Friday, November 28, 2014

The first of the new workhouses?

The new workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn is set to be changed into a Victorian-style workhouse, providing accommodation for up to 10 homeless people in return for work.

Following a discussion on Twitter yesterday evening, the following article from the Lancashire Telegraph was pointed out. Is this building in Blackburn the first of the Coalition government’s new workhouses?

THE semi-derelict former Transdev/Lancashire United bus depot in Blackburn town centre could be brought back into life as a charity and recycling centre, writes Bill Jacobs.

Up 10 otherwise homeless people would live at the site under supervision...


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Iain Duncan Smith: The 'quiet man' has become the 'Teflon man'. Nothing sticks

Reblogged from Samuel Miller:

Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, was sacked by Ed Miliband for sneering at a family home draped with England flags. Anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe was sacked by Sainsbury's after saying David Cameron should resign for using his ‘dead son’ as a front to privatise the NHS.

So why wasn't Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, sacked in 2012 for his ignorant and heartless remarks after saying that disabled Remploy workers were “not doing any work... just making cups of coffee”?

Why wasn't Iain Duncan Smith sacked in 2014, after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) publicly admitted it was wrong, that it should not have axed the disability benefits of Asperger's sufferer Mark Wood, who starved to death just five months later, weighing five-and-a-half stone.

I could cite additional examples, but suffice it to say that Iain Duncan Smith has committed more wrongdoing than Emily Thornberry and Jack Monroe combined—and astonishingly, has not been forced to resign.  The 'quiet man' has become the 'Teflon man'.  Nothing sticks.

A list of official rebukes for Tory lies

Here is catalogue of officially recognised Tory lies used to justify their unjustifiable policies, which have have resulted in official reprimands:

David Cameron rebuked by statistics watchdog over national debt claims- PM said the government was ‘paying down Britain’s debts’ in a political broadcast, even though debt is actually rising.

“Now that his false claims have been exposed, it’s time the prime minister stopped deliberately misleading people about his economic record.”- Rachel Reeves.

Finally Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going to Apologise? David Cameron rebuked over austerity claims – David Cameron has been corrected by the Treasury’s own forecaster over claims that cuts in public spending are not reducing economic growth. The Office for Budget Responsibility told the Prime Minister that it does believe that cutting public spending will reduce economic growth in the short term.

Robert Chote, the head of the OBR, contradicted a claim Mr…

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Who do they think they are? How much more proof do we need that the smug elite despise the rest of us

‘Not as nice as he looks, David Mellor. The vainglorious former Tory Cabinet minister turned broadcaster is again in the mire.

The target of his sneering rudeness this time was a London taxi driver who failed to treat Mr Mellor with the respect he felt he deserved.

In the course of a five-mile journey, Mr Mellor swore at the driver repeatedly, boasted about his achievements and belittled the man for his comparatively low standing.’


Monday, November 24, 2014

People starving to death in the UK – on David Cameron’s doorstep

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

 (not satire – it’s the UK today!)

Austerity kills. It killed Mark Wood and it killed David Clapson. Both starved to death as a direct consequence of the coalition government’s austerity programme. Both were vulnerable adults who starved alone, bewildered at being punished by those they thought were helping them.

The two people closest to these victims will share a platform on 27 November in Witney, David Cameron’s constituency. Cathie Wood, the sister of Mark Wood, and Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, will demand to know why their brothers died at the hands of the state. They are determined that other vulnerable people should not share their brothers’ fate, victims of an inhuman political ideology.

“We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need…

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Historic Westminster child abuse and murder claims ‘only tip of the iceberg’ in scandal, Theresa May warns

‘Revelations that politicians allegedly murdered and raped young boys is “only the tip of the iceberg” in the Westminster historic child abuse scandal, Theresa May has warned.

The Home Secretary expressed dismay that institutions designed to protect children failed in the past and said she was determined to bring those guilty to justice, whatever their position.’


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Food Bank Demand Driven By Cuts And Sanctions To Benefits, New Report Finds

More than half of people driven by acute poverty to apply for emergency food aid are there because of delays, sudden cuts or sanctions imposed on welfare payments, according to new research

The Trussell Trust’s findings are a direct challenge to the coalition government’s insistence that the meteoric rise in the numbers of food bank users is unconnected to the cuts to the social security system, and is only linked to the growth in provision.

The charity, which runs the country’s largest network of food banks, analysed more than 900 different users at a range of facilities across the country, as well as conducting 40 more in-depth interviews and 178 different caseloads from people accessing one of their advice services.

Up to two-thirds of those analysed by the study, which was commissioned by the charity along with the Church of England, Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group, said they were waiting for their benefits which had been delayed, because they had been sanctioned by jobcentres or because they had been suddenly hit by the so-called bedroom tax.

“The promise of a social security safety net that is there to protect people at times of crisis is something that can, and must be, preserved and protected. Food banks, whilst providing a vital and welcoming lifeline to many, should not become a readily accepted part of that formal provision,“ the study says.

The Trust has handed out food parcels to at least 913,000 people from 2013-2014, a threefold increase. The Trust says those figures are a low estimate for the numbers suffering from acute personal finance crisis, many more are likely to be relying on help from friends or neighbours.


Support Group Chances Increased By Upper Tribunal Decision

A recent upper tribunal decision may have significantly increased the chances of employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants being placed in the support group rather than being forced to carry out work-related activities that cause a substantial risk to their health. The decision has come about because, just two months after taking power in 2010, IDS did away with one of the stages of the work capability assessment in order to push through the transfer of incapacity benefit claimants to ESA as hastily as possible.

The work-focused health related assessment (WFHRA) was a ‘second medical’ at which an Atos health professional looked at what capability for work you still had and ways in which it could be improved by the taking of steps in relation to your physical or mental condition.

The subsequent report was passed on to your personal adviser who used it to decide what kind of work-related activities you might be capable of. It was a vital part of the WCA because it was the only way the DWP passed on information about the way your condition affects you to the person supposed to be preparing you for work – they have never been allowed access to the medical assessment itself.

WFHRAs were suspended for two years in July 2010 due to their having achieved only ‘mixed results’ and because of the increasing backlog of ESA medicals. They were subsequently abolished altogether.

A recent three judge upper tribunal hearing, however, has almost reinvented the WFHRA.

The tribunal were hearing a case in relation to regulation 35(2). In essence, this says that if because of your health condition or disability, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if you were required to carry out work-related activities, then you should be placed in the support group.

The tribunal judges held that where a tribunal is considering whether a claimant should be covered by regulation 35(2) the onus is on the DWP to provide a significant amount of additional evidence if they think the claimant should not be placed in the support group.

This includes evidence about what activities work providers in your specific location send people on, which ones it would be reasonable to require you to do and what mechanism the DWP can point to that will give the tribunal confidence that the information will be effectively communicated to the work programme provider and acted upon.

If the DWP can’t do all this to the tribunal’s satisfaction then it must find that you are eligible for the support group.

Not surprisingly the DWP are very unhappy about this and are appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal. In the meantime, the DWP appear to be trying to get all appeals to first tier tribunals that raise the issue of regulation 35 stayed until the Court of Appeal has heard the case and reached a decision – which could be many months away.

We’ve updated both of our guides to claiming ESA to take account of this decision.

Meanwhile, if you are an ESA claimant, we’d be very interested to see your comments below on what work-related activities you have been forced to do and whether they were appropriate.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why haven’t there been riots about endless austerity? That may be about to happen - Michael Meacher MP

One of the most remarkable facts about the British public’s attitude to prolonged austerity is the lack of the kind of open revolt which has been seen in so many other countries.  

In Greece it has led to the dramatic rise of Syriza under the dynamic leadership of the radical Tsipras who now has a poll rating ahead of all the other parties, including the government.   In Spain the resistance led by originally the indignados has crystallised into a new party named Podemos which was formed only 10 months ago, but now is equally challenging the government.  

In Italy the prime minister Renzi has achieved the highest rating for his Democratic Party (39%), but second is the party of the comedian Beppe Grillo in the mid-20s%, well ahead of Berlusconi’s Forza Italian on 15%.  

So where is the equivalent in the UK?   UKIP hardly counts as a serious alternative to government, though both the SNP in Scotland and the Greens in England could be seen as in the initial stages of a challenge to the main parties, significantly both from the Left like Die Linke in Germany.  

The dramatic rise of almost all these movements have been sparked by deep public resistance to austerity.  

So why not in the UK?  It may be about to happen...


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One in four people will be in poverty by 2040

Poverty rates by 2040, according to the JRF: The different levels, marked out by differently-coloured bars, show the effect if social rents rise at one per cent above inflation per year, or to meet market values.
Poverty rates by 2040, according to the JRF: The different levels, marked out by differently-coloured bars, show the effect if social rents rise at one per cent above inflation per year, or to meet market values.

When a Conservative-run government messes up your life, it doesn’t go in for half measures!


'Selling off NHS for profit': Full list of MPs with links to private healthcare firms

PM David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are also on the list - here is the full rundown. Is your MP on there?

'Dossier of shame': Clegg, Cameron, Hague, Hunt, Duncan Smith and Lansley are named

1. David Cameron – Prime Minister
Handed a peerage to nursing and care home tycoon Dolar Popat, who has given the Tories more than £200,000 in donations.

2. Andrew Lansley - Former Health Secretary & architect of privatisation

Received a £21,000 donation in Nov 2009 from John Nash, the former chairman of Care UK.

3. Harriet Baldwin – Tory whip

Former executive at JP Morgan, a major player in private healthcare.

4. Greg Barker – former Energy Minister

Held shares in Quester VCT 5 plc ,a venture capital firm with multiple investments in healthcare companies.


Church leaders launch attack on 'unjust' bedroom tax

Church of England leaders will attack the Government on Tuesday over its introduction of the bedroom tax, which they claim shows “almost a cultural disregard for the lives of the poor”.

In a stinging rebuke of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform, senior clergy described it as “unjust”, “ineffective” and “deeply unfair”.

At the General Synod in Westminster, they will debate whether the Church should hold an inquiry into the impact of the policy.

The bedroom tax, which the Government says is the removal of the “spare room subsidy”, was designed to free up larger homes that were under-occupied by removing housing benefit for any spare rooms. But with a national shortage of one and two bedroom properties, many families are unable to move and have growing rent arrears as they are charged extra to stay in the same place.

A paper criticising its impact submitted by the diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales ahead of today’s vote says: “As well as being ineffective, we perceive both the principle behind the policy and the consequences of its implementation to be unjust.”

The paper also asserts that: “In the principle of the tax we see a deep unfairness and almost cultural disregard for the lives of the poor and a devaluing of commitment to place and community which have always been a core consideration of the Church of England.”

It adds: “The bedroom tax voices a disregard for... the lives of the most vulnerable in a way that would never be done to the more wealthy and for this reason is unjust.”

The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, is one of several senior clergy expected to support an inquiry into the policy. He said: “At the heart of the Christian faith is we are called to care for the poor. In my experience a lot of people affected by the bedroom tax are disabled people and a lot are children.

“We have a responsibility to shout about the stuff that everyone seems to have forgotten. ”


Monday, November 17, 2014

Court Cases, Chaos and Soaring Debt As Council Tax Reform Unravels

Originally posted on the void:

cant-pay wont payThe shambolic postcode lottery which has emerged after reforms to Council Tax Benefit is creating chaos for Local Authorities and driving some people into desperate poverty.

Prior to the non-election of this government most people on out of work benefits were not required to pay council tax.  This was because they didn’t have any money.  This system functioned reasonably well and ensured that sick, disabled or unemployed people were not simply paying back half of their meagre benefits to local government.

Despite this the Tories decided to tear up the rulebook and hand over the powers for helping the poorest pay their council tax to local authorities giving them free reign to charge whatever they chose.  And to ensure maximum carnage, the amount of money made available for the new Council Tax Suppot scheme was cut by 10%.

Sadly many councils approached this chance to attack their most marginalised residents…

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71 reasons to end Tory and Lib Dem government

The late Brian McArdle is one of the many, many people who have died because of policies inflicted on the UK by a corrupt government.
The late Brian McArdle is one of the many, many people who have died because of policies inflicted on the UK by a corrupt government.

The late Mark Wood.
Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.

'Stewardship': This memorial is to Paul Reekie, the Scottish poet and writer who took his own life in 2010. Letters left on his table stated that his Housing Benefit and Incapacity Benefit had been stopped. The poet's death led to the creation of the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights.
‘Stewardship': This memorial is to Paul Reekie, the Scottish poet and writer 
who took his own life in 2010. Letters left on his table stated that his Housing  Benefit 
and Incapacity Benefit had been stopped.
The poet’s death led to the creation of the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in 
Defence of Disability Rights.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

SNP name their price: abandon Trident to put Miliband in Downing Street

Nicola Sturgeon, the new nationalist leader, says she will put Ed Miliband in No 10 if he abandons austerity measures and removes Britain's nuclear arsenal from Scottish waters

The Scottish Nationalists will demand Ed Miliband scraps Britain’s nuclear base in Scotland and abandon the deficit reduction programme as the price for putting him in Downing Street, the party’s new leader has said.

Nicola Sturgeon, in her first speech after replacing Alex Salmond as the SNP leader, said her party could hold the balance of power after the next election.

She ruled out doing a deal with the Conservatives in the event of a hung Parliament, saying there is no need for Scots to vote Labour to prevent David Cameron remaining Prime Minister.

Despite Scots rejecting independence in a referendum two months ago, Mrs Sturgeon said separation from the UK was merely a matter of time...


DPAC's Response to Labour’s WCA Proposals (again)

Benefits and Work website yesterday published an email sent by Labour which explains their proposals to improve WCA.

It is a summary of previously announced proposals but we thought we would take this opportunity to restate, perhaps in even more strident terms our position with respect to Labour’s WCA Proposals.

We have done this many times of course, both on the blog and in direct communication with Labour but nothing ever seems to sink in.

Labours proposals are:

1. We will start by transforming the way the WCA is designed to make it more effective at helping disabled people into work. With Labour, disabled people would receive a copy of the assessor’s report of how their health condition may affect their ability to work, and information about the support that is available in their local area to help them – a first vital step towards a more integrated system of support.

2. Secondly, we would continue to produce an independent review of the WCA, and ask the Office for Disability Issues to support an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to work together with the independent reviewer to assess whether the test is being conducted in a fair and transparent way. We will commit to responding to the recommendations of this report.

3. Finally, a Labour government will go further in ensuring that the assessments get it right first time. We would make sure that in the new system there would be clear penalties for poor performance by assessors, measured both on the number of times decisions are overturned by DWP decision makers, and the number of times they are overturned on appeal.

These changes are falling very short of being crucial.

First they are very vague, and do not address the very high number of ESA overturned decisions by tribunals or even by DWP own reconsideration process (before mandatory reconsiderations were introduced).

The reviews that Labour is committed to produce have been discredited. Professor Harrington, by deciding to talk about his misgivings about moving IB claimants onto ESA only, after he lost his lucrative job for DWP when he could have spoken up before, Dr Litchfield because he devised the Mental health descriptors and was very unlikely to challenge them later in his review.

What disabled people have been waiting for, is a sign from Labour frontbench that disabled people have been unfairly targeted by cuts, but also mistreated, bullied, abused and driven to suicide.

They are still waiting.

One Labour backbencher suggested that one way to improve things very quickly was to pause the reassessments. This suggestion from Sheila Gilmore is welcome and it is surprising that it was not followed up by Rachel Reeves or Kate Green.

The focus on disabled people working, contributing to the economy shows that Labour, like the Tories only see people as economical variables, not people who deserve to live a decent life.

Lastly, if you still have some illusions, sanctioning disabled people wasn’t introduced by the Tories, it began under the last Labour Government.

These WCA Proposals from Labour are “figleaf policies”, intended only to do the barest minimum needed to avoid embarrassment for Labour. It hasn’t worked.  

So here it is again, our response to Labour on WCA (maybe this time it will sink in):-

Are you taking the Piss?


The WCA is a cause of stress and hardship to disabled people, it is inaccurate, causes harm, and it DOESN’T EVEN GET DISABLED PEOPLE INTO WORK.

The WCA has caused people to commit suicide and your WCA will continue to cause people to commit suicide.

You are still planning to use LIMA, a computer program to MAKE CATASTROPHICALLY WRONG DECISIONS, TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

You are still planning to bully people who CAN NOT WORK with repeat assessments.

Will you stop mandatory consideration? If so how are you going to handle the flood of appeals from wrong decisions? If not, you are no better than the Tories.
More “Harrington” Reviews of the WCA? Don’t make us laugh.

and after all that, after the fear, the misery, the anxiety, the hardship and the suicides, your WCA won’t get disabled people into work because THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE for us.


And when a job is available, we can’t get there because WE DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO TRANSPORT,

DPAC’s response to Labour’s WCA proposals in a nutshell:

SCRAP THE WCA & ESA and Scrap Sanctions for all.

Then come up with something much much better that addresses our real needs, not Daily Mail headlines.

Has it sunk in yet?

A String Of Victories Shows That When We Fight Back We Can Win

Originally posted on the void:


The bastards are dropping like flies.  A string of victories have been won this week as people at the sharp end of austerity have shown that we don’t need giant trade unions or insincere political parties to do politics for us.

In East London, property developers Redrow have announced they are selling their £46.75m stake in 1 Commercial Street, the luxury tower block in East London.  This building has been the target of an 18 week campaign against the ‘poor doors’ which force people in the so-called affordable properties to use a different entrance to those living in the posh flats.  Rowdy weekly demonstrations have brought chaos to this busy part of London and enjoyed huge local support.  The protests are set to continue with a victory celebration next Wednesday 19th November from 6pm.

Meanwhile in Hackney the tenants on the New Era estate have driven the vile Benyon…

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Ed Miliband’s policy pledges at a glance

Yesterday, Ed Miliband made these 15 promises to every UK voter. We need to share these widely because we know the mainstream media will never mention them.


With many thanks to Vital Voter Views for this meme.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

CBT is a 'scam', claims psychologist [Cognitive behavioural therapy]

Popular talking therapy is not a long-term solution, says leading psychologist

People with mental health problems are victims of  a ‘scam’ therapy that is wasting vast sums of money, a leading psychologist has warned.

They are being misled because the short-term fix offered by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) does not have a lasting benefit, says Oliver James.

The most popular of the ‘talking therapies’ CBT aims to help people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave to become more positive.

It is frequently recommended for people with problems ranging from anxiety and depression to eating disorders.

In the short-term, 40 per cent of those who complete a course of CBT, typically five to 20 sessions of up to an hour, are said to have recovered.

But ‘extensive evidence’ shows that two years on, depressed or anxious people who had CBT were no more likely to have recovered than those who had no treatment, said Mr James.

He said: ‘As a treatment, rafts of studies have shown it to be ineffective in delivering long-term therapeutic benefits to patients with anxiety and depression.

‘While studies show that in the short-term - six to 12 months - patients who have received CBT are more likely to report themselves as ‘recovered’ compared to those who have received no treatment, these results are not sustained in the long-term.

No explanation from ministers for soaring ESA sanctions

Ministers have again refused to offer any explanation for the soaring use of sanctions against claimants of out-of-work disability benefits.

Figures published this week by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that the number of decisions to sanction claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) reached 5,132 in June 2014.

This compares with 4,770 the previous month, 3,230 in January 2014, 2,698 in December 2013 and 1,091 in December 2012.

This means the use of sanctions – all applied to those in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of ESA – has risen by 370 per cent in just 18 months.

About nine in 10 sanctions were for a failure to participate in work-related activity, with the others imposed for a failure to attend a mandatory interview.

Claimants lose at least a week’s benefit for missing a single appointment or session of work-related activity.

A DWP spokesman said that sanctions were “nothing to do with saving money and the number of sanctions is entirely dependent on how many people do or do not fulfil all their obligations”.

He said: “Sanctions are only used as a last resort if people fail to take up the support which is on offer. There are no targets for sanctions.”

He said that about 99 per cent of ESA claimants do not receive a sanction, while the “vast majority” of ESA sanctions only last for a week.

And he said that those ESA claimants who are sanctioned still keep the additional WRAG component of £28.75, and can also apply for hardship payments.

But he has so far failed to explain why the number of ESA sanctions has risen so sharply in the last 18 months.


DWP admits investigating 60 benefit-related deaths since 2012

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has carried out 60 secret reviews into benefit-related deaths in less than three years, Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal.

DWP released the figures in response to a series of Freedom of Information Act (FoI) requests by DNS.
It said in one response that DWP had carried out “60 peer reviews following the death of a customer” since February 2012.

There have been numerous reports of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to the employment and support allowance (ESA) claim process, or the refusal or removal of ESA and other benefits, including the writer Paul Reekie, who killed himself in 2010, and the deaths of Nick BarkerJacqueline Harris, Ms DE, and Brian McArdle.

The Scottish-based, user-led campaign group Black Triangle has collected more than 40 examples of people – most of them disabled – who appear to have died as a result of being found “fit for work” through a work capability assessment (WCA), or having their entitlement to benefits otherwise refused or removed.

Many of the cases became widely-known through media reports of inquests, but in the case of Ms DE, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland concluded that the WCA process and the subsequent denial of ESA was at least a “major factor in her decision to take her own life”.

But DWP has consistently denied any connection between the coalition’s welfare reforms and cuts and the deaths of benefit claimants.


Judge brands DWP jobseeker’s agreement ‘unlawful’, after action by disabled claimant

A judge has told the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that part of the agreement signed by out-of-work benefit claimants does not comply with the law, following a legal challenge from a disabled job-seeker.

The comments by Judge Christopher Ward in the upper tribunal could potentially affect millions of disabled and non-disabled people who felt they had to sign DWP’s jobseeker’s agreements in order to continue to receive out-of-work benefits.

Judge Ward said that this failure to comply with the law meant the jobseeker’s agreement breached Chris Hart’s rights, because he was told he did not have the right to have the document examined before he signed it.

Hart believes the jobseeker’s agreement – which sets out what someone has agreed to do to find work – is in fact a social behaviour contract, a conclusion he says DWP has not challenged.

This means that every jobseeker’s agreement – and its subsequent enforcement by DWP – is “potentially an utter violation of the principles of the rule of law”, because the basis of the contract is to enforce behaviour through mechanisms such as sanctions, without informing the claimant that that is what they are agreeing to sign.


Friday, November 14, 2014

The establishment are ‘frit’ because Ed Miliband is the biggest threat to the status quo we’ve seen for decades


Ed Miliband has pledged to take on “vested interests” and “powerful forces” in his bid to win the next general election. Not even the Crosby  and Murdoch orchestrated  media campaign, which was aimed at demoralising, undermining and monstering Ed Miliband can disguise the fact that the Tories are in a state of panic.

In fact the media campaign, aimed at attempting to undermine Miliband’s credibility as a leader, arose precisely because Miliband is the biggest threat to the UK power base and status quo that we’ve seen for many decades. He’s challenging the neo-liberal consensus of the past 30 years – now that is a plain indication of strong leadership, and personal strength and courage.

As for the media, and the attempt at agenda-setting, well we’ve known for the past four years that there is now a big chasm between what is real, and what is deemed “newsworthy”. Because the mainstream media have no interest in public interests, only vested ones. It’s about time that we reclaimed our democracy and showed them that WE set the agenda, not overpaid and highly corrupted journalists and editors. Or monopolies like the wake of scandals that is News Corp.

In his inspiring speech at the University of London, he said he would tackle a “zero-zero economy”, saying people were on so-called zero-hours contracts while the rich “get away with zero tax”. He talked about the Labour policy to defend our NHS – currently being fragmented by a privatisation programme that no-one voted for – which was particularly welcome, funded by a clampdown on tax avoidance and taxing hedge funds and cigarette companies.

He said he would “I am willing to put up with whatever is thrown at me in order to fight for you.”, and that it was the party’s “duty… not to shrink from the fight, not to buckle under the pressure but to win”.

This is a very strong indication of a very strong leader, who won’t be threatened or intimidated by Crosby’s dog-whistle, negative smear campaigning tactics. Miliband has indicated quite plainly that he intends to return to the “true soul” of the Labour Party, his frequent use of “together” putting social solidarity back on the agenda, and heralding a new politics of social and economic democracy. Miliband is about a politics where no-one is abandoned.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said there had not been a “shred of truth” in a newspaper story linking him with a leadership plot, calling it “pure fiction”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, he said Mr Miliband had shown “courageous leadership” in the face of attacks from “vested interests” who did not want Labour to win.

He added: “There has been a campaign in the last few days to destabilise and demoralise us.

“My message today is that it won’t work, in fact it is going to galvanise us.”

And it has.


Huge rise in sanctions for people with disabilities

The latest Government statistics show that people claiming the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are having their financial support cut more and more frequently.

These figures relate specifically to people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA, who are expected to undertake certain activities in order to receive their benefits. The number of people in this group has actually fallen by more than 10,000.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that there were more than three times as many sanctions in June 2014 compared to June 2013.

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, the mental health charity, said:

“We’re very concerned that an increasing number of people on ESA are having their benefits stopped, despite the fact that there are now fewer people in the WRAG. We know that around half of people in the WRAG need support because they have mental health problems, but over 60 per cent of sanctions are imposed on this group.”

“It is unjustifiable that people with mental health problems are being disproportionately affected by this increasingly punitive system. This confirms our fears that people are being pressured to undertake activities that are inappropriate for them and are not having their mental health properly taken into account.”


Sanctions Make Vulnerable Reliant On Food Banks, Says YMCA

Welfare Sanctions Make Vulnerable Reliant On Food Banks, Says YMCA

The YMCA, the UK’s oldest youth charity, has warned the government that its changes to welfare policy are driving vulnerable young people to become reliant on food bank handouts rather than preparing them for jobs.

About 5,000 young people were referred by YMCAs to food banks last year, it said in a report, with benefit sanctions cited as the main reason for what it called a “significant increase” in the number of clients falling into food poverty.

The YMCA accused ministers of having their “heads in the sand” over welfare changes and they must urgently fix flaws in the benefits system that leave an increasing number of young people penniless.

The charity, which has 114 branches in England, works with care leavers and youngsters who have left home to escape abuse or family breakdown. The majority of those referred to food banks were people living in special supported accommodation.

Denise Hatton, YMCA England chief executive, told the Guardian: “For me, the benefit system is there to support the most vulnerable people. We are in touch with young people and we know the system which is there to protect them is failing them, and the government must want to do something about that.”

She said the government could no longer ignore the way jobcentres were treating vulnerable young people. “The welfare system was set up to protect and provide a safety net for those individuals in their time of need and so that no one would be left without money to be able to afford food. However, our evidence shows it is failing in this role.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that anyone should have to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to eat.”

The YMCA’s criticisms of a rigid “tick box” approach to benefits that imposes strict punishments for infringements but fails to meet the needs of individuals with complex needs echoes the findings of the government-commissioned Oakley review of sanctions, published in July, which said the system placed disproportionate burdens on the most vulnerable.

Ministers have persistently rejected claims that the rise in referrals to food banks has been driven by sanctions and delays in benefit payments, but Hatton said the link was incontrovertible. “I have been in this kind of work for 30 years, working with young people on the ground, and I have never known it like this.”

The charity said a lack of flexibility in jobcentre culture and practice meant the benefits system was unable to respond to the challenges faced by youngsters who had chaotic lifestyles or learning difficulties.

Jobcentre staff focused on pushing claimants into intensive work-search activity such applying for jobs and completing CVs, even when young people were emotionally unprepared for work. When they failed to meet these tough conditions they were punished by having their benefits stopped, with the effect that they were left further from the job market.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

67 job applications in a fortnight and sanctioned:

‘67 jobs’ blog – my story

by Peter Styles

Firstly, thanks again for all the kind messages of support, received both on the site and to me personally. It has been a tonic at a stressful time. Some heartfelt and very interesting stories have been left on the site, and I wish a happy and successful resolution to one and all.

So how did it come to be that I was sanctioned after applying for 67 jobs in a fortnight? Here’s the story as succinctly as I can put it.

Over the last year since losing my job I’ve been applying for up to 15 jobs a day, securing at least an interview a month and doing whatever I could to free myself from an increasingly precarious financial position – especially as the lion’s share of the Jobseekers’ Allowance is spent on subsidising a significant underpayment in Housing Benefit each…

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Workfare Is Replacing Paid Jobs And The Tax Payer Is Funding It: Just Ask @BulkyBobsLtd

Originally posted on the void:


A protest is planned in Liverpool outside the premises of waste collection firm Bulky Bobs after it was revealed that the so-called social enterprise are using workfare.

Bulky Bobs have a contract with Liverpool City Council to collect large items of household waste.  This is the kind of work which was once carried out by local authorities but is now outsourced to the private and voluntary sectors.  Bulky Bobs drive round in vans proudly emblazoned with the council’s logo.  But according to the Liverpool branch of the IWW Union, many of the people doing this work are not getting paid:

“[...] there is one paid manager in the store (who used to work for the company that is now LearnDirect which is one of the major ‘providers’) and the rest of the staff are on workfare or ‘volunteers’. Likewise, the connected company FRC (Furniture Resource Centre) has a warehouse…

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ESA Sanction Figures, April-June 2014

Figures published today by the DWP reveal that it is having to overturn a huge proportion of its own sanctions against employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants even before they reach an appeal. Nonetheless, decision makers continue to sanction thousands of ESA claimants every month.

The latest figures, for April to June, 2014, reveal that sanction levels are continuing an upward trend:

April 4,118
May 4,770
June 5,132

What is most shocking, however, is the change in the number given for sanctions handed out in March 2014.

In August of this year, we revealed that 7,507 ESA claimants had been sanctioned in March

However, in the latest statistical release this number has been reduced to 4,266, suggesting that the DWP have overturned almost 45% of their own sanction decisions before claimants have had time to get anywhere near a tribunal.

To have to admit that you have wrongly imposed sanctions on such a high proportion of sick and disabled claimants should be a matter for shame, remorse and an immediate change of procedures by the DWP.

Sadly, we know that it will make no difference whatsoever.  However, it does undeline the need to always challenge unfair sanction decisions:  you have a very good chance of winning.

You can download the latest sanctions figures from the DWP website.

Benefits And Work

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Soaring fuel bills will kill a pensioner every SEVEN minutes this winter, a new report reveals

The survey for the charity Age UK also warns that one in three pensioners now fear they cannot afford to heat their homes

A pensioner will die from cold every seven minutes in Britain this winter, a damning report warns today.
Soaring fuel bills and poorly insulated homes are blamed by Age UK for the tens of thousands of older people who die due to cold weather each winter.

A new survey for the charity published on Tuesday reveals one in three pensioners now fear they cannot afford to heat their homes.

In total more than five million people aged over 65 say the soaring cost of fuel is one of their biggest worries over the winter months.

Labour’s shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint raged: “Britain is facing an energy bill crisis. Millions of people - especially older people - are struggling to heat their homes.”


Monday, November 10, 2014

The Conservative Party – nasty, stupid and clumsy


Independent luminary Andreas Whittam Smith reckons the Conservative Party in its current form is both nasty and stupid – and also clumsy, if his latest article is to be believed.

Nasty because of its aggressive behaviour – such as the decision to withdraw support for rescue operations that save thousands of migrants from drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Or because of benefit assessment policies that mean people living with progressive and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and rheumatoid arthritis are being subjected to what a group of charities describes as “upsetting and unnecessary” examinations to see whether they will recover enough to look for work in the future – a pointless exercise because their conditions are flagged up from the start as progressive and degenerative; they’re never going to get better.

Or because, after the Resolution Foundation found that one-in-five employees (4.9 million people) earned less than the living wage, George Osborne is promising that if the Conservative Party wins next year’s general election, then most welfare payments that the working poor rely on – including child benefit, tax credits, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and income support – will be frozen in April 2016 for two years. They are currently rising by 1 per cent a year. He will make the working poor poorer.

Clumsy because they have imposed unpopular decisions on the people in an unfair way. Mr Whittam Smith defines fairness in terms of “the four main elements that go into creating a sense of procedural justice: Those concerned should have been able to play an active part in the process. The rules should be applied with sensitivity to individual situations. Decision-makers should be impartial and fair. And the agents of the system with whom people have to deal should treat them with respect.”


Are low-paid, outraged workers ready to fight back?

Wages have been falling for years and inequality is growing. But the dissatisfaction of workers may finally force a revolt

Del Boy does a bit of dodgy dealing
Del Boy does a bit of dodgy dealing. Some workers claim they have to do the same because wages are too low to live on.

It was all going to script until the rich guy in the pinstripe suit said young people should “get off their arses”. I was in a television studio for Channel 4, trying to explain French economist Thomas Piketty’s inequality thesis to a befuddled audience. But something snapped.

Wages as a share of UK GDP have fallen by around 10 percentage points since 1973. And we’re now in the seventh straight year of falling real wages. That means, when you tell young people to “get off their arses”, they have a strong incentive to move into the grey economy. If wages stagnate, yet everyone with money can demonstrably make money in the financial and property systems, the logical thing to do – if you are an 18-year-old on the streets of a British city – is dodgy stuff.

When I pointed this out, the audience exploded. One man yelled: “We all have to do dodgy stuff. Wages are not enough to live on!” – and he reeled off a list of dodgy activities he had taken part in. On top of this, he insisted, the entire country is run by corrupt people on the make, so why should ordinary people do different? He got the loudest cheer of the night from an audience that had just been let into the guilty secret of modern Britain: we are poorer than we think.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Benefits: Tightening rules does not help people into work, say Scottish researchers

Increasing the conditions placed on people claiming benefits is unlikely to get more people into work, a new report suggests.

Researchers looking at the impact of the UK Government's welfare changes in Scotland say strengthening conditionality does not address the barriers some people face in trying to find a job.

Reforms have increased the requirements for certain people claiming out-of-work benefits, including lone parents and those unemployed due to a health condition or disability.

Professors at the Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Stirling are following dozens of people from across Scotland to see how changes to the system are affecting them.

They interviewed 43 people between September last year and January, with 35 taking part in a second round of in-depth interviews between April and July.

A report on the findings concluded: "Participants with a health condition or a disability, and those who were lone parents, reported that they wanted to be in work but faced considerable barriers to doing so, which were unlikely to be addressed by increasing conditionality.

"According to the views of participants, stronger conditionality is unlikely to get more people into work, due to a lack of suitable work and barriers in the areas of education, skills, employability, childcare and health...


Saturday, November 8, 2014

500,000 sanctioned JSA claimants have disappeared

Originally posted on UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR:

MP Debbie Abrahams has revealed that Oxford academics will report next month on what has happened to half a million jobseekers allowance (JSA) claimants who were sanctioned and subsequently disappeared from official employment statistics.

The Oxford University study led by Professor David Stuckler and Dr. Rachel Loopstra, is in the process of analysing what has happened to the 4.5 million people who have been sanctioned under the Coalition government’s sanctioning regime.

Their research will be published in full later this month for full peer review. According to Abrahams:

“Since the government’s regulations came into effect in October 2012 about half of all sanction decisions have led to people on JSA having their social security payments cut for a least 4 weeks, affecting over 2 million people.

“Of those sanctioned, one in four leave JSA, and their preliminary statistical analysis is revealing that most of those who leave do so…

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The Great Scam: work providers, ESA and A4E

DPAC received this email from someone who wanted everyone to know what was going on with ESA and work providers. We have had many similar emails, but we don’t publish unless the person is absolutely sure they are OK with us doing that. All names and dates have been changed to protect anonymity.

Here we see why we cant trust the DWP (again), yet also how disabled people are being used to make money for private contractors (again), and the continuing chaos of ESA (again). A4E hit the headlines a while ago for taking tax payers money in ways that constituted fraud-we see they are still playing this game and still being served with public money to persecute people that should be left alone . But the Coalition continue to focus on disabled people as the fraudulent people- When will the public see exactly what’s going on and how many lies this Government has produced to protect their wealthy corporate friends, while they destroy everyone else’s lives?

Friday, November 7, 2014

UN scrutiny: possible human rights violations in UK of people with disabilities

The UK is under scrutiny by a UN inquiry into violations of the rights of people with disabilities. Skip to 1h 4 m in the video for the bit of info on this inquiry. The discussion also includes info on when to take a case to Strasbourg (European Court of Human Rights) and when to take it to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

See this article.

You may also want to read this (about a 2012 judgement by the court in Strasbourg against the Republic of Croatia for failure to protect the human rights of two people who were severely bullied).

Earlier this year, a UN rapporteur who is one of the world’s experts on violence against women as well a lawyer was highly critical of the situation of women in the UK (see UN web site, the Guardian, The Independent and the BBC’s web site).

Last year, another UN investigator criticized the bedroom tax and called for its abolishment.


Assisted Dying

Originally posted on Hello from Raging Crip:

Today the assisted dying bill of Lord Falconer is returning to the House of Posh Fuck. But don’t be swayed by the pomp and the circumstance. Don’t be swayed by the pains of people who are depressed, in pain, or who simply cannot do what they did last year. They call this an assisted dying bill, but its class war, in the poisonous atmosphere of welfare reform, this bill is about legalising murder. Now the doughty ship Britannia is actually slamming into the iceberg, this bill is so bloody dangerous in these troubled times, that it infact heralds a human rights atrocity. The seething mamser Grayling cannot wait to get us out of the European Court of Human Rights. The present toolbox have total disrespect for human rights, rightly they are now under investigation by the United Nations for ‘grave violations': The assisted dying bill has not simply appeared…

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Brussels burns as more than 100,000 protesters clash with police during march against EU austerity measures

163% Surge In Food Bank Users Just The ‘Tip Of The Iceberg’, Says Trussell Trust

More than 900,000 adults and children received emergency food parcels from the charity Trussell Trust in the last 12 months, new figures show.

The shocking figure represents a 163% rise on the previous year and Trussell Trust say more people are being referred to the charity than ever before.

913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14, compared to 346,992 in 2012-13. This is just the “tip of the iceberg” of food poverty in the UK, says the Trussell Trust chairman, because the figure only accounts for Trussell Trust food banks.

Source: Trussell Trust
Source: Trussell Trust

Low-income households and benefit claimants have seen their income squeezed under the Tory-led coalition government, by lower than inflation wage rises and devastating welfare cuts.

A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warns there could be 300,000 more people living in “absolute poverty” than previously thought, mainly caused by rising food and energy prices.

According to the Trussell Trust, the primary reason given by users for requiring food aid is harsh and draconian benefit sanctions or payment delays, closely followed by low wages and benefit changes. 83% of Trussell Trust food banks have reported an increase in demand due to “sanctioning”.

Source: Trussell Trust
Source: Trussell Trust

Trussell Trust say they are increasingly working with partners and agencies to provide welfare advice and budgeting advice to families hit by welfare cuts, or poverty wages. The charity is also providing essentials like washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to families in crisis.


One In Five Young People Have Slept Rough In The Past Year

18% of young people have slept rough in the UK in the past year, a shocking new poll reveals.

A poll by the homeless charity Centrepoint found that nearly one in five young people have slept rough in the last 12 months, because they have nowhere else to stay.

The charity says 15,000 young people are facing homelessness this Christmas, with more than a 1,000 beds for homeless people lost in the last year.

Homeless people are twice as likely to die as their peers, says Centrepoint, and more than 80,000 young people are at risk of becoming homeless each year.

Thousands of vulnerable young people across the UK will bed down for a night on the streets this winter, subjected to freezing temperatures and unsafe surroundings.


90,000 British Children Will Wake Up Homeless This Christmas

Around 90,000 children in the UK will wake up this Christmas morning homeless, official government figures show.

The figures also show that the number of homeless families living in B&B’s has more than doubled in only three years, with many forced to endure dangerous living conditions.

An in-depth investigation into 20 homeless families found that more than half felt their temporary accommodation was unsafe, with parents reporting their children were exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing and racist behaviour.

The emotional impact on homeless children and their families is devastating, with more than a half of parents saying their children’s mental health had suffered as a result of the unacceptable living conditions, including depression and panic attacks.

With the number of homeless families on the rise, the charity Shelter say they are bracing themselves for a surge in calls to its helpline over the festive season. In response Shelter has launched an urgent appeal to help its services cope with the extra demand.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

MPs: Failure of IDS’s Work Programme is a scandal

Public Accounts Committee issues damning verdict

The companies running the Government’s flagship scheme to cut joblessness have backtracked on promises to focus on hard-to-help claimants, a MPs’ report published today says.

The Public Accounts Committee denounced the failure to target more help on the most difficult cases as a “scandal”.

Firms operating the Work Programme are spending less than half the amount they had originally pledged on claimants with disabilities such as mental health problems. Such groups are being “parked” as the firms focus on finding jobs for people considered easier to help into employment, the PAC said.

In a damning verdict on the programme, which was launched three years ago, the MPs accused Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of failing to give incentives to providers to support harder-to-help claimants to find a job.

Almost 90 per cent of claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, which is paid to the sick and disabled, who are on the Work Programme have not been found jobs.

Margaret Hodge, the PAC's chairman, said: “Evidence shows differential payments have not stopped contractors from focusing on easier-to-help individuals and parking harder-to-help claimants, often those with a range of disabilities including mental health challenges.

“Data from Work Programme providers shows that they are, on average, spending less than half what they originally promised on these harder to help groups.

“It is a scandal that some of those in greatest need of support are not getting the help they need to get them back to work and are instead being parked by providers because their case is deemed just too hard
“The Department must do more to encourage providers to work with harder-to-help groups.”

Mrs Hodge also warned that the DWP’s sanctions regime could cause “significant financial hardship” to individuals.

“Feedback from some constituents suggests the number of sanctions has been increasing, and some providers have been recommending sanctions more than others,” she said.


Govt under fire for massaging unemployment figures via sanctions


Benefits sanctions are financial penalties that are given to people who are deemed to have not met the conditions for claiming benefits. The social security system has always been based on people meeting certain conditions – this has  been true for all working-age benefit claimants, with sanctions applicable to those who fail to observe those conditions. This has been the case since its inception.

However, the Coalition changed the conditions and increased the application, duration and severity of sanctions that apply to those claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and extended the application of sanctions to those in the Work Related Activity Group of those claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Since 2012, benefit payments can be suspended for a minimum of four weeks and for up to three years where a person “fails to take sufficient steps to search for work”, to “prepare themselves for the labour market” or where they turn down an offer of employment or leave a job voluntarily.

It emerged during an ongoing inquiry instigated by the parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee that Research conducted by Professor David Stuckler shows that more than 500,000 Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants have disappeared from unemployment statistics, without finding work, since the sanctions regime was toughened in October, 2012.

This means that in August 2014, the claimant count – which is used to gauge unemployment – is likely to be very much higher than the 970,000 figure that the government is claiming, if those who have been sanctioned are included.

The research  finding confirms what many of us already knew.

Labour MP, Debbie Abrahams, said: “Sanctions are being applied unfairly to job-seekers, as well as the sick and disabled.

The reason the Government is doing this is that it gets them off the JSA claimant figures, so it looks like there are fewer people unemployed.”

The Government claims that sanctioned claimants who leave the benefit system are going into work – they also claim that their punitive sanctions regime “works”. But the Oxford study found this is untrue in a “majority” of cases.

Debbie Abrahams asked the Tory Minister Iain Duncan Smith how many people were excluded from unemployment figures after being sanctioned but not going into work.

In an angry exchange, Mr Duncan Smith described Ms Abrahams’ claims were “ludicrous”.

But the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth said : “People have died after being sanctioned, Minister.”

“No, I don’t agree with that,” Mr Duncan Smith answered. But he has yet to provide any evidence that supports his view.

Many of us have been calling for an inquiry following the death of diabetic former soldier David Clapson. He died starving after being sanctioned for missing a single Job Centre meeting.