Tag Archives: confidential

As police get access to #trackandtrace data, the public swaps stories about #ToryLiars

A load of bull: how many people believe the childish chatter the Tories give us every day in place of facts?

Public patience with the lies of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is running out.

The latest revelation of their duplicity – that supposedly confidential information provided by people who use the Tories’ silly ‘contact tracing’ app is being passed to the police – has triggered a wave of social media posts under the hashtag #ToryLiars.

Here’s the story that triggered it:

It states that there is a legal requirement for contacts of people who’ve had a positive Covid-19 test to self-isolate for 14 days, but fewer than 11 per cent are actually doing so.

Police are being given their identity details in order to chase up enforcement.

Reasons given for breaking self-isolation include believing there was no point isolating from strangers if you cannot properly distance from those in your household; not developing symptoms; or visiting shops or a pharmacy.

Obviously the second excuse is made by idiots; we’ve already been told symptoms may develop over a period of up to 14 days, so failure to see them before the full period is over is no excuse for ending self-isolation.

But the point about not isolating from strangers if you can’t isolate from other members of your household who don’t have to self-isolate under Tory government rules is a good one. I have said before that, if symptoms develop, then the housemates may have spent many days merrily spreading the virus.

And my own knowledge of friends and family who were told to “shield” from the virus by isolating themselves while healthy is enough for me to understand why people have been forced to give up self-isolation to buy food and/or seek medication.

It isn’t a failure of intelligence because it was easy to see these problems coming and while I do believe our government ministers are stupid, I don’t believe they were not warned. I think they chose to ignore those warnings and left people to struggle – and spread the virus.

You see, a partial lockdown is as useless as no lockdown at all, when you’re trying to contain a disease.

So the Tories have created a situation where their own failure to create proper conditions for self-isolation has created a need for police enforcement that should not be there.

The public know this and resent it. Hence the charge that the Tories have lied about the app’s confidentiality.

I know some have pointed out that no information on the app itself is being shared – just registration details – but of course people hand those details over in order to use the app so it is a very flimsy excuse.

The claim that this is a lie has led to further comments on other recent Tory lies. And there have been a lot of them:

Undoubtedly the list is lengthening as I type this.

Look up the #ToryLiars hashtag on Twitter and learn something.

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Covid-19: Tories admit their own incompetence as ‘test and trace’ app is unlawful

Matt Hancock: he was a Covid-19 super-spreader so it should be no surprise that his employees on the ‘track and trace’ programme have been publicising patients’ confidential information. It is a criminal offence and he should be punished by a judge. What do you think will happen?

Isn’t this criminal stupidity?

The Tories have been telling us their ‘test and trace’ app for finding people who’ve had Covid-19, in order to isolate those they’ve contacted, is vital to prevent the spread of the disease – and therefore stop unnecessary deaths.

But now we learn that it breaches privacy laws, with Sky News reporting that the programme’s staff have been sharing private information about patients on the social media.

What a Hobson’s Choice we’ve had – refuse to use the app and Tory twits like Matt Hancock accuse us of betraying the campaign against the virus; but if we do use it, our intimate personal information goes public!

It turns out that critics of the scheme, the Open Rights Group, were right and the government did not conduct a data privacy impact assessment (DPIA) which is required to ensure that breaches of patients’ information don’t take place.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said there was “no evidence of data being used unlawfully” – and then clammed up when asked if a Sunday Times report that this is exactly what has happened was accurate.

The Open Rights Group reckons it has already seen evidence of confidential track and trace information being shared on social media – and This Writer is certainly more inclined to believe that organisation than a government that has built up a record of relentless incompetence.

Can anybody tell me a single thing the Tories have got right since December 13, 2019?

Of course, breach of Data Protection laws is a criminal offence and the person directly responsible for this one will be the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, one Matt Hancock.

How lucky he must feel, knowing that as a Tory minister he is above the law and the police wouldn’t touch him even if he committee murder on television.

Source: Coronavirus: Government admits its Test and Trace programme is unlawful | Science & Tech News | Sky News

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.

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Prince William receives confidential cabinet papers


As with Prince Charles, it is arguable that Prince William is entirely entitled to receive confidential cabinet papers, because he is the son of the heir to the Throne and needs to understand the issues facing the UK before becoming monarch and being asked to sign acts of Parliament concerning those issues.

But the revelation that he receives these documents – which was not included in the response to a Freedom of Information request by the campaigning group Republic – creates a huge amount of concern over who has access to this information, and who does not.

The Duke of Cambridge occasionally receives copies of confidential cabinet documents, the BBC has learned.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said that, as a future heir to the throne, it was “appropriate that he is regularly briefed on government business”.

It was revealed on Tuesday that Prince Charles receives such material routinely – as does the Queen.

Campaign group Republic said there was “no good reason” why Prince William also received the information.

Earlier this week, Republic received four chapters of the Cabinet Office’s “precedent book” – released after a three-year freedom of information battle.

The book shows Prince Charles, the Queen, ministers and a handful of others get papers from cabinet and ministerial committees.

Junior government ministers do not receive such access to the documents.

Source: Prince William receives confidential cabinet papers – BBC News

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Controversy over Prince Charles should reopen debate on the government and lobbyists


Some might say that Prince Charles is entirely entitled to receive confidential cabinet papers, because he is heir to the Throne and has the right to understand the issues facing the UK before becoming monarch and being asked to sign acts of Parliament concerning those issues.

However, he has made no secret of the fact that he has concerns of his own – and the revelation that he does receive these documents means he is in an excellent position to push his own agenda, ahead of any other lobbyist or the national interest.

If critics of the policy that allows him to see these papers want him to stop, though, they should also consider the fact that the Conservative Government, more than any other, is accessed by lobbyists representing other paid interests on a regular basis.

There was some discussion of this when the Transparency of Lobbying Act was being pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but of course the national interest always comes a distant second to personal interest when ministers have a chance to make a little extra money.

Consider Esther McVey’s latest job – not the one we fund in which she chairs the British Transport Police; This Writer means her new job with lobbyists Hume Brophy.

Or what about Nadhim Zahawi, who works as chief strategy officer for oil explorer Gulf Keystone which has interests in Kurdistan, has had shares in Genel Energy, which also works in Kurdistan, and also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan, is on the UK Prime Minister’s Policy Board with special responsibility for business and the economy, and was appointed to the Commons Foreign Affairs select committee in June 2014, where he played a key role in its inquiry into government policy on Kurdistan?

The magazine Private Eye has a section entitled ‘Revolving Doors’, reporting on the huge number of MPs and civil servants who take jobs with private sector employers.

Strangely enough – unless huge numbers of the public rally to fight over any single issue, these individuals and the relatively small number of private interests they represent appear to have a monopoly on the Conservative Government’s ear.

So why single out Prince Charles?

“The disclosure of cabinet papers to Prince Charles is quite extraordinary,” said Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive. “Not only because they would contain highly classified information, but because it gives him considerable advantage in pressing his own agenda when lobbying ministers. He is essentially a minister not attending cabinet. He gets the paperwork and has private meetings with ministers about policy.”

A senior MP called for a parliamentary inquiry into the arrangement, which he said made Charles Britain’s “best informed lobbyist”. It also prompted speculation that the prince uses the flow of information to help him intervene with ministers on new policy proposals before parliament or the public are aware of their existence.

Paul Flynn, a member of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee, said Charles’s access to cabinet papers was “a considerable surprise” and called for a parliamentary investigation.

“He is not just a figurehead, he has become a participant in national debate and there is no control over his lobbying,” Flynn said. “This means that he is not only the most influential lobbyist, but the best informed and he is lobbying for his own interests, which are not always benign or sensible.”

Source: Revealed: Prince Charles has received confidential cabinet papers for decades | UK news | The Guardian

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Do parents even know their children’s school data has been given away?

140426schooldata

Fellow blogger and Vox Political reader Owen Boswarva has delivered frightening proof of the way parents have been sidelined by Michael Gove’s Department for Education, in order to give away – not even sell – confidential information about our children to private companies.

Mr Boswarva said he had written a blog post about the issue last year, in which he stated his concern about “the low profile of DfE’s NPD initiative. Most of the consultation responses are from organisations with an interest in re-using the data, leavened by some cautionary advice from civil society groups. There are only a couple of responses from schools and a half-dozen or so responses from individual parents (consistently opposed to the proposals).” [Emphasis mine]

“There appears to have been no concerted effort to bring the consultation or the NPD initiative to the attention of parents or pupils (i.e. the data subjects themselves). This is a quote from one of the parents who did respond: ‘I am shocked and appalled that I wasn’t notified about this consultation through my child’s school — I read about it on Twitter of all things. A letter should have gone to every single parent explaining the proposals and how to respond to this consultation.’

“(Now imagine that sentiment amplified via Mumsnet …)”

His full article is available here and makes absorbing reading as it features all of the responses to what the DfE (laughably) called its “consultation”.

In his comment to VP, Mr Boswarva wrote: “Some civil liberties organisations (including Big Brother Watch) did respond to the DfE consultation… The implemented access regime is not quite as bad as the original proposals, but I agree we should be concerned.

“For me the main issue is that parents (and pupils themselves, who are the actual data subjects) are unaware of how the personal data is being shared with third-party organisations.

“There was no press release or any other broad communication to the public when access to NPD data was expanded. (It’s worth noting that most of the broadsheets [newspapers] have been given access to Tier 2 pupil data themselves, so they are probably not keen to rock the boat.)

“If you want to get into the detail of what DfE is up to with the NPD, try this Deloitte report: National Pupil Database: Exploiting the benefits of releasing the data.”

I have yet to do so (time being against me) but I invite any readers with an interest to download the report, go through it, and report your findings.

I’m off to find a contact address for Mumsnet.

Addendum: I’ve amended this article after Mr Boswarva contacted me to point out that the DfE isn’t, in fact, selling pupil information – the department is giving it away for free. In my opinion this makes its actions even worse. What do you think? (Thanks are due to Mr Boswarva, whose full communication should appear in the comment column below.)

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School pupils’ details are being given away by the government

Selling their future: Michael Gove's Department for Education has put pupils' confidential information up for sale.

Selling their future: Michael Gove’s Department for Education has put pupils’ confidential information up for sale.

Thanks are due to the Vox Political reader who flagged up the fact that, while plans to sell British citizens’ health records and tax details are currently delayed or in consideration, confidential information about our children is already being passed on to private companies.

Researchers and third-party organisations can apply for detailed information from the national pupil database (NPD), covering pupils at schools and colleges in England.

This includes test and exam results, details of prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector, attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools, sixth-form and further education colleges, and information on pupils in independent schools, where available.

The database also includes information about pupils’ characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs (SEN), and pupil absence and exclusions.

Why would anyone want to use such information commercially?

Extracts of this data are available for use by any organisation or person who, “for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of children in England”, are conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, or providing information, advice or guidance. To whom?

The available data is arranged into ‘tiers’, as follows:

  • Tier 1 – the most sensitive personal information
  • Tier 2 – other sensitive personal information, including less sensitive versions of tier 1 data
  • Tier 3 – school-level data
  • Tier 4 – other pupil-level data, for example, attainment, absence and exclusions

Users can even request bespoke extracts, with a member of the NPD Data Request team on hand to advise on the approvals process, and whether the information requested is available.

The NPD is also linked to the further and higher education sectors, using data from the individualised learner record (ILR) and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) student record.

Users can request linked information in the following combinations:

  • NPD linked to ILR data
  • NPD linked to HESA student record
  • NPD linked to both ILR and HESA
  • Individualised learner record linked to HESA student record

You will not be consulted on whether you wish to allow your child’s information to be given away.

This means a huge amount of information about your children is now available to third parties and – considering the government guidance note from which this information is drawn is almost a month old – may already have been handed over.

Confidential information on – for example – exam and test results, special educational needs, absence and exclusions, and eligibility for free school meals could have a serious impact on a pupil’s prospects in adult life, if used to inform organisations that are hiring school leavers, for example.

There are safeguards. Organisations requesting information need to demonstrate that they comply with all relevant requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, including proving that they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office to process personal data or fall within an exemption, have appropriate security arrangements in place to process the data, intend to use the data only for a specified purpose, will keep the data only for a specified length of time, and will not share the data without our prior written approval.

Considering this government’s track record, how safe does that make you feel?

If you want to read the guidance note yourself, it may be found here.

Addendum: I’ve amended this article after Owen Boswarva contacted me to point out that the DfE isn’t, in fact, selling pupil information – the department is giving it away for free. In my opinion this makes its actions even worse. What do you think?

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Now the Tories want to sell your tax details to private firms

[Image: The Guardian.]

[Image: The Guardian.]

Not happy with its attempt to sell your health details to private companies, the moneygrubbing Conservative-led Coalition wants to sell off your personal tax data to companies, researchers and public bodies.

The government is considering how much to charge for the information, and claims that all data accessed by third parties will be “confidential”.

But the public has already been stung once by the Coalition’s incompetent attempts to go commercial. The proposed initiative to share NHS medical records with the private sector had to be suspended after a public outcry over “pseudonymised” data – a process by which medical records were said to be anonymous but it was in fact possible to trace exactly whose they were.

The plans for HM Revenue and Customs to share its data are, apparently, being overseen by Treasury minister David Gauke, whose relaxed attitude towards private firms led him to sign off on the infamous “sweetheart deals” that allowed multinational companies to keep billions of pounds of tax that they owed to the Treasury but didn’t want to pay.

Worse still, it turns out the government has already allowed private firms access to our data.

The government has strict rules about what can be released outside HMRC, with a near total ban on data sharing unless it is beneficial for the organisation’s internal work. But according to The Guardian, despite the restrictions, HMRC has quietly launched a pilot programme that has released data about VAT registration for research purposes to three private credit ratings agencies: Experian, Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet.

To comply with the law, the private ratings agencies, which determine credit scores for millions of people and businesses, have been contracted to act on behalf of HMRC and are “therefore treated as part of the department” – giving them access to tax data about businesses that would otherwise be confidential.

The government’s plans to change the law to allow the sale of anonymised individual tax data and release of the VAT register were buried in documents as part of the autumn statement and recent budget.

An HMRC spokesman told the BBC: “HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place.

“Last year’s consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment.

“Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information.”

So there. Do you feel better now?

Emma Carr, deputy director of civil rights campaign group, Big Brother Watch, doesn’t. She said: “The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification.

“Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy.”

Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told The Guardian the information could be highly useful to credit rating agencies, advertisers, and retailers wanting to practise price discrimination.

“This is going to be a big battleground,” he said. “If they were to make HMRC information more available, there’s an awful lot of people who would like to get their hands on it. Anonymisation is something about which they lied to us over medical data … If the same thing is about to be done by HMRC, there should be a much greater public debate about this.”

It seems the Conservatives in the Coalition are determined to sell information that doesn’t belong to them, and intend to grind us down with a relentless bombardment of initiatives and plans until they succeed.

They seem to by relying on the possibility that we will get ‘complaint fatigue’ and give up any protests. This is how they have beaten disabled people into submission to the draconian system for withdrawing state benefits from them; the system for appealing is drawn-out and convoluted, and many people with illnesses are too tired or weak to go through the process.

Also, this is another way of contracting-out government work to private firms, as evidenced by the VAT “research” that has been handed over to credit ratings agencies.

You can be sure of two things: Your data is not safe in their hands, and they won’t stop trying to sell it until they have been pushed out of government.

What are you going to do?

UPDATE: Campaigner Patrick Olszowski has responded to my challenge by launching a petition on the Change.org website. Please visit and sign!

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The end of patient confidentiality as NHS information is sold to insurers

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds - because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds – because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Confidential information on NHS patients has been sold to insurance companies who used it in combination with information from credit rating agencies to identify customers and “refine” their premiums – increasing the costs of policies for thousands of customers, despite all the Tory-led government’s assurances to the contrary.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “a major UK insurance company… was able to obtain 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients.

“As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year.”

The revelation comes only days after plans to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England were put on hold amid a public outcry.

The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations.

Only last Friday the BBC was reporting that critics of the scheme were “scaremongering”.

The Corporation – which has failed to report the new development – quoted Tory MP George Freeman, founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies (and not patients, apparently) as follows: “We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine.”

And last month, NHS England categorically stated: “No data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance.”

Vox Political has made it clear from the outset that this is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you. Now we have proof.

NHS England has delayed compiling the new database of English NHS patients until the autumn. You could help sink the scheme altogether, if you don’t want your government – and your NHS – to sell your information into the wrong hands. Just opt out of the data sharing scheme, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

Make no mistake – the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have betrayed you.

They have already sold hospital patients’ information to insurance companies, and there can be no doubt that the intention is to do the same with GPs’ confidential records, with a consequential increase in insurance costs to people across the country.

They are turning your beloved National Health Service into an insurance-based scheme, on the same lines as the vastly more expensive American system.

They have been lying to you.

They intend to profit from selling your information – to companies that intend to profit by using it against you.

Are you going to sit there and let them?

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Atos ‘death threats’ claim – ‘outrageous’ insult to those its regime has killed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KrychGaA78&feature=share

“If this isn’t intimidation, I don’t know what is – it’s a very clear message to anyone: How dare you protest against us and, if you do, we’ll find you fit for work!” Anti-Atos protester Joanne Jemmett with the sign left by Atos workers outside the assessment centre in Weston-Super-Mare on Wednesday (“Fit enough to protest – fit enough to work!”) at the start of this short film documenting the demonstration there.

Watching the stories stack up in the wake of the national day of protest against Atos last Wednesday has been very interesting.

The immediate response was that Atos has approached the government, seeking an early end to its contract. This deal, under which Atos administers the hated Work Capability Assessments to people on incapacity or disability benefits, would have been worth more than £1 billion to the company over a 10-year period.

Allegedly, company employees have been receiving death threats, both during and after the protests. We’ll come back to those shortly.

The Conservative-led Coalition took this development in the way we have come to expect – spitefully. A DWP spokesperson said that the company’s service had declined to an unacceptable level, and that the government was already seeking tenders from other firms for the contract.

This is what happens when bullies squabble.

Atos is the big bully that has just had a shock because the other kids in the playground stood up to it and made it clear they weren’t going to stand for its nonsense any more. We’re told that all bullies are cowards and it appears to be true in this case – Atos went running to the bigger bully (the government) and said it was scared. The government then did what bigger bullies do; it said Atos was rubbish anyway and set about finding someone else to do its dirty work.

Here’s the sticking-point, though – as the BBC identified in its article: “The government was furious with Atos for leaking information it believes to be commercially confidential… If Atos wants to pull out early, some other companies may pay less to take those contracts on than they otherwise would.”

I should clarify that companies don’t actually pay for contracts; they offer to carry out the work at the lowest prices they think are viable, in competition with other firms. The government chooses the company it feels is best-suited to the work. In this situation, it seems likely that the possibility of death threats may put some firms off even applying.

So let’s come back to those threats. A spokesperson for the organisers of Wednesday’s demonstration tells us that pickets took place outside 93 Atos centres, across the UK. Most of these were very small – averaging 30 people or less (I can confirm that in Newtown, Powys, a maximum of 15 people attended at any one time). Brighton and London were bigger, but 12 demos had only one person present.

“That is really funny because, as you have seen, Atos are saying they had to close down all their centres for the day – up and down the country – because of huge hoards of scary, threatening disabled people issuing death threats,” the spokesperson said.

“All demos were peaceful and no trouble or arrests were reported.”

In the spokesperson’s opinion: “Atos have been planning to step down for a long time because they weren’t making enough profit and just used our tiny little demos as an excuse.”

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and sister group Black Triangle issued a joint statement: “The bizarre exit strategy Atos have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those who have died and all those who have lost family members through this regime.

“It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to food banks.

“It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.”

The statement also poured water on any government claim that other companies had been put off bidding for the contract:”The alphabet corporations – G4S, A4E, SERCO, CAPITA – are already lining up to take over the multi-million profits and the mantle of the new Grim Reapers. The misery imposed by this Government and the DWP will continue as long as its heinous policies continue.”

I would strongly urge all readers to put their support behind the remainder of the statement, which asserted: “The Work Capability Assessment must also end.

“The reign of terror by this unelected Coalition Government which has awarded itself pay rises and cut taxes for those earning more than £150,000 while piling punishment, poverty, misery and premature death on everyone else in its policies of rich against poor must end.

“Make no mistake – we will continue to demonstrate against ATOS, now delivering the complete failure of PIP in which claims are being delayed by up to a year.

“We will demonstrate against any other company that takes over the WCA contract.

“We will continue to demand the immediate removal of the WCA, and the removal of this Government.”

Hear, hear.

In my article on the Bedroom Tax evictions taking place in my home town (yesterday) I made it clear that too few people are bothering to pay attention to the evils of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government. That article received a huge response, garnering almost four times the readership of other recent posts within just 24 hours.

The situation described in this article is much worse – people aren’t being evicted from their homes; they are being forced off of the benefits that have kept them alive, pushed – by the government! – towards destitution, despair and death through either suicide or a failure of their health that their Atos assessment results deny should ever take place.

Today’s article should have more readers, after the success of yesterday’s – but we’ll have to see, shan’t we? If fewer people read it, we’ll know that they all just looked up for a moment, thought, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and went back to whatever distraction keeps them happy in the face of impending government-sponsored pain.

Any attempt to inform the public will fail if the public stops paying attention.

Let’s keep it focused where it belongs.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Stalled – the plan to share NHS patients’ confidential information with big business

Freudian slip: The BBC's article on the care.data delay was accompanied by this picture of a hand drawing on a diagram of a pair of breasts. Is this a tacit implication that the Department of Health has boobed? (Sorry, ladies) [Image: BBC]

Freudian slip: The BBC’s article on the care.data delay was accompanied by this picture of a hand drawing on a diagram of a pair of breasts. Is this a tacit implication that the Department of Health has boobed? (Sorry, ladies) [Image: BBC]

A plan to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England has been put on hold after it caused a public outcry.

The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. A new proposal backed by NHS England (a body set up largely to support the increasing privatisation of the NHS, if my information is correct) would give non-NHS bodies including private companies the right to ask for access to the data.

The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations. This is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you.

The government claims the information will help experts assess diseases, examine the effects of new drugs and identify infection outbreaks, while also monitoring the performance of the NHS.

In fact, it seems far more likely that this is a widespread invasion of privacy, with the information likely to be used (for example) to sell you health insurance that you should not need.

We are told that NHS England organised a mass mailing to every household in England, explaining its version of what the planned system will do – but a BBC poll of 860 people last week found that fewer than one-third of them could recall receiving it.

Concern that people are likely to end up allowing their information to go into commercial hands without ever knowing about it has led to the scheme being halted – for the time being.

NHS England has accepted that its communications campaign must be “improved”, although we do not yet know how. A propaganda campaign on TV and radio seems likely.

Every NHS patient in England has the right to opt out of the data sharing scheme, and many have already chosen to do so. You can do it right now, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

While NHS England and the Department of Health will continue trying to justify this scheme, there is no justification for selling your private information to commercial organisations.

It is to be hoped that this six-month pause will end with the abandonment of the scheme.

If the organisations that want the information genuinely intend to use it for humanitarian concerns, it would be fully anonymised and they would not be buying it.

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