Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mind Control (In a Jobcentre near you)

Psychobabble in a Jobcentre near you

On top of punishing claimants with sanctions that leave people destitute, the Government now has plans to use psychological treatments to force people into work.

George Osborne’s budget announced measures to ‘improve employment outcomes’ for people with mental health conditions. These include online cognitive behavioural therapy (change the world by changing how you think) for people on ESA or JSA and putting psychologists in JobCentres.

Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder and the main purpose of psychological therapy will be to force people off benefits.  Or to promote yet another specious reason to cut people off benefits.
Meanwhile, the Tory Manifesto states that claimants who ‘refuse a recommended treatment’ may have their benefits reduced. This is an assault on the human rights of people on benefits and an attempt to co-opt medical professionals as state enforcers.

We’re hearing more and more reports of the misuse of psychology to coerce, bully and punish claimants into ‘getting the right mindset’: “all new starts must attend an initial two week course to develop their confidence”.

Change your attitude

The ‘change your attitude’ message of positive psychology is enforced in mandatory ‘employability’ training courses promising to help with ‘self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation’ and in unsolicited ‘positive thinking’ emails.  Making people take part in various pointless and humiliating psycho-group-activities e.g. building paper clip towers to demonstrate team work, or take completely meaningless and unethical psychological tests to determine their ‘strengths’.

The Department for Work and Pensions issues contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds (Focus the Mind, Achieve your Potential) designed to ‘address negative perceptions’ and ‘instil a positive attitude to work‘.  A programme for JSA/ESA claimants over 50 aims to persuade people that age discrimination doesn’t exist:

“to challenge perceptions that employers discriminate on the grounds of age”.


These fraudulent programmes don’t result in real paid work you can live on. The companies that run them are making millions out of a big con: that with a total personality makeover, anyone can get a job.  That positive thinking can change the low pay, no pay UK economy...


Austerity is a Con

The Tory austerity narrative is a simple and oft repeated one. It doesn't matter that "we've got to cut our way to growth" is nonsensical from a macroeconomic perspective, it's been repeated so often now that millions of people accept it as fact.

Some people (myself included) have maintained all along that it was always a simple con designed to give the Tories an excuse to continue their agenda of transferring ever more wealth to the tiny super-rich minority under the guise of bringing the national debt under control.

There is bountiful evidence that the austerity narrative is a misleading one, especially the myriad of counter-factual Tory slogans used to support it. They claimed that "we're all in this together" while handing the UK's income millionaires an average £100,000 per year tax cut and trying to defend 200%+ bankers's bonuses from new EU rules. They claimed they were "making work pay" whilst overseeing the longest sustained decline in average earnings since records began, and slashing in-work social security; and they claimed over and again that "Labour bankrupted Britain" when it was George Osborne that lost the UK's AAA credit ratings for the first time since the 1970s.

Now that their government is over we can look at what ideological austerity has actually achieved...


IDS fails to show up for General Election hustings in his own constituency

Sister of David Clapson, the diabetic ex-soldier who died after having his benefits cut, was there to protest and said Tory ministers were too scared to defend their record

Protests: Campaigners said Iain Duncan Smith should have his pay docked after he missed his own hustings
 Voters from Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency last night called for him to be sanctioned – with his MP’s salary suspended – for failing to show up at his local hustings.

Candidates from six other parties – Labour, Green, Lib Dem, Class War, TUSC and UKIP – managed to make the event at Woodford Memorial Hall. But the sitting MP failed to show up in his constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green in north London....


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Former DPP Ken MacDonald Explains The UK’s Two-Tier Justice System

If you are a ‘prominent’ person, i.e. part of the establishment like MPs, the CPS protocol is that  the criminal file is forwarded to CPS Headquarters. This takes time and police forces are naturally cautious in such cases.
If you are Joe Schmo then the regional CPS will deal with you and justice is swift.

Is it unreasonable to ask what the CPS definition of a ‘prominent’ person is ?

Royal family, MPs, Lords… what about CEOs of companies, civil servants, and celebrities ?


Brixton Rises Up As Rage Against The Rich Explodes Across The Capital

[...] Thousands of people were out onto the streets in Brixton on Saturday for one of London’s biggest ever anti-gentrification protests.  At one point hundreds of people mobbed the town hall with many fighting past police lines to gain entrance to the building.  Traffic was brought to a standstill as people danced in the streets to a soundsystem taking over the road for several hours.  A march through Brixton led by London Black Revs was received with cheers and applause as it passed the railway arches where long standing local businesses have just been told they face closure.  Brixton Village, once a well loved part of Brixton Market and now an ethnically cleansed yuppy dominated enclave of over-priced bars and restaurants, was briefly occupied.  Even the police station was attacked.  And the Jobcentre got their window broken.

The mood was angry and defiant, but positive.  Reclaim Brixton followed the hugely successful March for the Homeless just two weeks ago and the mass action at the vile Property Developer’s awards last week.  At every housing protest the number of people attending is growing.  London has had enough...


How Benefit Sanctions Have Driven Brits to Suicide

[...] Sam Clement, 42, also reached the point of wanting to take his own life after his benefits were cut. Fortunately, he survived. “It might make no sense to you, but I was sanctioned for attending a self-employment training course with my housing association,” he explains. “Although my advisor told me this was fine, when I got back another advisor said it wasn’t an approved training course so she’d have to sanction me, and that was that. My money stopped coming through.”

Clement went into the Job Centre every day to find out what was going on. It took a month and a half for them to tell him he would be sanctioned for a month in December of 2013, meaning all money was cut off. “The situation rapidly deteriorated. I only had five pounds, so I very quickly ran out of food,” he recalls. “And after two or three days of not eating, I got diarrhoea, but by that time I’d run out of toilet roll. I was too stressed and hungry to sleep, and if I did sleep I made a mess.”

Unable to afford electricity or heating, Clement’s Christmas was cold and dark. “I remember sitting in the living room on Christmas day, watching families walking around happily out the window, while I sat hoping for darkness to come so I could go to bed,” he says.

Like most of us, Clement didn’t know what a benefit sanction actually was until he was on the receiving end of one. “I had no idea they could just take your money away like that,” he says. “It shocked me how quickly I fell to pieces. The whole thing destroyed my mental health.”

When his sanction period finally came to an end, Clement returned to the Job Centre. “When I arrived back, my advisor told me that I needed to learn a ‘work ethic’, and that if I didn’t attend an unpaid work programme I would be sanctioned again. Obviously I became extremely anxious.” He pauses as his voice catches in his throat. “As soon as I got home I swallowed every pill I had in the house and tried to overdose. I wasn’t in a good place. I ended up in A&E having my stomach pumped. It was the worst day I’ve ever had.”

After a turbulent seven months of waiting, the doctor finally put Clement in touch with a therapist. Since then he has undergone individual and group therapy, as well as CBT. Nevertheless, the repercussions of his sanction continue to haunt him.

“Before the sanction, my mental health was fine. I certainly wouldn’t have called myself anxious,” he says. “But I am now. I haven’t wanted to leave my flat in 15 months. Home is my safety blanket. I can be perfectly OK inside, but if I walk to the Job Centre my hands start shaking. In the back of my head, my mind is screaming at me to go home.”

Since his sanction, Clement has developed insomnia, as well as a whole raft of stress-induced health problems. “My legs have swollen due to psoriasis and I’ve put on three stone. It’s all down to the anxiety. You can’t plan for a sanction, and it’s always at the back of my mind,” he says…


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Govt fiddles unemployment figures by classifying all people sanctioned as having left claimant count

Sanctioning’ is a particularly harsh and brutal way of treating unemployed people.   They have all their benefit removed even for the most trivial infringements, e.g. being 5 minutes late for a job interview or for a work programme session.   Their benefit (£71 a week JSA) is removed for 4 weeks for the first infringement, for 3 months for the second, and (almost unbelievably) for 3 years for the third.   This quickly reduces the victims of this abhorrent policy to destitution and leaves them with no alternative but to beg for board and lodging from family or friends.   There is no appeal against these decisions which could well be regarded as a breach of the common law by deliberately reducing a person to penury by administrative edict against which there is no redress.   There are now nearly a million people who have been subject to this inhumane practice of sanctioning.   That is awful enough, but it has now become clear there is another motive on the part of government driving this policy.

There has been great puzzlement in economic circles at the plunging drop in the unemployment figures over recent months from 7.8% to 7.1% which was far bigger than might be expected from the state of the economy and the very low level of labour productivity.   It even caused consternation in the Bank of England where the governor Mark Carney was forced to revise his ‘forward guidance’ which had been based on raising interest rates when the unemployment level fell to 7%.   It now seems this enigma can be explained.   The government has adopted the utterly dishonest practice of excluding from the claimant count all those persons who have been sanctioned.   Thus the abrupt fall in the claimant count is explained by the scam of regarding all sanctioned persons as no longer seeking work, though they clearly are...


Friday, April 24, 2015

UN human rights chief compares UK tabloids to Nazi propaganda

Katie Hopkins (Image from
Katie Hopkins (Image from

UK tabloids like the Murdoch-owned Sun that compared immigrants to ‘cockroaches’ recall the dark days of the Nazi media attacking those they sought to eliminate, according to the UN’s human rights chief.

The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches,” the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

He singled out an article by former gameshow contestant turned-commentator Katie Hopkins, published by the Sun newspaper last Thursday, in which she wrote: “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.

The comment piece was published just hours before a boat containing hundreds of displaced people capsized in the Mediterranean, killing 800...


Poverty wages cost taxpayers eleven times amount of benefit fraud

Taxpayers spend £11bn to top up low wages paid by UK companies
Research published last week by Citizens UK found that companies in the UK are paying their workers so little that the taxpayer has to top up wages to the tune of £11bn a year. The four big supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons) alone are costing just under £1bn a year in tax credits and extra benefits payments.

This is a direct transfer from the rest of society to some of the largest businesses in the country. To put the figure in perspective, the total cost of benefit fraud last year was just £1bn. Corporate scrounging costs 11 times that.

Worse, this is a direct subsidy for poverty pay. If supermarkets and other low-paying employers know they can secure work even at derisory wages, since pay will be topped up by the state, they have no incentive to offer higher wages.

None of this makes sense. We are all, in effect, paying a huge sum of money so that we can continue to underpay the 22% of workers who are earning below the Living Wage – the level at which it is possible to live without government subsidies. The only possible beneficiaries are business owners.

Read more...?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crisis? What crisis? How politicians ignore the existence of food banks

'Those of us referred to food banks are the lucky ones with a good doctor or health visitor who knows us well enough to recognise that something has gone seriously wrong.'

 It’s like Groundhog Day. A report into food bank use is published. There are more people now than there were last year, month, week using them. Many people are referred to food banks due to delays and cuts to their benefits. Of the remaining referrals, a significant number are in low-paid, insecure work.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the UK doesn’t have a food bank problem, so absent have they been from the election debates and manifesto launches of the past few weeks. Yet the sharp rise in the number of people going hungry in our country seems to be an indicator that something has gone horribly wrong.

In 2009-10, the Trussel Trust’s food banks helped 41,000 people. This has risen to 1.1 million over the past year. What use is pontificating about numbers when you are one of the million? When it’s not a statistic, but a child crying in the night because they wake up hungry?

It is a problem so big that the main political parties don’t seem to know how to even talk about it, let alone address the issue. Instead, they distract us with staged walkabouts and soundbites, hen parties and hashtags, bread and circuses.

When David Cameron visited a food bank in his affluent constituency he reportedly turned up empty-handed, posed for photographs, and helped himself to a free lunch. Perhaps this is what Lord Freud and Edwina Currie were referring to with their comments about people taking advantage of the service. In fact, this is a luxury afforded only to the prime minister, as everyone else needs a voucher and a referral from a doctor, social services or similar agency...


Commit a crime and get treated far better than you do by the DWP

Originally posted on The poor side of life:

A while ago I wrote about the governments war against the poor. Indeed, I said that they treat you worse than a criminal. Well I was right. I know people that I have talked to outside the Jobcentre who have said that they’ve had to steal to eat. Getting caught was a bonus because they would get a bed for the night and some food. And sympathy from the police officers. Compare that with the distinct lack of sympathy and compassion from the DWP. The polic aren’t happy with this either. The crime levels have risen as a result but police staffing has been cut to the bare bones. I speak to the PCSOs that sometimes attend our demos, and they say the same thing. They say that their workload has got much harder and they are dealing with alot more suicides and attempted suicides than they have ever known…

View original 98 more words

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Psychologists Against Austerity: mental health experts issue a rallying call against coalition policies

I wrote an article in March about the government plans to make the receipt of social security benefits for those with mental illnesses conditional on undergoing “state therapy.” I raised concern about ethical issues – such as consent, the inappropriateness of using behaviour modification as a form of “therapy,” and I critised the proposed Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) programme on methodological and theoretical grounds, as well as considering wider implications.

The 2015 budget included plans to provide online CBT to 40,000 claimants and people on the Fit for Work programme, as well as putting therapists in more than 350 job centres.

Since I wrote, over 400 psychotherapists, counsellors and mental health practitioners have written an open letter, published by the Guardian, about the broader, profoundly disturbing psychological and quality-of-life implications of the coalition government’s austerity cuts and policies. However, the letter was particularly critical of the government’s benefits sanctions scheme, which has been condemned by many of us – human rights advocates across the state – as brutal, unjust, ill-conceived, ineffective and inhumane.

In particular, the letter stated that the government’s proposed policy of linking social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy” is utterly unacceptable. The measure, casually coined “get to work therapy,” was discussed by Chancellor for the Exchequer George Osborne during his last budget.

The letter’s supporters included psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach. She called the Conservative proposals “beyond shocking.” Echoing the concerns I raised earlier this year, she said:

“It undermines the fundamental principles of one’s right to physical and mental care – that you have to be able to consent and that the people you go to have to be highly trained and have your best interests and aren’t meeting targets.”

The letter’s signatories, all of whom are experts in the field of mental health, have said such a measure is counter-productive, “anti-therapeutic,” damaging and professionally unethical. The “intimidatory disciplinary regime” facing benefits claimants would be made even worse by further unacceptable proposals outlined in the budget...


Foodbank use tops one million for the first time

The Trussell Trust says that 400,000 children were referred to foodbanks in 2014

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest foodbank charity, has released figures today showing that foodbank use is at an all time high.

Last year more than a million people used Trussell Trust foodbanks to receive three days’ worth of emergency food, including 400,000 children. This figure is up from 900,000 last year...


Monday, April 20, 2015

Did David Cameron admit multiple murders to Andrew Marr?

David Cameron tries to defend the indefensible on Andrew Marr's Sunday morning TV show.

David Cameron tries to defend the indefensible on Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning TV show.

A friend of Vox Political sent in the following transcript of David Cameron’s interview with Andrew Marr, in which the soon-to-be former Prime Minister appears to show callous disregard for the deaths of people with long-term illnesses or disabilities, caused by his party’s policies.

On the BBC interviewer’s show yesterday (April 19), as our correspondent suggested, “Cameron implied that dying is somehow an appropriate punishment for failing to attend an interview at the Jobcentre in order to save ‘the taxpayer’ money. He showed a complete lack of remorse and basic compassion.”

Read it for yourself ...


Open Letter to Ed Miliband - #newapproach

Dear Mr. Miliband,

We never thought we would see a Britain in which terminally ill people rely on foodbanks to eat, or cancer patients miss their treatment because they don’t have the bus fare to get to the hospital. We never thought a bedroom for a severely disabled child would be seen as an undeserved luxury, or sick and disabled people would have their incomes reduced or removed for missing an appointment at the Jobcentre. We never thought people with incurable illnesses like Parkinson’s or Motor Neurone disease would be told by the Department for Work and Pensions that they would get better, and should prepare for work.
But we are seeing all this and more. Quite simply, the sick and disabled people of Britain are facing an unprecedented crisis which we never imagined could happen in the UK. It is a national scandal.

We are all of us caught up in a system worthy of Kafka. We are either awaiting assessments, or reassessments, appeals, or reconsiderations. Others are living in fear of being caught up in that system, and losing the means to survive. For us, there is no longer any ‘social security’, just an ever-present anxiety that at any moment the dreaded brown envelope may arrive on the doormat and put us at the brink of destitution. Some are just too ill to keep fighting, and simply give up.

The Employment and Support Allowance fiasco has now escalated to a DWP case load of over 6 million. Over 4 million Work Capability Assessments have been carried out as part of the relentless programme of assessments triggered by the current government, and it was clear from the outset that Atos were never going to be able to cope. The human suffering caused by this reckless implementation of the over-rigorous & target-based Work Capability Assessment has now become a national scandal which demands immediate action...


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tories Plan To Destory Human Rights Laws

‘Soldiers will be safe from the “persistent human rights claims” that have dogged the British military for years because the Conservatives will “rip up” human rights legislation if they win the general election, two top Tories have pledged.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon called for an end to what he called the “abuse” of the Human Rights Act to bring about costly inquiries into the conduct of British soldiers during wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He warned that legal claims such as those emerging from the Iraq War had undermined the military’s work and had cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.’

Read more: Tories Plan To Destory Human Rights Laws