Daily Archives: May 28, 2015

Desperate DWP’s last minute appeal against revealing benefit-related deaths

Linda Wootton, who died just nine days after being told her entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance had been stopped because she was fit for work (she was, in fact, dying on a hospital bed at the time).

Linda Wootton, who died just nine days after being told her entitlement for Employment and Support Allowance had been stopped because she was fit for work (she was, in fact, dying on a hospital bed at the time).

The Department for Work and Pensions has appealed against the ruling compelling it to disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014. 

The ruling came from the Information Commissioner on April 30 after an appeal by Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier. The DWP had 28 calendar days in which to submit an appeal – and it arrived via email at 3.25pm today – just one hour and 35 minutes before the close of business for the day.

Clearly the cowards of Caxton House are terrified of revealing the true numbers of those who have died as a result of Conservative policies towards the sick and disabled, and have delayed their appeal until almost the last minute in order to delay, for as long as possible, the moment when they have to provide the facts.

The appeal itself appears to be nothing more than a rehash of the DWP’s original reasons for refusing This Writer’s request – reasons that were dismissed by the Information Commissioner after Vox Political pointed out that they were not valid.

Therefore the DWP is simply wasting time.

Desperation radiates from the DWP’s appeal. Here’s just one example: “Taken in isolation, the statistics requested by Mr Sivier were likely to be misinterpreted. Specifically, incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality. Such misinterpretations would be contrary to the public interest, particularly given the emotive and sensitive context of mortality statistics.”

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not allow any public authority discretion to refuse a request because it fears what a person may or may not do with the information.

If it holds the information, it must communicate it to the person making the request.

It seems reasonable to conclude that the number of deaths – when it is finally revealed – will be devastatingly large.

The behaviour of this government department would be laughable if the subject matter was not so serious – the deaths of many thousands of sick and disabled people, due to the way this department treated them.

But it was only to be expected. This process has taken an extremely long time – nearly two years – because of the DWP’s constant evasions. A little longer won’t make much of a difference, especially as the Tories have managed to con the electorate into letting them play at being the government for another five years.

And the game of cat-and-mouse has nearly run its course. Very soon now, the DWP will have nowhere to hide.

Tick tock, Tory boys.

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The Tories’ benefit cap is social DARWINISM, not ‘social justice in action’

Here’s a grinning ape: ‘Gentleman Ranker’ Iain Duncan Smith.

Can you believe Iain Duncan Smith is still trying to say his Benefit Cap, which pushes people into poverty, is “improving social mobility”?

The only way this could possibly be true is if that social mobility was going downward.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper the Work and Pensions Secretary claimed that his reduction in payments was providing people with a “clear path to fulfilling lives and independence from the state”.

“Welfare reform is improving social mobility for families across the country,” he argued.  “A key example of this is the benefit cap which we brought in to put a stop to sky-high benefit pay-outs. Under the Bill, the cap will be lowered from £26,000 to £23,000.”

Noting that a number of those who had been hit by the cap had found jobs, he said the cuts were not just about saving money.

“This is social justice in action, welfare reform that improves individual lives, not that just generates savings,” he wrote in the newspaper

Mr Duncan Smith presented no evidence to establish that the households had found work because their benefits had been cut, however.

We’ve heard this nonsense before, of course. Remember back in 2013, when the cap was first imposed at its figure of £26,000 per family? ‘Gentleman Ranker’ IDS tried to claim that 8,000 people had moved off-benefit and into work, just after being informed of the change.

He was later found to have been lying.

Pollsters Ipsos Mori surveyed 500 of the 8,000 people concerned, and found that 15 per cent of them hadn’t even heard of the benefit cap, and another 31 per cent only knew a little about it. Only 57 per cent remembered being informed that the cap would affect them, and of these, 71 per cent were already looking for work.

About half of those who remembered getting a letter about the cap took action afterwards. For 31 per cent, this meant looking for work (although half of these were already looking).

This means of the 500 surveyed, only around 45 people started looking for work because of the cap that weren’t doing so before. The best that could be said in reality was that about 720 people started looking for work and found it after hearing of the cap, who weren’t looking before.

This is not a particularly impressive behavioural change – in fact, on May 9 of that year, Andrew Dilnot of the UK Statistics Authority wrote to warn the Gentleman Ranker that he was playing fast and loose with the figures, and to demand that he correct himself.

Now he’s back, doing more of the same and expecting a different result (a sure sign of madness); spouting the same nonsense and expecting us to believe it.

He has no evidence to support his childish claims.

Charities dealing with poverty and homelessness, on the other hand, do. They say the benefit cap will become an even worse disaster for the people of the UK than it is already.

The biggEST disaster for us all, of course, is Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party.

If you know anybody who voted for them, be sure to remind them of their mistake, every day, until the next election.

Source: The Tories’ benefit cap is ‘social justice in action’, says Iain Duncan Smith – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

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Yesterday’s man David Miliband says ‘Election defeat has sent Labour back to the classroom’

If these comments are the best David Miliband has to offer (and they are the only comments in the article relevant to Labour’s election defeat), then he should stay where he is.

In comments that will add to speculation that he plans a return to British politics, Miliband said he was part of a Labour team that won elections rather than lost them. “I was in the backroom in the early 1990s when Labour in the UK figured out how to win elections rather than lose them,” he said. “As this month’s election in the UK showed, the electorate have recently sent us back to the classroom for the second time in five years.”

Source: David Miliband: election defeat has sent Labour back to the classroom | Politics | The Guardian

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Misleading headlines: “UK will quit EU unless PM’s reforms go through, says Philip Hammond | Politics | The Guardian”

Here’s a misleading headline if ever there was one! The Guardian seems to want readers to think the government will opt to leave the EU unless its plan for change is agreed by the other member states.

In fact, Eurosceptic Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s view referred to the electorate’s position:

Foreign secretary believes Britons will opt to leave union unless EU leaders agree to changes and that in/out referendum campaign could launch in spring 2016

According to the latest opinion polls, it’s an inaccurate claim. More than half of those who have been asked still believe it is better to stay in the European Union.

The prime minister is planning to demand change in four broad areas. He wants to:

  • Bar unemployed EU migrants from claiming benefits and force EU migrants in work to wait four years before claiming in-work benefits. This will be resisted in Warsaw

  • Hand the UK an optout from the “ever closer union” declaration

  • Ensure that EU member states outside the eurozone, such as the UK, could not have changes to the rules of the single market imposed on them by eurozone countries

  • Give national parliaments the right to club together to block new legislative proposals.

Source: UK will quit EU unless PM’s reforms go through, says Philip Hammond | Politics | The Guardian

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Parliament is open; The Agony has begun

It probably looked reasonable to her: The Queen's Speech was in fact written in a way that hid the facts about what the Tory government is planning.

It probably looked reasonable to her: The Queen’s Speech was in fact written in a way that hid the facts about what the Tory government is planning.

Another year, another State Opening of Parliament, another Queen’s Speech full of Tory lies.

Perhaps one should qualify that by saying the legislative plan outlined in the speech isn’t a lie, but the language used to describe it was most certainly stuffed full of them.

“My Government will legislate in the interests of everyone in our country,” pronounced Brenda. “It will adopt a one nation approach, helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together.

That’s a pretty tall order for the Tories – especially since the part about “helping working people get on” was stolen from the Liberal Democrats’ old message script and the part about “aspiration” has been nicked from Labour, as one can tell by checking recent comments from that party’s leadership candidates.

What did they actually give us, though? The Guardian‘s editorial, yesterday morning, described the possibilities as a “menu of pain”:

“Express protection for the elderly doubles the proportional cut for everyone else, to about 10 per cent,” it stated. “The main action will have to come in some mix of four welfare fields: children, housing, disability and tax credits.

“Mr Duncan Smith has signalled sympathy for capping support to just two children, to encourage parents to think twice about having kids they can’t afford. That’s too bad for children who didn’t ask to be born into big families, and won’t help with the immediate arithmetic unless it is retrospectively imposed on existing big families, which are hardly going to shrink. Besides, if Mr Cameron’s reassurances are worth anything, child benefit is safe, which only leaves means-tested payments, where cuts are guaranteed to increase child poverty.

“Cutting in-work tax credits would sink the supposed pro-work welfare reforms, which leaves support for housing and disabled people looking like the principal targets. Even if the Queen’s speech rustles up something on the minimum wage, Mr Cameron can hardly talk of ‘one nation’ until he can reassure the poor and the frail that there is a place for them in his land.”

In practice, the Tory ‘Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill’ proposes freezing working-age state benefits, meaning that they will not rise with inflation for at least the period of the current Parliament and people on benefits will be less able to afford the necessities of life.

The Benefit Cap will be dropped to £23,000 per family, creating a greater risk that David Cameron and the Gentleman Ranker, Iain Duncan Smith, will push children into homelessness and poverty.

Young people aged 18-21, who are on benefits, will lose their ability to move away from their childhood home because housing benefit is to be withdrawn from them. This will create resentment within families and family-style groupings, and could present the opportunity for abusers (of many kinds) to continue their crimes, with the authorities going unnotified.

Benefit claimants aged 18-21 will have to work for it, which is in itself a contradiction in terms and a betrayal of the National Minimum Wage. The Bill states that there will be “stronger work-related conditionality from Day One, and anyone who remains unemployed for longer than six months will be required to go on an apprenticeship, training or community work placement.

This means young adults working for their benefits will be removing jobs from the market; if a company can get a jobseeker to do a job for free, it won’t pay an employee to do it. Therefore the jobs market will contract, pay will be cut – in real terms – to the levels of benefits and more profit will go to the bosses, who will probably stash it in a tax haven rather than letting any of it go back to the State in tax.

The government intends to limit the amount of income collected by HM Treasury by ensuring that there are no rises in income tax rates, VAT rates or National Insurance contributions (NICs) rates for individuals, employees and employers. This means the only way the government will be able to pay down its debts will be by expanding the economy – a feat which the Conservative chancellor, Gideon Osborne, has failed to achieve after more than five years in the job.

This is a transparent move to increase public debt, making it easier to cut public services even further.

The government intends to restrict the supply of social housing even further, forcing council to sell off larger houses that have become vacant (due to the Bedroom Tax?) and force housing associations to sell their properties at discount to tenants. The claim is that new houses should be built at a rate of one for each house sold – but with discounts of up to 70 per cent per sale, this is clearly a false claim and the housing stock will drop. A commenter to this site has stated that a more realistic building rate is one new house for every eight sold – which would make the current housing bottleneck much, much worse.

In short, this is a legislative programme that is very much in line with the plan laid out by Margaret Thatcher and her cronies in the mid-1970s: Less security in work, lower pay and benefits, less social housing.

People thrown into poverty and onto the street when they deserve better.

Higher profits for the undeserving rich.

Who voted for this?

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May goes to war with the police – Westminster

It’s time to choose sides, it seems – a choice that would have been much easier if the police themselves had sided with the people at the appropriate time…

… which was, basically, whenever a Conservative government tried to use them as political weapons against the people.

The police will have their powers chipped away across multiple fronts, after Theresa May used the Queen’s Speech to put forward a raft of tough measures against them.

Source: May goes to war with the police – Westminster

The government just banned everything

Remember when this blog described the Conservatives as the Party of Restriction, only a few days ago? Here’s the proof.

Even by the standards of modern legislation, the psychoactive substances bill is startlingly inane. It seems to ban any substance which can cause a mental or emotional reaction. As must be obvious, that’s almost everything in the world. Did this taste remind you of your mother’s cooking? It’s a psychoactive substance. Did it bring you a moment of happiness? It’s a psychoactive substance.

The government is about to ban almost everything.

Source: The government just banned everything

Labour’s descent into madness: Supporting a benefit cap that will drop children into poverty

Can anything demonstrate the Labour Party’s crisis of identity more graphically than the party’s statement of support for a drop in the benefit cap to £23,000 – despite warnings that the current cap of £26K is already causing homelessness and “putting children on the breadline”?

A Labour Party with its heart in the right place would never countenance an Act of Parliament that intentionally throws children into poverty.

Ms Harman outlined several caveats to Labour’s support, arguing that the lower cap should not put children into poverty or increase homelessness. She said discretionary housing payments and other measures could prevent the problems seen so far.

That simply isn’t good enough. The Tories have already hidden behind discretionary housing payments when criticised over the Bedroom Tax, and they have proven pitifully inadequate with regard to that issue. Why should anybody believe they’ll be able to take any further strain?

As for the other measures she mentions – what other measures? It’s nonsense waffle to hide the fact that Labour has badly lost its way.

The Party of the People needs to take hold of itself and clear out the dead weight – now.

Source: Labour moves to support Tories’ lower benefit cap despite ‘children on breadline’ warnings – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

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Arrests at State Opening (for holding a piece of cardboard) | indyrikki

Is any further comment required?

Amid the full pomp and circumstance of the all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men, police surround a quiet and peaceful man and arrest both him and a friend of his “to prevent a breach of the peace”.

The sole reason seems to be because he is carrying, but not openly displaying, a small piece of cardboard bearing a protest message about austerity.

The Tory threat to opt out of Human Rights seems to have been pre-empted by this ‘thought police’ action today in Parliament Square.

Source: Arrests at State Opening (for holding a piece of cardboard) | indyrikki

Dennis Skinner: SNP battle left me too tired to heckle during Queen’s Speech – Telegraph

Parliament’s new intake of SNP members have the manners of schoolchildren – and the ignorance of the class dunce.

They should have known better than to try bullying the man known as the Beast of Bolsover.

Those responsible for demeaning their position in this manner should be named and shamed – but, like all bullies, they’re probably too cowardly to admit it.

He told the Telegraph (of all papers, it had to be that one):

“I was engaged in an activity today to ensure that the Scot Nats weren’t going to take over that front bench. You have to get up very early in the morning to do it. I was up at just after 6 o’clock and I had to do it yesterday.

“I don’t think you understand the steps that I have to take. I’m dealing with 56 members of the Scots Nats and on some days I’ve been doing it single-handed.”

“It is about the fact that as long as I remember that bench has never been taken over by a party that believes they can own it.

“It is about a battle of wits but it is also about being dedicated. I don’t see why after all these years a party that has temporarily got a few more seats should be allowed to do as they like in the Commons.

“It is not about me. That bench when I came into the House of Commons in 1970 was inhabited by what they called the awkward squad and by and large it’s had that reputation ever since.”

Source: Dennis Skinner: SNP battle left me too tired to heckle during Queen’s Speech – Telegraph

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