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The assault on the poor and disabled

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The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by skwalker1964 on Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:48 am

First topic message reminder :

I reblogged this post in 'honour' of the Tory party conference and Ivan asked me to post it here, too. You can find the original post complete with links at: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Here are two true stories:

A friend of mine once picked up a hitch-hiker at a motorway service station. The bloke looked a bit down on his luck, so my friend asked what his story was. The guy said he’d been living in service stations, bathing in the shower facilities at lorry-driver stops, for several days as he tried to make his way from one end of the country to the other to where a hotel job was waiting for him if he could get there. He’d lost all his benefits and had no way to get the money to take a train or bus.

My friend gave this man all the money he had in his pocket, which was £60. The man seemed genuinely overwhelmed and grateful, seemingly unable to believe that someone would give him a fairly serious amount of money within minutes of meeting him, on the basis of the story he’d just related.

I asked my friend whether he thought the man had been genuine, or might he have been ripped off? His answer was that his gut instinct was that the man was for real – but that if he wasn’t, he’d rather be conned than be hard-hearted and risk ignoring someone in genuine need.

By contrast, the incredibly rich (some $287 billion in today’s money) industrialist Andrew Carnegie once famously said that it would be better for the world if a rich man threw his millions into the sea rather than give any to the ‘unworthy’. To be fair to Carnegie, he gave away a vast proportion of his wealth – but the rich and privileged have a long history of presuming that, from their pinnacle of wealth and comfort, they are able to decide who is ‘worthy’ and who isn’t. The concept of the ‘deserving poor‘, by denoting that some poor are by definition not deserving, has resulted in great suffering while allowing the wealthy to feel satisfied with their lack of concern or action.

The current crop of Tories are truly in line with their predecessors in this regard – except that they’re even worse. Even though they can’t possibly be ignorant of the consequences, they push this line in the most cynical way, with the aim of dividing the British public, fooling the undiscerning into allowing or even approving of policies aimed at stripping the vulnerable of crucial protections. And for the basest of reasons – for short-term political gain (persuading some people that the Tories are ‘at least doing something about something!’), and to release even more public funds that can be channelled into tax-cuts for the already-rich or even greater profits for private corporations.

With their limited moral imagination, the Tories really only know two tactics. Both are calculated to appeal to the baser instincts of the small-minded and thoughtless: fear and vilification. There may be different facets or manifestations – they might try to invoke suspicion, or envy, or to dehumanise or caricature one set of people to get another set to back their policies – but the roots are the same.

I’m working on a post about economic fear and the way that’s fostered by government spokespeople and tame media, but it’s proving to be quite a big project and I’m not going to be online much over the next few days, so it will be a little while in coming. But the other tactic – vilification or demonisation of the vulnerable or resistant – is so plain that this post almost writes itself. Whether explicitly or in the omission, the Tories are at it constantly.

Just in recent weeks, we’ve had:


  • Iain Duncan-Smith accusing Britons of not working hard enough, while bare-facedly distorting figures on fraudulent claims for disability benefit (claiming a 30% fraud rate when in fact it’s bare over one percent) to gain public support for his hateful Welfare Reform Act.


  • A smug Frances Maude announcing that the bottom 10% of civil servants has a year to improve or be fired – conveniently leaving out the fact that if everyone in the civil service was a workaholic genius, there would still be a bottom 10%. Being at the bottom doesn’t mean you’re incompetent or unproductive. He insists that this is not an ‘attack’ on the civil service, even though at the same time he’s making cuts of 25% in civil servant numbers and talking of removing any terms and conditions that are better than those of the private sector that the Tories and their pals have already robbed.


  • Andrew Lansley calling on doctors not to take industrial action and having his department and tame journalists conduct an orchestrated propaganda campaign to persuade the public that doctors are rich, privileged, selfish and uncaring of their patients (‘After all’, he might as well say, ‘we’ve robbed the rest of the public sector, why should doctors be any different?’) This in spite of the fact that the doctors’ pension scheme is not in shortfall and that the Health Secretary, having specifically abdicated his legal responsibility for healthcare provision in his new Health & Social Care Act, is really not entitled to comment one way or the other, let alone to impose new pension terms.


  • David Cameron underlining again that the Tories are on the side of ‘strivers’, thereby saying that they’re not on the side of anyone who can’t strive, or who simply wants to live a decent, balanced life.


  • Iain Duncan-Smith (again!) announcing plans to remove benefits from anyone who dares strike against the removal of pay, pensions, conditions and protection that is now the norm for the treatment of ordinary working people.


  • Claims by Communities Minister Eric Pickles, vocally supported by Housing Minister Grant Shapps and many others, and by the right-wing press, that the UK has 120,000 ‘problem families’ who cause 80% of societal problems, even though not one of the criteria used to decide who is a ‘problem family’ relates to criminality, but instead refer to poverty and physical or mental illness.


  • Endlessly repeated soundbites about ‘benefit scroungers’ to justify capping housing benefit, even though the vast majority of people receiving this benefit are working, but can’t afford outrageous rents.


  • Cameron and others vilifying transport workers for daring to plan industrial action during the Olympic Games money-making exercise, even though industrial action is really their only negotiating weapon and it’s perfectly sensible for them to aim it at the periods when it will be most effective. The Tories really do want a workforce that’s powerless to stand up for itself.


I could go on, but I want to keep this post to a readable length.

The aim of all these policies and pronouncements is very clear: persuading whichever sections of the public that are not affected by a particular measure that those who are affected are not worthy of support, and definitely not worthy of help.

The consequences of these and other Tory measures are not hard to imagine – and they’re already being played out. Disabled, ill or mentally ill people spend their days in fear at the prospect of having their benefits stopped because they’re ludicrously assessed as fit for work, while some even attempt or commit suicide. People are forced to accept part-time ‘work’ that offers few (or even zero!) hours while the government crows that it has reduced unemployment; jobless people are forced to work for free and sleep under bridges by companies who ruthlessly exploit them to maximise profit. And so on.

In this context, it’s patently clear that the Tories’ policies, attitudes, sleaze, self-enrichment and their unholy alliance with powerful corporate and media interests show that they are not fit to judge a vegetable show, let alone judge whether a vulnerable person is ‘worthy’ of help.

Fortunately, we get to choose whether we believe them. To choose whether we agree with the kind of approach to life that says that, while no system is perfect, it’s much better to err on the side of goodness than of suspicion and selfishness, that it’s better to set up or protect systems that protect the genuine many than one which might prevent a very few ‘playing the system’ but that also strands people in genuine need in a situation of despair. We have the privilege of deciding what kind of society we want to be.

From everything I’ve written, you’ll probably have guessed that I absolutely agree with my friend, rather than with Carnegie, about which side it’s better to err on. But Mr Carnegie did say something that I agree with very much:

‘A man who dies rich dies disgraced’

In our current government, and in the people who support and fund them, we have a lot of walking ‘disgraces in the making’. Let’s think for ourselves, see them for what they are, and not make it easy for them to become even bigger disgraces than they already are.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:59 am

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Just found this - a small amount of evidence that SOME politicians are noticing what's going on.
Considering emailing my MP to ask why his name isn't on this list - his constituency is, after all, quite a depressed area.

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Mel on Fri Jul 12, 2013 11:09 am

Thank you for that link boatlady.

It is a disgrace IMO that the list of Politicians carries only two LD,s and zero Tories, the remainder are all Labour MPs.

That my dear tells us everything about Tory non caring attitude.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Sun Jul 14, 2013 12:34 pm

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by bobby on Sun Jul 14, 2013 2:36 pm

Whilst it seems that Herr Cameron is becoming obese and getting fatter, the poor and needy are getting slimmer.
For a Country that is supposed to be the 5th Richest Country in the world, it really is a bleeding disgrace.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Mel on Sun Jul 14, 2013 9:38 pm

Hello bobby and Ivan,
How anyone can fail to see with the stats before us just how mercenary these Tory tyrants really are beggers belief.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:30 pm

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Interesting article from New Statesman - seems to show that the rhetoric about the 'lifestyle choice' of benefit claimants may be a fallacy
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by methought on Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:32 am

The facts and figures here on these comments threads should be in the national press, countering all the demonising by the tory propaganda machine. How to get it across though would seem to be the problem. I, for one, cannot even read the Guardian because it is so smug and up itself, even if it is right in so many of its facts and motivations.

There is a need for a newspaper that is sharp, witty, and accurate in delivering a political message that won't make people want to yawn.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:29 am

Just dropped off my weekly bagful for the local food bank, and it reminded me of a conversation I had yesterday with someone form ATOS:-

Me :- when will my client get his money?
ATOS :- Well he will have to have an assessment - he's down for a home visit, but we're very short of doctors. I could always pay for him to have a taxi to the nearest assessment centre with a ground floor assessment room (65 miles away)
Me :- OK

More proof that, when you outsource essential services, you get less for more.
I suspect the cost of the taxi will be about two weeks' ESA money - but, hey, that's better than giving anyone a penny more benefit than they're entitled to
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Sun Aug 04, 2013 4:48 pm

Language is a weapon used to make 'others' of people in poverty
 
Extracts from an article by Gary Rae of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:-
 
Some journalists still use shorthand. It’s really handy. Some politicians use shorthand. It’s really dangerous. Language, as a tool, is never neutral. It’s used and exploited by me, by you, by journalists and by politicians. A tool can easily become a weapon; not just in the characterisation of people living with poverty, but in their demonisation. Intentionally or not, we are doing what Professor Ruth Lister calls “othering the poor” - making them into 'convenient strangers', subject to ridicule, subject to reform, subject to ignorance.

In the current debate on welfare reform, people in poverty are casually labelled as economic burdens, or even bereft of morals. Polls, supposedly proving public support for cuts, are often cited by politicians and journalists as justification for reducing the welfare budget during “tough times”.

According to the DWP’s own figures, last year we overpaid 0.7% of the welfare budget due to fraud. Compare that with an estimated £70 billion lost through tax evasion. The entire out-of-work benefits bill is 3% of our GDP. So let’s keep calm, provide the evidence and tell the story of those ‘hard-working families’ (thought I’d borrow that phrase from the Politicians’ Book of Clichés) struggling with their daily lives.

My colleague Abigail Scott Paul has written about the risk of broadcasters in particular resorting to lazy stereotypes of ‘problem families’ on ‘sink estates’. The inescapable conclusion being, these people are ‘a problem to society’. Beware the shorthand, because the facts are often lost in translation and manipulation.

 
For the whole article:-
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Aug 04, 2013 5:18 pm

The more things change, the more they are the same

Untermensch (German for under man, sub-man, sub-human; plural: Untermenschen) is a term that became infamous when the Nazi racial ideology used it to describe "inferior people"

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:48 am

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Link to a really thought provoking and interesting piece on the nature of disability and the links to poverty.
Definitely worth reading
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:49 am

Travellers to third-world countries will be familiar with the sight of beggars parading their infirmities to passers-by. It was a common sight in London until the early XIXth. C.

How long before it returns to our sceptred isle?
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:13 pm

Coming soon to a high street near YOU
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Penderyn on Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:24 pm

Sorry - mistake
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Penderyn on Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:27 pm

oftenwrong wrote:Travellers to third-world countries will be familiar with the sight of beggars parading their infirmities to passers-by.  It was a common sight in London until the early XIXth. C.

How long before it returns to our sceptred isle?

Oh, come on. I remember meeting my first beggar long since, and being baffled. Scumbag Blair instructed us years since that we were not to give to beggars, so I always do. If a man is reduced to begging, the very least we can do is give him all we can spare
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:39 pm

`I know what you're thinking about,' said Tweedledum: `but it isn't so, nohow.'
 
`Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, `if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'
 
Lewis Carroll
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Zero hours contracts

Post by tlttf on Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:20 pm

Explain zero hour contracts reasonably?


Labour councils use zero hours contracts opposed by Ed Miliband
Exploitation: the Labour leader has criticised zero hour contracts as 'nasty, brutish and unfair

Joe Murphy, Political Editor

Published: 08 August 2013

Updated: 16:29, 08 August 2013

Thousands of Londoners are employed by Labour councils on zero hours contracts that have been criticised by Ed Miliband, it emerged today.

They include 546 people directly employed by Newham — a flagship Labour borough where Mr Miliband made a speech recently attacking the exploitation of casual and agency workers.

Other Labour-run councils that use the controversial contracts, which give people no job security or guaranteed hours, include Tower Hamlets, Brent, Ealing, Merton and Hounslow.

Oh dear!

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Zero hours contracts

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:30 pm

Whatever is not against The Law is legal.  Therefore in the case of clear injustice, the Law must be changed.

Why isn't Cameron doing something about it, tlttf?
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:25 pm

tlttf. You really are a hypocrite, aren’t you? Your past justification for dredging up grubby little snippets from the gutter press was that you were trying to provide ‘balance’ to our discussions, but your latest offering proves that isn’t your intention at all. How typical that you should focus on this yarn  - posting it within an hour of its publication - and not Boris Johnson’s reckless cuts to the fire services of London, or the racist filth peddled by Godfrey Bloom, one of your UKIP friends (if that’s your chosen party this week) about ‘Bongo Bongo Land’.
 
Of course Ed Miliband is expected to know everything that is going on everywhere, but no doubt you think it’s okay for the Tories – as they showed at the Leveson Inquiry – to know nothing and remember nothing about anything. Ed has condemned “the exploitation of zero hours contracts to keep people insecure. Using agency workers to unfairly avoid giving people the pay and conditions offered to permanent staff”. Why am I not surprised that you didn’t mention that Labour-controlled Islington Council stated the following?
 
“Our casual workers are not the same as 'zero hours contracts’. Our casual workers are not exclusive or ‘on call’; they get holiday pay, sick pay, have access to the pension scheme and have continuous service recognised. We roster weeks or months in advance, most casuals are on fixed work patterns and in the past we have paid maternity and redundancy in line with permanent policies.”
 
So what are you trying to tell us? Are you in favour of zero-hours contracts, which hide up to a million people who could be unemployed in any week? In which case, what’s your problem? Or are you against such contracts? If so, it was no doubt just an oversight (and pigs might fly) that you didn’t mention the Tory and Lib Dem boroughs in London which use them. Where’s your ‘balance’ now?
 
I suggest you shove your latest piece of hypocrisy, and the ‘Evening Boris’ trash newspaper from whence it came, somewhere that the sun doesn’t shine.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by tlttf on Fri Aug 09, 2013 5:49 am

Tut, tut Ivan, I never started the zero hours topic, simply showing that it isn't a government policy but a local one. I'm so surprised that you trolled me!!!! Do you really believe that "casual labour" and zero hours are different. Do you really believe that the majority on zero hours aren't happy as it affords them a work/life balance that suits them. Come on son, a bit of balance wouldn't go amiss.

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:21 pm

tlttf. Was it really worth coming on here before 6am to post that? I’m not your son, so don’t try that patronising claptrap on me. Maybe ’son’ is another word you don’t understand, just like ‘troll’. Answering a pile of codswallop on a discussion forum that I help to run doesn’t make me a troll. You ought not to use words when you don't know their meaning, you just make yourself look more ridiculous, if that’s possible. And that’s without mentioning the garbage you wrote on another thread about the bedroom tax, which was so wacko that it didn’t merit a reply.
 
Whether you “started the zero hours topic” is neither here nor there. It was you who rushed in here with your latest snidey little titbit from ‘The Evening Boris’ within an hour of its publication, doing your best to distort the story in yet another of your desperate and feeble attempts to stick pins in the Labour Party. If you really are sufficiently bonkers to believe that most people on zero hours contracts are happy with the arrangement, why are you trying to milk them as something ‘bad’?
 
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, is somewhat more in touch with reality than you in your ivory tower in Chelsea, and she tells a different story:-
 
“Imagine you get a phone call at 6am each morning, to tell you if you’ll get any work – or pay – each day. You’re awake, dressed, waiting, then it’s ‘stand down’. That can happen five days in a row, and you’ll get to the end of the week without a penny coming in to your pocket. Imagine you’ve got to arrange childcare whenever you have to go to work – and you only get a couple of hours’ notice that you have to go to work. That’s not a situation that far too many British workers have to imagine – that’s their reality.

Those cases I was told about by audiences to whom I’d been speaking about zero-hours contracts. And they’ve strengthened my conviction that these contracts should be banned as part of a broader shake up of our labour laws. What we need from our economy are jobs that workers can build their life on – that pay a living wage. Then workers can rent homes, start families, think about mortgages – or at the very least be certain of being able to pay for food and essential bills at the end of the week.”

 
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I’m sure there are married women with children who don’t mind being called in to work at their local Beefeater at short notice, if the restaurant is unexpectedly busy in the evening. But that isn’t what this is all about. And I would have thought that even someone as cerebrally challenged as you might have noticed the difference between a zero hours contract from McDonald’s or Sports Direct, where you get nothing whatsoever if you’re not called in to work, and a casual labour contract from Islington Council with sick pay, holiday pay, access to a pension scheme and even maternity benefits.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by bobby on Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:19 pm

It reminds you of the days when docker's, miners, steel workers  etc., had to turn up, to see if the foreman would call their names for a days work, those who weren't called had to go home to their families with sweet FA. This is what this current Tory led Coalition wants to take us back to, or should I say "have taken us back to.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:37 pm

No, no, no, bobby - you must have seen what our political guru told us:-
 
Do you really believe that the majority on zero hours aren't happy?
Evil or Very Mad 
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by tlttf on Sat Aug 10, 2013 9:54 am

Ah, the pet attack dog is loose once again. Does anybody here know anybody on zero hours contracts and do they really get a 6am phone call saying they've got a days work available? Personally I know 3 people who work on zero hours contracts, not one of them want to change as it suits there needs as much as it suits the employers. It's a shame we can't have a proper discussion without my personal "troll" (a word I apparently don't understand) going into defence/attack mode.

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Sat Aug 10, 2013 10:35 am

tlttf. What is there to discuss? Of course we don’t know anyone who works! We’re all benefit scroungers, feckless council tenants with five kids, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers. That’s what ‘The Daily Mail’ has indoctrinated you into believing about anyone who supports Labour, isn’t it?
 
Aren’t anecdotes wonderful? We now have it on good authority that the loudmouth down the pub knows someone who knows someone who says they’re quite happy not to have a regular job and any regular income. Presumably they pay their bills with thin air. The leader of the Green Party must be a liar, around a million people who are either unemployed or seriously underemployed live a wonderful life on zero hours contracts, and Lord Freud is right that the near half a million people who use food banks are just after a free lunch.
 
Meanwhile the sun never stops shining for all the millionaires in Kensington and Chelsea, especially now that the ‘plebs’ are being shipped out of London to Margate or Stoke-on-Trent in a socially cleansing project reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Penderyn on Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:02 pm

Ivan wrote:tlttf. What is there to discuss? Of course we don’t know anyone who works! We’re all benefit scroungers, feckless council tenants with five kids, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers. That’s what ‘The Daily Mail’ has indoctrinated you into believing about anyone who supports Labour, isn’t it?
 
Aren’t anecdotes wonderful? We now have it on good authority that the loudmouth down the pub knows someone who knows someone who says they’re quite happy not to have a regular job and any regular income. Presumably they pay their bills with thin air. The leader of the Green Party must be a liar, around a million people who are either unemployed or seriously underemployed live a wonderful life on zero hours contracts, and Lord Freud is right that the near half a million people who use food banks are just after a free lunch.
 
Meanwhile the sun never stops shining for all the millionaires in Kensington and Chelsea, especially now that the ‘plebs’ are being shipped out of London to Margate or Stoke-on-Trent in a socially cleansing project reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
This is hegemony, and it is the reason the ex-Labour Party believes it is bound to lose if it stands for ordinary people: it believes lies.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:49 pm

The assault on the poor by a Tory-led administration will continue for the obvious reason that the Poor are not expected to vote Tory.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Penderyn on Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:26 pm

oftenwrong wrote:The assault on the poor by a Tory-led administration will continue for the obvious reason that the Poor are not expected to vote Tory.
And won't strike, occupy or block motorways, because they believe it will turn the Mail against them. Jesus wept!
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Another brilliant email to Mark Hoban

Post by skwalker1964 on Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:13 pm

Original on the SKWAWKBOX blog at wp.me/p2sftc-8LX:

Another regular reader of this blog has jumped in to send a brilliantly-worked, challenging email to Work & Pensions minister Mark Hoban, who has been responsible for some ridiculous, condescending, deeply dishonest letters about his department’s performance recently.

The email stands on its own, without further input from me – except to say don’t hold your breath for any response, and if one does come then expect more evasion, obfuscation and outright lies:

Dear Mr Hoban,

Thanks to the concerned efforts of a blogger I follow (Swawkbox blog) I’m aware of a written response you made to David Rutley MP to a question about welfare reform. I’m also aware that you sent exactly the same response to an entirely different question from another MP, Simon Kirby.

I couldn’t fail to notice the irony of this situation in which two totally different questions elicited identical letters. The irony is contained in your own words in that letter in which you claim that the ‘open approach’ of the DWP in publishing a variety of statistics on public webpages allows ‘politicians, academics, the media and wider public’ to be ‘readily able to debate and interpret’ the performance of your Department.

I wonder, Mr Hoban, if you realise that the patent refusal of you and your fellow ministers and indeed, it would seem, all members of the Coalition government, to actively engage in any kind of real debate about your performance ( as your letter clearly indicates) is perceived by those academics, the media and the wider public as a tacit admission of your government’s abject failure to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the offices you all hold?

The question of interpretation of those statistics points to an even greater indictment of the Conservative Party’s sickening dishonesty and partisan preoccupation with retaining the power you all consistently abuse. The persistent and deliberate misrepresentation of these statistics in order to mislead the public and stigmatise poor, sick and disabled citizens is despicable and has resulted in much unnecessary suffering and even death. And your persistent denials of these stark realities – such as Mr Duncan Smith’s recent claim (echoing that of David Freud) that the huge increase in demand for food banks is in no way related to the unprecedented slashing of benefits – are patently disingenuous and frankly, insulting to those who are reduced to relying on such charity to feed their families.

I would suggest, Mr Hoban, that you and your fellow ministers at the DWP are very well aware of the real effects of your welfare reforms despite your persistent reiterations that they will ‘reduce poverty’. It was obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence that your cart-before-the-horse policies of impoverishment before credible job creation would lead to the dire situation we now live with. To claim otherwise is to allow the triumph of vain hope over decades of bitter experience.

Will you now take this opportunity to admit the truth – that your policies are causing actual harm and severe hardship to a growing number of people and commit at least to withdrawing the bedroom tax and also to undertaking a comprehensive cumulative impact assessment of your other benefit cuts on the lives of this country’s disabled people?

I will refrain from the temptation of harbouring any vain hope when sending you this email since my bitter experience of the past three years teaches me to expect yet another copy of the letter you sent to those two colleagues of yours, which is what caused me to write to you today.However, since this letter and your response (if any) will likely be published on the above mentioned blog you might wish to avoid repeating your mistake and the potential damage that might do to your party’s reputation.

yours sincerely
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by sickchip on Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:38 pm

skwalker,

Despite the letter being excellent, I'm afraid it will just become more dust for the government to sweep under the carpet. They are very adept at keeping certain information off the public's radar.
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UniversalCredit 'claimant commitment': no choice, no law, no money - no appeal

Post by skwalker1964 on Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:18 am

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Please share widely.

In just a few short weeks, the new Universal Credit benefit system starts to roll out, albeit more slowly than originally planned (but already in operation in pilot areas). This new benefits system rolls a wide variety of benefits into a single process, including unemployment benefit – and crucially, it extends ‘conditionality’ even to people who are already working, so that penalties can be applied to people for not having enough hours, or if they are not considered to be trying hard enough to get more hours.

The government’s ‘policy aims’ for this new system state that:

Universal Credit is designed to ensure that for people who can, work is still the best route out of poverty and an escape from benefit dependence.  The aim of Universal Credit is to increase labour market participation, reduce worklessness and increase in-work progression.  The conditionality regime will recast the relationship between the citizen and the State from one centred on “entitlement” to one centred on a contractual concept that provides a range of support in return for claimant’s meeting an explicit set of responsibilities, with a sanctions regime to encourage compliance.
A series of Freedom of Information (FOI) responses from the DWP reveals that the new regulations turn the opinion of even junior Jobcentre Plus (JCP) advisers into law, place them in a position of despotic omnipotence over benefit claimants and turns claimants – even working ones – into helpless chattels shorn of power, choice or recourse if unreasonable expectations are placed on them.

A ‘claimant commitment’ (CC) is a set of obligations placed on a benefit claimant in terms of actions that must be carried out in looking for work (or more work), the amount of time that must be spent and the results generated. These requirements, as the DWP statement above indicates, are not negligible. For example, as one of the responses states:

A claimant will be expected to devote the same number of hours to work search in accordance with this action plan as we would expect them to be available for work (up to a maximum of 35 hours a week).
This might seem reasonable enough. But as one ex-DWP manager asked her MP:

Is affordability of the work search/preparation taken into account by the Adviser?   The average cost of Job seeking prior to 2012 was around £2-£6 per week assuming no job interviews secured, the Jobseeker visited the Jobcentre once a week to look for work, checked the local press, made 1 or 2 job applications and asked family/friends.  Claimants were not required to pay Council Tax.
£6 a week when you’re on as little as £56 a week in benefits is a huge amount of money. But now claimants can be expected to attend the JCP more than once a week – in fact, as often as the adviser decides is appropriate as part of the CC. Council tax support is far less available, and the price of essentials like food has risen steeply. The costs associated with the activities likely to be involved in a 35-hour work-seeking week are very likely to be (to use the government’s favourite word for NHS hospitals) unsustainable.

Claimants have a right to query the conditions of a CC – but if they refuse to sign it and ask for it to be reviewed, it will merely be looked at by another JCP adviser, not by a more specialised ‘Labour Market Decision Maker’ (LMDM).

As we’re already well aware, the DWP has no qualms about asking JCP advisers to carry out tasks for which they have no qualifications or experience. A decision by an adviser-level JCP employee is perfectly likely not to take into account the full range of circumstances faced by a claimant – and a review by another adviser, who will face his/her own pressure to conform and not to offend a colleague or possibly incur the wrath of a supervisor, in no way guarantees that bad decisions will be overturned.

Especially in a context in which – as we know in spite of government denials – all of the advisers in a JCP are likely to be under pressure to meet covert targets on the number of sanctions the JCP applies.

But surely, if a bad CC isn’t overturned by an adviser the claimant can ask for someone more senior to look at it? You’d think so – at least under any sane government. However, as the 2nd FOI response makes very clear:

There is no right of appeal if a claimant refuses to accept their Claimant Commitment and the requirements that have been set out in it.
Under this new system, a JCP adviser – who might be incompetent, inexperienced, bitter, have a personality clash with the claimant or just simply be having a bad day – is the final arbiter of whether a CC is reasonable and achievable, and even a patently bad decision cannot be appealed for a higher opinion.

And if a claimant refuses to sign?

If the claimant still refuses to accept their Claimant Commitment then he or she will no longer be entitled to claim Universal Credit.
Refuse to sign something that might be realistically unachievable – and receive nothing. Could a more coercive and arbitrary situation be imagined?

If a claimant signs and then fails or refuses to perform one of the CC conditions, the only small ray of hope is that an LMDM might see reason:

if a claimant fails to carry out any of the work related requirements set out in their Claimant Commitment this will be referred to a Decision Maker for consideration of whether a sanction should be applied. If a claimant has good reason for not carrying out a particular work related requirement then a sanction will not be applied.
But this is asking someone to accept a set of conditions knowing they can’t fulfil them – and then put themselves in the hands of a person whose qualifications, motivations, reasonableness and parameters are entirely unknown, in the hope that they’ll agree not to immediately cut off his/her benefits.

That reminds me of something. What was it? Oh, that’s right.

Russian roulette.

As the ex-JCP manager points out, the system is fraught with unknowns and uncertainties. There is nothing in the documentation to indicate:

- what it means for a JCP adviser to ‘look again’ at a decision
- what the criteria for assessing a decision are, or how the 2nd adviser will obtain information about the claimant’s circumstances
- whether there are any firm timescales within which the claimant commitment review must be completed
- whether the claimant will be interviewed by the 2nd adviser or the decision will be made entirely based on the paperwork
- whether any additional financial support is available to help claimants meet increased work-search requirements

and I’m sure you can think of other pitfalls and problems.

We’re left with a situation in which it’s perfectly likely that someone will be expected to sign an unrealistic CC – and summarily deprived of all financial support if they refuse. Once coerced into signing this unrealistic commitment, they then face a financial ‘Russian roulette’ where the whim of an unknown person of unknown competence will decide whether a failure to comply was ‘reasonable’.

All with no guarantee, or even likelihood, that the decision will be impartial.

The OECD – hardly a hotbed of socialism or a great friend to the common man or woman – considers impartiality to be very important. In a document titled ‘Administrative Procedures in EU Member States‘, it discussion the need for impartiality:

5. Impartiality
29. The principle of impartiality is structurally weakened in administrative procedures because the Administration is party and judge in the procedure. Therefore it is necessary to establish legal measures to establish the equilibrium between the parties or at least to reduce the likelihood of unfairness. A Minimum of impartiality should be guaranteed. Therefore the withdrawal from the procedure of those Officials who have a personal interest (typical conflict of interest situation) in the outcome of the procedure 8 should be mandatory. Otherwise the administration would incur into abuse of power. Another requirement for impartiality is that any party in the procedure should be entitled to recluse any intervening official suspect of having an interest in the outcome of the procedure or having qualified friendship or enmity or kinship relationships with any of the parties.”
It’s absolutely obvious that advisers working together in a JCP office will often form friendships and a sense of loyalty to one another. It’s only human to find it difficult to judge impartially in those circumstances, and there will be a clear pressure to ‘back up’ one’s colleague, and a fear of upsetting a fellow adviser by overturning a decision.

It will therefore be extremely difficult to find an impartial adviser to judge a request for review – and even an impartial one will be judging based on personal experience and emotion rather than on professional qualifications and clear criteria.

In case anyone thinks ‘bloody EU and their bureaucracy’, or wants to write off as a ‘leftie’ opinion that this situation is wrong. The Ombudsman’s office sets out ‘Principles of Administration‘ that make the potential problems very clear:

The Principles of Good Administration

Getting it Right

Public servants do not get it right every time, so there must be a form of redress that is impartial and fair for claimants.

Being customer focused

Public Bodies do not always treat people with sensitivity, bearing in mind their individual needs, and respond flexibly to the circumstances of the case in every instance; doctors for example, can get this wrong at times.

Acting fairly and proportionately

Public bodies do not always deal with people fairly or with respect.
There is no doubt at all that the new UC system completely fails to make available an impartial and fair ‘form of redress’ as outlined by the Ombudsman.

Let’s look at a real-life scenario. The DWP operates a Universal Jobmatch (UJM) system that jobseekers are expected to use to look for jobs – but the UJM system has been shown to be seriously flawed and even a vehicle for various scams. It also contains serious security issues that risk revealing jobseekers’ private information to people who shouldn’t have it.

Jobseekers are frequently pressured to use the system and told that they might be sanctioned if they don’t – but our ex-JCP manager advises me that there is no legal obligation whatever for jobseekers to use it. They can use any available method of jobseeking, online or offline.

Under the UC system, the illegality of a sanction applied for failing to use UJM will become irrelevant. A JCP adviser has no legal right to apply a sanction for not using UJM – but if they do, and a colleague from the same JCP and therefore likely to be similarly ill-informed agrees, then the sanctioned person has no right of appeal.

Yet again the government, via its ludicrously corrupt and vicious Department of Work and Pensions’ is showing a staggering degree of contempt for those in society who need help and support, and a complete disregard for the life and wellbeing of human beings in our society who find themselves in need of that support.

Support which, as the government baldly states, is no longer the ‘entitlement’ it should be in a civilised society, but is instead something for which people are forced to sign unfeasible contracts that merely set them up to have that support snatched away arbitrarily – on the ‘godlike’ whim of JCP advisers of unknown competence and who might well be under pressure to hit sanction targets.

And all, if we’re to believe this lying-if-their-lips-are-moving government, because it’s the best ‘route out of poverty’.

Yeah. Like the best cure for a headache is decapitation.

Many, many people in this country will not survive a 2nd term of this government, or any part of it. And the way the rules are constructed shows that the Tories are ‘perfectly relaxed’ about that.

They want to take us back to the 1920s of soup kitchens, means-testing and stigmatised poverty.

We can’t let them. Please spread the word or this is where we'll end up:

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:22 pm

Steve
Where I live, I think we're actually already back in the 1920's, at least for single unemployed people, who are facing regular loss of benefit, unreasonable expectations of what they will do in order to find work, regular trips to the food bank, which in my town is run by the Salvation Army alongside the drop-in service for the homeless, and furthermore is run by an all-male team - not very good if you're a woman wanting help to obtain feminine items.

Couples with children, and single parents are mostly still OK'ish, except when JC+ makes a total mess-up of their benefit claim - quite a common occurence. I think that's because if you have children you get money from more than one source (Child Benefit can be a bit of a life saver)

Can't remember if Child Benefit will be included in UC payments - if it is, I think we have some very tragic stories to come.

The loss of Crisis Loans also has impacted big style, leaving people literally starving, as even when payment of benefit is agreed, it can take up to a week to get into the bank account. A week's a long time to go without food - and they are still expected to attend JC+ appointments, apply for their quota of jobs and generally jump through all the hoops, even while starving.

It's Summer at the moment, and there are seasonal job opportunities, and people don't need to heat their homes and can bear to wash in cold water - I'm dreading the Winter.

Everyone I see, I remind them that their misfortunes are the result of government policy, and that voting in the same government again may well see further changes to the benefit system.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by tlttf on Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:59 am

Sadly, I've yet to meet anybody in the UK that's starving. I have met a few that didn't have a new 50" telly though, poor luv's.

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:41 am

tlttf. Congratulations on managing to display so much ignorance, indifference and prejudice in two short sentences.

Horatio Nelson saw no ships when he put his telescope in front of his blind eye.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by tlttf on Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:06 am

Only a politician or fool tries to what isn't there Ivan, I'm sure your a politician.

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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:20 am

What do you think about poor people who plainly can't afford to bring up any more children, but produce them anyway, tlttf?

Is sterilisation the answer?
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Ivan on Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:40 am

Only a politician or fool tries to what isn't there Ivan, I'm sure your a politician.
 Can someone translate that into English, please? confused 
 
In the meantime, I'll go and tell the Trussell Trust and various charities that they've just been imagining the 400,000 plus people who have been coming to them for food. We have it on good authority that because there aren't any food banks in Chelsea, everyone in the country must be well-fed, thriving and watching Sky Sports under our lovely Tory government.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:52 am

Tell you what - you boys keep on squabbling - every week I meet people who NEED to go to the Salvation Army and queue to pick up a (very small) carrier bag full of food.
As I donate regularly, I know what they're getting, and believe me if you weren't hungry you wouldn't want it.

Those of us who live in an area where there aren't any poor people (nice private housing, in leafy suburbs, perhaps) are able to remain unaware of the deprivation that is increasingly the lot of even fully employed working people - doesn't mean it isn't there.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by oftenwrong on Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:03 pm

Let them eat cake.
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by Phil Hornby on Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:43 pm

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According to this week's edition of the Pease Pottage Dissembler, this is a picture of chaps lining up outside the local Conservative Club to sign a book of thanks to Mr Cameron for making them unemployed and therefore free -whenever the mood takes them - to accept any zero-hours contracts they may be offered . Surely there cannot have been a mistake....?
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

Post by boatlady on Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:36 am

So reassuring to hear the working class still know their place
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Re: The assault on the poor and disabled

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