“Harrowing stories of people forced into debt, rent arrears, homelessness, crime, prostitution, hunger, people unable to afford fares to get to food banks, parents unable to get essentials for their babies, child poverty, worsening mental health, ex-service people considering suicide and even cases of actual suicide.”
These are the results of the Conservative government’s disastrous Universal Credit project, according to campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts.
The organisation has launched a new report in response to repeated attempts by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to “airbrush” the failed benefit’s reputation in the pages of the Metro free newspaper and others.
Here is what DPAC has to say:
“In response to the DWP’s lies trying to minimise the negative impact of Universal Credit (UC), by commissioning unbranded BBC documentaries and media articles highlighting UC success stories, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has compiled a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures.
“This record draws on local and national press and media articles, government and research reports. While the DWP bleat that UC is unfairly vilified the reality is that UC had always been a disaster for claimants and has already wasted millions of pounds.
“It has now reached a point where it is unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger. These failures are driven by ideology. Making claimants wait for their first payment on the pretext that this mirrors the circumstances of working people is another DWP fairytale.
“Experts who have looked at UC have also identified design, management and IT issues which cannot be solved by tweaking the system.
“This is why DPAC is calling for UC to be scrapped. It has become a social security system, which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life.
“So far DPAC activists have already removed many thousands of copies of the Metro and will continue to do so whenever a lie about UC is printed. RMT and UNITE members are monitoring each days’ delivery of Metros to help us with this.
“We are also calling for a boycott of Reach newspapers which have also in many cases published and republished one case study of one Job Centre manager saying UC works well. Reach’s Director, Helen Stevenson, is coincidentally a former non-executive director of DWP.”
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
The number of children growing up in poverty in working households is set to be one million (50 per cent) higher this year than in 2010, according to new TUC research that the BBC hasn’t reported.
The analysis – carried out for the TUC by Landman Economics – estimates that 3.1 million children with working parents will be below the official breadline in 2018, compared to 2.1 million at the start of the decade.
Kids with at least one working parent will account for two-thirds of children living in poverty in 2018.
Note that these are children in working families – disproving once and for all the silly Tory line that they have been “making work pay”. For whom?
The TUC says that other key factors behind the 1 million rise in child poverty are:
Weak wage growth
The spread of insecure work
The increase in working families
The research shows the impact of public sector pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts on household incomes:
Families where both parents work in the public sector are the biggest losers from the government’s pay restrictions and benefit changes. Their average household income has fallen by £83 a week in real terms.
Households where one parent works in the public sector and another works in the private sector have lost, on average, £53 a week.
Households with private sector workers only have seen their incomes fall by £32 a week on average.
Yet the BBC wasn’t interested. Watch:
BBC NEWS at ONE doesn’t think people need to know about a SHOCKING NEW REPORT WHICH SHOWS A MILLION MORE KIDS ARE GROWING UP IN POVERTY SINCE TORIES CAME TO POWER so LETS REPORT IT FOR THEM! Please RT! They did tell us the weather is nice though pic.twitter.com/8GsnoagkFo
Theresa Mays boast of “record low unemployment” is based on RECORD HIGH EXPLOITATION OF WORKERS! That’s why I’m supporting @The_TUC New Deal for Workers rally in London on May 12! If your not in a union join me in the @CWUnews block! Let’s march together! https://t.co/hGrNWm99Si
In his video, Mr Stefanovic mentioned the TUC’s New Deal for Workers rally on Saturday (May 12). The organisation itself states:
“The march will assemble at Victoria Embankmentbetween Hungerford Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge from 11am. It will move off at 12pm and march to Hyde Park. The rally will take place in Hyde Park, finishing at 4pm.
“We’re marching for the alternative. For a growing economy with great jobs in every nation and region of the UK. For a £10ph minimum wage and the right to a voice at work. For public services that are brilliant, funded and free at the point of use. And for a society that roots out racism, sexism and discrimination.
“Why? Because real wages are still lower than before the crash in 2008. Because three million workers are stuck on zero hour contracts, in agency work and in low paid self-employment. Because hardworking public servants haven’t had a proper payrise for eight years. Because our NHS is at breaking point. And because years of cuts have led to poverty, homelessness and despair for too many.
“We’re the trade union movement. We stand up for millions of working people all over the UK. And together, we demand a new deal for working people. Join us in London on 12 May.”
Will you be there?
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This writer is not a huge fan of Jason Manford’s comedy. However, The Blog wholeheartedly welcomes his criticism of the Conservative Government. Let’s see many more celebrities following suit.
Manford has followed up a series of tweets attacking David Cameron over the NHS with a Facebook post criticising the plan to scrap the target to eliminate child poverty by 2020, which involves re-defining poverty to suit the very rich Tories.
No doubt the anti-Labour brigade will roll up to trash this article but it deserves an airing, if only because so many children are in poverty and homeless already.
According to Shelter, the number of homeless families increased from 80,000 at Christmas 2013 to 93,000 last Christmas – that’s a rise of 16.5 per cent.
But the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats want to tell you that poverty has dropped, because it is calculated as a percentage of wages, and wages have fallen – meaning fewer people earn the lowered amount that now counts as the poverty level.
Against that background, here’s Fiona Twycross, writing on LabourList:
One of the greatest confidence tricks of this government has been the demonisation of the poor and the remarkable feat of setting people on low income against each other while overseeing a continued rise of inequality. This inequality means that just two days in to the working year, on ‘Fat Cat Tuesday’ as it was dubbed by the High Pay Centre, top executives had earned £27,000, the equivalent of a year’s average earnings. Meanwhile, the number of people in work but earning poverty pay is rising.
After a week when some commentators have suggested there is little difference between the main parties, it is worth reminding ourselves of the need to place our Labour values to the core of what we say over the next few months. Not just for those conversations we will be having on the doorstep but to remind ourselves why we have to fight for a Labour victory.
Child poverty is not inevitable. It is possible to reduce it. Labour reduced the numbers of children living in poverty by 800,000 when we were in power. Not only does the Government have a statutory duty to end child poverty by 2020 [it seems the plan is to cut wages to a point where even the lowest-paid no longer count as in poverty, according to the yardstick mentioned above – meaning we’ll all be struggling], from a moral perspective as well, it has to be our goal to eliminate it.
I am tired of people suggesting that it might not do us any harm to be in opposition for a few more years. It might not do some of us harm individually but it would do massive harm to the most vulnerable in society. If we are unhappy at what has happened to the fabric of our society in the past five years, we need to be clear that a future Conservative-led government or coalition would take us further down their road to ruin.
The legacy of poverty in childhood stays with people throughout their lives. With millions of children already living in poverty, and all indications showing that many more are likely to join them unless the political direction of travel in this country changes, we are facing the fight not just for a Labour victory but for these children to have a better future.
A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don’t know any better.
If you have ever wondered why you couldn’t get on in life, despite all the talent anyone should ever need… now you know the truth. It’s because you didn’t go to a private school and you didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge University.
According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of top civil servants, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and 36 per cent of the Cabinet are members of a deeply elitist “cosy club” who were educated at private schools (Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, commented: “It is quite something when the ‘cabinet of millionaires’ is one of the less unrepresentative pillars of power”).
Also privately-educated were 45 per cent of chairmen/women of public bodies, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, and 26 per cent of BBC executives. Where are the naysayers who claim the BBC is a Leftie haven now?
When it comes to Oxbridge graduates, the situation worsens – they have a “stranglehold” on top jobs, according to The Guardian, which adds: “They comprise less than one per cent of the public as a whole, but 75 per cent of senior judges, 59 per cent of cabinet ministers, 57 per cent of permanent secretaries, 50 per cent of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of shadow cabinet ministers, 24 per cent of MPs and 12 per cent of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.
My personal belief is that this should be no surprise to anybody – I’ve known it ever since the then-headteacher at my high school proudly announced that the only sixth-former on their way to Oxford, one year back in the 1980s, was his own daughter. Even then it wasn’t about what you knew but who Daddy was.
At least it is official now.
The person who should be least surprised by these findings is Commission chairman and Labour turncoat Alan Milburn. He does not come from a nobby background but has been absorbed into the group – possibly in gratitude for a series of betrayals of his own kind that began when he entered government.
Milburn was one of the Labour MPs who embraced neoliberalism in the 1990s. His reward was a place in the Cabinet as Minister of State for Health, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then Health Secretary. He was also honorary president of the neoliberal thinktank Progress, which works hard to foist right-wing ideas onto the Labour Party.
It is no wonder, then, that Milburn subsequently became the darling of David Cameron’s Coalition government, being offered a role as ‘social mobility tsar’. It is in this role that he has delivered the current report on elitism.
According to that great source of knowledge Wikipedia, Milburn’s role was about “advising the government on how to break down social barriers for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help[ing] people who feel they are barred from top jobs on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability”.
Nearly four-and-a-half years into a five-year Parliament, Milburn came out with this report, and I’m willing to bet that, if a similar document had been compiled before Labour left office, evidence would show that the situation has worsened, not improved.
Even now, David Cameron is probably congratulating Milburn on what a great job he has done – achieving nothing.
In fairness, even a man like Milburn could not ignore such clear findings and the report describes the situation as “elitism so stark that it could be called social engineering“.
What is more interesting about the situation is the fact that it has been described as a ‘closed shop’, a term more readily-associated with those bitter opponents of privilege – the trade unions.
A closed shop is an agreement under which an employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed. That is definitely what the report is demonstrating and, considering the elite’s antipathy to the unions, it is further demonstration of the high-handed and corrupt attitude of these types – their belief that they should be a law unto themselves.
This in fact provides us with the only positive element to come out of this report. It gives jobseekers a decent reason for being unable to secure work – all the best jobs are being hogged by overprivileged twits!
Owen Jones’s Guardian article suggests of the situation: “In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented.”
That is not my experience.
I did my post-graduate journalism course with help from a training scheme run by the Tory government of the time – the Department of Social Security paid for my education in that respect. My recollection is that I was one of the highest-achievers on that course; considering my future career, this indicates that there is truth behind the ‘closed shop’ claim of the new report.
My experience on local newspapers is that they are more likely to offer a way in for aspiring “non-gilded” reporters now than when I entered. While I was fully-qualified when I was hired by my first employer in Bristol, here in Mid Wales the papers have seemed happy to hire people with no qualifications at all, and train them up. There are no unpaid internships here, to my knowledge.
That being said, management practices in the press are so bad that I am constantly amazed anybody bothers trying to work for these idiots at all.
My first paper was passed from one company to another in a “gentleman’s agreement” on a golf course. It meant that I took an effective pay cut, being forced to travel 30 miles further to work and receiving a lower-than-normal pay rise when I became a senior reporter.
Another paper was doing quite well when I joined, offering healthy bonuses for all employees at Christmas. I never got to benefit from this, though, because bosses foolishly took on at great cost a ‘general manager’ who managed all our profits away and then persuaded them to sell up to a much larger firm that stripped the operation to the bone and hoovered up all the profits. Quality plummeted and (after I left) so did sales.
A third paper’s solution to declining sales was a plan to cut back the number of reporters while keeping the management structure intact. That’s right – they reduced the number of people writing the stories that sold the papers. Then they attacked the remaining reporters for the continued drop in sales and absolutely refused to entertain any notion that they might have got the situation arse-backward.
That is why I agree with the UK Commission for Education and Skills, which said that “poor management hinders UK competitiveness”, and with the comment on that report in Flip Chart Fairy Tales, that “poorly managed firms drag a country’s score down and Britain has more than its fair share of them”.
The Milburn report puts the seal on the problem: Firms are poorly-managed because the people at the top are over-privileged fools who got into their position thanks to Daddy’s money rather than any talent of their own.
As the banking crisis – caused by these very people – and the subsequent, slowest economic recovery in UK history demonstrate starkly for all to see, these private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses are worse than useless when it comes to managing an economy.
There is nothing you can do about it while a Conservative-led government is in power because that is exactly how David Cameron and his cronies like it.
(What am I saying? Of course they like it – they and their friends are the private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses who are cocking up the system!)
You only need to read the ‘Revolving Doors’ column in Private Eye to see how these goons lurch from one failure to another – always finding a new job after each disaster because of the Old School Tie.
It is long past time we saw a few highly-prejudicial sackings but our sad, fat ‘captains of industry’ just don’t have the guts.
Here’s a letter sent to houses here in Brecon and Radnorshire. It starts with the famous Lib Dem block graph, which is a mainstay of all their election communications in places where they have won seats. Presumably they keep using it because it is effective but one has to doubt this example, as it does not feature a European election result, but that of the last UK general election in 2010.
They cannot use a block graph to show a favourable result in the last European election because they don’t have any Welsh MEPs, and the result in the last Welsh Assembly election (in 2011) showed support was already eroding away as a result of their toxic alliance with the Conservative Party in Westminster, along with some spectacularly effective campaigning by the local Labour Party.
The result is a misleading graphic that shows a massive Liberal Democrat majority, coupled with the slogan, “Only the Lib Dems can beat the Tories here”, where in fact we have two Labour MEPs, one Tory and one representing Plaid Cymru.
It hardly encourages confidence when a political letter – from one of the ruling parties in Westminster – begins with a filthy lie.
The text of the letter, by the constituency’s Liberal Democrat MP Roger Williams, asks where the reader wants to be working in five or 10 years, and suggests we will be looking for more pay, promotions and a better quality of life. He states that it is important to protect the economic recovery, but “all that hard work could be undone” if Britain pulls out of the EU “as UKIP and many Conservatives want to do”.
Thanks to the UK’s Coalition government, ordinary hard-working people are receiving far less pay than before the 2010 election, with a corresponding drop in quality of life. Child poverty, for example, is rising fast. The economic recovery has helped nobody but the very top earners (like those in the Sunday Times ‘rich list’, published last weekend) – and besides, the Tory Democrats are not the only party keen to protect Britain’s place in Europe. For that, your best bet is still Labour or (in Wales) Plaid Cymru.
The letter continues: “Across rural Wales the EU has invested £5.8 million into local businesses struggling to find funding to grow and create more jobs, this is on top of the £26 million invested in promoting tourism to Wales which is vital to our local economy.” Yes indeed – but that money was negotiated by either a Labour government in Westminster or a Labour government in Cardiff Bay. It has little to do with the Tory Democrats!
The letter ends with an exhortation to vote for the Yellow Party’s nonentity candidate, whose name is instantly forgettable.
Alongside this came a double-sided flier offering more of what the Tory Democrats do best – negative campaigning. “Don’t gamble with Welsh jobs…” it states, “Stop UKIP and the Tories from risking Wales jobs”. A box-out with a red background says, “Labour stay silent” – which is a blatant falsehood.
Flip the page and you’ve got the pro-Tory Democrat bit – but they can only say they have “helped deliver” funding for superfast broadband, funding for small-to-medium-sized enterprises, and cash to support tourism. And who did they help?
It’s a sad little screed from an organisation in its twilight days.
Red Tory betrayal: He might as well have said, “We’re going to grip the poor by the throat and push them down so far and so hard that they’ll never be able to get on their feet again.”
The Red Conservative Party has announced a new policy attack on people receiving benefits, in its latest bid to out-Tory the Blue Conservatives.
Ed Cameron announced that he would impose a three-year cap on any welfare spending not linked to the economic cycle, stealing an idea put forward by George Osborne of the original Conservative Party during the March budget.
He also vowed to make people work for two years before they qualify for a new, higher rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance.*
Shadow work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Byrne said the cap would force a Labour government to engage in long-term reforms necessary to bring the welfare bill down.
Neither man actually spelled out which benefits would be affected by the cap.
But Ed Cameron tried to salvage his party’s reputation in the eyes of left-wing supporters by promising to drive down rents and improve pay.
And in a contradictory move, he said he would not abandon the long-standing goal of abolishing child poverty by 2020, even though his new policies mean that, inevitably, more children will suffer poverty through no fault of their own.
Cut through the spin and the above is, pretty much, what has been announced. The Labour Party is becoming even more right-wing, rather than less, as the Tory tabloids claimed when Ed Miliband became the leader.
What we’re seeing isn’t really a conversion to Conservatism – although the retention of critically dangerous neoliberal elements at the top of the party structure means this will continue to be a threat. It’s actually worse than that.
This is a Labour Party that goes any way the wind blows.
Does anybody remember the great Tony Benn’s comments about politicians being either signposts or weathercocks? It has been mentioned previously, in this blog. He said some politicians are like signposts. They point in the direction they want to travel and say, “This is the way we must go!” And they are constant. Others are like weathercocks; they lick their fingers, find out which direction the political winds are blowing and follow.
The Guardian illustrates that Miliband has become a cock in its article, stating that the new announcement “is seen as critical to Labour being able to claw back its poll deficit on welfare and show its ability to take tough decisions”.
It will do neither.
If Labour wanted to “claw back its poll deficit on welfare” it would be announcing new policies to tackle the causes of unemployment, sickness and disability, in order to ensure that unemployment was never again likely to rise as high as it has. This means helping industry; it means restoring the National Health Service; it means making sure employers – especially the really large ones who think they can get away with anything – conform strictly to health and safety laws and can’t blame employees’ work-based sicknesses on anything other than their own negligence.
It means setting the terms of a new debate on this issue – not meekly accepting the Conservatives’ warped frame of reference.
Because, you see, that doesn’t indicate an “ability to take tough decisions”. Nor does copying an idea already mentioned by a Conservative. Tough decisions are those that the public might find hard to accept at first – about policies that might need to be explained before they are accepted. Labour isn’t making any tough decisions. It is following the Conservative/Coalition example and that simply is not good enough.
The Guardian article says Labour hopes the electorate “will focus on the party’s decision to take a credible and specific stance on the deficit, after three years of low growth, rather than punish Labour for its apparent volte face [about turn] by ending three years of criticism of welfare cuts”.
There is no chance of that happening. The electorate is not stupid and I predict that those parts of it that have supported Labour as a force for working people, those who want to work but are unemployed through no fault of their own, and those who have been invalided out of work, again through no fault of their own, will desert the party en masse. Miliband and Byrne might pick up a few right-wing votes – but not enough to make a difference. They will lose far more than they will gain.
Note particularly that line about “ending three years of criticism of welfare cuts”. They’ve stopped criticising the Conservatives/Coalition about cuts that are literally ending UK citizens’ lives at an alarming rate. That is not – and will never be – justifiable on any level at all.
Let’s not forget that an average of 73 people a week are dying as a result of Conservative/Coalition policies on benefits – possibly many more, as this figure is nearly a year old. A Labour government that would allow this to continue is not an electable Labour government.
This announcement marks the beginning of the Conservative victory in 2015.
Thanks for nothing, Ed Miliband. Thanks for nothing, Liam Byrne.
Shame on you, you sell-outs.
*Interestingly, the Blue Conservative mouthpiece BBC misleadingly reported that Labour believed “only people who pay into the system for more than two years should get Jobseekers’ Allowance” at all! This seems to be an inaccuracy but it is damaging and more people will read it.
Martin Rowson’s Guardian cartoon of April 13 satirises the spectacle of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, calling it as he sees it: A primitive tribal ritual.
“This is Hell, nor am I out of it.” – Mephistopheles, Doctor Faustus.
As I write these words, the funeral of Margaret Thatcher is taking place at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Unemployment stands at 2.56 million (7.9 per cent of the workforce).
The banks are not lending money.
More small firms are going out of business every day.
The economy is stagnant and the outlook for growth is bleak, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The rich elite prey on the poor – Britain’s highest-earners are billions better-off than in 2010, while wages for the lowest-earners are increased by so little that most of them are on benefit and sliding into debt (0.8 per cent rise in the year to February).
The cost of living has risen by around three per cent.
900,000 people have been out of work for more than a year.
The number of unemployed people aged 16-24 is up to 979,000 (21.6 per cent of all those in that age group).
Politicians lie to us, in order to win our support by deceit.
Assessment for disability benefits is on a model devised by an insurance company to avoid paying money to those who need it most.
Health services are being privatised, to make money for corporate shareholders rather than heal the sick.
Government policies have reinstated the ‘Poll Tax’ principle that everybody must pay taxation, no matter how poor they are.
Government policies mean child poverty will rise by 100,000 this year. It will not achieve the target of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020.
Government policies are ensuring that many thousands of people will soon be homeless, while social housing is being sold into the private sector.
And Legal Aid is being cut back, to ensure that the only people with access to justice are those who can pay for it.
According to The Guardian, nearly half a million disabled people and their families could lose so much money under the new Universal Credit system that they could end up homeless.
The information comes from a report by a commission headed by Paralympian Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson and, yet again, shows that Tory criticism of the current benefits system as being “too complicated” is a sign that they do not understand the complexities of life for those of us who rely on the system to top-up our incomes.
From my reading of the article, the report does not take into account disabled people who are found ‘fit for work’ under the Atos assessment regime, nor does it consider the effects of the Localism Act on their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
I wonder if this means the predicted increase in child poverty is now out of date and will have to be revised upwards again.
Citizens Advice, the Children’s Society and Disability Rights UK have already called for more cash to be provided for disadvantaged families. A forlorn hope. The point of this benefit (if we dare dignify it with that name) is that it is supposed to be universal, after all.
The government says the report is “highly selective” and could lead to “irresponsible scaremongering”. Of course, it is easy to say that now. The results of all this tinkering with the benefits system won’t be known for some time to come – and, if this report is to be believed, by then it will be too late to reverse the damage for hundreds of thousands of families.
Will it even do any good? Experience suggests not. All the Coalition’s tinkering has managed to achieve in two years is misery for the poor. National borrowing is on the rise.
And there are still questions to be answered about the way the new system works. What will count as earnings? will there be concessions for mothers on maternity leave? How will childcare costs be incorporated into the Universal Credit? What about extra costs for people with disabilities, and who will receive this support? What support will be available for carers? What about support for pensioners with children? How will housing costs be assessed? Will financial support for council tax be included in or separate from UC?
What about people who are trying to start up their own business – something the government is supposed to be supporting? Depending on how UC is administered, the amount of money they receive could be the difference between being able to set up in business – or not.
And, if too many people find they can’t, that could be the difference between economic revival – and not.
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