Smith’s claim to have made people feel more secure through his cuts to the welfare safety net is ridiculous," she said.

“Across the country people fear the bedroom tax, and harsh and unfair disability assessments. They are also worried that however hard they have worked and contributed, they will soon be made to wait five weeks before receiving any benefit if they lose their job.

“The truth is that millions of hard-working families have suffered from tax credit cuts and the child benefit freeze, and a whole new generation now fear future cuts to help for young people.”

She concluded: “Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have led to elderly and disabled people being kicked out of their homes for failing to pay the hated bedroom tax, while dying cancer sufferers have faced benefit sanctions for not finding work. To compare this government-directed cruelty to the abolition of slavery is frankly offensive.”

Meanwhile, writer Marcus Chown took to social media to denounce "the madness of a twisted ideology... IDS equates cutting benefits with abolishing slavery."

Churches and charities have also continued to challenge the government and Mr Duncan Smith on its misrepresentation of poor people and claimants.

Mr Duncan Smith recently accused a Christian charity, the Trussell Trust, of being "politically-motivated" and "scaremongering" by citing welfare changes as being among the reasons for the dramatic rise in the number of people being helped through food banks. His claims were strongly rebutted by former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

Think-tanks such as the Centre for Welfare Reform argue that the government is dismantling not reforming the welfare state. They want to see the system redesigned not abolished.

Charities and NGOs, including the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, are also getting behind a new initiative called 'Who Benefits?’ which aims to challenge attacks on welfare for all by sharing personal stories to illustrate the reality of who needs help, why they need it and the difference that it makes.

* Who Benefits? campaign:

* More on benefits from Ekklesia:

* Churches' report: Truth and lies about poverty, benefits and welfare:

* Rowan Williams criticises Iain Duncan Smith on foodbanks:

* Centre for Welfare Reform:


Study proves Britain needs a pay rise

‘TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says economic recovery is being unfairly targeted at the rich at the expense of the low paid.

However many times the Chancellor says the opposite, we are not all in this together.

This shocking report shows that more than 10 million people now do not have enough money to enjoy a basic minimum standard of living.

Cuts in tax credits and the freeze in child benefit have driven millions of working households into poverty.

And soon even those who have paid in for years will be made to wait five weeks for benefits if they lose their job.’

Read more …

Iain Duncan Smith: Slavery and Narcissism

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice:

Iain Duncan Smith has once again demonstrated how out of touch with reality he is. In an absurdly self-congratulatory speech he compared his "welfare reforms" (which are hopelessly inefficient, economically illiterate, dishonest, unlawful, discriminatory, fraud riddled, punitive, target driven, wasteful, incompetently administered and compassionless) with the abolitionist movement of the 19th Century.

Given that one of Iain Duncan Smith's favourite welfare policies involves compelling tens of thousands of people (under threat of absolute destitution) to rescind their labour rights and work for free for his corporate mates, it is perhaps possible to believe that Iain Duncan Smith is simply engaging in a spot of "trolling". However, in my view he isn't comparing himself to great abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Anthony Ashley-Cooper as some kind of sneering juvenile wind-up, he is clearly delusional enough to actually believe the appalling nonsense that he spouts.

I don't normally go in for psychological analysis, but Iain Duncan Smith makes an absolutely fascinating case because he is such an unbelievable narcissist. In Iain Duncan Smith's worldview, he is some kind of infallible superhero and anyone that dares point out his appalling mistakes (which are far too innumerable to count) is to be instantly dismissed as "the enemy". 

After Iain Duncan Smith's "Workfare" mandatory unpaid labour schemes were declared unlawful by the courts (due to the unintelligibility of the rules) , IDS repeatedly lied about what the court judgement actually said, then stuck two fingers up at the justice system by pushing a truly outrageous piece of retroactive legislation through parliament so that his "Workfare" rules would have been intelligible had they been written that way in the past!

After the courts twice declared that Iain Duncan Smith's Atos administered WCA regime for the disabled is inherently discriminatory, he simply ignored the rulings and continued as if the UK judicial system is some kind of minor irrelevance.

After he was rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority for his egregious misuse of statistics he claimed that he was entitled to blatantly misuse statistics to justify his actions as long as he believes that he is right!

After the Trussell Trust food bank group provided evidence that the exponential rise in food bank dependency is linked to Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms he launched into a spectacular tirade which clearly illustrated his desire to have them silenced via the "Protection of Corporate Lobbying and Silencing of Legitimate Political Debate" Bill that the Tories are pushing through parliament despite massive public opposition.

It is absolutely clear that Iain Duncan Smith suffers from a psychotic level of narcissism. It doesn't matter how many catastrophic mistakes he makes, and it doesn't matter how much evidence is provided that he is wrong, his mind is filled with very little other than an overpowering sense of self-regard.

What is much less clear is the reason that the rest of the coalition government allow him to get away with one spectacular blunder after another. Unlike masters of deceit like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, the man clearly lacks the charisma to convince others of his own brilliance. So how does he get away with it?

There seem to be two different motivations. His Tory colleagues (the ones that unceremoniously removed him as leader of the Tory party in 2003 after it became absolutely clear how much of an incompetent charisma vacuum he was) hate the welfare state with a passion, so it makes some kind of perverted sense for them to put an incompetent moral and intellectual pygmy in charge of it, in order to inflict as much damage as possible.

The unyielding support for Iain Duncan Smith that has been provided by the Liberal Democrat members of the coalition is harder to fathom. There is absolutely no long-term political benefit to be derived from their undying support for Iain Duncan Smith (despite his regular displays of incompetence, malice, hubris, cognitive illiteracy etc). The only conclusion seems to be that they are prepared to actively support Iain Duncan Smith's reign of terror over the most vulnerable people in society because they believe it is a price worth paying for a few six figure ministerial salaries and the short lived sense of self-importance that comes with being part of the government.

In conclusion, the most offensive thing about Iain Duncan Smith's narcissistic and self-aggrandising comparison with the famous slavery abolitionists of the 19th Century is not the fact that he is responsible for herding some 168,000 people onto mandatory unpaid labour schemes: It is the fact that the rest of the government don't just let him get away with being the dangerously psychotic narcissist that he so clearly is, they back him to the hilt and allow him to continue his delusional reign of terror.

The job is now to discourage as many people as possible & harass them into signing off, not try to get them a job

From the facebook page ‘Atos Miracles’, 24th Jan 2014:

“”As a Jobcentre worker who took early retirement last year to get away from the pressures & stress I can confirm what many contributors are saying. Since the change of government in 2010 there was a total shift in emphasis in what we are there for. It is now to “police” the benefit system, “protect the public purse” & deter people from claiming anything. We are NOT there to help or advise people anymore.

We had a mystery shopper process where we would be rung up & visited several times a year & mystery shoppers would ask questions about claiming, ask for leaflets etc. This was fed back to offices & used to improve the service. The new government scrapped it. Staff now know that they can say any old rubbish to customers, forget to mention things that can be claimed for & no one is going to challenge them. We were even told by management that “x” was available but that we were not to tell claimants & only discuss if asked by them.

The job is now to discourage as many people as possible & harass them into signing off, not try to get them a job or what they are entitled to. Claimants are referred to pointless courses in the hope that they won’t go….so then we can stop their money.

It does not matter if anything we do is of use to claimants. If staff don’t do this they are threatened with disciplinary action & possible dismissal. Staff are left with a” them or us” attitude. Many of my ex colleagues have mortgages & kids & are trapped. As jobcentre workers they know how hard it is to get a job & no one wants ex Jobcentre staff!”


Why the Liberal Democrats are just as compassionless as the Tories when it comes to welfare

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice:

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg inspired me to write this article by informing listeners to his talk radio show that "we want a welfare system which is compassionate".

Now pretty much everyone knows that Nick Clegg is such a turncoat that his name has become synonymous with self-serving political dishonesty, however I believe it is still a useful exercise to look at some of the welfare policies that Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat sidekicks have helped the Tories to bring about and judge how "compassionate" they have been.

Read more...:

There IS a legal definition of bedroom for bedroom tax purposes

I have read that the Upper Tribunal in case referenced CH/140/2013 the term “bedroom” has been defined with a plain dictionary meaning,

Just how significant this is I discuss below but first lets look at what the Upper Tribunal said:
“19. The word “bedroom” is not defined in the legislation. It is an ordinary English word and should be construed as such. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

IDS compares welfare reforms to the abolition of slavery

‘Iain Duncan Smith has suggested being on benefits is a form of slavery and he is like abolitionist William Wilberforce through his introduction of welfare reforms.

The Work and Pensions Secretary made the comparison in a speech to the Centre for Social Justice, a thinktank Duncan Smith set up in 2004.

He said his benefit changes were about a “journey from dependence to independence” and that that was part of the Conservatives “historic mission – just look at Wilberforce and Shaftesbury.”’


Universal Credit faces IT skills shortage risk after GDS withdrawal

The withdrawal of the Government Digital Service (GDS) from work on developing the IT for Universal Credit has been identified as one of the major risks for the troubled project over the next 12 months.

In the latest draft business case for the government’s flagship welfare reform programme, excerpts of which have been seen by Computer Weekly, a section titled “High level risks to UC transformation plan” details the major challenges foreseen by the project team.

The document lists the two main risks affecting development of the new digital system for Universal Credit during 2014 as:
  • “The digital service will not be able to obtain the resources required to replace GDS”
  • “The digital service will not be able to obtain the skills required to replace GDS within the current market at an affordable cost”
The withdrawal of GDS, revealed by Computer Weekly last year, along with a decision to make little or no use of the existing IT contractors in the new digital system, means the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has to recruit or source its own team of developers – a task that falls on Kevin Cunnington, the recently recruited director general for digital transformation for the department.

Computer Weekly sources said Cunnington has already acknowledged internally that DWP does not have enough in-house digital skills. The department has heavily outsourced its IT in the past, and as a result has diminished its internal software development capabilities.

Recruitment experts said attracting digital skills to DWP will be a major challenge.

“There are, simply, more jobs available in digital and software development than people to do them,” said Harry Gooding, head of client engagement at recruitment consultancy Mortimer Spinks. As a result, the average permanent salary has gone from £44,000 per annum to £52,000 – this is quite simply a supply and demand thing.”

Gooding said that, ironically, the government’s own policies may hinder its need to find developers with skills in digital and agile methods.

“David Cameron’s immigration policies mean we are no longer getting the same wave of immigrants coming to do the IT jobs we have available. It used to be that at least a third of the tech/digital jobs we recruited were filled by English-speaking people from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who were excellent developers. There is no longer the same incentive for them to fight their way into this country – which is what it now takes – and work here,” he said.

“Meanwhile, there are very few people coming out of our education systems suitable qualifications, but there is a huge influx of technology businesses looking for those skills.”

The draft business case also reveals concerns over future delivery of the digital system for Universal Credit. For 2015, it lists the major risk as: “It is unclear what the digital service will deliver and to what timescales.”
Disagreements over the best approach to the IT development for Universal Credit led to GDS pulling out of further work on the project last year, after it was brought in to help rescue the troubled project.

The DWP, led by secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith, chose to pursue a “twin-track” approach, whereby a new “end-state” digital system would be developed in parallel with further work on the existing system, which has been subject to heavy criticism from the National Audit Office and the government’s own project management experts.

GDS, under the auspices of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, recommended scrapping the existing system and starting again from scratch – an option considered unacceptable by Duncan Smith.

Some £307m has already been spent on the current system, with a further £90m planned – but much of it will be thrown away and replaced by the “end-state” system by the time Universal Credit goes fully live in 2017/18.

The DWP has admitted that £131m of IT work has been already scrapped or will be written off by the time the programme is rolled out nationally.

A DWP spokesman said: “We set out plans last month for the future roll-out of Universal Credit and they have not changed. Our primary concern remains ensuring that this vital reform is delivered in a safe and secure way. We have been very clear that DWP would take over development of the new digital service following the initial GDS work.”

Computer Weekly

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gravesend man's 'human fireball' suicide after benefits were cut

Tragic Brian Stimpson set himself alight in a field off Thong Lane in Gravesend. Picture Google Street View
Tragic Brian Stimpson set himself alight in a field off Thong Lane in Gravesend

Giving evidence at an inquest at Gravesend's Old Town Hall, DS Sam Hudson-Gool, from Kent Police, said: "Brian went to a field, doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire.

"He went to residents' houses nearby, told them he had set himself alight and asked them to call 999.

"He was taken to hospital by ambulance staff and was found to have 80% burns.

"Medical opinion was that it was an unrecoverable injury."

He added Mr Stimpson, who was single and unemployed, suffered from depression and struggled with his 22st weight.

Mr Hudson-Gool revealed he made two other suicide attempts in the months leading up to his death at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after setting himself on fire on July 21 last year.

In May, he overdosed on paracetamol before walking into the River Medway the following month when he had to be rescued by the coastguard and fire crews.

The inquest also heard Mr Stimpson was claiming benefits, which had been reduced last year.

Mr Hudson-Gool added: "He was worried and felt he was being forced back into work."

Born in Chatham, Mr Stimpson was said to be nervous around people he did not know and – although undiagnosed – the inquest heard there was a strong possibility he was autistic.

Coroner Roger Hatch was told there was evidence of online searches on suicide and Mr Stimpson left two suicide notes – to his parents and sister – that talked about his reasons for taking his own life and finding peace.

The cause of death was given as massive burns.

Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Roger Hatch said: "Given the evidence, history and previous attempts, I'm left with no alternative other than to record that Brian Stimpson took his own life."


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Work Programme triggered heart attack in bipolar woman

A dad says the government’s back to work schemes have put his vulnerable daughter in hospital.

Sheila Holt from Rochdale has a psychiatric condition.

Her family say the Department of Work and Pensions said it shouldn’t stop her working.

Parents’ pain as DWP writes to dead son

Reblogged from samedifference:

The family of a man who died almost 12 months ago have slammed benefits bosses for repeatedly trying to contact their dead son to ask why he hasn’t been to see them.

Dad Terry Whiteside said he is ‘angry’ that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had continued to send letters to his son Marc after he died in March last year.

The letters demanded to know why Marc, who claimed Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), hadn’t kept scheduled appointments arranged to help him find work, despite being told the 31-year-old had died.

More letters chasing Marc, who lived in Derwent Close, Langley, Middleton, for £268 he owed the DWP for a crisis loan he took out before he died have also been sent.

The DWP have apologised to the family for a ‘regrettable error’ and say they have taken action to stop any more letters being sent to Marc.

His dad Terry, 66, who works at Springvale Household Waste Recycling Centre, said it was ‘unbelievable’ the letters were still arriving 10 months after his son died.

He said: “Every time I ring them up they apologise and say the letters will stop, but they keep on arriving. It’s almost a year since he died and the letters are still coming, it’s just unbelievable.

“If I did something that caused as much distress as this at my work I would be sacked, instantly, yet no one at the DWP seems to be accountable.


Owen Jones: Does 'balanced' portrayal of people in poverty mean turning them into saints?

A couple of months ago, I gave the annual Royal Television Society lecture for the BBC, which looked at both portrayals of working-class communities and people living in poverty. The full text of it is online here. It’s obviously relevant to the current furore over Benefits Street, but there’s a particular point I want to rebut.

Some of the response to those wanting a more balanced portrayal - rather than one which fuels the demonisation of the poorest, convenient of course at a time of severe cuts to the welfare state - is that we want to turn people in poverty into saints, to ignore difficult and challenging problems, and so on.

In response to this criticism, I just want to quote the final part of the lecture here:

"Representations of working class life should be many and various. Television must be more honest about the portrayal of working people.

I’m not arguing that there aren’t bad, difficult things in working class life, but don’t demonise, report accurately and don’t make poverty porn.

There are some good programmes out there but we need to remind ourselves constantly of the potential pitfalls and the dishonesty of cynical agendas.

So what is the solution?