What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security

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“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation that could affect the well-being of many millions of people.

But Council officials say national courts refer to these international standards when deciding on relevant cases, meaning benefit claimants could try to use the Council’s ruling to boost their case for a higher award.

In response, our ever-more-right-wing government could decide to withdraw from its dealings with the Council altogether, meaning our citizens would no longer have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. Many Tories – like Philip Davies – have long held this desire!

The Daily Mail, of all rags, appears to have done its homework on this, stating: “JSA, ESA (both £67 a week) and pension (about £102) all fall well below the £138 a week, or £596 a month, that the Eurocrats have set as the benchmark.

“Because all three are below a second threshold of £110 a week, they are rated ‘manifestly inadequate’.”

The UK has signed treaties in which it has promised to adhere to the provisions of the European Social Charter, so the Council’s claim that its conclusions are legally binding are accurate.

But the Coalition government has never been one to accept rules made by anybody else, and the DWP – one of the worst offenders (see previous articles on Workfare, work capability assessments for people with mental health problems, and the Bedroom Tax) is trying to claim that the findings must only be “taken into account” (meaning they would be noted, but ignored).

In his own response, Iain Duncan Smith appears to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the judgement, providing yet another example of why he is rightly considered one of the Coalition government’s leading dunderheads.

“This government has made great strides in fixing the welfare system so that spending is brought under control. It’s lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204 billion in benefits and pensions last year alone.”

He simply does not understand that talking about the whole amount paid by the government is irrelevant when it is the amount paid on a regular basis to individuals that is at issue.

The Council of Europe states that 40 per cent of the Eurostat median equivalised income is the level at which the benefits should be paid and, as a treaty signatory, the UK has agreed to meet this requirement. RTU’s opinion is of no consequence at all. He is in breach of an international treaty.

The ruling also undermines his claim that many people have made a lifestyle choice to live in comfort on the dole, and his party’s claim that foreign nationals have been immigrating to Britain for purposes of benefit tourism – income levels are too low for anyone in their right mind to consider it.

What nobody is telling you is that this report does not even take account of the changes to the UK’s social security system that were ushered in by RTU’s (we call him that in honour of his ignominious army career – it stands for Returned To Unit, the fate of officer candidates who didn’t make the grade) hopelessly ignorant and hideously draconian Welfare Reform Act.

These are conclusions based on the system before the Bedroom Tax, before the benefit cap, before the flat-rate state pension, and before the one per cent limit on benefit uprating.

The report states: “The Committee notes that these legislative developments (the Welfare Reform Act and the State Pension Reform) are outside the reference period. Therefore, it asks the next report to indicate how these have affected the personal coverage of social security risks – ie the percentage of the covered persons out of the total active population as well as the minimum levels of income-replacement benefits (unemployment, sickness, maternity and old-age).”

In particular, it singles out Employment and Support Allowance: “The Committee of Ministers observed that there was a toughening of the qualifying conditions for the entitlement to ESA on the one hand and a drastic reduction of its duration on the other, which could result in an outright reduction of protection offered by the sickness benefit.

“The Committee of Ministers invited the Government to show in its next report … that the obligations and sanctions under the work-related activity regime are of such a nature as not to unduly limit the protection afforded … to sick persons after the 13th week of sickness.”

That’s going to be tricky for RTU – the last figures his department deigned to release showed that an average of 73 people a week were dying after going through his ideologically-motivated work capability assessment.

As stated at the start of this article, “manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They describe the performance of his department in looking after the needs of British taxpayers who have fallen on hard times due to unemployment or illness – and also its treatment of pensioners.

They also describe, in the opinion of objective outsiders, his own performance as a British government minister.

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38 thoughts on “What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security

    1. vjones2

      no wonder they’re keen to get out of the eu. can’t the people get them out before next year or are we gagged too much? i had a school friend who died last October; she’d been ill a long time. i say extra stress didn’t help her – she was bipolar, schizophrenic. her family were well off – this may be off the wall but when you look into their eyes when they’re on there bipolar medicines, there’s that look on ids’ face. i do think hes get mental health problems – that’s why he doesn’t want to know about mental health. i’d never wish a sah on anyone but i’d like him to walk in our shoes for a day – his smarmy face wouldn’t be so false then. i know they all have false grins but not like his; problem is it only happens to honest decent people. my mum died, 58, she was as soft as they come – had three jobs to keep me and my sister. i had three jobs, years ago, to keep my house. i didn’t stand at tesco or asda saying please can i have a sah and follow up with a stroke, like buy one get one free. he seems to think somehow we queue for it

  1. Florence

    The trouble is that RTU and his fellow political thugs ignore even our own parliament – such as the motion that there should be an enquiry into the impact of govt welfare changes on the incidence of poverty. We must remain vigilant to the exposure of their distain for democracy, and for the Treaties signed that the UK is obliged to abide by.

    They have the true hallmarks of totalitarian dictators. Even the grab for power by the formation of the coalition (rumoured to have been cooked up before the election between Clegg & Cameron) fits that profile. One only hopes that they will be voted out of power, but in that event, I wonder if they will in fact abide by the decision of the electorate? They ignore the House, is that not trampling on democracy, and a warning?

      1. Florence

        Not got the link to hand, it was some time ago, off the mainstream press (of course) but I’ll dig a bit.

      2. Florence

        One of the origins of this was the publication in 2010 of secret documents relating to pre-election teams in both the Tories and the Libdems (Osborne & Alexander headed the respective teams) negotiating what would be included in a coalition agreement dated 16th March 2010. This was part of a book “Five days to power” by The by Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading East. Wilson, a book on the coalition negotiations

        The main reporting of this was in the context of the student demos, when these “confidential” documents were leaked that showed the LibDems had readily abandoned the student fees issue, despite heavily canvassing students that this was a major election pledge.

        This was covered in a Guardian Article :

        http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/nov/12/lib-dems-tuition-fees-clegg

        A quote( from the book?) in the article :

        “George Osborne, who had long feared the Tories would struggle to win an overall parliamentary majority, persuaded David Cameron to allow him to form the Tories’ own secret coalition negotiating team two weeks before the election. The Tory leader demanded total secrecy and asked only to be given the barest details for fear that he would blurt it out “unplanned in an interview”.

        What I had in mind, although covering similar territory, may have originated in later disclosures about the role of these pre-election negotiating teams, I will keep on digging. These revelations were possibly over-looked because of being linked to the student protest issues. I do recall the specific charge about Clegg & Cameron, but it may have been a little hyperbolic, but the charge in essence remains the same. Both party leaders created delegated senior teams to negotiate in secrete before the election to form a coalition.

        I’ll keep digging.

      3. Mike Sivier

        It’s fascinating. So the Liberal Democrats were campaigning heavily on their pledge to scrap student fees, in the certain knowledge that they would abandon that pledge if brought into office as part of a coalition (the only way they were ever likely to gain power).

        … and the Conservatives were campaigning heavily on their pledge to look after the NHS, in the sure and certain knowledge that they were going to privatise it, just as soon as they possibly could!

  2. Norma Roberts

    I am not condoning welfare reform or this government (perish the thought!) but the report does say it is focussed on the years 2008 to 2011, so only one year of the Conservative’s government is applicable.

    I also noted that their assessment of the amount of benefit one receives did not take into account housing benefit or council tax support. If you take someone on over 25’s JSA and add a rent of approx £346 a month (1 bed flat) and band A council tax support (where I live approx £41 a month) that gives you a total of: JSA £30725+rent £346+council tax £41 = £694.25. which is approx 837 euros. This is more than the percentage of median income required according to the report.

    1. Mike Sivier

      But does the report include housing costs in its consideration of the amount people need? The fact that the report calls for more information about this suggests that it doesn’t.

      Also, as these reports are prepared annually, it might be that the period covered is intended to allow examination of changes taking place over several years, impacting on the year under examination.

      That’s just my uneducated opinion, mind.

    2. dreamer

      Surely housing costs and council tax benefit should be stripped out of the figures as it gives IMO a false appearance of basic need for all groups concerned.

      I read this and other blogs daily and do get rather miffed that it is assumed that all receive housing/council benefits who may be claiming some form of Social Security. Many pensioners and others actually own their own homes and would really like to be offered the level of basic pension mentioned by the Council, as would many other claimants of JSA/ESA,

      It would be super for all to just to receive the basic figures quoted.

      As for RTU he must surely have a hold on Camermoron to remain in post.

    3. koenigal86

      Also if you’re single and under 35 and renting privately, you only get the shared accommodation rate of Housing Benefit anyway. 70% of my combined over 25 JSA & under 35 HB income of £126 a week (~20h of work on NMW) went of renting a room in Birmingham.

      Since my bills were included, liveable but hardly living the high life. I realise if you were over 35 or had kids in Lonon JSA+HB could be nearly equal to or exceed the full-time minimum wage: though surely that means rent is absolutely bonkers compared to wages?

      The point I’m making is my £90 a week (360 a month) rent wasn’t paid by HB as in the example above, all my HB and half my dole went on it.

  3. Joseph Smith

    RTU is so thick, he may die laughing. We wish. So, if he and the rest of the liars in the coalition are in breach apart from discussion what can be done. I’ll bet £20 now the CBBC ( coalition British Broadcasting Corporation ) won’t report this? Any takers? And what can we do about this?

  4. martha

    Don’t know about Iain Duncan Smith RTU, the army should have declared him PGRTTGP (poses great risk to the General Public) and should have put him in an asylum for the criminally insane

  5. robert fillies

    Agreed RTU has the thick skin of a rhino. Also as you point out that Government mouthpiece the BBC has not reported this as far as I am aware(and I watch a lot of news coverage) but then they do seem to be under some sort of Government control, This does not surprise as they have one of their own at the top table.

  6. robert fillies

    Either way this goes to show that in Europe our social security system is under scrutiny and that can only be a good thing, plus the reaction of IDS to the report must illustrate to the EU the low calibre of politicians in this Government’

  7. stewilko

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    The Tactics, propaganda and what could untimely could be construed as Nazism. The welfare reform which this coalition is delivering basically is a continued assault on the poor. The disabled, those looking for work and even those in low paid jobs have been deionised by their propaganda machine. Robbed of their entitlements by a corrupt DWP and their associated unlawful and unethical assessments. They should be like their counterparts be brought to justice

  8. Ian Duncan

    IBS has all the charm, charisma and intelligence of a fungal infection.

    Why can’t the squalid little moral reprobate retire to sponge of his missus and leave the rest of us to take a breath in peace, free from the threatening letters from his ugly little department and his cohorts at Atos? Better still, why can he not do humanity a solid and cut his throat open with a rusty spatula?

    I hope this is the end of him but I have a feeling it isn’t, anyone else would be dead in the water, politically speaking, by now. The f***er really must have incriminating photos of Davey and Gideon doing something disreputable to a chihuahua.

  9. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mike here shows that the amount of welfare benefits paid to Brits criticised by the EU are those, before IDS’ ‘improved’ them even further with the imposition of the bedroom tax and other cuts. Thus the situation is actually worse than that attacked by the Council of Europe. As for the Tories’ hatred of the Council, this has been very clear ever since Maggie Thatcher. I’ve blogged before on how one of her MPs turned up on the Wogan show in the 1980s to praise the single market, while condemning the Social Charter that seeks to protect certain rights for workers. As for Ian Duncan ‘RTU’ Smith trying to rebut their accusation by citing the total amount the government spent on welfare, Mike sees this as another example of Smith’s crass stupidity. I’m not so sure. Smith is stupid: an article about him in the Independent was headlined ‘Smith is the Thickest Ex-Guardsman I’ve ever Met – And that’s saying something!’ However, I think this is more likely a trick by his advisers to con us. There have been several articles by those keen to get the public to develop critical thinking, that show that you should always look at what government spending means when paid to individuals, not the total amount cited, when assessing whether they will actually benefit anyone. From this, it simply seems to me that ‘Matilda’ Smith (he tells such dreadful lies, it makes one gasp and stretch one’s eyes) drew the opposite conclusion, and instead learned a great new way to tell lies with statistics. Or rather his advisors did. Given the way Smith behaves, I have to say when I think of him the old quote about Gerald Ford comes to mind: This is only president, who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

  10. Jeffrey Davies

    rtu I wonder would the army support him and his party nah it be a mind field for them but ids take any notice im afraid theyl cut more off this year taking notice of no one eu they say puffelcock

    1. Mr.Angry

      Jaypot sadly I’ve already flipped could not take much more of the arrogant putrid excuse of a human. Would happily dance on his grave wearing a protective acid suit as I believe no matter what depth he was buried he would still produce a toxic gas.

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    1. Mike Sivier

      The European Convention on Human Rights isn’t mentioned in the article, so I’m wondering what your point is.

      I mention that the Council of Europe is responsible for the European COURT of Human Rights – which it is – but only to mark out the territory; make it clear that this is not the European Union but a different organisation.

      The article is useful, though, in that it makes clear that Conservatives who commented in the original news stories were talking nonsense.

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  13. joanna

    I feel really guilty that I am getting more money in the support group, than a pensioner which is really unfair on the pensioner, example, from April I will be getting £123.50 per week, yet a pensioner gets about £112 per week! I don’t care that I could possibly be talking myself out of money, but this isn’t right or at all fair!
    Also the wrag group should be getting the same as or more than the support group, because they have added costs in getting to the jobcentre. Because of my mental health problems, I seldom go out anywhere, and I don’t have to, yet I get more money, I don’t understand, and so I feel guilty and mean for getting more than people who have worked their whole lives and they get less.
    I can’t go back on JSA yet because I am suicidal everyday and I have my prescriptions delivered to me weekly.
    I hope you don’t mind me venting Mike, the whole system is hugely unfair and punitive. I can’t type anymore for now because bad thoughts are battering my mind (that is how it is for me)

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