Friday, February 27, 2015

Britain leading the charge against basic human rights

Increased surveillance in Britain, along with the reduction of access to justice, have contributed to one of the worst assaults on human rights in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to a damning assessment by Amnesty International.

In its annual State of the World’s Human Rights report published today, Amnesty  says the Coalition had rushed through legislation such as anti-terror measures and invasive surveillance powers without adequate time for parliamentary debate.

The NGO condemns David Cameron for not only “leading the charge” in attacking the European Convention on Human Rights, but also for passing legislation that, while designed to increase public safety, has come at the cost of basic civil liberties.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that a future Conservative government would also repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, with a view to limiting the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the Convention.

Amnesty’s report warns that those draft proposals threaten significant restrictions on rights. At the same time legal aid cuts “continue to restrict access to justice”.

In its assessment Amnesty says the influence of “nationalist, thinly veiled xenophobic attitudes” was particularly evident in increasingly restrictive migration policies and anti-EU tirades, with human rights a particular target.

The report says: “The UK and Switzerland led the charge, with ruling parties in both countries openly attacking the European Court of Human Rights and discussing withdrawal from the Convention system. In short, at no time since the fall of the Berlin Wall had the integrity of, and support for, the international human rights framework in the Europe and Central Asia region appeared quite so brittle.”

Referring to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which came into force last July, extending the reach of authorities’ interception powers, the report says “sufficient safeguards were not in place to ensure that such surveillance was authorised and carried out in conformity with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression”…


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

UK-wide Day of Action at Jobcentres - 25 Feb

Support Tony Cox from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, who was arrested after assisting a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.



Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.

On 29 January Tony was accompanying a vulnerable woman claimant, who suffers from severe dyslexia and literacy problems. The claimant, D, had been signed up to the Universal Job Match (UJM), the computerised job search system, and was being forced to complete five job searches per day, the pressure of which had led to her having several panic attacks. Tony proposed that D’s UJM account be closed, and that her number of job searches be significantly reduced. The adviser refused to consider this, and so Tony and D met with the Jobcentre manager.

The manager likewise refused to even look at the issue, falsely claiming that all jobseekers had to be registered with UJM. She even suggested to D that she should arrange another meeting without Tony or any other witness or rep present. Despite the pressure D was being put under by the manager, she replied that she would not attend another meeting without Tony. At this point the manager demanded that Tony leave the building or the police would be called. Tony refused to leave, but the meeting ended when it was agreed that a further meeting be arranged to discuss the issue further. Tony was arrested after he left the Jobcentre.

The right of claimants to be accompanied to interviews, and for the accompanier to have the right to speak, has been established by groups like Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, who have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirm claimants’ right to representation. The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”

The attack on benefits and claimants is part of the austerity assault on the entire working class. We call on all unemployed and claimants groups, anti cuts and anti austerity groups, human rights groups, workplace activists, and all working class people, waged and unwaged, to show solidarity with Tony and the right of the unemployed and all claimants to organise collectively to fight back.

Visit your local Jobcentre on 25th February with banners and placards and distribute leaflets to claimants on Tony’s case and the right to be accompanied to all benefits interviews.
Call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty -
Supported by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network
Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions
Boycott Workfare
Please add the support of your group/organisation: email &
And don’t forget Disabled People Against Cut’s Day of Action the following week on 2 March!

Boycott Workfare

Monday, February 23, 2015

Will refusing to share sensitive personal data impact your #UC claim?

If you claim Universal Credit (“UC”) the DWP intends to share your most sensitive personal data with local authorities, citizens advice bureaux, credit unions, social landlords and relevant registered charities:

  • Full name (including initials)
  • Contact details including: address, email, telephone.
  • Details of others in household, in relation to the relevant Benefit Unit.
  • Type of accommodation – private / social rented, owned, none etc.
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity *.
  • National Insurance Number.
  • Date of birth / age range.
  • Employment status / earning.
  • Debts / arrears/rent payable.
  • Benefits received including: level of payment, copy of documents (e.g. claimant commitment).
  • Health conditions / disabilities *
  • Caring responsibilities.
  • Qualifications / training status.
  • Transport situation e.g. able to drive /access to car or easy access or public transport.
  • Barriers to work.
  • Languages spoken.
  • Access to financial products such as bank / building / credit union / Post Office card account / credit card.
  • Level of personal budgeting.
  • Access to computer and internet.
  • Level of digital skills.

On the 10th December 2014 the DWP quietly published a consultation document (see link below). This does seem to be a strange time to launch a consultation exercise given the proximity of the Christmas and New Year holidays. People would be forgiven for wondering if the DWP was attempting to sneak this out without anyone finding out until it was too late.

Controlling and processing any personal data like that listed above is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”). In the UK we have an organisation called the Information Commissioner (“ICO”) which has a statutory role in regulating the DPA. The DWP knows this as it has consulted with it on other matters. Did the DWP invite the ICO to take part in the consultation process? It probably won’t come as a surprise to many people to hear that the DWP didn’t invite the ICO to take part and as a result people would be forgiven for wondering how seriously the DWP takes its obligations under the DPA when dealing with sensitive personal data.

When I heard about the DWP proposals I sent a copy to the ICO as I wasn’t happy with the type of information being shared and the fact that the DWP included a threat against claimants if they weren’t willing to share their data. In section 4.4 of its consultation document the DWP states:

Objecting to information sharing may, of course, have the potential to undermine an individual’s claim – claimants will therefore need to be advised about the possible adverse consequences of objecting to information sharing.”

It seems that the DWP just can’t help itself. If it doesn’t get its own way it automatically wants to punish members of society who face the most barriers and disadvantages.

Despite having a huge workload, the ICO acted quickly and issued a response to the DWP consultation document (see link below):

It is obvious from its response that the ICO is very unhappy about the DWP proposals and the fact that it wasn’t invited to take part in the consultation. The following extracts give you a taste:

The Information Commissioner is surprised and disappointed not to have also received a copy of this consultation or his officials alerted to the proposals given his Office’s role in regulating the Data Protection Act and also having issued a statutory code of practice on data sharing – We have been consulted in the past on data sharing initiatives arising from the Welfare Reform Act such as the Troubled Families initiative and have worked closely with the Department and local support agencies in advising on data sharing and helping to overcome perceived barriers. Additionally the shortness of the consultation period, and falling over the holiday period, has meant that we have been unable to give as much consideration to the content of the consultation as we would have wished. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Department to discuss in further detail the data protection and privacy issues arising from the regulations which we note are intended to come into force on 13 February 2015 and be implemented the following month.”

The document further states that ‘objecting to the sharing may have the potential to undermine an individual’s claim and so claimants will need to be advised about the possible adverse consequences of objecting to information sharing’. The Information Commissioner’s view is that consent is not appropriate where it cannot be freely given and where the data sharing is to take place regardless of the wishes of an individual or where a sanction could be imposed if agreement is not forthcoming. In this context it is also important to clarify that there is no legal opt out under the DPA but any such arrangements should be as transparent as possible and that individuals affected should be aware that the processing will be taking place.”

With so much personal data being collected and used by large organisations these days, some people may be wondering if any of this really matters. I think it does matter and that as a society we are sleep walking into a data protection nightmare. It isn’t just companies trying to sell us goods that make use of data about us. There can be some very unpleasant consequences of allowing organisations access to our sensitive data and have free reign to do what they want with it. What about if:

  • The data being shared about you is wrong and it results in the wrong decisions being made about you? (e.g. you get refused credit, your insurance costs go up or landlords won’t rent to you).
  • It allows unscrupulous companies to target members of society who face the most barriers and disadvantages and steal from them?
  • The organisations lose your data and it enters the public domain. You could end up suffering verbal or physical abuse as this Government’s ongoing demonization of people claiming benefits makes this a sad and worrying possibility.
  • You simply don’t want these organisations to know so much about you? After all it’s your life and your data.
  • The data isn’t used solely for the purposes claimed? Sharing such sensitive information as part of your UC claim relies on you being able to trust the DWP and the organisations listed.

Only you know if you are happy to share your information so widely, which is why the DPA states that each of us must give our consent for our data to be shared. However, some of the data on the DWP is treated differently and is called sensitive personal data (“SPD”). For this to be shared the DWP needs your explicit consent. This means you have to freely agree (i.e. not subject to threat or other coercion) in unambiguous terms that you are happy for specific data to be shared for specific purposes.

The ICO data sharing code of practice defines consent as:

Consent (explicit consent for sensitive personal data) is one of the conditions the DPA provides to legitimise processing. The Data Protection Directive on which the UK’s DPA is based defines ‘the data subject’s consent’ as: ‘any freely given specific and informed indication of his wishes by which the data subject signifies his agreement to personal data relating to him being processed’. “There must therefore be some form of active communication where the individual knowingly indicates consent. Whilst consent will provide a basis on which organisations can share personal data, the ICO recognises that it is not always achievable or even desirable. If you are going to rely on consent as your condition you must be sure that individuals know precisely what data sharing they are consenting to and understand its implications for them. They must also have genuine control over whether or not the data sharing takes place. It is bad practice to offer individuals a ‘choice’ if the data sharing is going to take place regardless of their wishes, for example where it is required by statute or is necessary for the provision of an essential service.

The DPA definition of what counts as SPD is shown below. The data items marked with an “*” in the list of data that the DWP intends to share is SPD. Other data (e.g. language spoken) could also be SPD if they also disclose information listed below:

  1. the racial or ethnic origin of the data subject,
  2. his political opinions,
  3. his religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature,
  4. whether he is a member of a trade union (within the meaning of the M1TradeUnion and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992),
  5. his physical or mental health or condition,
  6. his sexual life,
  7. the commission or alleged commission by him of any offence, or
  8. any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.

I believe that allowing organisations to have access to SPD is as much a matter of trust as anything else. Do you trust the DWP to do what it says and only use the data for what states in the consultation document? Personally I don’t trust the DWP due to its historic behaviour and how it plans to share your data with these organisations using a new IT system...


Sunday, February 22, 2015

A letter to David Cameron from the devil – cartoon

Chris Riddell on the bishops’ letter to voters

Chris Riddell 22.02.2015

More workfare, less pay #GE2015

Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants' right to be accompanied
Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants’ right to be accompanied

This week the Conservatives announced in their manifesto they would introduce a new ‘community’ workfare scheme, specifically targeted at young people.

This is odd because chancellor George Osbourne had already launched just such a workfare scheme last year – and neither David Cameron, Osbourne, nor the media appear to remember it. Our first thought was that Cameron, Osbourne and co have been quaffing the Bolly to the point of extinguishing a massive complement of brain cells and memories.

However, there’s more going on here than over-indulgence in expensive champagne.

What does this workfare reboot really tell us? That workfare as a policy must be in enormous trouble if it has to be rebranded and relaunched on a yearly basis. Successful polices don’t need constant spin and retreads. And this tells us that the public is just not buying workfare. But then why would they when it replaces  jobs?

But then this latest ‘new’ workfare announcement is just more poorly thought out PR masquerading as a manifesto policy. A large number of workfare schemes already exist, and it is a proven fact that they do not work. They are very expensive failures. The Work Programme for example is a £5 billion failure, while the existing Community Work Placement scheme costs £235 million alone and is faltering badly with over 500 charities pledging not to take part in the scheme – and with more signing up every week.

More recently, the DWP evaluated the London Mayor’s ‘Day One Support for Young People’ (DOSfYP) workfare scheme. The DOSfYP scheme, like this new community workfare scheme presently touted by the Tories, was also targeted at young people. It cost £12 million and its chief outcome was to deter young people from claiming JSA – while making no difference to young people’s employment chances at all (see p. 28 of the evaluation here).

This post-election workfare scheme will be backed by benefit sanctions, which the Trussell Trust has linked to the huge increase in the use of foodbanks.  Among other things, workfare schemes deter people from accessing the welfare payments that they are entitled to. We see this in the fact that disengagement is now a real issue at local level, with one million unemployed people not claiming any benefit and ‘falling between the gaps’.

Our campaign has shown that once people discover a charity is using workfare, it becomes immensely damaging for its brand. People now know that implementing workfare means implementing poverty. The 500+ signatories of the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign also demonstrate that workfare is not what the third sector wants or needs.

Nobody, not least young people, should be sanctioned, stigmatised and sent on workfare for what are wider political and economic policy failures. Workfare and sanctions are social disasters and nobody – especially the third sector – should be involved.

Feel the same as we do? Then take action on the 25 February in solidarity with a member of the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network who was arrested coming out of Arbroath Job Centre. His only crime was advising a claimant of her rights.

Boycott Workfare

Labour: the First 100 Days #ILVision #SaveILF #Sanctions #ScrapWCA

The Save the ILF Campaign was successful in all parts of the UK except England, where the Labour Party repeatedly refused to save it. Then Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green said “I do need to start by being clear that it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF”.

September 2015: The Legacy of the First 100 Days of a Labour government elected with a majority. Disabled people throughout the devolved nations of the UK are celebrating the continuing existence of their own Independent Living Funds. Yet in England those with the same support needs have little to cheer about as Labour themselves abandoned disabled people in England and continued forcing through the closure of the ILF, refusing disabled people the right to have the support they need to continue to live independently in the community.
Labour kept its pre-election promises on cuddly animals, and unfortunately kept to it's pre-election policies on disability as well
Labour kept its pre-election promises on cuddly animals, and unfortunately kept to it’s pre-election policies for disabled people  as well
But resilient as ever disabled people are cheering the fact that under Labour there are a significant number of improved rights for animals. After all we accept that not being pretty and fluffy and not enjoying being patted on the head by people passing us on the street- we were never likely to get the same sort of attention as cute little animals.Besides which, after 5 years of Condem austerity measures we’ve come to accept that the main political parties view us as stock with no human rights.

One of the first acts of the new Labour Government was to pass legislation to improve the lives of dogs and cats-they must now all be fed daily, be allowed out to go to the toilet regularly and have a daily walk. Not so for disabled people who have lost their care and support funding and who can only watch wistfully the new freedoms that pets have- imprisoned as they now are inside the walls of their homes unable to leave and take any active part in society. Many social services have introduced toileting regimes allowing disabled people to go to the toilet only at set times, or replaced human support with incontinence pads and catheters.

Fresh food has become a distant memory as more and more 3 minute short visits are all that is available to humans. Along with the wild animals which Labour is protecting by banning them from being used in circuses some of us are also being relocated to new ‘homes’. Sadly for disabled people this means we’re being removed totally from society and pushed out of sight and mind since the closure of the ILF in England...


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Advocacy is NOT a crime

Scottish Unemployed Workers' Network logo

The so-called Welfare Reforms, started by New Labour and ramped up by the ConDem Coaltion, are nothing less than major cuts that undermine the very idea of social security.

They have led to a blizzard of attacks on the rights of people who find themselves caught within the web of an increasingly ‘Orwellian’ benefit system, which measures its success by how many ‘claimants’ it is able to push ‘off benefits’. A target-driven punitive system of administration has come into being that withdraws the means of livelihood from some of the poorest and most vulnerable for minor misdemeanours such as turning up to an appointment a few minutes late.

This increasingly punitive welfare regime is also having an impact on the right of the unemployed to be represented at DWP meetings, and also on the rights of ordinary people and welfare rights activists to represent the unemployed, despite these rights being enshrined in law.

The gathering attack on the right of the unemployed to representation is underlined by the case of Tony Cox, a Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network (SUWN) activist, who was arrested on charges of threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest, whilst representing a highly vulnerable woman in a meeting at Arbroath Jobcentre on the 29th January. The meeting had been arranged specifically to renegotiate what the woman felt was a highly punishing claimant commitment agreement, but when Tony attempted to help negotiate more suitable terms, the Jobcentre manager responded by telling him to leave the building and calling the police.

By the time the police came, Tony and the unemployed woman had left (with the promise of a further meeting), but he was still arrested and charged. This case has serious implications for Tony personally and also for welfare activists everywhere.

This example of harassment of welfare activists is far from an isolated incident, and must by challenged in the most determined fashion. We demand that welfare activists are not prevented from conducting their work and nothing be put in the way of benefit claimants’ fundamental right to advice and representation.

We call on activists and welfare rights groups to organise protests at their local job centres to coincide with the national day of protest on February 25th (when Tony will be appearing at Forfar Sheriff Court) called by Boycott Workfare.

Please also sign our petition:

If you want to get a bit of help and advice, to find out more about what we do, or to join
the struggle, please give us a ring on 0789 9798979 or 07803 052239, or find us online:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Suicides at 10 year high and linked to benefits

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics show that suicide rates, which had fallen consistently since 1981, have been climbing since 2007 and are now at their highest in over a decade. It is primarily male suicides which have increased.

The figures for 2013 give a total of 6,233 deaths by suicide, 252 more than in 2012.

Suicide rates appear to be highest in areas of high unemployment, with the North-East  having the highest rate and London the lowest.

Older males are now the most at risk, with 45-59 year olds having the highest rate.

The link between benefits issues and increased suicide risk is being highlighted by charities such as Mind.

Speaking to the Guardian, Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said:

“Pressurising people by threatening to stop their benefits causes a great deal of financial problems and emotional distress, with some people attempting to take their own lives as a result.”

Workfare Is A Betrayal Of Our Children And We Will All Pay The Price In Time


Most of the UK’s successful creative people were probably once a NEET – meaning someone under 25 who is not in education, employment or training.  Tom Jones was famously revealed as workshy by his Jobcentre records before going on to become one of the most successful recording artists the UK has ever seen.  Top pop star George Michael even rapped about his experience of unemployment early in his career.  And he turned out all right.  Mostly.

There are just under one million NEETs in the UK, but most of them don’t stay that way for long.  Few make a perfectly seamless transition from education to work, so almost every 16-25 year old will have been a NEET at some point.  Around 15% of NEETs are currently unable to work due to sickness or disability.  Some of them will be in hospital.  Many NEETs are mothers with very young children or babies.  Others will be posh kids, dicking about on gap years or frittering away trust funds.  Prince Harry was a NEET for a while.  The term isn’t very helpful to describe an economic or social group. But it serves its real purpose, to smear the young as lazy or feckless...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

ESA Sanctions Hit New Record High

Sanctions against employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants in the work-related activity group have hit a new record high, according to DWP figures released today.

In September 2014, the most recent month for which statistics are available, 3,828 ESA claimants were hit with a sanction. The total for the preceding month was 3,096.

3,453 of the September sanctions were for alleged failure to participate in work-related activity, the remainder for failure to attend a mandatory interview.

The DWP continue to refuse to supply any explanation as to why ‘new regime’ sanctions have more than trebled from 1,091 in December 2012 to their current level.


Bishops condemn demonising of claimants

The House of Bishops of the Church of England have told Christians they have a duty to vote in the general election and condemned the demonising of benefits claimants and the targeting of the least well off for cuts.

In a 52 page letter to the people and parishes of the Church of England published today, the Bishops say

“Unless we exercise the democratic rights that our ancestors struggled for, we will share responsibility for the failures of the political classes. It is the duty of every Christian adult to vote, even though it may have to be a vote for something less than a vision that inspires us.”

In a clear attack on the language used by politicians and the media about benefits claimants, they add that:

“It is particularly counter-productive to denigrate those who are in need, because this undermines the wider social instinct to support one another in the community. For instance, when those who rely on social security payments are all described in terms that imply they are undeserving, dependent, and ought to be self-sufficient, it deters others from offering the informal, neighbourly support which could ease some of the burden of welfare on the state.”

The Bishops also point out that austerity has not been experienced equally by all:

“It has been widely observed that the greatest burdens of austerity have not been born by those with the broadest shoulders – that is, those who enjoy a wide buffer zone before they fall into real need. Those whose margin of material security was always narrow have not been adequately protected from the impact of recession.”

You can download the full letter, ‘Who is my neighbour’ from this link.


Cameron's plan to exploit our children as a source of free labour

In February 2015 David Cameron attempted to distract attention away from the massive scale of tax-dodging by the wealthy establishment class (and the flow of millions of pounds into Tory party coffers from these tax-dodging individuals) with some predictable displays of Tory scapegoating.

Scapegoating and distraction

First *while the Chancellor George Osborne was still hiding from quastions about what he know about the HSBC tax-dodging scandal) David Cameron announced a policy of sanctioning benefits claimants who are overweight. It was soon revealed that this attempt at a headline grabbing scapegoat policy would only actually affect fewer than 2,000 people according to the government's own statistics. Additionally it surely must have caused disorientating bouts of cognitive dissonance to anyone who believes the Tory rhetoric about Labour being the "nanny state party" that interferes in people's lives and the Tories being "the party of freedom" from state interference, and also to anyone who knows who Eric Pickles is.

After this effort to grab headlines with an attack on the overweight went down so badly that even hacks in the notoriously right-wing Telegraph ended up referring to the policy as "the sadistic hounding of the obese", Cameron and the Tories decided to switch their attention to another minority; the young.

As the HSBC tax-dodging scandal rumbled on, and more serious politicians began to draw parallels between the dodgy way in which political parties are funded and the inexorable rise of political dissatisfaction and outright apathy, Cameron decided to launch a policy that young people (18-21 year olds) should be immediately forced onto unpaid labour schemes if they can't find a real job...


Hungry, thirsty and forced to attend the work programme.

Imagine this situation if you can. You have no money either because your sanctioned or your income is so low that you don’t have a spare penny. You are forced to attend your local work programme provider and have to attend everyday from 8.30am until 5pm. You are told that you have to spend all that time looking on their computers if there is one available for non existent jobs, which prevent you from going out and looking for real work. You feel demoralised, depressed and feel that your future is going nowhere. Let’s just add this to the equation. Your work programme provider refuses to provide you with even a glass of water. You have no money to bring sandwiches and haven’t got enough money to bring a flask. You ask for a drink and they say no we aren’t going to provide anyone with a drink. You aren’t allowed any real breaks and those with food have to eat it at the computer. Those without food and a drink look longingly at the people eating and drinking wishing that they could have a drink. By now they are dehydrated and the smell of cooked food from the cafe on the lower floor is really getting to you. So near but so far away.

Sounds like a chapter from a book by Engles or Charles Dickens but unfortunately it isn’t. This is an everyday reality at a local work programme provider in my town. I know it to be true because I know a person attending quite well...


Saturday, February 14, 2015

900 Terminally Ill People Reassessed For PIP

Seen on Twitter:


Tories Launch ‘Hate Sick And Disabled Claimants Week’

The Conservatives have launched a week long campaign aimed at stirring up hatred against welfare benefits claimants in general, and sick and disabled claimants in particular. The project appears to be an attempt to move the spotlight off tax avoidance at a time when polls suggest that the HSBC scandal is costing the Tories votes.

The campaign began today with a threat to stop the benefits of obese claimants as well as those who are dependent on alcohol and drugs, unless they take part in treatment programmes.

Cameron has announced that Dame Carol Black, responsible for the ‘Fit Note’ amongst other things, has been asked to carry out a rapid review of whether it would be possible to stop the benefits of people who refuse treatment.

Announcing the review, David Cameron claimed:

“Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment.

“In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed – but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.

“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.”


The move has already been widely condemned.

Former Labour spin doctor and recovering alcoholic Alistair Campbell, who is an Alcohol Concern ambassador, told LBC radio:

“I actually do think when you have got real leaders like Merkel doing the things that they are doing, it is embarrassing that we have a PM who does this sort of stuff. The fact that he is making a speech about it is pathetic.”

“People that are walking around London and the rest of the rest of the country today, as they walk over people in sleeping bags on the streets, just ask themselves if those people really, really chose to be there. They did not choose to be there – they are alcoholics or drug addicts because it is a disease, it is an illness, that is how it should be treated.

“To say we are not going to give you benefit because you are fat, we are not going to give you benefit because you drink too much, just think about what we have become as a country that that is our Prime Minister and that is how they treat a serious illness.”

Tough week ahead

Today’s announcement is just the first of a week of attacks on welfare benefits claimants by the conservatives as they try to prevent the press concentrating on tax dodging. And it’s probably just a small foretaste of what is to come in the weeks leading up to the election.

So, if you’d like to feel that you are fighting back rather than simply being a target, here’s three suggestions for ways to make life harder for the conservatives.


GOOGLE will eavesdrop as you browse on Chrome

Voice Search extension project described as 'Ear of Sauron'

‘Those uneasy about Samsung’s “smart” television terms and conditions are going to have a nervous wobble about a project along the same lines underway at Google’s Chocolate Factory.

The realisation that anything spoken near your Smart TV might be recorded and transmitted to a third party is bad enough, but how about the possibility of “always-listening voice search” getting built into Google’s Chrome browser?

The “always-listening” feature is available via Google Voice Search Hotword (beta) extension.

We’re indebted to Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at F-Secure, for going through the fine print and finding an interesting snippet explaining that “Chrome will listen for you to say ‘OK Google’ and then send the sound of the next thing you say plus a few seconds before, to Google.”’

Read more: Not only Samsung – GOOGLE will eavesdrop as you browse on Chrome  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Growing Evidence DWP Staff Forced To Impose Benefit Sanctions

There is growing evidence that Jobcentre staff are being pressurised into imposing sanctions against benefit claimants, an SNP MSP has said.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under a Freedom of Information Request, reveal that the number of jobseekers facing benefit sanctions increased from 10% in 2010 to 18% in 2013/14.

Last week, the SNP called for an investigation of evidence suggesting DWP staff are pressurised into sanctioning people.

This followed under-Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell’s appearance at the Welfare Reform Committee in which he failed to address the issue.

Following the meeting, all four SNP members of the committee wrote to Esther McVey, the UK Minister of state for Employment, calling on her to command the Department for Work and Pensions to commission an independent investigation into evidence suggesting DWP staff are pressurised into sanctioning.

A recent PCS survey reveals how 82% of staff questioned felt that they were under pressure to refer people who could be sanctioned.

Inclusion Scotland’s Director of Policy Bill Scott has also told of DWP staff who have been warned that they will be disciplined because they have not imposed enough sanctions...


Anonymous to wage war on rich & powerful covering up child sex abuse in Friday 13th protest #OpDeathEaters

‘Masked protesters will march on the homes of “elite” paedophiles and public figures they claim have been involved in the “nightmarish” cover-up of child sex abuse.

In a video released on YouTube, Anonymous says it has exposed a club of people in positions of trust and responsibility that have been murdering and torturing children.

“Friday the 13th will see us become the nightmare on Elite Street,” the message says.

“Politicians, royals, media, religious figures, singers, actors, men and women; it seems that the long grotesque arm of this club has no bounds. “You think you are safe. You think we will not directly interrupt your lives. You are wrong. You are the stuff of nightmares.”’


Thursday, February 12, 2015

#DWP Decision Makers Crying for Help or playing the #Tory Blame-Game?

Originally posted on jaynelinney:

Out of respect for you, I APOLOGISE in advance for my language because I’m LIVID

The ever excellent Benefits and Work website reveal welfare rights workers are experiencing DWP Decision-Makers calling up benefit claimants “‘in tears’ or ‘sobbing’“, pleading with them Not to appeal following a Mandatory Reconsideration !! HOW THE FUCK DARE THEY??

These unqualified low grade civil servants may well be genuinely feeling sorry for themselves, worried at how their bosses will react at their figures.. but, borrowing the much quoted line Frankly..I DON’T GIVE A DAMN.

If the Decision Maker truly feels sympathy for the vulnerable person who’s life they’re ruining, then they should do the decent thing and RESIGN and join the ever growing list of ‘Whistleblowers’, otherwise they have no right to attempt to push their agenda onto you or I. This behaviour is is keeping with the actions of their Bosses –…

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Sobbing DWP Decision Makers Beg Claimants Not To Appeal

Originally posted on Same Difference:

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

Sobbing decision makers are desperately trying to persuade claimants not to lodge appeals following an unsuccessful mandatory reconsideration, a senior welfare rights worker has revealed. It is the first evidence that DWP staff are coming under pressure to meet targets for cutting appeal numbers for benefits including employment and support allowance (ESA), personal independence payment (PIP) and disability living allowance (DLA).

The DWP introduced a new, much more complex system for challenging benefits decisions in 2013. The mandatory reconsideration system obliges claimants to first ask the DWP to look at a decision again and then, if they are unhappy with the result, to lodge an appeal with the Tribunals Service themselves.
The new system applied to universal credit and PIP decisions from April 2013 and to ESA and other benefits from 28 October 2013.

Back in December 2014 we revealed that there had…

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Gov't obesty advisors paid by junk food industry

‘Experts advising ministers on obesity are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by the junk food industry, an investigation has found.

Key scientists behind policies aimed at encouraging the public to eat a healthier diet have been given vast sums for their research by the likes of Coca Cola, Nestle and Mars.

The revelations prompted concerns that ‘cosy deals’ are deterring ministers from enforcing tough limits on sugar and fat.’

Read more: Obesity experts advising the Government are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by the junk food industry

CDN Comment:  This goes much further than the DM article, and ultra low-fat foods sweetened with aspartame are NOT the solution.  While sugar is lethal, saturated fats are not harmful and don't cause weight gain (the scaremongering was bogus).  The real dangers in the modern diet are grains (especially wheat), carbohydrates, and cholesterol busting measures.  The food industry have been compromising the health of the public since the 1950s, using bad and often fraudulent science to promote harmful products.  Also see here, and here, and here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Should the DWP be disbanded?

The institutions central to the operations of the political economy should not be seen as entities that are created at one point in time and can then be assumed to operative effectively afterwards… the operative force of many institutions cannot be taken for granted
– from Peter Hall and David Soskice, An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was created in 2001. We should ask whether now is the time to disband it.

I ask this as a question of long-term policy and the administration of a significant part of Britain’s political economy (or “state”), rather than a short-term campaigning question designed to score political points. However, it would have the political advantage for whoever achieves power in 2015 of drawing some sort of line under what have proven to be poorly motivated and poorly executed welfare reforms since 2010...


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jobcentre Whistleblower Tells Of Culture Of Cruelty To Jobless

A former Job Centre worker has revealed the worrying culture under the Coalition, claiming they were encouraged to be cruel.

Angela Neville was an advisor at the Job Centre, but quit after being frustrated by the way things were being run.

She has since written a play about her experiences there and pinpointed the moment when she realised there was a problem with the way benefits were being distributed - when she was forced to sanction a man that was on his death bed.

Speaking to Shelagh Fogarty, Ms Neville told when she realised it was now a target-driven culture, rather than person driven, saying: "Towards the end of 2012, we were given a list of customers to call in or to send immediately to the Work Programme.

"That was the government's programme for customers on job-seekers, ESA, all the different types of benefits.

"As advisors, you do form bonds with customers, you have relationships and that helps you support them.
"I had a particular customer, I said he was in hospital, not expected to live.

"I was told to call him and if he didn't attend or respond, he would probably face a sanction.

"As he would probably be dead, this would be tricky, I thought, and I refused to actually do it."


Monday, February 9, 2015

Junior DWP staffer tells IDS truth about Universal Credit to his face

Iain Duncan Smith at Nelson jobcentre

With Iain Duncan Smith touring the Potemkin Village jobcentres actually delivering Universal Credit last week, DWP spinners may regret inviting the local press — after a member of staff told the work and pensions secretary to his face that his flagship initiative was hamstrung by “regular glitches” and “poor communication” from officials.

The trip went off-message on a visit to Nelson jobcentre in East Lancashire, described by IDS as ‘small but perfectly formed’ — a poignant description given the difficulties in scaling the new benefit when you’ve been forced to write off at least £140 million of IT.

The North West embarrassment comes after an internal DWP memo entitled “Ideas please: Sinking” was leaked to Channel 4 Dispatches amid reports that backlogs were growing at the handful of centres operating the scheme.

And to top it off, he turned up 70 minutes late. But at least he had an excuse to hand...


Shouldn’t we call time on the Work Capability Assessment?


On the day Mrs Mike was at first supposed to take a new Work Capability Assessment, then told it was cancelled (then received a letter confirming this – and then this writer attended the centre to make sure), Ekklesia has published a piece by Bernadette Meaden asking whether there’s any point to the process at all.

She writes: “It’s important to remember that these assessments are not a ‘medical’, as the public may believe. They are officially described as a ‘functional assessment’: they assess people as if they are machines, to see which bits are working and which bits aren’t. They disregard many medical symptoms such as pain and exhaustion, which is why people who are obviously seriously ill can be assessed as ‘fit to work’, why so many people appeal their decision, and why the government’s own expert adviser, Professor Malcolm Harrington, once described the WCA as ‘mechanistic and inhumane’.


Money For Old Rope … How The Work Programme Poverty Profiteers Are Fleecing The Tax Payer

Former A4e boss Emma Harrison made millions out of the welfare-to-work scam before retiring just as the company became mired in fraud allegations.
Former A4e boss Emma Harrison made millions out of the welfare-to-work scam before retiring just as the company became mired in fraud allegations.

If there is one place that a culture of worklessness really does exist it’s in the offices of the companies running Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme.  Some welfare-to-work advisors have been languishing on tax-payer funded salaries for years whilst barely lifting a finger.

Last week the DWP published an update of the Minimum Service Delivery standards for all of the main Work Programme providers.  These are the very basic levels of service that everybody referred to these companies can expect to receive as promised in their contracts with the DWP.  As the document reveals, you shouldn’t expect too much.

Appallingly a claimant on Employment Support Allowance can expect to wait eight weeks before Maximus will be bothered to help them produce a CV.  Those placed with the notorious A4e will only have contact with a named advisor once a month, whilst the most other providers are offering is just fortnightly meetings.  At these meetings participants are likely to be given a string of conditions they must meet, which might include workfare, or they will have their benefits stopped.  Then they’ll be politely asked to fuck off for another fortnight.  And that’s the Work Programme.  That’s the wonderful, flexible, intensive, tailored to the individual, innovative, half-arsed piece of shit that bungling Iain Duncan Smith has so far wasted close to a billion pounds of our money on.  And that’s why the performance of the scheme has been so dire and you are more likely to have your benefit sanctioned than find a job on the Work Programme...


Old people auctioned off to care homes on the internet: Anger over 'cattle markets for grannies' as councils accept lowest bids to save cash

  • At least a dozen local authorities are listing vulnerable people's details
  • Ages and care needs including medication sent to up to 100 care firms
  • They pick which people to bid for - and cheapest offer nearly always wins
  • Expert Ros Altmann: 'eBay-style' system 'awful' and 'just uncivilised'
  • Health group leader: 'It's an absolute disgrace - it's like a cattle market'

The elderly and disabled are being ‘put up for auction’ by local councils on ‘eBay-style’ websites, with care firms then bidding to offer them a bed.

At least a dozen local authorities are listing vulnerable people’s details – including their age and what care and medication they need – before inviting bids from care homes in the area.

The bidding is sometimes open for only a few hours, at other times it can last for two or three days. The cheapest offer often wins.

Critics last night said the system was akin to ‘auctioning your granny’ and a ‘cattle market’, saying sensitive decisions about an elderly resident’s final years are being made by a computer programme that is only interested in costs.

OFFICIAL - Thousands of Children Forcibly Adopted

First it was BBC Inside Out South East on 02 February 2015, then it was the BBC News:

Adoption: Thousands of children forcibly taken into care

2 February 2015 Last updated at 10:31 GMT

Every year about 11,000 children are taken into local authority care without the consent of their parents.

Last year, more than 2,400 of them were forcibly adopted...


Rough sleepers ‘swept’ off London’s freezing streets – Home News – UK – The Independent.

Rough sleepers ‘swept’ off London’s freezing streets – Home News – UK – The Independent.

Osborne’s ‘recovery’ is twice as slow as the slowest recovery on record

Indices of GDP per head over economic recoveries from the 1830s to today

Looking at GDP per head, the UK economy grew by 5 per cent between 2009 and 2014. Previously, the slowest recovery on a per head basis was from 1886 to 1901, when the economy grew by 10 per cent: twice as fast.

The average recovery speed over five years for previous major recessions is 13.7 per cent, pretty much three times as fast as the present ‘recovery’.

Strikingly, in the recovery from the great depression, GDP per head grew by 21 per cent, an annual rate of 4 per cent against Osborne’s 1 per cent...


Anti-austerity forces grow in Italy after Greece vote

‘After the left-wing Syriza party notched an impressive victory in Greece’s recent parliamentary elections, a gust of energy has swept across debt-laden southern Europe, which has borne the brunt of the eurozone’s fiscal crisis.

In southern Europe, popular opposition has been growing against the fiscal austerity measures demanded by Germany, the economic anchor of the eurozone. In Spain, tens of thousands of people protested against welfare cuts on January 31, in rallies led by left-wing movement Podemos – which in just months has rocketed from obscurity to lead the opinion polls for Spain’s elections this year.

Meanwhile, in Italy – which, like Greece, suffers from a stagnant economy, high debt, and an astronomical youth unemployment rate – Syriza’s victory was met with supportive but tempered statements from centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.’

Read more: Anti-austerity forces grow in Italy after Greece vote

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What has been achieved by 4.8 million Work Capability Assessments?

Nick Dilworth is a welfare rights adviser who has seen the full impact of welfare reform on the lives of his clients. He is also skilled at analysing statistics issued by the Department for Work and Pensions, and believes that one number, which lies buried in the data tables, should be revealed and widely publicised.

The number is 4.8 million. This is the number of Work Capability Assessments that have been carried out on sick and disabled people since the test was introduced in 2008. Nick has arrived at this figure by looking at the official data tables for the period up to March 2014, the most recent we have available. By combining the numbers of initial assessments and reassessments, he has arrived at a precise total of 4,799,800 as of March 2014. Nick says, in what must be an understatement, ‘We can safely say that by February 2015…

Man burned alive in Britain – but does anybody care?

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:
(not satire – it’s the UK today!)
A man was burned alive in Britain – and nobody seems to care.
Malcolm Burge, 66, found himself more than £800 in debt as a result of a government decision to cut his housing benefit by 50%.
The council dealing with his case was also unable to correspond properly with Mr Burge because of a massive backlog they were experiencing – again due to government cuts to local government funding.
And so – on the same day he received a letter telling him he had to repay the money – Mr Burge drove to Cheddar Gorge and burned himself alive in his car.
Just the latest victim of Iain Duncan Smith’s war on the poor:
Iain Duncan Smith’s portrait made from photos of people who died for being poor (click on image to enlarge)
Iain-Duncan-Smith Mosaic05

Some of his victims:

Malcolm Burge:

Edward Jacques:edward jacques

Graham Shawcross:graham shawcross

David Coupe:David-Coupe


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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Re-elected Con-Dems could cost £9 billion

Coalition strategy on low pay could cost the taxpayer £9 billion more over the next five years if the present Government is re-elected, according to research verified by the House of Commons Library.

The analysis of official figures suggests that would amount to an extra £337 bill for every tax-paying family.

The estimate of social security and tax credit spending by 2020 assumes that previous Treasury forecasts for average earnings growth were over-optimistic to the same extent that they were between 2010 and 2015.

The coalition has presided over the largest fall in wages since the 1870s, with working people on average £1,600 a year worse off than in 2010 and those in full time work £2,000 a year worse off. The number of people earning less than a living wage has rocketed from 3.4 million in 2009-10 to 4.9 million...


IDS's Department "has gone rogue" - HuffPost

The way the DWP is operating shows why it prefers to work in secrecy, and misleads when given the opportunity to be more open, both to the BBC reporter and us. Its jobcentre activities have become an active barrier to unemployed people getting into work, and recent figures from Oxford University and SOAS show that four out of five of those sanctioned don't find jobs.
Smith's Department has gone rogue, and he must bear the blame.


A Government That Permits The Psychological Torture Of Benefit Claimants Does Not Give A Fuck About Mental Health

This Government do not give a shit about people with mental health conditions, and neither did the last one.  Whilst politicians of all parties offer soundbites and fake sympathy the treatment of people with a mental health condition by the benefits system now amounts to little more than psychological torture.

This is not hyperbole.  Whilst the medical establishment has stood ildly by, and mental health charities have veered between mild disapproval and outright collaboration, the DWP has lanched an all out war on the most marginalised people in society.

Consider the ‘claimant journey’, to use their language, for someone unable to work due to mental ill health.  The first step is to claim Employment Support Allowance, a process which may take months due to a huge backlog of cases.  During this period the claimant will be paid the Assessment Rate, the same amount as mainstream unemployment benefits, and a pittance at currently £72.40 a week.

Finally a dreaded brown envelope will drop through the door from the DWP – an invitation to have your mental health assessed by the notorious Atos.  At this assessment you may be found fit for work, fit for some work, or possibly placed in the Support Group.  What this means is that you might suddenly have your income – your only income – stopped.  The stress this places on people who are desperately in need of stability and consistency can be unbearable.  Is it any wonder that the number of suicides linked to this callous regime grows ever higher?

We know from the number of successful appeals that many of these assessments are wrong.  Equally importantly, these assessments have been ruled discriminatory towards those with a mental health condition in the courts...


Tory MP Mark Spencer Wants Poor To "Starve In The Dark"

A Tory MP stunned fellow parliamentarians after defending the benefits system that left a jobseeker with learning difficulties without food or electricity after he was four minutes late for a Jobcentre appointment.
Conservative backbencher Mark Spencer, who represents the Nottinghamshire constituency of Sherwood, made the controversial remarks during a debate on the state of poverty in Britain on Wednesday afternoon in Westminster Hall.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy, shadow civil society minister, told fellow parliamentarians about how a vulnerable person in her constituency of Wigan suffered after having his benefits taken away under the controversial sanctions regime.

“Several times this year I have had to refer a gentleman with learning difficulties to Denise (the local Reverend) for food due to him having sanctions on him for turning up late,” a local councillor had told her. “The gentleman can’t tell the time and is a recluse. He has been found sitting in his flat in the dark with no electric or gas. He won’t ask for help.”

“Only for the old neighbours watch out for him and contact myself heaven knows what would of happened to him. I was informed he has to get a letter off the doctor for an electric card…The lad turned up at my door the other night. He hadn’t eaten for 5 days. He looked like he was dying.”

Iain Duncan Smith‘s sanctions system, under which a jobseeker can automatically lose their benefits for low-level offences like missing an interview with their Jobcentre adviser, has been a subject of mounting controversy as critics warned that the “immoral” reforms would drive people to rely on food banks to survive.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has so far defended the regime, with senior official Neil Couling causing controversy after he argued that sanctions can provide a “welcome jolt” to those affected.
In response to Nandy’s speech, Spencer said that people like him needed to learn “the discipline of timekeeping”, and suggested the education system needed to improve to cure the constituent’s learning difficulties.
He added: “I hope that the Hon. Lady [Nandy] appreciates that people who work very hard, and who might be earning very small amounts from working 50 hours a week, have to turn up to work on time. If they are late for their employment, they might be sanctioned by their employer.”

Spencer’s remarks, which have caused a stir online, outraged Labour MPs as he spoke in Westminster Hall. Nandy remarked that his “patronising tone” showed “exactly why people throughout the country are so angry with the Government”...


Stats: DWP recruited 2907 Benefit Sanctions Decision Makers from 1059

Originally posted on

Whilst the DWP continually says it has no Benefit Sanctions Targets, despite irrefutable evidence, this view now seems even more implausible since today it published statistics that it show they nearly trebled the number of sanction decision makers?



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bombshell Poll: Clegg to lose seat in general election?

An exclusive ‘bombshell’ poll conducted by Survation for Unite reveals that Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg faces losing his seat at the next general election while fears over the NHS and the dangerous trade deal TTIP remain major issues for voters in Sheffield Hallam.

The poll also found a significant majority of voters who expressed an opinion in Sheffield Hallam (79 per cent) and people who voted Liberal Democrat in the 2010 (83 per cent) oppose the inclusion of the NHS in the EU-US trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

80 per cent and 83 per cent want David Cameron to exclude the from NHS falling into the scope of this agreement.

The poll of just over 1000 people also reveals that local NHS services are by far the most important issue for most voters. 45 per cent of voters generally and 51 per cent of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 believe that the quality of local NHS services to be the most important issue.

A third of voters who expressed an opinion (33 per cent) intend to vote Labour in Sheffield Hallam in May and under a quarter (23 per cent) of voters intend to vote Liberal Democrat, dropping 30 percentage points since the 2010 general election...