Category Archives: Conditionality

Why IS Labour backing banker bonuses so the children starve?

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’s decision that a Labour government will not reinstate a cap on bankers’ bonuses has stirred up a storm of opposition among left-wing organisations – and voters.

The cap limits yearly bonus payouts for bankers to twice their salary; it was introduced by the EU in 2014 when it was intended to prevent excessive risk-taking after the global financial crash of 2008.

Kwasi Kwarteng scrapped it in his 2022 mini-budget – sparking widespread outrage for rewarding bankers during a cost-of-living crisis and growing levels of poverty in Britain.

But Rishi Sunak maintained the policy, bringing it into force in October 2023.

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Talking to the BBC on January 31, Reeves said: “The cap on bankers’ bonuses was brought in in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and that was the right thing to do to rebuild the public finances.

“But that has gone now, and we don’t have any intention of bringing that back. And as chancellor of the exchequer, I would want to be a champion of a successful and thriving financial services industry in the UK.”

“Successful and thriving”? Or “Excessively risk-taking”? The latter seems more likely to This Writer and it seems Reeves and Labour leader Keir Starmer are deliberately planning to repeat New Labour’s worst mistakes.

That certainly seems to be the feeling among left-wing organisations and individuals, according to Left Foot Forward:

Labour’s grassroots left-wing organisation, Momentum, described it as a “terrible decision,” which is “totally out of touch with Labour’s values and public opinion.”

“For over 40 years our economic model has sucked wealth from the country and enriched a few in the City.

“It even crashed the economy in 2008. Yet instead of learning the lessons from New Labour’s failures, Starmer and Reeves seem determined to repeat them.”

The Peace & Justice Project, founded by the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said:

“Labour’s latest U-turn, the refusal to reinstate the cap on bankers’ bonuses, shows it is unwilling to challenge the establishment status quo…”

In a post on X, Corbyn asked: “Where is the justification for letting the rich get richer while children starve and people sleep rough on the streets?

“We cannot afford these obscene levels of inequality. It’s our job to offer a real alternative – one that puts human need before corporate greed.”

On the social media, I found this:

And “MrsGee” posted on ‘X’: “What about ‘uncertainty’ in peoples lives, in a profiteer-driven cost of living crisis @LabourSJ? What about millions of children in poverty, families unable to afford to eat & heat their homes? You want them to continue to suffer when you could help with a wealth tax? Poor show.”

Labour’s inconsistency in boosting bankers while pushing families into poverty by keeping the two-child cap on child benefit was also widely pilloried:

Apparently a Labour spokesperson said, “We are not in the business of telling business what to do about pay and conditions.”

But this is nonsense. Telling businesses what to do about pay and conditions is precisely what governments – or in this case, possible governments-in-waiting – should be doing.

Source: Labour to back bankers’ bonuses: How the Left responded – Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate


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After coroner’s warning over death of disabled man, benefits process to get HARDER

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

What are the courts going to do about this?

The excellent Disability News Service is reporting that a coroner has ordered Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride to take action that will prevent flaws in the Universal Credit system leading to further deaths after a disabled man became overwhelmed by the application process and committed suicide.

Instead, it seems Stride is determined to increase the death toll exponentially.

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Here’s the DNS story:

It states:

An inquest into the death of Kevin Gale earlier this month heard from his psychiatrist, who expressed significant concerns about the way mental health service-users were supported with their universal credit claims within DWP.

The inquest also heard from the trust’s nursing director, who told the coroner that they considered the issues identified by the psychiatrist to be “national” and said they were “debilitating for service users”.

Kevin Gale, who is believed to have worked previously as a window cleaner, took his own life on 4 March 2022.

Coroner Kirsty Gomersal sent a Prevention of Future Deaths report to Stride.

She pointed to the “number of and length” of the universal credit forms that had to be completed which “can be overwhelming for someone with a mental health illness”, and which are “perpetuated if the applicant cannot get help to complete the paperwork”, while also highlighting the “long telephone queues to speak to a DWP advisor”.

She added: “Having to travel long distances for appointments can be detrimental for those with a mental health illness.”

And what’s happening to the benefit system?

Here’s The Independent:

Jeremy Hunt has warned those who “coast” on benefits will lose handouts if they refuse to take a job as part of a new crackdown.

Claimants deemed fit to work, but who fail to take steps to find employment, will be cut off from accessing benefits such as free prescriptions and dental treatment, help from energy suppliers and cheaper mobile phone packages.

Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, said that schemes to help people back into the workforce would also be expanded as part of a new £2.5bn five-year long back-to-work plan.

Under the plan, claimants will be forced to accept a job or undertake work experience to improve their prospects. Those who fail to do so will be hit with an “immediate sanction”.

At the moment, claimants can face open-ended sanctions where they have their benefits stopped. Those under this sanction for more than six months will now have their claims closed, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said, which would also end their access to other benefits such as free prescriptions and legal aid.

Mr Stride said: “…We are expanding the voluntary support for people with health conditions and disabilities, including our flagship Universal Support programme.

“But our message is clear: if you are fit, if you refuse to work, if you are taking taxpayers for a ride – we will take your benefits away.”

Overall, the government says expanded help-to-work schemes will help more than 1 million people over the next five years.

Part of this package includes plans to add another 100,000 people to the Individual Placement and Support scheme, which aims to get those with severe mental illness quickly into paid employment.

Mandatory work trials will be rolled out, meaning that claimants will be forced to accept a job or do work experience to improve their prospects, and those who fail to do so will be hit with “immediate sanction”.

Reform of the “fit note” system will also be explored under the plans. In a trial in certain, fit notes, an alternative to sick notes which set out what work someone can do, will be handed out by the benefits system, not doctors.

So, after receiving an order from the courts to make it easier for people with severe mental health problems to claim disability benefits, Stride and Hunt have chosen to make it many orders of magnitude harder.

And we can all see them:

The last of the ‘X’ posts above makes an extremely good point.

If these changes are being made in order to allow the government to make tax cuts in advance of a general election, then the Tories will once again be pushing the most vulnerable people in society to their deaths, to make already-comfortable people a little better-off.

Are you disabled or suffering from a long-term sickness? Do you want to die to boost the bank account of someone who is already wealthy?

Are you a Tory voter? Do you have sick or disabled relatives and/or friends?

Which of them do you want to see die, so you get a tax cut that will induce you to vote Tory again?


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Sick and disabled people are dying while trying to claim benefits; Tory press calls them ‘scroungers’ again

A cartoonist’s view of government sickness and disability assessments; ministers set the bar at an impossibly high level.

The Conservatives seem to have launched another attack on sickness and disability benefit claimants – labelling them as “scroungers” again, even though many are dying before they even receive state payments – due to the Kafka-esque assessment process.

Tory lickspittle Andrew Pierce has published a poison pen piece in the Daily Hate Mailaimed at whipping up division between claimants and the rest of the population.

It’s a classic Tory “divide and rule” tactic, that was deployed to devastating effect during the years of the Coalition government. It comes out whenever the government needs to distract people away from its own shortcomings.

So, for example, today you could be asking why the Conservatives ignored warnings that schools built with RAAC concrete were falling down – for 13 years – and only started doing something about it after collapses came to public attention. The Tory answer to that is: “Look at those skiving benefit scroungers!”

The reality isn’t remotely similar to Tory Boy Pierce’s claim.

The reality is that people claiming sickness and disability benefits often die before they receive a penny, because the system already works very hard to deprive them of it – as Labour MP Debbie Abrahams pointed out in a Westminster Hall debate earlier this week:

If a coroner writes a ‘Prevention of Future Death’ report, it means they believe a death could have been prevented but the circumstances in which the deceased had been placed – in this case, a benefit claim process that is so complicated and obstructive that it not only discourages claimants but depresses them and further harms their physical health – actually contributed to or caused their death.

Obviously, if we have a claim process that is actually harming or killing claimants, it should be impossible to suggest that they are lazy scroungers; a lazy scrounger would not put him- or herself through the trial of such a procedure because it would not be worth the hassle.

And the underlying reality is that prime minister Rishi Sunak and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride want to make the Work Capability Assessment harsher, in order to force a million sick and disabled people back onto the jobs market.

They’re not doing this because those people are actually fit for work and shouldn’t be on benefits.

They’re doing it because more people looking for work means employers can pay less; if a job applicant wants more than employers are willing to pay – like an actual living wage – they can refuse the application on the grounds that they can always find someone else who will take the lower payment.

But you won’t see that fact in one of Tory Boy’s hate screeds.


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The Tyranny of Tickboxes – How the U.K. government is escalating its war on disability rights in 2023 | Black Triangle Campaign

Here’s an article that’s well worth reading – but This Site won’t re-publish much of it here because the information has already been covered by Vox Political elsewhere.

For now, let’s limit ourselves to this:

After years of the war on the poor,worsening mental health, increasing mass hunger and suicides, the UK government has announced a further round of attacks. Two measures stand out.

There will be more benefit sanctions, where benefits are stopped if people are deemed to have failed to look for work. This will add to the over 2 million food parcels a year currently needed. It will also push more vulnerable people into taking their own lives.

And the main test for Employment and Support Allowance will be abolished. If this had been done out of a belated recognition of the harm these tests have caused in the lives of millions of people, it would be a good step. It is not. Instead, the feared Work Capability Test will be replaced by something even worse: the kind of test currently used for another benefit – Personal Independence Payment or PIP.

It is notoriously difficult to pass the PIP test, and be awarded benefits, especially if your main disability is a mental health issue.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that 1 million people will be deprived of benefits because of the extension of the PIP test into assessments for ESA.

The scene is being set for all the harm already done by ‘Welfare Reform’ to be added to massively.  

We have beaten such changes before and it is entirely possible to do so again.

Expect a new wave of information detailing how that can happen – starting soon.

Source: The Tyranny of Tickboxes – How the U.K. government is escalating its war on disability rights in 2023 – Black Triangle Campaign


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Ending the Work Capability Assessment means the end of its good features too

Smug: Jeremy Hunt’s decision to end the Work Capability Assessment could endanger the lives and well-being of many thousands of sick and disabled people. It isn’t even likely to get more of them into jobs.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement – that the Work Capability Assessment for people claiming long-term sickness benefits is ending – provoked a strong knee-jerk reaction from many of us.

It is good that this tick-box assessment that has led to many thousands of wrong decisions (including in the case of the now-legendary Mrs Mike) is to fall out of use.

But we’re now starting to look at the underlying consequences – and some of them are not good, as a letter to The Guardian has stated:

The WCA has features that it is important to retain. One is the right of appeal to an independent tribunal. By contrast, there is no judicial oversight of decisions about work-related requirements made by work coaches; the new proposals leave claimants at the mercy of Department for Work and Pensions officials with no medical training.

Another is the regulation whereby someone who does not otherwise satisfy the criteria can be exempted from work if there is a substantial risk that working would harm their health. There is no equivalent provision in the rules for personal independence payment (Pip), the disability benefit that would serve as the passport to the health-related top-up.

The government’s proposals leave many questions unaddressed: about people too ill to work who don’t meet the criteria for Pip; people on contributory benefit, rather than universal credit; people with short-term conditions, not covered by Pip. Confusions and omissions abound. I can think of better uses for white paper.

In addition, I am told that the ESA regulations of 2008 included sections 29 and 35, which allowed GPs to deem a patient ‘unfit for work’. That is no longer included in the government’s new proposal.

Put it all together and we see that decisions on whether a person should be seeking work or not are to be removed from anybody with specialist understanding of the issues and denied judicial oversight.

People who may be endangered by being forced to seek, or go to, work will have their future decided by unqualified civil servants and will have no opportunity to seek reconsideration.

This is not an improvement. It is an escalation of the danger to the UK’s most vulnerable people.

Expect many deaths – and when they happen, blame Hunt.


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Tory benefit changes mean around 1m people may be forced into work they can’t do

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

The Tories are bringing this nightmare back again.

Jeremy Hunt’s Budget announcement that he is ending the Work Capability Assessment has turned out not to be the relief so many benefit claimants with long-term illnesses thought it would be.

He is ending the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity element of Universal Credit, meaning that people who received it may now have to seek work under the new Personal Independence Payment system.

They’ll need to claim the new UC health element, and to do that they must also be eligible for Personal Independence Payment – and under this system they may also be required to seek work or accept job offers.

Additionally, assessments will now be carried out by work coaches from the Department for Work and Pensions, rather than the (so-called) health professionals who currently carry out the much-maligned WCAs.

There are fears that these civil servants will not have the proper training to identify claimants’ conditions and needs, and may be set target numbers of people they have to try to force into work, which they will impose on disabled people.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank has estimated that a million people could be forced into work and 600,000 could lose an estimated £350 per month in support as a result of the change.

Hunt has been up-front about the intention behind the change: it’s to push people into work who would not otherwise have sought it.

The problem is that it may push people into work who simply cannot do it.

Experience has shown us what happens when the government forces people with long-term illnesses and disabilities to seek work:

They are rejected by employers – or find that they simply cannot do the work. Unsuitable for employment, and unable to claim benefits, they either starve to death or die of their health conditions.

We have seen it before – many times, in the years since the Tories came back into office in 2010.

It is scandalous that Jeremy Hunt is talking up a change that may make unendurable the lives of people who are already among the UK’s most vulnerable.

Source: Disability benefit changes: ‘My disability means I cannot work but I worry I’ll be forced to by the new rules’


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Government’s role in death of benefit claimant to be examined in new inquest

Jodey Whiting: death by DWP?

The role of the Department for Work and Pensions in the death of former Employment and Support Allowance claimant Jodey Whiting is to be examined after the Court of Appeal approved a second inquest.

The decision follows representations by solicitors Leigh Day, and I’ll let them explain:

Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove, has been fighting for five years to have a second inquest into Jodey’s death to examine the role of the DWP.

The Court ruled that it is desirable in the interests of justice for a new inquest to be held to investigate how Jodey came by her death in light of new evidence Joy obtained after the first inquest into Jodey’s death.

The Court found that it was not only desirable for Joy and her family to have an inquest into Jodey’s death at which they could invite a Coroner to make findings about the role of the DWP’s failings in Jodey’s death, but also that the public at large has a “legitimate interest” in this investigation being carried out.

On the specific facts of the case, the Court of Appeal rejected the argument that the DWP owed Jodey a legal obligation to protect her life (within the meaning of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights) under the Human Rights Act.

Jodey took her own life aged 42 on February 21, 2017. She had multiple physical and mental illnesses which left her housebound and entirely reliant on welfare benefits. She died a fortnight after her benefits were terminated because she did not attend a Work Capability Assessment. At the time of the assessment, Jodey was housebound with pneumonia, had been in hospital, and had found out that she had a cyst on the brain.

Since Jodey’s death, her mother, Joy Dove, has fought tirelessly for a second inquest into her death so that the role of the DWP can be examined. The first inquest into Jodey’s death lasted only 37 minutes and the coroner refused to consider the role of the DWP.

In the years since the first inquest, new evidence has come to light, including an investigation into the handling of Jodey’s benefits by the DWP and a report from an independent consultant psychiatrist, who concluded that it is likely Jodey’s mental state would have been substantially affected by the DWP’s failings.

The Court of Appeal judgment notes that it is accepted by the DWP that its failings in Jodey’s case “were extensive, both before and after it stopped her benefits with effect from 7 February 2017.” It went on to explain that the Court’s ruling that the DWP did not owe Jodey a legal obligation under Article 2 is “not to ignore the multiple failings on the part of the Department. The Department accepts that individuals within the Department failed to follow the relevant systems and policies at crucial points.”

The judgment explains that the new evidence which was crucial to the decision to order a new inquest was Dr Turner’s evidence that “Jodey would have experienced shock and distress at the withdrawal of her welfare benefits and that the effect would have been heightened by her current difficulties, her isolation and her pain”. It explains that a new inquest is desirable because it is appropriate for a coroner consider, based on Dr Turner’s evidence, whether it is appropriate to record “any link or connection between the withdrawal of the welfare benefits and her mental state in the period leading up to Jodey’s death”.

It is hoped that a date for the new inquest will be set soon and that the DWP will be made an Interested Person in the inquest. The family hope that the inquest will consider the failings of the DWP, as identified by the independent investigation, and the effects of these failings on Jodey’s mental state, including whether or not the failings more than minimally contributed to Jodey’s death.

Joy Dove said:

“I am so pleased and grateful to the Court of Appeal and I would like to thank the Court of Appeal judges that considered Jodey’s case. We buried Jodey just over six years ago and finally my family and I have the chance of getting justice for Jodey.

“Jodey is never going to be forgotten and her death was not in vain, she’s helping others and her legacy will live on. We have always believed that the DWP wrongly stopping Jodey’s benefits caused her death and the High Court’s refusal caused such disappointment not just for me and my family, but others too who have lost loved ones after DWP mistakes and who continue to fight for accountability from the DWP. This is a victory not just for us but for all those families and others still on the receiving end of awful treatment by the DWP. I hope the DWP learn from their tragic failings.”

Merry Varney, partner at Leigh Day, added:

“Today’s unanimous ruling from the court of appeal means finally Joy and her family have the opportunity for the role of shocking failings by the DWP in the death of much loved Jodey to be publicly investigated, and the Court of Appeal has rightly underlined the importance of this not just to Jodey’s family, but to the wider public.

“Inquests play a vital role in exposing unsafe practices and risks to future lives, and today’s Judgement, rejecting arguments made by the Coroner and overturning the decision of the High Court, makes it abundantly clear that Coroners can and indeed sometimes should be investigating more than the immediate cause of death regardless of whether the right to life is engaged.”

Joy is represented by Jeremy Hyam KC of 1 Crown Office Row and Jesse Nicholls of Matrix Chambers and her case is funded by legal aid.

Timeline

  • In late 2016 the DWP began to reassess Jodey’s entitlement to Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Jodey requested a home visit as she rarely left the house due to her health and she made clear in her reply that she had “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.
  • Despite this, the DWP decided that Jodey should attend a work capability assessment in January which Jodey did not attend and on 6 February 2017 the DWP decide to stop the fortnightly ESA payments which Jodey relied on from 17 February.
  • Jodey with the help of her family wrote to the DWP explaining the severity of her health conditions and asking them to reconsider their decision to terminate her ESA, but this did not happen until after her death.
  • Jodey also then received letters to inform her that her housing benefit and council tax benefit would be stopped because they were linked to her ESA.
  • Just three days after her last ESA payment, on the 21 February, Jodey took her own life.
  • On 24 May 2017 an inquest was held into Jodey’s death at Teesside Coroner’s Court.
  • Jodey’s family initially wrote to the Attourney General in January 2020 to seek his permission to apply to the High Court for a second inquest.
  • This was granted and the application to the High Court was submitted in December 2020.
  • In June 2021 the DWP was given permission to have a limited role in making submissions to the court about the second inquest application.
  • In September 2021 the High Court ruled that that the new evidence that had come to light since the first inquest did not require a fresh inquest to be held in the interests of justice.
  • Joy sought permission to appeal that decision on 1 Oct 2021 but this was refused on 11 October 2021
  • An application to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal was submitted on 2 November 2021 and permission was granted on 5 October 2022
  • On January 31 and February 1 2023 the Court of Appeal heard Joy’s arguments for the appeal.

So: no date for the new inquest – yet. This Site will try to keep you informed.


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Why are top-rate taxpayers able to claim benefits from April under means-testing Tories?

Rishi Sunak: he likes giving money to rich people who don’t need it as much as the poor people he ignores.

I have a question. Read what follows and when you get to the end, I’ll tell you what it is:

From next month, people will start to pay the 45p rate of income tax when they earn more than £125,000 – down from £150,000 at the moment.

The change was announced by the Chancellor in November.

The reduction means many people paying the top rate of tax will still be eligible for Universal Credit (UC), according to an analysis by Policy in Practice, a consultancy group.

They found that people earning up to £148,000 could technically be allowed to claim UC if they had children, rented and had high childcare costs.

My question refers to the fact that the Conservative government means-tests people claiming most benefits. Forgive me if there’s a really obvious reason that I’ve missed. It is this:

Why are people with £16k in savings denied money they need to live, but those earning almost as much per month can now claim benefits on top of that cash?

Source: Top rate taxpayers to be able to claim benefits from April after Jeremy Hunt reduced threshold


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SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook