Tag Archives: clause

Child benefit scandal: a million more children in poverty, 900 women forced to disclose rape

The Scottish National Party seems to have taken over what used to be Labour’s job as guardian of vulnerable benefit claimants.

(And it’s a good thing; Keir Starmer seems to think he is better-occupied persecuting innocent party members with trumped-up anti-Semitism accusations.)

So we have the SNP to thank for revealing the latest scandalous details of the Tory government’s decision to deprive parents of child benefit if they have more than two children – and to force mothers to relive details of rape as the price of having that benefit restored for additional children.

Here’s the headline:

New figures published by the UK government have revealed that 911,190 children have lost access to vital financial support since April 2017, while 900 women have been forced to disclose that their child was conceived of rape in order to access vital funds.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss first discovered the two-child cap and the so-called “rape clause” in George Osborne’s 2015 Budget and has been a vocal opponent of the policy since its inception.

The MP has challenged the Prime Minister to scrap the abhorrent policy, describing the figures as “a horrific legacy for any government”.

She said: “The UK Tory government’s own data reveals the devastating impact of their two-child limit on families across the UK. Approaching one million children are now suffering financial hardship, the majority of them in families where their parents are working.

“This is a horrific legacy for any government. It’s time for Boris Johnson to wake up to this reality, signal a change of direction on welfare and scrap this pernicious Tory policy.

“Most shocking of all, 900 women have been forced to go through the process of claiming for an exception due to a non-consensual conception. Every single one of these women has been put in a position where they’ve had to fill in a form to prove their child was conceived as a result of rape or coercion, just to make ends meet.

“The UK Government has no place to hide in the face of these damning statistics. Covid-19 has exposed the gaps in the social security safety net – I urge the new Prime Minister to do the right thing and scrap the two-child limit for everyone”.

But this is Boris Johnson she’s talking about. Do you honestly think he could care less?

Source: NEARLY 1 MILLION CHILDREN INTO POVERTY, 900 WOMEN FORCED TO DISCLOSE RAPE – Welfare Weekly

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Proof that Citizens Advice signed a ‘gagging’ contract in exchange for £51m of Tory government money

How can you trust Citizens Advice help on Universal Credit when you know the organisation has agreed not to say anything about it that harms the Conservative government’s reputation?

You can’t.

The ‘gagging’ contract that Citizens Advice signed in return for £51 million of government funding does stipulate that it is only banned from anything that brings the government “unfairly” into disrepute – but who defines those terms?

It seems clear that this was an attempt to guarantee the silence of the largest organisation dealing with the mountain of problems created by the fundamentally-flawed Universal Credit disaster.

If someone dies as a result of this nightmare of a policy, and Citizens Advice knows about it, may we expect that organisation to do its public duty and blow the whistle?

Or will it cover up the facts, for fear of upsetting the Tories – and perhaps losing some of that fat funding formula?

Never mind the Tory government’s reputation. Before putting pen to paper, the bosses of Citizens Advice should have thought of their own.

Two charities that will receive £51 million in government funding to provide advice and support to claimants of universal credit (UC) signed gagging clauses that prevent them bringing the Department for Work and Pensions “unfairly” into “disrepute”.

Both Citizens Advice (CA) and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) signed grant agreements with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – worth a total of £51 million – that include the same clause.

By signing the documents, it means they cannot take “any actions which unfairly bring or are likely to unfairly bring [DWP’s] name or reputation and/or [DWP] into disrepute”.

Copies of the agreements signed last year by CA and CAS have been obtained from DWP by social welfare activist Frank Zola using the Freedom of Information Act.

He told Disability News Service (DNS) that the grant “does little more than help some people claim universal credit and not address its inherent flaws, it just helps impose UC misery on its service users, through this £51,000,000 bribe.

“Citizens Advice provides help to large numbers of those punished by universal credit, such as disabled people and families who have ended up losing thousands of pounds by claiming UC, vast rises in debt, rent arrears, evictions, survival crime, five week delays in first payments and the horror of its inbuilt benefit sanctions and excessive conditionality.

“Against this background, does Citizens Advice campaign and advocate for universal credit to be stopped and abolished?

“No, it decides to act as a mere duplicitous adjunct of the DWP and even agrees to a grant gagging clause that prevents them from being critical of the DWP.”

Source: Citizens Advice signed gagging clause in return for share of £51m from DWP – Disability News Service

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‘No criticism’ clause in DWP contracts will seriously harm charities’ ability to do their job

Esther McVey: Charities signing up as contractors for the DWP are under orders never to criticise the Tory government’s current killer-in-chief.

What is the point of the Royal National Institute for the Blind if it can’t speak up for blind people who are mistreated by the government?

That is the meaning of the clauses in contracts drawn up between the Department for Work and Pensions and charities that have agreed to help deliver the new Work and Health programme.

This Site has mentioned this project before – and not in a positive manner, so it is unsurprising that the Tories are trying to gag those who are most likely to witness the harm their policies do.

And of course the Gagging Act – that is, the Transparency of Lobbying, Third Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act – already ensured that charities must not speak out against the Conservatives during election periods.

With charities increasingly reliant on government funding, the latest incentive for them to do as they’re told like good little sheep is unlikely to face more than token claims that it won’t make any difference (as demonstrated in the Disability News Service article quoted below).

This means the most effective protesters against government mistreatment of people with long-term illnesses and disabilities are now becoming willing accomplices to the grave and systematic violations of those people’s rights – as defined by the United Nations.

It’s all part of the Conservative hate programme against people with disabilities, people without homes, and – as we’ve seen over the last few days – people from other countries who have made their homes in the UK.

A recent claim that Tory policies were reminiscent of Nazi Germany was condemned by many. But with whom would you compare them?

Disability charities that sign up to help deliver the government’s new Work and Health Programme must promise to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, official documents suggest.

The charities, and other organisations, must also promise never to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in McVey (pictured) or her Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability charities like RNIB, the Royal Association for Deaf People and Turning Point have agreed to act as key providers of services under the Work and Health Programme – which focuses on supporting disabled people and other disadvantaged groups into work – and so appear to be caught by the clause in the contract.

At least one of them – RNIB – has also signed contracts with one of the five main WHP contractors that contain a similar clause, which explicitly states that the charity must not “attract adverse publicity” to DWP and McVey.

The £398 million, seven-year Work and Health Programme is replacing the Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice disability employment scheme across England and Wales, with contractors paid mostly by results.

All the disability charities that have so far been contacted by Disability News Service (DNS) insist that the clause – which DWP says it has been using in such contracts since 2015 – will have no impact on their willingness to criticise DWP and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey or campaign on disability employment or benefits issues.

But the existence of the clause, and the first details to emerge of some of the charities that have agreed to work for DWP – which has been repeatedly attacked by disabled activists and academics for harassing and persecuting disabled people, and relying on a discriminatory benefit sanctions regime to try to force them into work – will raise questions about their ability and willingness to do so.

Source: Charities delivering DWP’s work programme ‘must promise not to attack McVey’


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Edinburgh demo follows Esther McVey’s vile defence of the ‘rape clause’

Demo: SNP MP Alison Thewliss has stood up against the ‘rape clause’ before.

Scots have organised a swift response to Esther McVey’s defence of the ‘rape clause’ at Holyrood earlier this week.

If you don’t know what she said and why it was so despicable, you need to read this article.

The quick version is: Esther McVey provoked outrage by claiming that forcing rape survivors to recount their ordeal in order to access benefits will give them an ‘opportunity to talk’.

Here’s the response from the people of Scotland – and This Site approves most strongly:

Activists are stepping up the pressure on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to scrap the rape clause.

A demonstration will be held on Thursday 19 April at 5.30pm, on The Mound, Edinburgh, one year on since its implementation.

It comes as work and pensions secretary Esther McVey told the Scottish parliament’s social security committee that the rape clause “provided an opportunity” for sexual assault victims and described victims talking about their rape to DWP staff as offering “potentially double support.”

An organiser responsible the protest said: “Esther McVey’s appearance in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, illustrated the alarming lack of understanding about the complexities and reality of sexual violence. No woman should be forced to choose between disclosing rape possibly for the first time ever and poverty. It is a disgrace.”

Alison Thewliss MP, who has campaigned against the clause from the beginning, said that charities and other agencies have warned that these measures will push thousands into poverty, and be hugely damaging to women.

Source: Rape clause protest to take place in Edinburgh


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Outrage as Esther McVey claims ‘rape clause’ gives survivors ‘opportunity to talk’

“Punish the rapist, not the victim”: Campaigners against the so-called ‘rape clause’.

You have to be a special kind of stupid to be a Conservative Secretary of State.

As Tories, they naturally assume that people who aren’t born with a title, or money, are property; they don’t understand why you should have any rights and expect you to do as you are told by your so-called “betters”.

As people, they do not understand the distress that some of their demands will cause. Even if they do, they’ll deny it in order to get what they want.

Esther McVey proved these points in a meeting with the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security committee on April 16. Here‘s The Independent to explain:

“Forcing rape survivors to recount their ordeal in order to access benefits will give them an ‘opportunity to talk’, the work and pensions secretary has said.

“Esther McVey claimed women who have a child as a result of rape would be helped by being made to speak to a charity worker or health professional because it means they could receive ‘double support’.”

“Double support”? She was saying that people who have already been forced into one vile situation should be forced into another – by the government!

Rape is a terrifying and humiliating ordeal, but Ms McVey thinks it is all right to demand that victims relive it, suffering the trauma all over again in every respect other than the physical – but being reminded of that, also.

Otherwise she will take away some of the money they need, in order to care for their children.

She thinks people should do as they are told and she cannot understand – or conveniently refuses to accept – the distress her policy is causing.

Ms McVey was responding to a question about the government’s so-called “rape clause”, which means that, under Universal Credit, parents will only receive benefits for their first two children. A woman who has a third child as a result of rape will have to prove the crime – or they won’t get any more money.

Mothers would not be questioned by Department for Work and Pensions officials but by experts working for charities or within the health system.

Here’s where the Tory idea falls apart: charities including Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland – who actually understand the trauma of rape – have refused to ask as “referrers”.

The blank-eyed ignorance and insensitivity of Ms McVey’s claim attracted incredulity – not just in the Scottish Parliament but around the UK:

This was not the only monstrous statement by the Secretary of State, though.

The hearing had to be stopped due to interruptions from outraged members of the public after Ms McVey made her vile claim.

But it was also suspended when she tried to get MSPs and members of the public to believe Universal Credit is a “supportive system” aimed at helping people into work.

The Mirror explains: “One audience member shouted ‘you can’t get into work if you’re dead’ as the Work and Pensions Secretary was grilled in Holyrood.”

The Courier adds: “People in the public gallery interrupted the minister in an angry intervention that referred to claimants who had committed suicide and had payments suspended for missing appointments.”

But consider Ms McVey’s comment when the meeting reconvened: “‘I am not oblivious to people who are incredibly vulnerable or who are in need,’ the Work and Pensions Secretary said when the meeting reconvened.

“’Obviously the gentleman felt he needed to have his points said about something that was very important to him and about someone who is very vulnerable.’”

About someone who is very vulnerable? That person is dead! They had their payments suspended for missing appointments and committed suicide.

And the reason that death happened is, Ms McVey and her DWP lackeys are oblivious to people who are vulnerable or in need.

She simply doesn’t care – so her employees are contractually required not to.

MSPs were horrified by the performance.

The Mirror stated: “Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said after the hearing: ‘This was a disgraceful performance from a Work and Pensions Secretary who is completely out of touch with the reality of life for low income women on tax credits. To badge up the vile rape clause as some sort of virtuous policy to provide support is simply skin-crawling.”

And The Courier added: “Alison Johnstone, the Green MSP, said: ‘… It’s simply astonishing that this invasive and upsetting clause exists, forcing women to put on record events which they wish to remain private.’

“George Adam, the SNP MSP, described the minister’s assessment that Universal Credit is working well for the ‘vast majority of recipients’ as ‘devoid of reality’.”

It is testament to the special kind of stupidity exhibited by all Tories that Ms McVey remains Work and Pensions Secretary after behaviour as loathsome as this.


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Patsy Burstow and the next great NHS betrayal

140312paulburstow

Patsy n A person regarded as open to victimisation or manipulation; a person upon whom the blame for something falls.

Burstow n A patsy.

It seems a familiar story: The Tories plan legislation that is clearly no good at all – in this case, a legal clause to allow the closure of successful hospitals to prop up failing NHS trusts (Clause 119 of the Care Bill). The Liberal Democrats object and threaten to rebel. The Tories then offer concessions to make it seem less likely that this will happen and the Lib Dems withdraw their objections.

All seems well until the new rules are put to the test. Coalition MPs voiced disquiet at the powers being granted to allow a trust special administrator (TSA) to force through changes at a neighbouring hospital if they consider it necessary to save one that is failing. This power is considered likely to be used to save hospitals run under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which are therefore saddled with huge unnecessary interest bills on the money invested by private companies.

We are told there will be some form of public consultation. Great. Here in Mid Wales, Powys County Council consulted constituents on its plans to cut £20 million from its budget for 2014-15. After the answers came back, the council’s cabinet ignored every single word of the responses and pressed on with its plan. Changes were only brought in after the rest of the council made it clear that they weren’t putting up with those shenanigans.

So much for consultation.

The minute a hospital is closed to prop up the PFI place next door, the Tories will blame Patsy – sorry, Paul – Burstow. They’ll say he had a chance to do something about it but didn’t.

What makes it worse for him is that Labour weren’t going to put up with his shenanigans and forced a vote on his amendment – which would have completely neutered the offending clause. Burstow voted against it – that’s right, against his own amendment, helping the government to a narrow 47-vote victory.

So much for him.

One politician who does seem to have the good of our hospitals at heart is Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham. What did he have to say about all this, during the debate yesterday (March 11)?

“What we have seen … from the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), who positioned himself as though he was going to make a stand for local involvement in the NHS, is the worst kind of collusion and sell-out of our national health service.

“Just as the Liberal Democrats voted for the Health and Social Care Act, again they have backed … the break-up of the NHS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Clause 99 – further dis-figuring benefits for the disabled

Sick? Disabled? It seems unlikely a note from your doctor will save you if the DWP makes an unreasonable decision about your fitness for work.

Sick? Disabled? It seems unlikely a note from your doctor will save you if the DWP makes an unreasonable decision about your fitness for work.

What is this Conservative obsession with dodgy ‘clauses’ in legislation?

I’m old enough to remember the furore over ‘Clause 28′ – the section of the Local Government Act 1988 that forbade local authorities in the UK from promoting homosexuality in any way’. While I’m not of that persuasion myself, I could see that this was intentionally oppressive legislation – and it is a historical fact that it caused many organisations to close or limit their activities.

It was also unreasonable legislation, in my opinion, because it restricted the freedoms of people in the UK for no good reason.

Clause 99 (or Section 99) of the Welfare Reform Act is also an unreasonable restriction. From April this year, it will ensure that people receiving Employment and Support Allowance will not be able to put in an appeal until they have had a reconsideration by the Department for Work and Pensions.

That may seem fair enough, in order to minimise unnecessary work by assessors, but here’s the catch: If a person in the work-related activity group (the relevant section of society for this legislation – if you’ve been found ‘fit for work’, you’ll be on the different benefit anyway) seeks reconsideration, they will immediately be moved to Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Being on JSA means you are already legally defined as ‘fit for work’. You must therefore actively seek work while receiving that benefit; show proof that you are doing so; attend interviews arranged by Job Centre Plus; and may only refuse a job with a very good reason – and even then only three times.

Stating that you do not believe yourself to be fit for work is not a good reason to refuse a job, as the Government – by placing you on JSA – has made a legally-binding statement that you are fit for work.

And remember, the 12-month timebomb – the limit on contribution-based benefits – will still be ticking while a claimant is on JSA.

There appears to be no reason given to justify this provision.

Of course, production of a sick note from your doctor would invalidate a claimant from any job offers by a company. Nobody interviewing a person who is waiting for a reconsideration of ESA will offer them a job if they have one.

Unfortunately, doctors are now being asked to issue ‘fit notes’ – or more accurately, ‘Statements of Fitness for Work For Social Security or Statutory Sick Pay’ for when they consider a person is well enough to return to some kind of work, although possibly with restrictions.

They do allow GPs to give a professional opinion on what type of work can’t be undertaken, but they also allow the DWP to say that the claimant is fit for ‘work’ and to interpret that as it sees fit.

The aim of all this, it seems to me, is to put sick or disabled people in an untenable position; to place them under the strain of at least having to go through the motions, even though there can be no valid reason for doing so. In other words, it is completely unreasonable and contradictory.

Here’s the big money question, though: How many ordinary members of the public are even aware of this technicality?

I’m willing to bet it’s a tiny minority.

I certainly didn’t know about it until I had my attention drawn to it yesterday, and I write about the DWP, ESA and other disability benefits on a regular basis!

People are not going to think anything is wrong unless they know about it. This reminds me of a debate in the chamber of Powys County Council on Tuesday, when the council’s cabinet had to defend its plan to consult on the closure of two schools. The fact it wanted to close them became known only four or five days before the decision was due to be made, giving supporters of both schools an unreasonably short period of time (in my opinion) to launch any kind of defence. The consultation is going ahead.

So I would suggest that readers of this blog who care about such matters should join up with anyone else who has an interest and protest at high volume in the most public places possible. I’m sure you all know what to do and where to go – bother your MP about it; write to the press; take to the streets if you have to. Put up posters and send memes across the internet.

Make people aware that their freedoms are being taken away – with no justification to support the action.