Monday, June 30, 2014

The minimum income is 2.5 times what people get on benefits – but still they are labelled scroungers

Originally posted on Vox Political:

The numbers speak for themselves: Under ‘Adequacy of safety-net benefits’, EVERY SINGLE INCOME GROUP has lost out. While others have suffered a great percentage drop, single working-age people remain the least able to make ends meet.

“How much money do you need for an adequate standard of living?”

That is the question posed every year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – and every year the organisation calculates how much people have to earn – taking into account their family circumstances, the changing cost of these essentials and changes to the tax and benefit system – to reach this benchmark.

This year’s research finds:

A lone parent with one child now needs to earn more than £27,100 per year – up from £12,000 in 2008. A couple with two children need to earn more than £20,200 each, compared to £13,900 each in 2008. Single working-age people must now earn more…

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Cameron cannot allow DWP chaos to continue by Rachel Reeves MP

Today we will urge the government to come clean about the impact of delays, chaos and failing programmes at the Department for Work and Pensions


In February a constituent came to my surgery after her husband had suffered a stroke. She had given up work to look after him, they were getting behind on mortgage payments and couldn’t afford to get by.

They had tried to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) but were forced to wait months for an ATOS assessment.

We referred the couple to a local food bank and pressed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to act quickly. But tragically her husband died in March without ever having had his ATOS appointment.

His wife is now ill and struggling to cope following her bereavement. She too has tried to claim Employment Support Allowance, but has come up against appalling delays and is still waiting for a decision about her claim.

Sadly there are thousands of people across the country who have done the right thing but are being failed when they need help the most because of the government’s chaos, delays and incompetence.

And Iain Duncan Smith’s failure to deliver an effective benefits system not only affects the lives of those like my constituent who needs, it undermines the prospect of a fair and affordable system for everyone because public money is wasted on crisis management and failing IT projects, rather than on supporting those who really need it. ‬

That’s why Labour will demand Iain Duncan Smith gets a grip of his failng department in a debate we have called in parliament today.‬ We are urging the government to take three simple steps to improve its handling of the benefit system.

‬First, we want the government to tell people like my constituent just how long they should expect to wait for a disability benefit assessment and to set a time limit to stop the unacceptable delays.

The government’s chaotic handling of disability benefits has caused huge distress for thousands of people and the cost of clearing up the mess threatens to cost taxpayers millions. Over 700,000 people are stuck in the backlog waiting for decisions about Work Capability Assessments which they need to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

And delays aren’t confined to Employment Support Allowance with thousands of people stuck in an enormous backlog for Personal Independence Payment assessments. This is causing huge uncertainty, stress and hardship for thousands of disabled people waiting for decisions on new claims.

And tragically, people have died waiting for assessments. At the current rate it will take over 40 years to clear the huge assessment backlog which ministers have allowed to build up...


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Art attack on Coalition policies that drive people to their deaths

Originally posted on Vox Political:


A UK artist has created an art installation as a memorial to the suicide victims of welfare reform.

Melanie Cutler contacted Vox Political regarding her piece – ‘Stewardship’ – a few weeks ago, asking, “Do you think I’ll be arrested?”

The response was that it should be unlikely if she informed the media. The artworks have been displayed at the Northampton Degree Show and are currently at the Free Range Exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery building in Brick Lane, London, which ends tomorrow (June 30).

Entry is free and the installation will be located in F Block, B5.

“I have become an artist later on in life,” Melanie told Vox Political. “I was a carer for my son and, a few decades later, my father. I have worked most of my life too, raising three children.

“Only recently, while studying fine art at University I found my health…

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Video: Campaigners occupy grounds of Westminster Abbey to protest against closure of ILF

Originally posted on Vox Political:

Users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), along with members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), UK Uncut and Occupy London, have set up a protest camp in the grounds of Westminster Abbey.

Disabled activists chained themselves to the gates while the camp was being set up.

The ILF was originally set up in 1988 as a national resource to fund support for disabled people with high support needs, enabling them to live in the community rather than move into residential care. It allowed them to be active in society – in education and employment, as volunteers and trustees, as employers, and as carers for family and friends.

According to Independent Living Fightback, “Currently 17,500 disabled people with the highest levels of need receive essential support through the ILF enabling them to enjoy fulfilling lives and contribute to their communities. The closure of the fund will have a devastating…

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Why stubborn Iain Duncan Smith is no statesman

The minister's reluctance to abandon his disastrous Work Programme is further proof of his pig-headedness

Iain Duncan Smith, Nick Cohen
'A neurotic authoritarian who wants to be powerful and expects to be obeyed': Iain Duncan Smith at last year's Conservative party conference. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

At a time of miserable conditions for the poor, sick and disabled people, the administration of the welfare state is a disaster. The grand projects the Department for Work and Pensions has launched since the general election have been bureaucratic fantasies and practical catastrophes. Ministers have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds of public money – Tory ministers, mark you, who pose as the defenders of hard-working taxpayers. For all that, Iain Duncan Smith tramps on without a thought of changing his ways: a character study in destructive pig-headedness.

At some level, he must know he is failing on all fronts. He and his state-sponsored propagandists pulsate with aggression. Anyone who tries to investigate his department is met with obfuscation and intimidation...


Shame Of The Church of England: Dean of Westminster Allows Hundreds of Police To Attempt Stamp Out Of Disabled People’s Peaceful Protest

This is what Christianity looks like

The leadership of the Church of England showed themselves to have the morals of sewer rats today after hundreds of police were drafted in to prevent a peaceful protest by disabled campaigners.

A protest was taking place in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, where Disabled People Against Cuts, backed by Occupy and UK Uncut, intended to establish a camp for independent living to highlight the shameful decision by the current Government to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF).  Whilst many people were able to enter the grounds of the Abbey, with several disabled activists taking control of the gates, they were soon joined by hundreds of police.

Whilst the protest was being established a letter was presented to the church explaining the reason for the disruption.  This was completely ignored by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, who instead of meeting with the protesters, or even giving a statement, cowered inside and allowed the police to carry out his dirty work. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Bedroom Tax forced stroke victim to turn to crime so he could pay rent

Ex-airman Adrian Brown begged for a smaller home but council bosses said they didn’t have another – so, hit by mounting debts, he sold a rented TV for £100

Stroke victim Adrian Brown turned to crime to pay the hated Bedroom Tax.

The ex-airman had to fork out an extra £34 on his £97-a-week rent because his council house had unused spare rooms . The 51-year-old begged for a smaller home but council bosses said they didn’t have another specially adapted house. So, hit by mounting debts, he sold a rented TV for £100.

Wheelchair user Adrian, cared for by partner Linda, 43, said: “They were going to kick us out and it was the only thing of real value. It’s disgusting how they have treated someone who served their country. I was willing to put my life on the line for them. I didn’t ask to have a stroke and I didn’t ask for three bedrooms – this was the only one available. Now they have punished me for it.”

He added: “When I knew the bedroom tax was being brought in I asked the council to put us in a one bedroom house. But they said there wasn’t another specially adapted house and we would have to pay the extra money. I didn’t ask for three bedrooms – this was the only one available – and now they have punished me for it.”

Adrian, of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, was given a conditional discharge by the town’s magistrates and told to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

After the case, housing officials said an adapted one-bed bungalow was now available. But Adrian, paralysed down his left side in 2005, will have to pay the extra rent until he moves in six weeks’ time.


We can reduce the Welfare Budget by billions: simply get rid of Iain Duncan Smith

Originally posted on kittysjones:
1002589_521987671204099_896277269_n (1)
Social security benefits are by their nature needs-led, so if individuals meet the eligibility criteria for a benefit, and apply, then they will receive that benefit. The welfare cap does not change this one bit. All it does, essentially, is require the Government either to justify where expenditure increases by more than forecast, or propose further welfare cuts to bring expenditure back into line. It will not turn social security into a cash-limited budget.

The cap was set in line with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts of benefit expenditure, with an additional “forecast margin” of two per cent added on. This means that…

In March, MPs agreed a 2015-16 welfare cap of £119.5bn, which excluded the state pension and some unemployment benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Housing Benefit paid to JSA claimants, but it covers all other benefit expenditure. That also includes administration costs, staffing costs and so forth.
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MP slams benefits ‘con’ as people left with nothing to live on

BENEFITS ROW ... Stephen Hepburn, left, clashed with Emplyment Minister Esther McVey.
BENEFITS ROW ... Stephen Hepburn, left, clashed with Esther McVey.

GOVERNMENT benefit changes mean people in Jarrow “live for weeks on nothing”, town MP Stephen Hepburn warned this week.

His comments came in a heated Parliamentary exchange this week with Employment Minister Esther McVey, during which Mr Hepburn attacked the Government’s welfare reforms and the way it treats people on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).

Mr Hepburn has obtained official Parliamentary statistics, indicating that more than half of those people in Jarrow whose benefits claims are reconsidered are unsuccessful.

Mr Hepburn said: “Can the minister explain why more than 50 per cent of benefit claimants in my constituency, whose benefits have been sanctioned, have had the decision overturned?

“In the meantime, they had to live week for weeks on nothing – unlike that lot over there, who stuff their nests.

“Is it not true that this scheme is nothing more than a con?

“The Government say that they are cutting benefits.

“They are cutting benefits, but they are taking them off the most vulnerable people in the country and leaving them out for ever.”

Mr Hepburn based his claims on new official Parliamentary figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, which indicate that more than 50 per cent of sanctions placed on JSA claimants in the Jarrow constituency have been overturned. The figures reveal that from October 22, 2012, to June 2013, there were 290 reconsiderations submitted to JSA claimants to sanctions imposed on them, with just over 51 per cent overturned.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Upper Tribunal refuses DWP leave to appeal ruling on Universal Credit reports

Originally posted on Campaign4Change:

An upper tribunal judge this week refused consent for the Department of Work and Pensions to appeal a ruling that four reports on the Universal Credit programme be published.

It’s the third successive legal ruling to have gone against the DWP as its lawyers try to stop the reports being released.

The DWP is likely to request further consideration of its appeal. History suggests it will devote the necessary legal time and funding to stop the reports being published.

In March 2014, the first-tier information tribunal rejected the DWP’s claim that disclosure of the four reports would inhibit the candour and boldness of civil servants who contributed to them – the so-called chilling effect.

The DWP sought the first-tier tribunal’s leave to appeal the ruling, describing it as “perverse”. External lawyers for the DWP said the tribunal had wholly misunderstood what is meant by a “chilling effect”, how it is manifested…

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Inequality is on the rise. And it really is the coalition’s fault

Now that coalition reforms are in place we’re starting to see the true impact of government policy – and inequality is on the rise

Money pile-JPEG

Despite many claiming that Britain is a more unequal society under the coalition than under previous governments, inequality had (until today) actually been reduced since 2010.

Believe it or not, the incomes of the better off suffered the biggest hit in the early years of the downturn, while the poorest were sheltered to some extent by their reliance upon tax credits and/or benefits.

And yet as we previously predicted (with a bit of help from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)), inequality is once again on the rise according to new figures.

Until recently, coalition claims of reducing inequality (George Osborne boasted of the fact earlier this year) were in fact correct. As George Eaton notes in the New Statesman, “the Gini coefficient for disposable income in 2011-12 (the most recent figure then available) was 32.3 per cent, the lowest level since 1986″.

But then this was largely because many coalition welfare reforms only became policy fairly recently:

The Bedroom Tax – introduced in April 2013
Universal Credit – introduced in April 2014 (ongoing)

The Benefit Cap – introduced in April 2013
Changes to child tax credits – introduced in April 2012
Changes to Working Tax Credits – introduced in April 2012

As the IFS put it last year, much of the pain for lower-income groups was “occurring now or is still to come because these groups are the most affected by cuts to benefits and tax credits”.

As such, it’s only now that we’re seeing the true impact of coalition policy. And inequality is on the march, according to the figures:


The truth about Employment Support Allowance

Originally posted on Carer Watch's Blog:

Congratulations to Dame Anne Begg who has finally spoken the truth about the Employment Support Allowance  “work related activity” group (WRAG).

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Dame Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions select committee,  said last Friday that large groups of people appear to have been “parked” on the benefit in the “work-related activity” group, which covers all those found neither to be fully fit for work nor so disabled that they cannot be expected to look for employment.

Disability activists across the country will be as delighted as Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch that politicians are finally admitting to the false premise on which Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was based.

ESA is a failed experiment conducted live on sick and disabled people.

Sick and disabled people who are assigned to the WRAG are found not fully fit for work. Almost none of them are…

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Housing Minister Encourages Landlords To Breach Discrimination Laws


The invisible Housing Minister Kris Hopkins has said it is “perfectly legitimate” for landlords to refuse to rent to people on Housing Benefits despite serious doubts about the legality of this practice.

Hopkins was being interviewed by Panorama, who this week revealed that the number of people who have become homeless due to a private tenancy coming to an end has trebled over the last five years.  The investigation featured buy-to-let scum Fergus Wilson who earlier in the year announced he planned to evict all of his 200 Housing Benefit tenants due to concerns about rent arrears related to welfare reforms.  This is just fine according to skiving Housing Minister Hopkins who said:  “If they actually decide they don’t want to have somebody on housing benefit in the future, that’s a perfectly legitimate thing for them to do.”

The problem is that it almost certainly isn’t under the Equalities Act – not that anyone seems to care.  As the Legal Director of Human Rights group Liberty explains here, if it can be shown that disabled people are more likely to be on benefits than non-disabled people then the policy of ‘No DSS’ is almost certainly illegal.

For those on out of work benefits due to sickness or disability then this becomes easily proven.  It is hopefully only a matter of time before someone claiming Employment Support Allowance brings a case against a landlord for this form of economic and disablist discrimination.  The landlord’s defence is likely to point out that the government’s Housing Minister said this practice was just fine.  Hopkins was once called Parliament’s ‘nastiest slimiest MP’ by one of his former colleagues.  If this is the sort of shit he comes out with when he can actually be arsed to show up for work then the cunt should stay in bed.

HT – Landless Peasant

Educating Dr Litchfield – a few facts about the WCA

Originally posted on Vox Political:

Dr Paul Litchfield.
Dr Paul Litchfield.

Ignorance is most definitely not bliss for Dr Paul Litchfield.

The man was hand-picked by the Coalition government to review its hated Work Capability Assessment system of handling Employment and Support Allowance claims, amid rumours that previous incumbent Professor Malcolm Harrington had been unhappy with political decisions that ran against his findings. But he delivered a woeful performance to the House of Commons’ Work and Pensions committee last month.

He claimed to have no information about the staggering number of people who have died after going through the assessment system he is being paid to review, totalling 10,600 between January and November 2011 – that’s 220 per week or three every four hours. “I don’t have any information of that type; I haven’t seen numbers on that. Clearly every case would be a tragedy,” he said.

Clearly this expert has yet to gain access to some very…

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Plymouth people too poor to afford food as 70,000 live in deprivation

MORE than 700,000 people in Plymouth and the South West are so deprived they are going without three or more of the basic necessities of life, according to a new report.

Researchers carrying out the largest study of poverty and deprivation conducted in the UK found that seven per cent of people living in the region could not afford to eat a balanced diet, while about 1.2million could not afford to heat and maintain their home properly.

Some 462,900 (nine per cent) of people could not clothe themselves or their children properly, while 982,000 of the regional population were said to be in “social deprivation” – not able to take part in hobbies and sports, or provide birthday and Christmas celebrations.

In Plymouth the latest NHS figures show 10,200 city children and 67,150 people living in poverty.

Maria Mills, of Plymouth Foodbank, says benefit cuts and the tax system are conspiring to keep people in a “poverty trap.”

“Last year we helped 7,400 people, this year it will be more than 9,000,” she said. “The biggest problem is benefit sanctions, but low income and zero hours contracts are still a big issue. It’s modern slavery.

“I think instead of paying working tax credits or child tax credits, if that money went into allowing employers to pay a decent wage we would have people who could have enough disposable income. At the moment we are keeping people in a poverty trap.”

Overall, 34 per cent were found to be “multiply deprived”. But a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman questioned the findings, saying: “There is strong evidence that incomes have improved over the last 30 years, despite the misleading picture painted by this report,” he said.

“The independent statistics are clear, there are 1.4 million fewer people in poverty since 1998, and under this Government we have successfully protected the poorest from falling behind with a reduction of 300,000 children living in relative income poverty and 100,000 fewer children in workless poor families.”

Nevertheless those behind the report – the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project – insisted they stood by the results of two surveys. Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, led the project which involved 14,559 people in the UK.

“The coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed,” he said. “The available high-quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pick your window Iain … you’re leaving!

Reposted from the Guardian:

The secretary of state for work and pensions
The secretary of state for work and pensions is mainly worrying that people haven’t got the message that the project is on schedule. Photograph: Lee Thomas/ZUMA Press/Corbis

Labour wishes the quiet man would go quietly. The Tories wish the quiet man would go quietly. But the quiet man of politics, Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, insists on going out like a noisy Captain Mainwaring. The government watchdog, the Major Projects Authority, has already declared his universal credit programme to be such an abject failure after three years that its implementation must now be deemed an entirely new project. The only person seemingly unaware of just how disastrous his flagship welfare benefits reforms have been is IDS himself.

At questions on Monday ,the right honourable member for Walmington-on-Sea was at his sparkling, delusional best. “There are now 5,610 people enrolled on universal credit,” Rachel Reeves, the shadow minister, remarked. “At the current rate of progress, it will be another 1,052 years before he reaches his target of 7.8 million.” This 1,000-year delay was deeply offensive to the bank manager who at the weekend had been single-handedly defending Britain against Jerry. “Juncker overhead at eight o’clock. What do you mean he’s not an aircraft? Or German?”

“The project is on schedule,” he declared. Twice. In case everyone hadn’t got the message the first time. How did he know it was on time? Because he had changed the timing of the universal credit rollout. The original rollout had been far too like many of those when the Labour party had been in power. That’s right. He, Captain Mainwaring, alone, had spotted that his own programme had been infiltrated by Nazi sympathisers and had the foresight to change course. What people hadn’t realised was that his revised universal credit programme was running on British summer time and not central European time.

Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, the poshest man in the Commons and usually a willing Sergeant Wilson, who had been lying languidly on the backbenches with his feet in the air, reflecting on how tricky it was to get your shoes cleaned now that the government’s long-term economic plan had got so many people back into work, looked askance at this. IDS pressed on in a similar fashion. “No one will be punished or penalised,” he insisted, in a tone of voice to strike fear into the innocent.

Apart from the occasional shout of “wrong, wrong”, the Labour benches allowed Duncan Smith the freedom of his own mania. Principally because they know he is too far gone to be helped now, but also because they suspect he will soon be badly in need of sickness benefit himself and will have to wait 1,000 years to get it.

The one person everyone from both parties felt most sorry for was Mike Penning, Duncan Smith’s minister for disabled people. Penning has the aura of a fundamentally decent man, though that’s something one often has to take on trust as he battles with the English language to make his spoken words almost unintelligible. One suspects he has similar battles with his own boss. Not least when he is forced to explain delays in sickness payments to terminally ill patients in a statement that amounted to the fault lying with terminally ill people living too long, rather than with the department. Benefits cheats. That’s what people who refused to die quickly were. Penning sat down, his words still swooshing between his teeth, and gave IDS a look that indicated someone rather closer to home may have overstayed his welcome.

Britain facing biggest strike for decades as thousands of local government workers vote for industrial action

Members of Unison could be joined by GMB and Unite, who announce their ballots next week - the Public and Commercial Services union is also polling its members

Unison: Dave Prentis said the walkout could be bigger than the General Strike of 1926
Britain faces one of its biggest days of industrial action for decades after hundreds of thousands of local government workers voted to strike.

Members of Unison could be joined by the other major unions for a national day of protest against pay and cuts on July 10.

GMB and Unite will announce the result of their ballots next week, while the Public and Commercial Services union is also polling its members.

Members of the National Union of Teachers will also take industrial action on July 10, while firefighters have staged a series of walkouts over pensions and have not ruled out more.

And thousands of midwives and maternity support staff are currently being consulted on if they want a ballot for action .

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said the 24-hour walk out could end up being bigger than the General Strike of 1926.

More than 400,000 council and school workers voted 58.7% to 41.3% in favour of industrial action in protest at a 1% pay offer.

Staff have suffered three years of pay freezes followed by below-inflation rises in 2013 and 2014 and Mr Prentis, said: “We have a clear majority so a one-day strike will go ahead on July 10.

"We expect to be joined by other unions in local government.”

In addition to Unison’s 400,000, the day of action could see 70,000 Unite members and 150,000 GMB members in schools and local government walk out if they vote for industrial action this week.

They will be joined by as many as 300,000 teachers and 260,000 PCS members.

Mr Prentis said: “Many of our members are low-paid women earning barely above the minimum wage, who care for our children, our elderly and our vulnerable and they deserve better treatment.”


Monday, June 23, 2014

Footage From Saturday’s ‘Austerity No More’ Demo

Reblogged from  Job Seekers UK.

Cumulative effect of welfare reform revealed – deprived areas hit much harder than the rich

Originally posted on Vox Political:

Deprived parts of Glasgow were worst-affected by 'welfare reform' according to The Courier [Image:].
Deprived parts of Glasgow were worst-affected by ‘welfare reform’ according to The Courier [Image:].

The headline should not come as a surprise – of course changes that cut benefits for the poor are going to harm them more than rich people.

But do you remember David Cameron’s claim that his government would be the most transparent ever?

Isn’t it interesting, then, that the independent Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found a way to compile information on the effects of tax, social security and other spending changes on disabled people, after the government repeatedly claimed it could not be done?

It seems Mr Cameron has something to hide, after all.

We already have a taste of what we can expect, courtesy of our friends in Scotland, who commissioned the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University to study the relationship between…

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Boycott Workfare - 17 councils have said NO has yours?

Add your postcode to find out and then complain if they are.

Further details here:

Labour pledges to 'pause' universal credit if elected in 2015 - BBC

Men outside a jobcentre

Labour will "pause" the government's flagship welfare reform if it wins the next general election in 2015, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves has said.

Ms Reeves said her party supported the universal credit policy in principle, and hoped to "rescue" it.
She said the Department for Work and Pensions had been in "chaos" under her opposite number, Iain Duncan Smith.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

BBC and press ignore massive demonstration against austerity in London

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

If you were in the centre of London today you might have noticed 50,000 people taking part in a massive march against the government’s austerity policies:

no more austerity

If you did notice, you’re doing better than most of the UK press who seem to have entirely missed it.

It seems the BBC are capable of tracking down a single Scot in Brazil who cheered a goal against England but fail to notice 50,000 demonstrating on their doorstep.

Are you easy to control?

Reblogged from The Tap:

Welfare cuts one year on: Now Britain's poorest are on par with former Eastern bloc

Ros Wynne-Jones meets the people who are suffering a year after Bedroom Tax as rent arrears have rocketed, more families have resorted to food banks and now as Austerity Britain bites the Met Police have invested in water cannon

Nowhere to turn: David Garbett, with his partner Alison Macpherson
A fortnight ago, two fire engines, six police cars, two police vans, a riot van and police dog teams surrounded a suburban house.

Earlier that morning, bailiffs had attempted to evict a father of four from the property he had lived in for 30 years over Bedroom Tax arrears.

Neighbours say that when the bailiffs arrived, the man had threatened to blow himself up. He is now in custody, awaiting trial in November.

Campaigners say he would have been exempt from the Bedroom Tax all along, thanks to a loophole in the legislation recently closed by Government.

His family say his property was left outside his home in a skip and has now all been stolen.

A year after welfare reform brought in measures such as the Bedroom Tax and other cuts to the social safety net, evictions are beginning.

Rent arrears have built to unmanageable proportions. After a year of going to foodbanks, hope and patience are wearing thin.

As summer approaches, the Met Police in London are investing in water cannon. Austerity’s bite is deepening.

Yesterday, research from the High Pay Centre showed the poorest fifth of British households are now among the most economically deprived in western Europe, suffering levels of poverty on a par with those in the former Eastern bloc.

Last month, David Garbett, 46, from Sunderland, chained himself and his wheelchair to the railings of Southwick Jobcentre because his Employment Support Allowance stopped on April 5.

He suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, has carpal tunnel syndrome in his hands and has two titanium feet following an accident in 2007.

Tired of going to the foodbank with his partner Allison Macpherson, who is recovering from breast cancer, and struggling to pay rent and bills, he took desperate action.

He explained: “I’ve been having tests for the past 11 months, then I got a letter saying they were stopping my money. Me and my partner’s heads have been all over the place.”

This week, I spoke to Jonathan Collinge, a single father from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, who chained himself to his local Jobcentre at the end of April.

Seven years ago, Jonathan was in a motorcycle crash on his way to visit his dad, who had brain cancer. His left arm was amputated, and he was left in severe pain for which he takes three different types of morphine and sleeping tablets.

He has also developed severe problems in his right arm from over-using it.

Not surprisingly, he has found it hard to get work, and was receiving Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance.

When that was assessed by ATOS for the new Employment Support Allowance, he was told he was fit for work.


Miliband, A Nasty Clueless Idiot, Now Who Does That Remind You Of?

Originally posted on the void:

What if the reason Ed Miliband looks and sounds like such a dick is because he is actually a dick?
What if the reason Ed Miliband looks and sounds like such a dick is because he is actually a dick?

Once again the chinless fucking idiots at Labour’s favourite think tank the IPPR have spoken and once again gormless Ed Miliband has lapped up their vomit and turned it into Labour Party policy.

The contemptible idea that benefits for young people should be means-tested based on their parent’s wealth is a recipe for tearing fractured families apart.  Young people whose parents decide they don’t want to pay their dole will face having to declare themselves ‘estranged’ from their parents, a process which could see them leaving the family home.  Those  who have faced parental abuse will be trapped with their abusers for even longer as the welfare state fails to provide a safety net.  Of course posh wankers like Miliband don’t think this kind of thing can go on in…

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why does Labour follow the Tory path of punishing the victim over work benefits? by Michael Meacher MP

The idea of giving young people aged 18-21 guaranteed access to education or training or help to find work is obviously a good one, but why spoil it by proposing that such persons should receive a means-tested ‘youth allowance’ at a rate perhaps even lower that the current job seeker’s allowance (JSA)?   The latter is already paid at the extremely low level of £72.40 a week (£10.34 a day) for adults aged over 25 – almost the lowest rate of unemployment benefit anywhere in Europe – and for those aged below 25 the rate actually falls to no more than £57.35 a week (£8.19 a day).   It is now proposed in the IPPR report published yesterday that they will only get this princely bauble if they already had the skills to secure a job or were in vocational training.

A successful training policy depends on three principles.   One is an economic policy that favours growth over continued downward pressure on economic demand (i.e. prologed austerity) so that there widespread opportunities for well-paid, high-skilled, high-productivity jobs.   Today there are still 2.3 million people unemployed who can’t find such jobs since they are scarcely available.   Of the 1.5 million jobs the government boasts it has created, two-thirds are in self-employment on a pittance income and the overwhelming majority of the remainder are in low-paid, insecure or zero hours contracts jobs.   The second requirement is good-quality trainers, not the likes of A4E or Serco who cherry-pick the most able or motivated young people to get the government’s bounty, but focus much less on others who thereby lose not only job opportunities by work benefits as well.   And the third requirement is a positive programme that fires up young people’s enthusiasm, not one super-charged with sanctions.


Friday, June 20, 2014

ESA Is A Failure Admits DWP

The BBC has obtained DWP internal memos which says that employment and support allowance (ESA) is worse than incapacity benefit at helping people back into work and now poses one of the biggest financial risks faced by the government. The memos also imply that the jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) sanctions regime is partly to blame for the rising number of ESA claimants.

According to the BBC, the leaked memos say that the DWP is struggling to deliver ESA and that claimants now face an average nine month wait for assessment rather than the intended three months. Although one of the main aims of ESA is to move claimants back into work via work-related activities, the memos say that ESA is less effective at doing this than incapacity benefit was. In addition, the cost of ESA is expected to rise by £13bn by 2018/19.

The BBC says that the documents claim that one of the reasons for the rise in numbers is the restrictions placed on JSA. Whilst this comment is not clarified by the BBC, it seems likely that the implication is that the extraordinarily harsh sanctions regime is pushing people into making a claim for ESA when they would otherwise have remained on JSA.

The BBC says that:

“Too many people find themselves as long-term recipients of the benefit, the document says, and more people than expected are becoming eligible for it.”

Mike Penning, DWP minister for the disabled responded by claiming that the coalition had inherited the problem from Labour.

In fact, after a period of stability under Labour, the DWP’s own figures show that the proportion of claimants being put in the support group has increased almost sixfold – from 10% to 57% – under the coalition. Meanwhile, the percentage of claimants being found fit for work has more than halved. And this is not a recent phenomenon: the proportion of claimants going into the support group has risen every single quarter since the coalition came to power.

Moreover, Penning made no attempt to explain why, if they already knew there were unsolved problems with ESA, the government chose to introduce the massively complex new universal credit and attempted to replace most disability living allowance claims with personal independence payment.

Read the full story on the BBC website.


MPs, Comedians and Bands Join March Demanding an Alternative to Austerity

‘Diane Abbott MP, The Farm, and comedian and activist Russell Brand will be on the People’s Assembly Against Austerity demonstration to demand an alternative on Saturday 21 June.

They will be addressing tens of thousands of people from across Britain who will be marching from the BBC headquarters in Portland Place, to Parliament Square this weekend in protest at austerity and the privatisation of public services.

The demonstration comes two weeks ahead of the biggest co-ordinated national strikes for years, which are set to involve two million public sector workers.’

Read more: MPs, Comedians and Bands Join March Demanding an Alternative to Austerity

End disability benefits ‘fiasco’, ministers told

‘Thousands of vulnerable people have suffered pain, distress and penury because of blunders made by the Government during the launch of a key disability reform, a devastating report warns today. MPs denounced the introduction of the personal independence payment (PIP) as a “fiasco” which had resulted in a huge backlog of claims and lengthy delays over decisions.

Many people have had to wait six months for a decision on their claim, the MPs said, with even the terminally ill facing an average four-week delay. Some claimants were forced to turn to food banks, apply for loans or rely on charity handouts to survive, the committee said.’

Read more: End disability benefits ‘fiasco’, ministers told

IDS's benefits reforms are a fiasco that harms the needy say MPs

Tory-led reforms have forced people to turn to foodbanks, loans and charitable donations just to be able to live with their disabilities

Not working: Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have been such a calamity they have forced people to turn to foodbanks and high-interest loans to survive.

These are the damning findings of MPs who say the Personal Independence Payment scheme “fiasco” has put claimants in hospital with stress.

Enormous backlogs mean people have had to wait six months for their PIP, which is designed to help the disabled and sick cope with their extra living costs. In its scathing report, the Commons Public Accounts Committee also said the

terminally-ill have waited four weeks on average for a payment decision – three times longer than promised.
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the group, said: “The Department for Work and Pensions has let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The cases we have heard are shocking.”

The Labour MP added: “The implementation of Personal Independence Payment has been nothing short of a fiasco.” Mr Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is bringing in the PIP scheme to replace the Disability Living Allowance.

The report said: “Some claimants have resorted to food banks, loans and charitable donations to support the extra costs of living associated with their disability.” Labour said there are thousands waiting months for their money, adding that at the current rate, the backlog could take 42 years to clear. The Government claimed the report is based on old statistics and that the situation has improved.

The problems are so bad that there are still 1.7 million people parked on the old DLA benefit.
  • A leaked government memo has revealed Employment and Support Allowance, introduced in 2008 to replace incapacity benefit, is helping fewer people get jobs than the old system.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

40% of cancer patients can’t afford to heat homes properly

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

Macmillan Cancer Support have commissioned a new report which shows the severe financial problems now being experienced by cancer patients in the UK.

The problems are entirely due to the government’s crackdown on so-called ‘benefit scroungers’ and the resulting ‘reforms’ to sickness and unemployment benefits.

Macmillan found that since the government’s changes to the welfare system:
  • 2 in 5 cancer patients now can’t afford to heat their homes adequately
  • 2 in 3 cancer patients are now waiting at least 6 months for financial help
  • 1 in 5 cancer patients are now waiting at least 9 months for financial help
  • 1 in 4 cancer patients have difficulties attending their hospital appointments for financial reasons
  • Over half (56%) of cancer patients now experience financial worries

So when you hear government ministers or the right-wing press going on about ‘benefit scroungers‘ – what they really mean is ‘cancer patients‘.
If the definition of a civilised society is how well…

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Forget fair play – we are example of how inequality ruins a nation’s prospects

Duncan Exley, director of The Equality Trust, says urgent action is needed to see off political extremism, worse life expectancy, educational outcomes and crime 

A volunteers sorts through donations of food
Going hungry: A volunteer sorts through donations at a foodbank

The UK today is one of the developed world’s most unequal countries.

Far from being a beacon of fair play, we are now an example of how inequality can ruin a nation’s prospects.
A High Pay Centre report says this week that the poorest fifth in the UK now have incomes closer to the poorest in former Eastern bloc countries than to those in Western Europe.

And today we learn from the Poverty and Social Exclusion study one in three Britons cannot afford the basics of a decent life.

In contrast, the wealth of the richest 100 people rose last year to £297billion – more than the wealth held by 30% of the population.

This rise in wealth could pay the energy bill for all 26.4 million UK households for over a year.

People from the Pope to the International Monetary Fund have warned us excessive inequality has negative consequences. So why is the UK so unequal?

Many justifications are made for the extraordinary increase in wealth of the richest. But can 100 people really have as much value as almost 19 million people?

Others say it doesn’t matter, because the economy is on the up.

But our recovery is only being felt by those at the top. Polling this week found only one in five think the recovery is making their family better off.

The contempt such an attitude shows for ordinary people is breathtaking.

You may be struggling to pay your rent, you may be forced to choose between heating your home and feeding your children, but don’t worry, Britain’s on the mend.

GDP figures won’t pay the bills, real wage increases will. The UK today is trapped in a race to the bottom of low-paid, low-skilled economies.

Poverty levels similar to those found in former Soviet states cannot just be blamed on worklessness.

Government figures show us that a majority of children in poverty are in working families. This is largely a low-pay crisis.

As bosses have bargained for higher and higher pay, ordinary workers are left with stagnating or even falling real wages.

While the poor can’t take the blame for their poverty, the rich can’t take all the credit for their fortunes.

Those who manage our biggest companies are typically paid over £4million a year – far more than is typical in Europe. Others in the UK’s top 1% owe their increasing riches to the luck of the stock markets.

Studies have shown how more unequal countries have worse life expectancy, health, educational outcomes, social mobility and crime.

Inequality is also ruining our economy, because the majority of people have little spare cash to spend in the shops, while a minority are using their spare millions to speculate on the housing market, making homes unaffordable for others.

The UK is a country where sales of luxury handbags for dogs are booming while working people are in poverty.

These are the conditions in which extremist political movements traditionally flourish.

If this country is not to become a political, social and economic basket case, the Government must take action.

We need to create well paid jobs beyond the capital.

We need a proper rise in the minimum wage so the taxpayer doesn’t spend so much subsidising Scrooge employers.

We need the rich to pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than those on low and middle incomes.

But most of all we need to reduce the growing gap between the richest and the rest, otherwise the United Kingdom will be a fractured, fractious kingdom if it remains as unequal as this.


Women's living standards destroyed by cuts

CON-DEM cuts have destroyed women’s standard of living, Unison delegates told their union’s conference yesterday.

Most of the 631,000 public-sector jobs axed by the coalition in the last two years — as well as the 400,000 set to go by the 2015 election — are women’s jobs, warned northern delegate Liz Jackson.

In some areas twice as many women as men have lost their jobs, she warned.

The devastation is shown in recent official figures, which revealed a shocking rise in women’s unemployment rate from 6.9 to 7.3 per cent since 2010.

And it’s not just women’s jobs but the services they rely on that are being put on the chopping block, delegates warned, with attacks on maternity pay, domestic violence support, the NHS and social care.

“The Tory-boy Cabinet know exactly what effect their austerity measures are having on women and they don’t give a damn,” said North West region delegate Reena Wood.

“What we do need to do is build confidence among our class. We have to remind people what collectivism is. It’s collectively sharing our skills so we have a capacity to have a united front.”

A new Unison report published yesterday suggests that sweeping government cuts to local services are leaving more than a third of women fearing for their safety.

The online survey of 7,550 women across Britain found 34 per cent felt unsafe as government cuts are causing more than a million street lights across Britain to be switched off or dimmed.

Breadline Britain: 1 in 3 in poverty as chasm between rich and poor widens

Almost 18 million cannot afford adequate housing and 2.5 million kids live in damp homes while 'working poor' are on the rise

Breadline: 2.5million children live in damp and unhealthy homes

The number of Britons living in poverty has soared to one in three, a shock report reveals.

Almost 18 million cannot afford adequate housing and 2.5 million kids live in damp homes.

It also shows that poverty has more than doubled in 30 years, as David Cameron allows the gap between rich and poor to become a chasm.

Furious Labour MP Frank Field branded the rise “horrendous”.

Smug ministers keep saying they are helping people out of hardship – but their claims have been shot to pieces today by shocking evidence.

In a damning verdict on the Coalition, a report has revealed that 33% of people in Britain are living below the breadline.

It means poverty has more than doubled since 1983, when the figure stood at 14%.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves said: “David Cameron’s government has completely failed to tackle poverty and deprivation.

“Child poverty is set to rise, not fall under his government. And there are more people in poverty in work than out of work.”


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

‘Mandatory reconsideration’ – more money-saving by sending the sick to their deaths

Originally posted on Vox Political:

National disgrace: The green benches were almost empty during yesterday's debate on the DWP's new 'mandatory reconsideration' regime - and the potential number of deaths it is causing.
National disgrace: The green benches were almost empty during yesterday’s debate on the DWP’s new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ regime – and the potential number of deaths it is causing.

It is hard to know where to start. Perhaps with DWP minister Mike Penning’s failure to answer the questions raised in yesterday’s adjournment debate on the ESA ‘mandatory reconsideration’ process, despite having prior notice of Sheila Gilmore’s entire presentation? Perhaps with the DWP’s failure to release accurate statistics, which is especially appalling as press officer Richard Caseby attacked a newspaper for inaccuracies very recently? Perhaps with the DWP’s continuing denial of the deaths caused by its increasingly-bizarre and unreasonable attempts to save money?

(Apparently they’re “anecdotal” so they don’t count. Does everybody recall when Iain Duncan Smith used similarly anecdotal evidence to support his claim that his benefit cap was “supporting” people into work, last year?)

The debate was brought to…

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Tribunal system in limbo whilst Atos holds medical files back due to contract dispute with DWP?

A person who says they work at the Tribunals service gives a very plausible explanation for why there are such serious delays in disability benefit decisions.

If this is true, it represents a new low in the corporate stance of ATOS. Is this multinational information technology firm holding the health of sick and disabled people as a bargaining chip in a contract dispute?

Thanks to the facebook page Atos Miracles for spotting this comment to an article posted on the website ‘’.

“I actually work in the tribunals office, for DLA, ESA, etc etc, I will be quite honest and tell you that we have had no work at all for the past 6 months, this is why no one are having appeals, or reassessments done. At the end of last year our office recruited and trained, 32 extra staff to deal with appeals, these people have now been dismissed, because of the lack of work, many of the experienced staff in our department have been advised to apply for voluntary redundancy, or apply for a posting in a different department.

The reason why we have no work is because ATOS will not release all the medical files that they have, until their contract has been resolved. ATOS were not up to doing the job, they did not realise how difficult it will be. We have some people on our system that have been waiting for 3/4 years for answers, and we can not do anything about it.

Our bosses told us this morning, that this is going to be like this for at least another 6 months. And in the meantime, the trained staff are leaving for other postings, and when the work does start coming in. There will be no staff capable of doing the job everyone will have to start from scratch. It is so damned annoying, all I do all day is play solitaire on the computer, or read magazines, I want to work, but there is no work to do.

This is the reason why the decisions are being overturned, we know that we do not have the paperwork to fight an appeal, so until things change people are being allowed to keep there benefits.”


Plans To Close ILF Should Be Scrapped, Say PCS

Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union Press Release:

Disabled people could lose their independence as a result of a cut to a key fund, a government minister admitted today.

Speaking in Nic Dakin MP’s Westminster Hall debate about the closure of the Independent Living Fund, minister for disabled people Mike Penning stated he “could not guarantee” people’s future independence would not be compromised.

The Public and Commercial Services union says this ought to be enough to reverse the closure plans.
More than 18,000 severely disabled people rely on the fund for dignity and independence instead of being in residential care.

In November 2013 the Court of Appeal upheld a legal challenge to the government’s decision to close the ILF in March 2015. Four months later ministers announced plans to press ahead and close it by June 2015.

Responsibility for funding will be passed to local authorities but funding will not be ringfenced. The union believes massive cuts to council budgets, coupled with the loss of experienced ILF staff, will mean current recipients will be placed in residential care or left at home without adequate care.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“It is shocking that the government is pressing ahead with the closure of the fund when ministers appear to accept disabled people will suffer as a result.

“The plans should be scrapped and the government should commit to fully supporting severely disabled people to have the kind of independence the rest of us take for granted.”

Source: Minister admits disabled people could suffer under cut to fund

Millions of NHS records sold to 178 private firms: And officials don’t even know where details of 1.3m patients ended up

‘Millions of NHS medical records were sold to 178 firms including five insurance companies without sufficient checks, health officials admitted yesterday.

The ‘intensely private’ information includes dates of birth, postcodes and diagnoses and was used for such things as calculating insurance premiums.

Incredibly, the details of up to 1.3million patients effectively went missing on at least two occasions because no record was kept of which firms they were given to.’

Read more: Millions of NHS records sold to 178 private firms: And officials don't even know where details of 1.3m patients ended up

Universal Credit Dead, WCA Collapsed, ESA Support Group And PIP Thriving


There has been a massive fall in the number of employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals according to official figures released today. ESA appeals lodged in the January to March 2014 quarter were down by 89% on the same period last year.

As well as the introduction of the mandatory reconsideration before appeal system, another cause of the unprecedented fall is likely to be the huge slowdown and resultant backlog in dealing with ESA claims. The number of ESA claims awaiting a decision is now over 700,000.

The result is that IB to ESA reassessments are now down to 5,000 a month and very few claimants with existing awards are likely to be re-referred. There’s more details on which groups are likely to have an assessment here.

It is not surprising then that Judge Robert Martin, the outgoing president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits tribunals, has claimed that the work capability assessment (WCA) process has virtually collapsed as the DWP goes into a welfare reform induced meltdown.

It’s a claim which has led DWP minister Mike Penning to – somewhat bizarrely – accuse the Judge of being paid by the session and therefore having a conflict of interest.

Finally, the fifth and final independent review of the work capability assessment is now taking place and Dr Paul Litchfield has invited individuals and organisations to give their views.


Fewer than a quarter of the of personal independence payment (PIP) claims submitted between April 2013 and March 2014 have been decided, the DWP has revealed in its first official statistical report on PIP.

However, the award rate for people who are not terminally ill has increased to 50% – up from 36% according to earlier experimental statistics. This is something which the DWP are likely to be extremely worried about, given that disability living allowance awards were only made to around 45% of new claimants.

Meanwhile, the DWP is overturning a huge 55.9% of its own DLA decisions under the new mandatory reconsideration before appeal system, it has been revealed by the same Judge Robert Martin we mentioned above. The rates for other benefits have also been disclosed.


It appears that the DWP believes that universal credit (UC) is dead. Officially the department insists that ‘the vast majority’ of around 7 million recipients will move onto the benefit during 2016-17. Privately, however, the department is no longer predicting that there will be any universal credit appeals between now and 2019.
Yet only last year the DWP estimated there would be 77,926 UC appeals in 2014-15.

Their lack of faith is perhaps explained by the fact that the DWP have so far succeeded in getting just 5,610 claimants onto universal credit (UC). This means they would have to transfer more claimants to UC every single day than they have managed in the whole of the last year in order to meet their target of 7 million UC claimants by April 2017.

Either that or, at the present rate, it will take until the year 3262 to complete the transfer process.

Though perhaps we should be careful about how openly we criticise the DWP. The chair of the Trussell Trust has said that the charity made a decision to tone down its criticisms of the benefit system after someone in power warned them that they could get shut down.

Since the revelation was made, the Independent has revealed that the DWP has also made changes to food bank vouchers issued by Jobcentre Plus with the aim of preventing links being made between problems with the benefits system and use of food banks. The newspaper also identified the IDS aide they claim is responsible for threats to the Trussell Trust.

We came across this blog via twitter. Em has ME and writes about her latest medical with Atos for ESA and demonstrates some exemplary assertiveness skills.

There’s also Em’s twitter page, for more regular musings.


A shocking report published last week by Mind has found that the back to work support provided through the Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus is causing severe anxiety for people with disabilities and pushing them further from the job market.

Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group’ is based on data from over 500 people with a range of physical and mental health problems. Following on from the report, Mind has launched a new campaign: People need support, not sanctions.

Nearly 60,000 people have pledged to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness on Time to Change’s pledge wall. The campaign is led jointly by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Members might want to add their name to this campaign, which aims to educate others and raise awareness of the discrimination that those with mental illness face in society.

Benefits and Work Newsletter

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Caught out: DWP ministers who claimed a million sickness benefit claimants had been found ‘fit for work’ – kept real data from public view

Originally posted on kittysjones:

With big thanks to ilegal

Well over half a million sickness benefits appeals have succeeded – why has the DWP kept this quiet?

DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions. 
ilegal Press Release – 16th June 2013

DWP’s internal figures reveal a much higher number of successful ESA appeals than have been made publicly available.

DWP reply on 13 June 2014 to a Freedom of Information Act request made as part of an investigation in to DWP figures relating to the controversial Work Capability Assessment by has revealed that of 1,287,323 ESA appeals, at least 567,634 claimants have had the original DWP decision overturned in their favour. Government’s

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