Tag Archives: Catch-22

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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Boris Johnson’s catch-22: ‘Get rid of the presumption of innocence’

Dangerously right-wing policies wrapped in a fuzzy exterior - but can Boris Johnson pull the wool over our eyes?

Dangerously right-wing policies wrapped in a fuzzy exterior – but can Boris Johnson pull the wool over our eyes?

A centuries-old pillar of British justice is too good for some UK citizens, according to that Great Briton Boris Johnson (who is descended from a Turk).

He wants Britain to abandon the core governing principle of its legal system – the presumption of innocence in UK law – so that people who travel to “war areas” such as Iraq and Syria may be presumed to be potential terrorists unless they can prove otherwise.

This means that people who go to war zones for humanitarian reasons would be labelled as terrorists, along with those who travel there to find lost relatives and bring them home, if they don’t notify the authorities first – and there are reasons why people might not want to do that.

It also means countries like Iran would have more advanced legal systems than the UK – Iran has the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven enshrined in its constitution.

Johnson reckons “the law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a ‘rebuttable presumption’ (which shifts the burden of proof on to the defendant) that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose”. Minor change?

Fortunately we do not need a change in the law to prove that this means Boris Johnson is an evil-minded arse.

Already fellow Tory and former attorney general, Dominic Grieve – who was allegedly ousted by David Cameron because he did not support Conservative-led changes to Legal Aid that would have made justice available only to the rich – has made it clear that Johnson’s idea would undermine British legal values.

How, exactly, is anyone supposed to prove that they did not cross borders to deliver supplies to terrorists or receive training in terror tactics?

James Ball, writing in The Guardian, states: “Recent history recounts in great and dismal detail the consequences of Johnson’s ‘simple and minor’ change: Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay.

“Camp staff were told in classified documents that ‘[t]ravel to Afghanistan for any reason after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is likely a total fabrication with the true intentions being to support Osama bin Laden through direct hostilities against the US forces’. No matter if your detainee says they were visiting family, supporting NGOs, working with religious groups, or even – in some cases – supporting coalition forces, travel is deeply suspicious.

“’Travel to Afghanistan for charity reasons or to teach or study Islam,’ the document warned, ‘is a known al-Qaida/extremist cover story without credence.’

“Another sign someone is a terrorist, the US government said, was them telling you they were not. If the sleep-deprived inmates, who often had mental health issues, answered the questions slowly, this was also evidence they were a highly coached terror suspect. Even wearing a Casio watch – one of the world’s bestselling timepieces – was ‘the sign of al-Qaida’.”

It’s a Catch-22. According to this logic, anyone returning from a country where terrorists are active who claims they are not a terrorist must be – according to the authorities – a terrorist.

Wikipedia has it that “one connotation of the term is that the creators of the ‘catch-22’ have created arbitrary rules in order to justify and conceal their own abuse of power” and that “rules are inaccessible to and slanted against those lower in the hierarchy” (which is, of course, the intention behind Chris Grayling’s changes to Legal Aid).

So Boris Johnson wants to impose another abuse of power on those of us who cannot fight it.

That’s business as usual for a Tory.

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Catch-22 for PIP-claiming taxpayers, while giant corporations pay no taxes at all

A drop in the ocean:  That's what your taxes are, in comparison to the £30,450,000 owed by Thames Water in corporation tax this year. But Thames Water is paying nothing and, if you have to claim PIP or ESA in the future, that's what you're likely to get, in spite of paying up on time and in full.

A drop in the ocean: That’s what your taxes are, in comparison to the £30,450,000 owed by Thames Water in corporation tax this year. But Thames Water is paying nothing and, even though you’ve paid up on time and in full, if you have to claim PIP or ESA in the future, nothing is what you’re likely to get.

“Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years.” – California Department of Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, 2005.

Is there really a connection between the roll-out of the government’s new Personal Independence Payment scam, outlawed (in the US) insurance company Unum, and the fact that Thames Water didn’t pay any taxes for the last financial year, despite profits totalling around £145 million?

Would any of you be surprised to read that the answer is yes?

PIP, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance, entered the second stage of its roll-out yesterday, when new claimants of working age, applying for disability benefit, were told they would be asking for it rather than DLA. New claimants in northern England have been applying for PIP since April.

The new system follows very closely the pattern established by the claim system for Employment and Support Allowance. ESA claim forms ask sick or disabled people to relate their symptoms to a series of ‘descriptors’, using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers (there is space to describe the individual issues but we have no proof that this receives any consideration at all).

The descriptors are based on a perversion of the so-called ‘biopsychosocial model’, created by American company Unum Provident to provide a defensible excuse for refusing to pay out on disability claims, at a time when the company was finding it hard to come up with the cash. Unfortunately (for Unum) the US legal system decided the excuse was not defensible after all and ordered Unum to reconsider 200,000 claims, back in 2006. Unfortunately (for British disability claimants) by then Unum already had its claws in the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions. For more on Unum, see Mo Stewart’s excellent series of reports, written over a three-year investigative period, here and here.

At least one major newspaper reported last year that the Atos-run work capability assessments were finding 70 per cent of ESA claimants fit for work. Of the remaining 30 per cent, 17 were put in the work-related activity group, meaning they were being asked to recover within one calendar year of the benefit being awarded, no matter what their condition. The remaining 13 per cent were put in the support group, which allows indefinite continuation of their claims.

Official government figures put entitlement for the benefit at 99.6 per cent. Less than half of one per cent of claims have been found to be fraudulent.

So there’s a bit of a credibility gap in the government’s system, isn’t there? A gap spanning 69.6 per cent of claimants at best, and 86.6 per cent at worst.

That is the Unum influence. The government has taken this company’s criminal (in America) scheme to deprive insurance policyholders of their payouts and applied it to the national insurance scheme that is the British benefits system, in order to deprive UK citizens of their benefits and rob them of the rewards due to them for paying their taxes.

Let’s all remember, please, that the majority of people claiming ESA have paid their taxes, on time and in full. How many big businesses operating in this country can say the same?

Not Thames Water, that’s for sure. The BBC reported yesterday that the UK’s biggest water firm, which is privately-owned, paid no corporation tax in the last financial year, despite making £145 million in (it says here) pre-tax profit.

The company says this is because it has offset the interest payments on its debts against its tax liability, and claimed allowances on capital project spending. It has been seeking government support for a £4.1bn project to build a new “super sewer” under the Thames, as reported in Vox Political last year.

The total amount of tax owed but offset in this manner is around £1 billion – but let’s not forget that this amount may drop. Part-time Chancellor George Osborne has already cut corporation tax by a quarter (from 28 per cent in 2010 to 21 per cent now) and there is no evidence that he won’t carry on slashing it, to help out his big business buddies and royally screw up the public finances.

Thames Water increased its bills by 6.7 per cent last year. It has reported an increase in revenues of six per cent. Doesn’t that mean that it only needed to raise its bills by 0.7 per cent in order to maintain profits? Doesn’t that mean that the remainder of that increase is down to the greed of its private shareholders, amounting to nothing less than robbery of the 14 million customers who – in this great era of consumer choice, ushered in by David Cameron – have absolutely no alternative water suppliers at all?

I wouldn’t want to be living in the Thames Water catchment area and applying for PIP right now. Also, what if you’re in that position, but living on social housing that the government decides is too big for you, triggering Bedroom Tax payments? How are you going to pay what you’ll owe on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (the Pickles Poll Tax)?

If you’re in that position, just remember it’s a Conservative-led government that put you there, in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Did you vote for either of them in 2010?

If so, will you do it again in 2015?

If you say yes, you’ll be entitled to PIP on grounds of insanity – but then the government will lose voters, so that won’t be allowed.