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What is the matter with everyone? Have we all suddenly decided we’re entitled to treat other people like dirt?
Are we copying our government’s behaviour – for example, to the unemployed and disabled?
Or is there another, underlying reason?
The latest organisation revealed to have been hit by the abuse epidemic is the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which employs driving examiners, vehicle testers and roadside enforcement staff.
Between April 2016 and March this year, more than 300 staff suffered physical or verbal abuse while doing their jobs – an increase of more than 50 per cent on the previous year.
According to the organisation, attacks on staff have included:
• verbal abuse and death threats;
• damaging staff cars and offices;
• serious physical assaults;
• lorry drivers trying to run DVSA enforcement cars off the road; and
• failed driving test candidates driving off with their examiner still in the car, against their will.
The DVSA is launching a campaign to stop the abuse, which it describes as “completely unacceptable”.
At driving test centres, learner drivers who swear at or verbally abuse staff will be forced to:
•use a different test centre the next time they take a test; and
•take future tests with an extra supervisor present.
Anyone who threatens or assaults examiners, drives off with an examiner still in the car, or damages DVSA property will:
•be reported to the police; and
•face the strongest possible penalties.
Although it is extremely rare, driving instructors sometimes try to influence the results of a driving test by harassing or threatening examiners. They face being:
•banned from specific driving test centres;
•removed from the approved driving instructor register.
At the roadside, at operator sites or authorised testing centres, DVSA will:
•record any abuse from commercial drivers and vehicle operators as evidence for any investigation by the traffic commissioners – they have the power to suspend or take away driving licences and operator licences; and
•report serious incidents to the police.
In some busy sites, enforcement staff are starting to trial body-worn cameras to capture evidence of abuse.
There’s no excuse for abuse against people who are simply trying to make our roads safer.
But is this campaign a good idea? Or does it go too far?
Your opinions are invited.
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1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
The staffing agency will be sold off with the aim of creating a ‘profitable business model’ [Image: Rui Vieira/PA].
Wasn’t the NHS criticised recently for being too reliant on agency staff instead of permanent employees?
Yet now the Conservative Government intends to privatise the main provider of agency staff, in order to create a “profitable business model”.
And the quality of service doesn’t enter anywhere into the Tory calculations.
This is because a nationalised service like the NHS – used as a necessity by millions of people – is an automatic money-maker.
The aim is clearly to rip off patients by providing the worst possible care for the highest possible price to the health service…
… and then claim the service is failing and push it further towards complete privatisation.
But it seems nobody with a vote wants to accept that fairly obvious fact. Why?
The Government is to privatise the NHS’s in-house, publicly-owned provider of agency staff, ministers have announced.
NHS Professionals, the health service’s main staffing agency, provides 90,000 health workers to around a quarter of NHS trusts, covering two million shifts a year.
In a written statement issued on Thursday as most MPs headed back to their constituencies, the Government announced it would sell off a majority stake in the orgnaisation to the private sector with the aim of “creating a profitable business model”.
The facts about health service pay: If NHS Wales is having to employ agency staff, perhaps it is because the Conservative Government does not provide enough funding for NHS employees. Maybe this is why so many have been lured abroad by higher pay and better standards of living.
A Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Conservatives has revealed that NHS Wales had to spend £190 million on agency doctors and nurses in the last four years. Shame on NHS Wales, right?
Well, no. This merely demonstrates the cack-handed way the Conservatives have been running the health service since taking office as part of the Coalition Government in 2010.
Does anybody remember reports last year that the Conservative-led Coalition Government had dumped 4,000 senior nurses since 2010, considering them to be “disposable” and “a quick way to save money”?
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said at the time: “We are facing a Europe-wide shortage of nursing staff and the last thing the NHS should be doing at this time is treating its highly experienced staff as disposable.
“We need to be doing everything we can to retain the skills we have in the NHS rather than using them as a quick and easy way to make savings.”
These words clearly fell on deaf ears in the Department of Health, which continued to cut nursing staff. Cuts in health spending in England are mirrored, via the Barnett formula, in funding provided to the devolved health services elsewhere in the UK, meaning that the Welsh Government has had to reduce money provided for other services in order to address the cut in spending – and service standard – caused by Tory changes.
That has taken several years to accomplish – as this blog has made clear in previous articles. The Westminster government’s grant to Wales has been cut by a massive 10 per cent since 2010.
And what has happened to our highly-qualified NHS staff members in the meantime? It seems they have been attracted abroad by foreign health services that treat their workforce with more respect.
Vox Political commenter karenmarieuk, responding to a recent article, told us: “My daughter now lives in South Africa and is treated by British staff at both her GP surgery and her local hospital.”
She asked: “Why do our health care professionals have to emigrate to earn the respect they deserve? Our nursing staff are canvassed regularly by Australia, being offered incentives such as housing and vastly improved lifestyles as well as pay that puts the UK to shame! This is just one country from many.
“When, I wonder, will the UK stop this mass exodus and try keeping staff here?”
When indeed? Never, under a Conservative government.
The Welsh Tories have shot themselves in the foot (again) with their ridiculous claims following this FoI request. The total amount spent on agency staff by NHS Wales comes to 1/120 of funding every year, to be compared with the 10 per cent cut from Conservative and Conservative-led Westminster governments.
Conservative politics has caused the problem, not a Labour-run health service.
“I’ve argued for many years that far too much money given to these agencies, fails to reach the people the organisations purport to aid,” she writes. “I’ve even disappointed my 84 year old mum, who readers know I adore, when I refuse to buy the raffle tickets she receives twice a year, regular as clockwork, from several of these orgs. For me the Top ‘Charities’ no longer qualify as such, and it’s time for the Charities Commission to do its job and remove this status, lets call them what they are Big Businesses.
“I worked in the voluntary sector for many years, providing a real service to local people. Such projects are run by regular people, who find themselves forced to battle with these multi-million pound companies, in their efforts to raise less money than Stroke pay for fund-raising to keep their service going. I do not believe this is Right and I’m not convinced people who donate hard earned money, expect it to go to the same company who then hassle them by calling them at home with a Hard Sell?”
Nothing more to say: This Tax Credits advert was intended to warn people to keep up-to-date with information they send HMRC about their claim; now it seems the message is much simpler – they want to stop paying you anyway.
This government scares the s**t out me. I don’t know how much more stress I can take now. It has gone beyond anything like “austerity” or “in it together” rhetoric and is now a witch hunt against the poor or low earners, sick and disabled – even going as far as blaming us for our own predicament.
We have seen our family income go from £800 from my other half’s wage back in 2009 to just under £350 now, due to successive redundacies. He works and has never had any unemployment in the past 12 years, and yet each time he calls tax credits to say there is a change in our income they lower the award (ha! thats a rich term for it now, its garbage to call it an award) based on his predicted income, even though its gone down and down.
Last year he worked overtime for two weeks, got paid an extra £20 in the month and they hammered us by cutting his Working Tax Credits by £30 a week for the entire year! He recently got made redundant again and is now working two temp jobs (one of which is zero hours) and he has got hours bouncing around all over the joint. Family life has been shot to s**t, and when he rang Tax Credits to tell them they just said, “Oh well, as long as it’s over the 24 a week you are okay.”
Today they shoved some money in the bank. He rang to ask what the hell it was for; they can’t tell him because “We haven’t had the renewal paperwork in.” For goodness’ sake, we just wanted to know what this extra money is, it’s not rocket science! The guy refused to tell us!
My other half had to use it to pay bills because his wages were short due to the zero hour contract job changing how they pay wages now – because of that stupid pension scheme c**p the government forced on everyone. Even though he already has one from his previous job, this company took money for their pension and said they wouldnt pay into his! Oh, and because his old employer forgot to send his P45, he had to pay emergency tax as well!
We can’t do this any more. The stress of him working two jobs, my disability, and having children is driving a wedge between us. One of our children has autism, and I am struggling to maintain a routine that they desperately need – and I can’t. The other half is now on National Minimum Wage for both crappy jobs; both want exclusivity out of him and now keep rostering him on during the other job’s time. Both knew he had a second job when they took him on, and now we find out that tax credits can send debt collectors and bailiffs around for money they say anyone owes, just like that.
I wish to god Tony Blair had not invented tax credits, because it gives employers a get-out clause for paying decent wages. I can’t get hospital transport fees out of the NHS for trips I have had to make and even though they were claimed within the time allowed – no payment has been forthcoming because “it’s too late now” for them to pay out. I have another appointment in two weeks’ time which I have to cancel as I cant get there, because my other half can’t take time off work from either job – and my physio is about to strike me off for the same reason.
I am sick of this mess; we dont deserve this, and if we find out Tax Credits have overpaid us as well I don’t know what we would do. We have an income of less than average and we pay our own rent; we don’t claim Housing Benefit because the council stuffs it up and we get into arrears so we manage on our own.
We claim less of what we are entitled to because I am scared they will want it back, and now they are playing this game with tax credits.
I don’t want to be punished any more for being disabled, a parent or married. I have had enough of being poor and scared. All I want is for my other half to have a decent job with a decent wage, and there is nothing out there now.
There’s more than a little of the piscine about the fact that our Conservative-led has set debt collection agencies onto poor families who have been overpaid tax credit due to errors made by HM Revenue and Customs.
Firstly, the move undermines the principle behind the tax credit system – that it is there to ensure that poorly-paid families may still enjoy a reasonable living standard. Tax credits are paid on an estimate of a person’s – or family’s – income over a tax year and the last Labour government, knowing that small variances could cause problems for Britain’s poorest, set a wide buffer of £25,000 before households had to pay anything back.
By cutting this buffer back to £5,000, the Conservatives have turned this safety net into a trap. Suddenly the tiniest overpayment can push households into a debt spiral, because their low incomes mean it is impossible to pay back what the government has arbitrarily decided they now owe.
And the sharks are circling. Instead of collecting the debt on its own behalf, HMRC has sold it on to around a dozen debt collection agencies who are harassing the families involved with constant telephone calls, mobile phone messages and letters to their homes.
In total, HMRC made 215,144 referrals to debt collectors in 2013-14. Of the working families involved, 118,000 earned less than £5,000 per year.
This takes us to our second area of concern. Remember how the Department for Work and Pensions has been encouraging people – particularly the disabled – to declare themselves as self-employed in order to avoid the hassle and harassment that now go hand in hand with any benefit claim? You know – the refusal of benefits based on arbitrary ‘descriptors’ that were originally devised by a criminal insurance company as a means to minimise payouts, and the constant threat of sanctions that would cut off access to benefits for up to three years unless claimants manage to clear increasingly difficult obstacles.
Both of these circumstances are likely to lead to a verdict of overpayment by HMRC, as the self-employment reported by these people is likely to be fictional, or to provide less than required by the rules – either in terms of hours worked or income earned.
Suddenly their debt is sold to a collection agency and they are suffering government-sponsored harassment, alarm and distress (which is in fact illegal) far beyond anything they received from the DWP; debt collection agencies are not part of the government and, as Dame Anne Begg pointed out in the Independent article on this subject, “The tactics they use to collect the debt are not tactics a government should use.”
Maybe not. So why employ such tactics?
Let’s move on to our third, and final, worry. By setting sharks on the hundreds of thousands of minnows caught in the government’s trawler-net (that was formerly a safety net – and I apologise for the mixed metaphor), the Tory-led administration is creating a handy distraction from the huge, bloated, offshore-banking whales who donate heavily into Conservative Party funds and who are therefore never likely to be pursued for the billions of pounds in unpaid taxes that they owe.
The government has promised to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance, but ministers would have to be out of their minds to attack the bankers and businesspeople who pay for their bread and butter.
Not happy with its attempt to sell your health details to private companies, the moneygrubbing Conservative-led Coalition wants to sell off your personal tax data to companies, researchers and public bodies.
The government is considering how much to charge for the information, and claims that all data accessed by third parties will be “confidential”.
But the public has already been stung once by the Coalition’s incompetent attempts to go commercial. The proposed initiative to share NHS medical records with the private sector had to be suspended after a public outcry over “pseudonymised” data – a process by which medical records were said to be anonymous but it was in fact possible to trace exactly whose they were.
The plans for HM Revenue and Customs to share its data are, apparently, being overseen by Treasury minister David Gauke, whose relaxed attitude towards private firms led him to sign off on the infamous “sweetheart deals” that allowed multinational companies to keep billions of pounds of tax that they owed to the Treasury but didn’t want to pay.
Worse still, it turns out the government has already allowed private firms access to our data.
The government has strict rules about what can be released outside HMRC, with a near total ban on data sharing unless it is beneficial for the organisation’s internal work. But according to The Guardian, despite the restrictions, HMRC has quietly launched a pilot programme that has released data about VAT registration for research purposes to three private credit ratings agencies: Experian, Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet.
To comply with the law, the private ratings agencies, which determine credit scores for millions of people and businesses, have been contracted to act on behalf of HMRC and are “therefore treated as part of the department” – giving them access to tax data about businesses that would otherwise be confidential.
The government’s plans to change the law to allow the sale of anonymised individual tax data and release of the VAT register were buried in documents as part of the autumn statement and recent budget.
An HMRC spokesman told the BBC: “HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place.
“Last year’s consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment.
“Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information.”
So there. Do you feel better now?
Emma Carr, deputy director of civil rights campaign group, Big Brother Watch, doesn’t. She said: “The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification.
“Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy.”
Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told The Guardianthe information could be highly useful to credit rating agencies, advertisers, and retailers wanting to practise price discrimination.
“This is going to be a big battleground,” he said. “If they were to make HMRC information more available, there’s an awful lot of people who would like to get their hands on it. Anonymisation is something about which they lied to us over medical data … If the same thing is about to be done by HMRC, there should be a much greater public debate about this.”
It seems the Conservatives in the Coalition are determined to sell information that doesn’t belong to them, and intend to grind us down with a relentless bombardment of initiatives and plans until they succeed.
They seem to by relying on the possibility that we will get ‘complaint fatigue’ and give up any protests. This is how they have beaten disabled people into submission to the draconian system for withdrawing state benefits from them; the system for appealing is drawn-out and convoluted, and many people with illnesses are too tired or weak to go through the process.
Also, this is another way of contracting-out government work to private firms, as evidenced by the VAT “research” that has been handed over to credit ratings agencies.
You can be sure of two things: Your data is not safe in their hands, and they won’t stop trying to sell it until they have been pushed out of government.
Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds – because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.
Confidential information on NHS patients has been sold to insurance companies who used it in combination with information from credit rating agencies to identify customers and “refine” their premiums – increasing the costs of policies for thousands of customers, despite all the Tory-led government’s assurances to the contrary.
“As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year.”
The revelation comes only days after plans to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England were put on hold amid a public outcry.
The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.
The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.
From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations.
Only last Friday the BBC was reporting that critics of the scheme were “scaremongering”.
The Corporation – which has failed to report the new development – quoted Tory MP George Freeman, founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies (and not patients, apparently) as follows: “We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine.”
Vox Political has made it clear from the outset that this is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you. Now we have proof.
NHS England has delayed compiling the new database of English NHS patients until the autumn. You could help sink the scheme altogether, if you don’t want your government – and your NHS – to sell your information into the wrong hands. Just opt out of the data sharing scheme, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.
Make no mistake – the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have betrayed you.
They have already sold hospital patients’ information to insurance companies, and there can be no doubt that the intention is to do the same with GPs’ confidential records, with a consequential increase in insurance costs to people across the country.
They are turning your beloved National Health Service into an insurance-based scheme, on the same lines as the vastly more expensive American system.
They have been lying to you.
They intend to profit from selling your information – to companies that intend to profit by using it against you.
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Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?
You do realise what David Cameron means when he says he wants to re-negotiate our membership of the European Union, don’t you?
For a start, he means he wants to abolish laws that protect the human rights your ancestors fought tooth and nail to win for you.
He won’t make any deals in your interest. That’s not in his nature.
If he gets his way, you could lose the right to:
Written terms and conditions of work, and a job description – and the right to the same terms and conditions if transferred to a different employer.
Four weeks’ paid leave from work per year.
Not be sacked for being pregnant, or for taking time off for ante-natal appointments.
Come back to work after maternity leave, on the same pay, terms and conditions as before the leave started.
Health and safety protection for pregnant women, new and breastfeeding mothers.
Equal treatment for workers employed through an agency.
Tea and lunch breaks during the working day for anyone working six hours or more
One day off per week.
Time off for urgent family reasons.
In addition, Cameron could relieve employeers of the legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including undertaking risk assessments, acting to minimise risks, informing workers of risks, and consulting on health and safety with employees and their representatives. In his cost-cutting brave new Britain you’d just have to take your chances.
Health and safety representatives from trade unions could lose the right to ask employers to make changes in order to protect workers’ health and safety, and they would lose their protection against unfair treatment by their employer for carrying out their duties in relation to this.
The ban on forcing children less than 13 years of age into work could be lost, along with the limit on the hours children aged 13 or more and young people can work.
Children who could then be forced into work, regardless of the effect on their education, would have no rules protecting their health and safety, and the rules that say they can only be employed doing “light work” could also be abolished.
Protection from discrimination or harassment at work on grounds of gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation – direct or indirect – could be dropped.
And the right of disabled people to expect their employers to make reasonable adjustments for them at work could also be abolished.
These are just your rights at work!
Cameron himself has said, as leader of the Opposition: “I do not believe it is appropriate for social and employment legislation to be dealt with at the European level. It will be a top priority for the next Conservative government to restore social and employment legislation to national control.”
And as Prime Minister: “Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.”
To find out what he meant by those words, we must turn to the former leader of the British Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, who said: “One of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to … scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs in Europe.”
Of course, they distort the facts. These rules aren’t barriers to employing people at all; they are structures within which people may be employed responsibly.
The Tories want to ban responsibility in the workplace. They want a return to dangerous employment conditions, abuse of workers and the removal of any legal protection from such abuse that they may have.
They will tear apart your rights at work.
So, if you are living in the UK and you’ve got a job, please take a moment to consider what this means for you. You might agree with the Coalition on its benefits policy that has led to thousands of deaths of sick and disabled people; you might agree with its bedroom tax and too-low benefit cap that has led to a rapid rise in debt and homelessness among the unemployed and those on low wages.
But now you know they’re coming for you, too.
What are you going to do about it?
Are you going to sit on your thumbs and do nothing – just meekly wait for them to rock up and tell you they’ve abolished all your rights at work and you can now go and slave for them in appalling conditions with absolutely no legal protection at all?
In other words, when it’s you that’s threatened, are you going to let it happen, just like you let it happen to the sick, disabled, unemployed and low-waged?
Or are you going to take action and make a difference?
It doesn’t take much. You could write to David Cameron and to your MP at the House of Commons. You could email them – just look up the addresses on They Work For You, or you could add your name to the letter being created by Unions Together. Yes, I know Mr Cameron says the unions are a bad thing, but in this case the enemy of your enemy is your friend.
As the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Glenis Willmott MEP, says: “Our rights at work are not ‘red tape’ to be slashed away. Don’t let Cameron and the Tories get away with this great European scam.”
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