Tag Archives: Brian McArdle

The sickening facts behind the Tory lie that they are helping people with long-term illnesses

zken-loach-common-good-private-greedIt took a while, but Greg Clark, Tory minister for de-industrialisation, eventually had to resort to his party’s agreed line on the film I, Daniel Blake, in the face of a barrage of fact-based analysis from the film’s director, Ken Loach.

“It is a fictional film,” he told a BBC Question Time audience in Gloucester. “People… should not think these are the ways people are behaving.”

I beg to differ – and so do members of the great British public who have actually experienced the benefit system.

People are terrified of taking the work capability assessment (WCA), for reasons mentioned on This Blog only a few days ago.

In that article, I asked readers to send in their own stories, and it seems – despite Tory protestations that they have improved the system – that people really are being treated cruelly. “Teasing” – the word Mr Loach used – is the wrong description for it.

One person who was tested in July this year was stripped of ESA for reasons including appearing to “hear his name called in the waiting room”.

So suddenly every WCA is a Catch-22. If you don’t attend, your claim will be cancelled – but if you do attend, you are fit for work and your claim will be cancelled?

Another respondent explained that her husband took the assessment in February this year. He is unable to comment himself as he died on July 31 after his benefit was cut. The assessor told him he looked well, despite the fact that his skin was so thin it was possible to see the definition of his skull beneath his face.

One more? “Classic from my WCA (shortly after my father died of a massive brain haemhorrage and whilst my brother was in hospital on a life support machine after a brain haemhorrage): ‘She enjoys an active social life visiting her brother in hospital on a regular basis.’ Between those two events I had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable and untreatable disease I knew little about and hadn’t even been assessed by NHS at that point. ‘She has no mental health problems’ – I was clinging on by my fingertips.”

Are you angry yet?

What do you think of Tory Greg’s claim that work capability assessors don’t behave as Mr Loach asserts in his film (Daniel Blake is told he is fit for work and forced to apply for a succession of jobs he must then turn down – because he is not fit enough)?

What do you think of the fact that Tory Greg was quoting the Conservative Government’s agreed line about the film – that it is just a work of fiction?

And if you voted Conservative last year or in 2010, what do you think of the fact that your vote supported the torture (and in many cases, death) of your fellow UK citizens – who have committed no crime, and whose misfortune could happen to you at any time?

In the film, Daniel Blake’s suffering at the hands of the DWP is the result of a heart attack. In real life, 53-year-old Stephen Hill was found fit for work, while he was waiting for major heart surgery. He died of a heart attack one month later.

Or how about Brian McArdle, 57 years old, who suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped?

Or David Groves, 56 years old. He died of a heart attack the night before he would have taken his work capability assessment. His widow claimed the stress killed him.

These are just three similar cases. The WCA dead number in their thousands – and that’s just those that are known.

Stephen Hill’s death would not have been recorded by the DWP because it happened too long after his benefits were stopped.

And the Tories tell you, this is just a work of fiction. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.

Are you angry now?

If not now, when?

It will be too late to be angry when you’re dead too.

Director Ken Loach has condemned the Government for overseeing a culture of “conscious cruelty” in the way it docks people’s benefits.

[The] film-maker hit out at the Government’s benefits regime and fit-to-work tests, which leaves people “living in fear”, when appearing on the BBC’s Question Time [after the release of his film I, Daniel Blake, about about a man’s struggle with the welfare system].

[Mr] Loach made clear he believes sanctions placed on benefits claimants – where the part or all of the payment is docked – are deliberately cruel.

He said: “People are living in fear, and it’s an absolutely intolerable way to live. There’s a conscious cruelty to the way the benefits system is being imposed. The Tory Government knows exactly what it is doing.”

He added: “We know that the Government knows it’s wrong because if you appeal against the assessment you will almost certainly win. They know they are teasing people in a very cruel way.

“When you’re sanctioned your life is forced into chaos and people are going to food banks – there was 1.1 million people getting food parcels. People who would starve otherwise.”

He concluded: “How can we live in a society where hunger is used as a weapon?”

Asked by host David Dimbleby why the Labour Party was in Opposition and trailing in the polls if the Tories were so bad, he blamed the rebellion by MPs who tried to force out Jeremy Corbyn.

He said: “It’s because the Parliamentary Labour Party has done it’s best to undermine its leader, that’s why. People won’t vote for a divided party.”

In response, the Tory Cabinet minister dismissed the account in ‘I, Daniel Blake’ as just a “fictional film”. He said: “Your film, Ken – it is a fictional film. And people seeing it should not think these are the ways people are behaving.”

Loach has said his team “talked to hundreds of people” at the DWP to create the story.

Source: Ken Loach On BBC Question Time Accuses Tory Government Of ‘Conscious Cruelty’ Over Benefits Sanctions | Huffington Post

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Shame of minister who refuses to accept link between benefit ‘reforms’ and deaths

Tarnished record: Mark Harper previously came to our attention when it was discovered that he dodged a £20,000 fine for employing an illegal migrant worker. Vox Political covered the story on August 7 this year. [Image: Political Scrapbook.]

Tarnished record: Mark Harper previously came to our attention when it was discovered that he dodged a £20,000 fine for employing an illegal migrant worker. Vox Political covered the story on August 7 this year. [Image: Political Scrapbook.]

The new Conservative minister for disabled people has insisted that his department is right to ignore reports of deaths linked to the loss or non-payment of disability benefits, according to the latest article from kittysjones.

It seems that, in an interview with the Disability News Service at last week’s Conservative conference, he said he did not accept that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should be collecting this information or trying to learn lessons from such deaths.

The article continues: “One disabled activist suggested last week that this failure could amount to criminal negligence, while Samuel Miller, a prominent disabled academic from Canada, said this week that DWP had ‘seriously breached its duty of care by ignoring benefit-related deaths’.

“But Harper said he did not ‘accept the premise’ that DWP should collect and analyse reports that suggest a disabled person’s death could have been linked to the non-payment or withdrawal of benefits.

“He said: ‘If somebody in those sort of cases, if someone has [a] mental health [condition] and then something happens, trying to disaggregate what was the cause I don’t think is as simple as you are trying to suggest.’

“When asked whether he accepted that any deaths had been caused, or even partly caused, by the loss or non-payment of benefits, he said: ‘Of the cases I have seen since I have been the minister where there have been allegations, when you look at the detail they are not as simple and straightforward as people are alleging.’

“But Harper did promise to ‘go back and look back at what processes we have in place to track cases’ and to look at the Freedom of Information Act response from DWP that led to the DNS story.

“There have been numerous reports of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to the employment and support allowance claim process, or the refusal of benefits, including the writer Paul Reekie, who killed himself in 2010, and the deaths of Nick Barker, Jacqueline Harris, Ms DE, and Brian McArdle.

“Many of the cases became widely-known through media reports of inquests, but in the case of Ms DE, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland concluded that the work capability assessment process and the subsequent denial of ESA was at least a ‘major factor in her decision to take her own life’.”

Of course this all goes back to the Freedom of Information requests submitted by Samuel Miller and others that prompted Yr Obdt Srvt to make the now-infamous “vexatious” request of June 2013. When it was refused on appeal to an information tribunal, Disability News Service submitted its own request.

A repeat request by Vox Political has since been refused on the grounds that the DWP intends to publish some or all of the information at an unspecified time in the future. These ‘section 22’ refusals must be supported by certain conditions which the DWP did not meet, and a reconsideration request has been met with stony silence (other than the acknowledgement of receipt), so once against it seems an appeal to the Information Commissioner (and possibly another tribunal hearing) will be necessary.

It’s all stalling tactics. The Conservatives in the government know that, if the true extent of the deaths becomes clear, the game will be up for them.

After all, who in their right mind would want to vote back into office an organisation that had just caused the deaths of anything up to or beyond 50,000* of their fellow citizens? Nobody would be safe under such a government.

Turning back to Mr Harper, independent disability researcher Mo Stewart has written to him with a stern rebuke that he will, no doubt, ignore. Here it is:

“Please be advised that the public are beginning to challenge why, historically, your predecessors don’t manage to remain in post for very long and I note your website continues with the government rhetoric whilst totally disregarding the human consequences of the austerity measures.

“I often wonder what exactly MPs mean when claiming that we are living in ‘difficult times for families’ when failing to take responsibility for the deaths and devastation you have clearly created, using cash as the only justification for the fact that ‘malnutrition’ is now regularly found in Coroners’ reports.  The poor, the sick and the disabled people of the UK didn’t create the banking crash Mr Harper, so why are you hurting them but refusing to publish the growing mortality rates of government policies?

“Please be advised that your defensive claims that that you do not “accept the premise” that the DWP should collate and analyse the many, many thousands of deaths now directly linked to the withdrawal of DWP benefits is tantamount to an abandonment of responsibility by the British government, it may well lead to charges of crimes against humanity once all the detailed and often disturbing evidence has been collated and analysed by other sources and the British government is already about to be investigated by the UN for the demonstrated human rights violations of disabled people.  All this whilst the UK faces the return of Victorian diseases linked to extremes of poverty….  That’s quite a track record this government has built up.

“With respect, you are not professionally qualified to assess these reported cases and regardless of if you admit it or not, high calibre REAL experts are now advising that: ‘…there is growing evidence that the draconian welfare reforms are irreparably damaging the mental and physical health of benefit claimants.’

“If someone is already surviving on a token income and the government reduce or remove it, with savage sanctions or by using a totally compromised ‘assessment’, how precisely do you expect these people to live, to eat or to survive when they are already the poorest in the land?

“Coroners don’t lie Mr Harper and the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland didn’t make up the case history when they concluded that a vicitm’s death was due to the impact of being ‘stripped of benefits.’   http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/03/woman-killed-herself-after-being-stripped-of-disability-benefit-says-watchdog/

“This question isn’t going to go away because DWP Ministers fear the public reaction if the figures of welfare reform related deaths are ever published.

“Now the DWP are attacking our older disabled veterans by threatening to remove the DLA of our War Pensioners, whilst the PM continues to wax lyrically at Conference about the debt this nation owes to our armed forces.  Unwise Mr Harper, very, very unwise.

“Release the mortality figures Mr Harper and don’t ever presume that we are about to stop asking for them.”

In addition to the above, it seems appropriate for Vox Political to reiterate:

Not only does the DWP have mortality statistics for benefit claimants, but it has them in a form that may be freely distributed to anybody asking for them, within the cost limits imposed by the Freedom of Information Act.

The only reason these numbers are not in the public domain is the fact that ministers like Mark Harper refuse to allow their release.

The only reason they have for refusing to release these figures – that makes any sense – is that they fear the consequences: Public shock and outrage.

That is not the response of a responsible government. It is the response of a gang of criminal killers who are terrified their misdeeds will be revealed.

*This is an estimate based on the known number of deaths related solely to a single benefit – Employment and Support Allowance – between January and November 2011.

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Will you support the day of action against Atos?

disabilitysuicides

Ordinary people around the UK will gather outside centres where Atos administers its work capability assessments on benefit claimants next month – to demand an end to the system that is continuing to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people across the country.

They will gather at 144 of the locations used by Atos to carry out the discredited assessments, under a contract written by the Department for Work and Pensions, on February 19.

It is known that 10,600 ESA/Incapacity Benefit claimants died within six weeks of their claim ending after Atos assessments between January and November 2011, although the DWP seems unwilling to divulge the percentage of those claims that ended because claimants were found fit for work by ATOS. Currently roughly one in four ‘fit for work’ decisions by ATOS is overturned at tribunal.

In July 2013, ATOS whistleblower Greg Wood lifted the lid on the toxic culture that existed within the organisation – carrying out assessments that were not fit for purpose, with huge pressure on assessors to fail ESA claimants. Dr Wood was shocked by the ineffectiveness of the assessment procedure.

A report from the Centre for Welfare Reform showed that informal targets were being set by ATOS which had assessors under pressure to fail around 65 per cent of claimants (Vox Political has estimated 70 per cent in the past).

A petition set up by campaign group WOW (The campaign against the ‘War on Welfare’), calling for an immediate halt to the Work Capability Assessment and an independent, committee-based inquiry into welfare reform – including the ATOS contract, excess claimant deaths and the disregarding of medical evidence in decision-making, gained more than 100,000 signatures. The WOW campaign is currently supported by 57 MPs and there is a commitment to debate the issue in the House of Commons.

Labour MP Hilary Benn said: “As the Labour opposition we have called ATOS a disgrace and said they should be sacked… The system needs to change.”

Labour Councillor Alison Lowe said simply, “I have no problem supporting this. The Government are evil and they don’t care about people who are poor.”

At the demonstrations on February 19, ordinary people will demand an apology from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Thierry Breton, chairman of Atos – not just the disabled, or opposition politicians, but anybody who believes that the Atos-run, DWP-devised assessment system is leading to the deaths of innocent people.

In particular, demonstrators will demand an apology to the families of benefit claimants who took their own lives following decisions made by ATOS, including: Iain Caress, Brian McArdle, David Coupe, Edward Jacques, Tim Salter, Nick Barker, Helen and Mark Mullins, and Paul Wilcoxson.

In Mid Wales, where Vox Political is based, the event will be at the Newtown Assessment Centre, St David’s Business Centre, St David’s House, New Road, Newtown, starting at 11am. Details are on Facebook here.

For readers elsewhere in the UK, details of events closer to you are on the UK Rebellion site and the Atos national demo Facebook page.

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DWP refuses to provide information on ESA/IB deaths. What is it hiding?

Brian McArdle. On the BBC's Question Time in November last year, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, "57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos."

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time in November last year, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”

Once bitten, twice shy – the DWP has refused to release an update to its figures on the deaths of people in receipt of incapacity benefits (including Employment and Support Allowance).

Long-term readers may recall there was quite a stir last year when these figures were released, showing that around 73 people were dying every week after having been denied ESA or put in the work-related activity group.

This was more than twice as many as the previously-accepted figure of 32 people every week (which was still scandalous).

I received word of the cover-up last night, from Samuel Miller, the long-time friend of Vox Political who has been liaising with the United Nations about the Coalition government’s record on disability and incapacity benefits and the possibility that the Coalition is committing crimes against humanity.

“Just received word from the DWP that they will NOT release an update to ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’,” he wrote.

“Is this tantamount to a cover-up of thousands of deaths and/or has mortality of the sick and disabled become too politicized for the government?

“Needless to say, I am furious.”

The response from the DWP runs as follows:

“Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

“The publication you refer to was released on Department’s website as an ad-hoc statistical analysis publication. As such there is no intention of releasing an updated version of these statistics.” [Emphasis mine]

The “delay in responding” was a particularly long one. Mr Miller sent, by email, a copy of the original acknowledgement he received from the DWP, dated – if you can believe it – November 16, 2012. Were they hoping he would forget about it?

That letter stated: “I am sorry that the information you require is not readily available. As this would take a considerable length of time to pull together I am unable, at this stage, to tell you when the next report will be available.”

Never, if the department has its way, it seems.

This is not good enough, and we would be letting down everybody who has died if we let it pass.

I have therefore, today, sent a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking almost exactly the same questions as those to which ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’ responds.

Sent to [email protected] and under the title ‘Freedom of Information requests’, it runs as follows:

“Please provide the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died in 2012. Please break that figure down into the following categories:

  • Those who are in the assessment phase
  • Those who were found fit for work
  • Those who were placed in the work-related activity group
  • Those who were placed in the support group
  • Those who have an appeal pending

“I am aware that the Department for Work and Pensions came under criticism last year because it did not follow up on the conditions of people who had been found fit for work and signed off the benefit. It is to be hoped that this has been rectified and follow-up checks have been carried out. If this is the case, please provide details of:

  • Former ESA/IB claimants who have died after being put onto Jobseekers’ Allowance
  • Former ISA/IB claimants who were taken off benefit but put onto no other means of support, and the number of these who have died.

“Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.”

I strongly urge you to do the same. There is strength in numbers.

IDS off the hook with ICC – so evidence needed of Atos deaths

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”

People whose family members have died while going through the DWP/Atos work capability assessment are being urged to contact a disability specialist – who has been seeking international legal action against the austerity-enforced injustice.

Vox Political reported back in September that Samuel Miller had contacted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, considered most responsible for “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.

Mr Miller got in touch over the weekend, but said that the result had been disappointing: “They stated that the International Criminal Court has a very limited jurisdiction. The Court may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute is the document under which the ICC was established. Article 7, which covers crimes against humanity, states: “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

“(k) Inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

I thought this – Article 7 (k) – was a perfect description of what the DWP and its ministers are trying to achieve, and Mr Miller agreed. But he said: “Clearly the ICC is striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints.”

There is a way forward. He added: “On a welcome note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently acknowledged that austerity measures may violate human rights — which certainly is a step in the right direction.”

He’s right. The chair of the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay said on October 23 that, although member states face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of their legal obligations to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the committee earlier this year that clarified the committee’s position on austerity measures.

By ratifying the Covenant, member states like the UK have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards. These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources.

Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.

The committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights.

The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the committee had noted.

Having identified the possibility, we come to the burden of proof. Mr Miller said: “My best hope lies in procuring coroner’s reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.”

Inevitably, there is a problem. The UK Coronial system does not involve the collating of such information, nor does it look for national trends. The role of the Coroner is case specific, so wider information is not available. This is because the system of inquests into deaths was never intended to investigate whether those deaths were being caused by insane decisions of the government itself.

The law in relation to death certification may be amended in 2014 to provide for Medical Examiners whose role will be to examine such matters – but that is two years from now, and the DWP/Atos system could pile up another 7,600 bodies in that time (using the generally-accepted average of 73 deaths per week).

Mr Miller has written to the DWP, seeking a change of coroners’ duties to allow proper and robust reporting of trends such as stress-related deaths, suicides and/or destitution deaths of welfare recipients and recipients who perished shortly after being stripped of their benefits can be reported to both the DWP and the Ministry of Justice.

But I think we all know there is little chance of success there. This government is hardly going to hand over the tools by which its own ministers might end up in an international court. They’re insane, but they’re not stupid!

So people are going to have to do it themselves. We know about high-profile cases in which deaths have been blamed on Atos. Information about the others needs to be available now.

This is why I want to appeal for anyone who has lost a loved one because of the DWP/Atos work capability assessment system to get in touch with Mr Miller. He needs to know the verdict that was reached at the inquests into their deaths.

His email address is [email protected]

I would strongly urge that anyone writing to Mr Miller keeps their correspondence to the point. It is to be hoped that he will receive a strong response, but this entails a large amount of work. It is therefore important to make that work as easy as possible, perhaps by putting the deceased’s name, address and the verdict at the top of your email.

Smith v Jones over benefits, the disabled and the truth about homelessness

Finger-wagging rant: One tweeter commented, “You just KNOW IDS wanted to call Owen Jones a pleb back there…”

Iain Duncan Smith probably went home last night feeling satisfied that he had done his job well, putting forward his case for benefit cuts that will push thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of people out of their homes, on the BBC’s Question Time. After all, he had the last word, didn’t he?

Perhaps he didn’t count on the absolute twatting he received from the inhabitants of the social media.

Those who had seen the show wasted no time in putting forward their opinions about the clash between Smith and socialist “braying jackal” Owen Jones. Here’s what happened and what they said.

The question that sparked the clash was about whether the Work and Pensions Secretary’s plan to cap benefits would push large families out of their homes in London.

Yvette Cooper, also on this week’s panel, said the full consequences of the benefit cap and other measures being pushed through by the government were pushing up homelessness. “We’ve seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of families – families with children – living in bed and breakfast accommodation… That costs us a huge amount more… It’s a mix of the housing benefit changes but also the benefit cap – the way they have been introduced.”

Then Owen Jones stepped into the ring: “The reason this whole debate has become so toxic is a cynical demonisation campaign of people on benefits by the government,” he said. It’s as if he has been reading this blog.

“What they have tried to do is redirect people’s justifiable anger over ever-declining living standards from those at the top who’ve caused this crisis to people’s neighbours down the street. The working poor against the unemployed over benefits. Non-disabled people against disabled people. Private sector workers against public sector workers over pensions.” Absolutely correct, as pointed out and reiterated here many times in the past.

“Housing benefit is not going into the pockets of tenants, it’s lining the pockets of wealthy landlords charging extortionate rents,” he said, going on to utter something indistinct because others were talking over him. The impression I got was that he was saying successive governments, New Labour included, didn’t build council housing.

He went on to point out a statistic that the Tories have worked very hard to bury: “Most new claimants of housing benefit are in work; they don’t have enough money to pay extortionate rents.” Again, factually correct – and one must ask why employers do not pay enough. Why do they ask the government to subsidise the workforce?

“If we built housing in this country, we’d bring down the welfare bill, stimulate the economy, and create jobs.”

Having scored his first few points, Mr Jones went for the knockout blow. Although blocked in his first attempt to mention the disabled, he tried again: “There is a point that has to be made about the treatment of disabled people in this country, and there are two names I want to give Iain… Brian McArdle, 57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos. Another example – Karen Sherlock.”

For those who don’t know, Karen Sherlock was a desperately ill woman, suffering from kidney failure, whose Employment and Support Allowance was cut off by Iain Duncan Smith’s minions. She died on June 8 this year, apparently of a heart attack, after an operation was cancelled. Read her story here.

This is where IDS lost it. Irately wagging his finger in Mr Jones’s general direction, he barked: “We’ve heard a lot from you. I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration. We are changing their lives; I’m proud of doing that. Getting them off-benefit is what we’re going to do.”

What he didn’t say was, “We’re changing their lives for the better.” As for getting them off-benefit – that’s a threat, if there are no jobs for them to take (and there aren’t – or at least, not enough).

And that was the end of the programme. Owen Jones later commented that, as chairman David Dimbleby was finishing up, “a protestor yelled about Atos and left – not sure that will come across because it descended into total chaos.” It didn’t, but it would be interesting to know what their point was.

Jamie Laverty made a point about it: “Woman shouting about Atos on BBCQT – how symbolic. The BBC fails to listen to the people whilst giving the Tories a soapbox.”

Then came the verdict. Nathaniel Tapley saw through the Secretary of State straight away: “IDS thinks it’s unreasonable for anyone to receive more than £35,000 pa from the state. And claimed £98,000 in expenses last year.” Hypocritical? I think I’ve written a blog about that…

‘The UK today’ tweeted: “Only the wealthy moan about benefits for the poor but don’t complain about the bankers and shareholders who created the present problem.”

Mark Ferguson of LabourList tried sticking to the thrust of the question: “Shockingly, London MP IDS seems totally ignorant about the impact of his own government’s housing benefit cap in the capital. Astonishing.

“Build more houses, lower the cost of renting, save money on benefits. It’s not f*cking rocket science is it?”

To Iain Duncan Smith, it is. He’s a Tory, Mark! You’re suggesting they lay out money on public works. They don’t do that! Their plan is to hold money back, and use it to say they’ve balanced the books a bit more. Pointless and utterly unworkable in the long-term, but it is what it is.

Jenny Landreth made the point that’s been on everyone’s mind about housing benefit: “Do benefit claimants profit from their rent being paid? No. Landlords do. They are the reason the rents are high. HELLO?” Exactly right. Perhaps it’s time to change its title to one that is more appropriate, like Landlord’s Benefit?

John McDonnell MP applauded Mr Jones: “Well done for getting the tragedy of Mr McArdle and barbarity of Atos on the record. We must never forget or forgive this cruelty.”

Finally, there came the comments on the cabinet member himself.

Zoe Williams, Guardian columnist, tweeted: “‘we’ve heard a lot from you’ IDS says to Owen jones. Only narrowly avoids adding ‘oik’.”

Matthew Walker added: “IDS has finger wagging rant at Owen Jones – he just needed to finish with ‘you need a damn good thrashing, lad’ and it would have been perfect.”

Simplem+ths: “All that remained was for IDS to say ‘shut it you fu#@ing pleb best you learn your [email protected]#ing place'”.

And the amusingly-named ‘Jeremy Twunt’ concluded: “You just know IDS wanted to call Owen Jones a pleb back there…”

Isobel Waby went for the jugular: “Iain Duncan Smith is an insult to the British people. How dare he undermine the British people, insulting our sick, disabled, unemployed kids?

“He should be sacked NOW… MPs’ inhumanity to the less fortunate.”

And Gracie Samuels made the most telling point: “The lying bastard he’s killing people, BBCQT, and we were not allowed to discuss it.”

But Diana Foster put viewers’ fear into words when she tweeted: “Disability hatecrime up, IDS gets final say – giving impression he’s whiter than white and no disabled people are affected by reform. Disgusting.”

Well, if Mr Smith (I never call him ‘Duncan Smith’ because that kind of attempt at a double-barrelled name is nothing other than pretentious) is reading this, I wonder if he’ll still be putting that appearance in the ‘plus’ column. The net result, according to the public is that he is ignorant, cruel, an insult to the British people, inhuman, a lying bastard and disgusting. Wag your finger at that, Iain!

Since IDS got the last word on television, let’s give the last word here to Owen Jones: “Blimey, thanks everyone. But what a a shame that stating the bleeding obvious on telly is such a revolutionary act.”

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New e-petition gives you another chance to challenge murderous disability benefit cuts

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6-iTZR8CoI&feature=player_embedded]Campaigners for an end to the unfair cuts that have led to the deaths of 73 disabled people every week have launched a new petition, calling for the government to pause and review this deadly regime.

It comes days after an earlier attempt, known as “Pat’s Petition” failed due to a lack of support by the mainstream media. Even though it was starved of publicity, the petition gained more than 62,000 signatures – but it needed 100,000 to secure a Parliamentary debate.

The petition calls for the government to “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” It says the Welfare Reform Act (brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith and his Department for Work and Pensions) should be be reviewed and the government should “amend its contents in a fairer and more socially-acceptable format.”

I can already hear cries of disbelief from some of you, as you read this. Don’t tell me – you don’t know anything about this; you thought that the government was cracking down on benefit scroungers, not people who deserved help; you thought the mainstream press had been telling you the facts.

You thought wrong, I’m afraid!

But you’re not alone. I refer you to this comment from Cyril Zeldane, on my previous article about the petition: “I was very upset by this, and by what ATOS, JC+, DWP and the state more broadly has been doing for a while… I was equally angry to hear about it for the first time today, now that it’s too late.”

The simple fact is that the mainstream media have been tranquillising the population by burying the facts. I’m talking about the BBC, ITV, national and local radio, the Daily Mail, the Express, the Telegraph, the Sun… the list goes on and on. Some papers like the Independent and the Guardian carry sporadic accounts, and columnists like Sonia Poulton have been slugging it out like gladiators to get the message across.

But most people are as “Jay” describes in his comment to the petition piece: “People still don’t care enough because they still don’t understand what is happening.”

What’s happening is this: People on welfare – the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the elderly – have been collectively labelled as scroungers. Stories in the right-wing press and on television have reinforced this view, by showing benefit cheats being brought to justice. Of course, benefit fraudsters do exist – but they total 0.4 per cent of the total number of claimants.

Meanwhile, the government’s policy, enacted by Atos assessors through the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, is to allow just 13 per cent of claimants a secure future, knowing that they will continue to receive benefit for an indefinite period of time – although even then, ESA payments are lower than the Incapacity Benefit that it has replaced.

Of the remaining 87 per cent, most are branded “fit for work” and lose their benefits. Some go on to the ‘work-related activity’ group of ESA recipients, continuing to receive benefit for 365 days (one year), during which time they are expected to take steps to ensure they are fit for work by the time their benefit runs out. This group includes people with progressive conditions who will never get better, but who have been put their because Atos have a quota to meet.

The effect on the health of disabled people who have been through this process is catastrophic. Current figures, which have been made available by the government after a Freedom of Information request, show that on average, 73 people are dying every week due to the strain of losing their benefit.

One such person is Brian McArdle, whose son Kieran told the Daily Record (“The what?” I hear you cry. News blackout in the mainstream press, remember? You’ll only read about it in more independently-minded papers like the Record) that “constant worry about how he would survive without the cash he needed robbed Brian of the will to live”.

It seems the 57-year-old had a stroke on Boxing Day last year which left him paralysed down his left side, unable to speak properly, blind in one eye and barely able to eat or dress, but after a work capability assessment he was found fit for work and his benefits were stopped. He had another stroke days before his appointment, and the heart attack that killed him came the day after his benefits were stopped.

That’s the truth of the Coalition’s disability benefit assessment regime.

Now that you know, please go to the government’s e-petitions site, sign the petition (it’s only a click away via the link in this article) and get your friends to do the same.

And spread the word, because you can’t rely on the mass media to do it for you.