Tag Archives: crush

Coalition supporter suggests sanctioned benefit claimant deserved death

This woman was sanctioned because she told work programme providers she was 23 weeks pregnant. Does she deserve to die as a result of that decision?

This woman is not the subject of this article. However, she was sanctioned because she told work programme providers she was 23 weeks pregnant. Does she deserve to die as a result of that decision?

What follows will be shocking to some of you. Outrageous. This writer would find it questionable if it was not.

It relates to yesterday’s (December 16) article, Benefit deaths: Man was crushed to death by refuse lorry while scavenging in bins, and in particular to a response – not from any official source, but from a reader.

The story was about a man who had been sanctioned off of his benefit and had to survive without any money for 17 weeks. He was reduced to scavenging in bins for leftovers or out-of-date food, and it was while he was doing this that a rubbish-compacting lorry arrived, picked him up and crushed him to death.

Here’s the response from one Nicholas Blanch on Google+: “I’m going to ask you why he was sanctioned in the first place, because if it was for something he had no control over then that was Wrong with a capital W, worth wholeheartedly condemning, and the government should bear the full weight of responsibility for the end of this man’s life and the corresponding loss to all of us of whatever this man might have contributed directly or indirectly to our lives.

“If, however, the sanction came about through that man’s actions or lack thereof then the responsibility for his situation and its deadly consequence lies with him.”

Take a moment to let that sink in.

In effect, this person conferred the death sentence on any benefit recipient who has been sanctioned by Job Centre Plus according to current DWP rules. Anything that happens to them as a result – including death – is their fault, in his opinion.

Hopefully the sceptics who refused to believe the Chequebook Euthanasia article – because they couldn’t accept that people think in such ways – are hastily reconsidering their position.

What he’s saying is so appalling that he deserves to be named and shamed on this blog.

Mr Blanch continues: “To draw an analogy, if a person gets into a car crash and dies, you want to know the cause of the accident before you assign the blame over the death. You don’t just assume that the problem was the speed limit and demand that it be lowered to make the road safer.”

Okay, let’s look at some real sanctions that have been applied by Job Centre Plus staff – these are from a Vox Political article but there are many more listed on the web.

“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.” Does that justify a man’s death?

“You have a job interview which overruns so you arrive at your job centre appointment nine minutes late. You get sanctioned for a month.” Would this have you reaching for the black cap and calling the executioner?

“Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has ‘expired’ so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.” The death sentence?

“You are on a workfare placement and your job centre appointment comes round. The job centre tells you to sign on then go to your placement – which you do. The placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for three months.” And if you die, is that fine?

You apply for all the jobs you can physically attend, but the Job Centre says you should have applied for those that are impossible to get to and from. Should you die for that omission? Alternatively, should you die for failing to attend any job interviews at the locations it is impossible for you to physically attend?

Mr Blanch gets worse: “Also, if any party wants to influence my vote away from the Coalition [note: he supports the Coalition Government, made up of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties] on the strength of this issue, then I want to know what their alternative plans are to ensure that my tax money goes only to people that are on benefits because that’s where they have to be rather than where they choose to be.”

Seriously, Mr B, do you think anyone would choose to be stuck in a system where an official can sign a warrant for you to starve to death with the stroke of a pen?

“As poor as this policy is, and as grim as the side-effects are, at least this Coalition Government took steps to try to make sure that all of my tax money goes to that majority of people that are in honest need so that there was a chance that the welfare budget might have been enough for them to have a shot at something approaching decency and dignity in their quality of life rather than forcing them to make the choice to eat or to heat due to the fact that some of my money is wasted on those fortunately few but sadly still-present people who have decided that working the system is preferable to working a job.”

This convoluted and confused sentence takes a bit of unravelling.

Firstly: “This Coalition Government took steps to try to make sure that all of my tax money goes to that majority of people that are in honest need.” No it did not. If you’re talking about all of your tax money, what about the huge amount that goes to the City of London – £103.4 billion a year, despite the fact that there is no need for any subsidy at all? What about the millions that go to work capability assessors and work programme companies, despite the fact that they make no material contribution to a claimant’s needs (work capability assessments may be carried out just as efficiently by a claimant’s doctors, and it has been calculated that claimants are statistically more likely to get a job if they do not take part in the work programme than if they do).

“The welfare budget might have been enough for them to have a shot at something approaching decency and dignity in their quality of life.” No, it would not. The Coalition Government’s benefits squeeze is nothing to do with the number of claimants; it is about ensuring that the unemployed cannot enjoy a decent, dignified quality of life. The aim is to make them desperate for any job, in order to keep wages down. Employers can argue that they don’t need to give anyone a raise because “there are hundreds more out there who’ll do this job for less than you”.

“Some of my money is wasted on those fortunately few but sadly still-present people who have decided that working the system is preferable to working a job.” Such people comprise roughly 0.7 per cent of benefit claimants – a figure that has not changed since before the Coalition Government came into office, no matter what measures Iain Duncan Smith has forced on them. It is such a small proportion of the claimant population that any action by the Coalition Government to tackle it is hugely disproportionate to the threat it represents – initiatives to stop the fraud are more harmful than the fraud itself.

All of this information is freely available to anybody with a modicum of curiosity – you only have to go and look.

That is why Nicholas Blanch’s comment is not only shocking and outrageous; it is also disgracefully ignorant.

So no, Mr Blanch, there is no point in seeking to influence your vote away from the Coalition parties.

With attitudes like yours, nobody else would want it.

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Benefit deaths: Man was crushed to death by refuse lorry while scavenging in bins

“One of our clients was sanctioned. He had
no money for seventeen weeks. He was
scavenging in a bin, the lorry came, picked
him up and he was crushed to death.”

The above is a statement by Vince Hessey, a member of the board of trustees at Birkenhead YMCA (listed as YMCA Wirral), given in evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom, printed in the section entitled The vulnerability of people relying on food banks.

The inquiry’s aims included investigating the underlying causes of hunger and food poverty in the UK, and considering ways of improving the situation.

The report’s central recommendation is for the creation of a new national network called Feeding Britain, composed of the food bank movement and other providers of food assistance, the voluntary organisations redistributing fresh surplus food, the food industry and representatives from ‘each of the eight government departments whose policy affects the numbers of people at risk of hunger’.

That’s all very well, but something isn’t right here.

What about the fact that a major cause of hunger and food poverty in the UK is the UK’s own government?

What about the fact that a decision by a UK government employee, following guidelines set down by UK government ministers, led to a man being crushed to death in a refuse collection lorry?

What about the fact that this was one of many incidents that would not have happened if UK government policy had been different?*

And what about the fact that the UK government clearly couldn’t care less?

Thanks are due to Ann McGauran, the blogging food bank helper, for raising this issue. Her own article on the Feeding Britain report goes into far greater detail and may be found here.

*See, for example:

Dying woman ordered onto the Work Programme

DWP urged to publish inquiries on benefit claimant suicides

Woman’s benefits sanctioned when she is 23 weeks pregnant

Claimant death: Job Centre staff say: “We are only following orders”

Too poor to eat; too long to wait

The work capability assessment and suicide – a.k.a. ‘chequebook euthanasia’

Work capability assessor asked why depressed claimant had not committed suicide

Inquiry to be launched into ex-soldier’s death after JSA stopped

Was Mark Wood the last stumbling-block for Atos?

Was Stephanie Bottrill a victim of corporate manslaughter?

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

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Modern politics: Give the other fellow hell – and the country nothing at all

131214perception

Politics is perception.

It isn’t about government any more. It seems none of the main parties are interested in gaining Parliamentary dominance in order to improve British citizens’ chances of leading successful lives, serving their needs by creating the best conditions in which they can prosper.

Quite the opposite – it seems clear that the intention is to crush those very citizens beneath the heel of the State (most hypocritically in the case of the Conservatives), forcing the people to serve the interests of the elected members.

What a sad State to be in. Politics is no longer even “the art of the possible”, as Otto von Bismarck once put it – unless we are discussing possible ways to fleece the electorate.

Now, the aim of the game is to shape the way the masses perceive current events. Control of the media is vital, and a series of strong statements – supported by those media but not necessarily by the facts – is considered all that is necessary to win.

It isn’t, as we shall see. But this is why we hear Tories screaming on and on, week after week, that they are clearing up a mess (no they’re not) that was Labour’s fault (no it wasn’t); that the benefit bill is too high (no it isn’t – really, it isn’t!), and the only solution is to cut support for people who desperately need it and put them into deep poverty and destitution (no it isn’t). These are positions taken by the current Coalition government and none of them are supported by the facts.

Then there is the running-down of opposing politicians. Labour’s Jack Dromey was on the receiving end of Conservative ire yesterday, after he tweeted a message about a lad from a Royal Mail sorting office being its “Pikey”. He meant that Gareth Martin’s nickname in his place of work was “Pikey”, after the character of Private Pike, the youngest member of the platoon in Dad’s Army – but Tories including David Morris went as far as writing to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, demanding an investigation into the use of a derogatory term for members of the Roma and Irish travelling communities and questioning whether it was an incitement to racial hatred, of all things.

Of course it wasn’t. It was an attempt to get a fairly simple idea into Twitter’s 140-character limit that failed because of a word that had a double meaning.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Sarah Champion accused Conservative MPs of making sexist gestures at female members of the Opposition, while they are speaking in the House of Commons. If this is correct (and it’s hard to tell, because televised debates concentrate mainly on whoever is speaking), then the intention cannot be as open to interpretation as Mr Dromey and his “Pikey”. Interestingly, I had to use an MSN news report as reference because the BBC News item seems to have disappeared – which tends to support my point.

Constituencies up and down the country have been going through the motions of choosing the candidates who will fight the 2015 election – and what a well-managed process it is! I wonder how many of these candidates were the preferred choice of their Party heirarchy, who then contrived to convince their members that the choice was democratic? But we were all shocked at the suggestion of corruption in Falkirk, weren’t we?

How many new candidates will be besuited youngsters, with scant work experience other than as gophers for sitting Parliamentarians, councillors or devolved Parliamentarians/Assembly members, brandishing their degrees in Politics, Philosophy and Economics as though they were magic talismans that would guarantee their entry to the highest offices in the land?

How many of these candidates will be brave enough to have a voice of their own, and how many will simply spout homogeneous party lines, carefully-worded so that they can apply to any constituency?

And if they win their seat, how many of them will stand up for the rights and livelihoods of their constituents, rather than obediently voting through every corrupt bid to drain us of power and money?

Not many, I’ll warrant.

Look at your own representatives – and the candidates who hope to replace them. What do you see?

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Thatcher’s police state – the culture that led to Hillsborough

It seems amazing that Jack Straw, a former Home Secretary, can be described as “very silly” for saying what we have all known for nearly 30 years.

Responding to the announcement of the Hillsborough cover-up by South Yorkshire Police, he said Margaret – now Baroness – Thatcher, the Prime Minister at the time, had created a “culture of impunity” in the police that made such corruption possible.

Anyone who lived through the 1980s should be well aware of this. Mrs Thatcher used the police as a political weapon throughout her period in office.

Look at the way she used police – and in fact transported officers from forces across the country – to intimidate miners during the strike of 1984-5; look at the way she used them to stop people celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge.

The Levellers even wrote a song about it.

According to the BBC website, Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Thatcher government, because they needed the police to be a partisan force, particularly for the miners strike and other industrial troubles, created a culture of impunity in the police service.

“They really were immune from outside influences and they thought they could rule the roost – and that is what we absolutely saw in south Yorkshire.”

In a time when most workers’ pay was being severely restricted by her government, Mrs Thatcher boosted police pay – by up to 45 per cent in some cases. I seem to recall she built up their pensions as well, and her government broke the link between a local beat policeman and his community, so that police were put on patrol in places away from their own homes.

These moves created forces that were loyal to the Conservative government, and who believed they could act without fear of reprisals; they had the government backing them up.

Many of those who took part in the Hillsborough cover-up – and other abuses of power across the country – will never be brought to justice. I mention this because I was in a hospital outpatients’ waiting room today, watching Loose Women (of all things). Before I was distracted by a young girl wearing a wrist brace, who wanted to tell me about her dead gerbil, I heard Janet Street-Porter announce to the viewing world that the police who were involved in the cover-up should be suspended.

It was 23 years ago; many of them will have retired by now, and former police officers are never questioned on their activities when they were on duty.

How do I know this?

Let’s just say I know a few ladies who were subjected to serious physical, mental and sexual abuse (over a 28-year period, in one case), at the hands of one man. These ladies appealed to the police for help on several occasions, documented by doctors – but not by the officers who dealt with them. Instead, they were told to go home. The ladies concerned escaped after years of abuse, but when they tried to seek justice against those in the police force who collaborated with their abuser, they were told there was no record of their allegations and the police officers concerned had retired. The police service refused to track down these former officers and so the crimes have gone unpunished.

This is what I think will happen with the police who were at Hillsborough.

A “culture of impunity”? Yes, I think so.

Hillsborough: Where sorry simply isn’t good enough

A mocked-up front page of The Sun, created to show how it should look on September 13, 2012: David Duckenfield was Chief Superintendent in charge of policing at Hillsborough; Margaret Thatcher refused to release information about the Hillsborough disaster that made the police look bad; Kelvin McKenzie’s “The Truth” headline in The Sun was a pack of lies that led to the wholesale boycotting of the tabloid by people in Liverpool.

It has become one of the defining moments in recent history – one of those moments that you find enshrined in a question:

Where were you when Elvis died?

Where were you when the Wall* came down?

Where were you when you heard about Hillsborough?

I was on the sofa in my parents’ house in Bristol, reading a magazine (it was probably Interzone or Starburst – my 19-year-old self was heavily into escapist fiction at the time) when the words of the news report on TV started filtering through my perceptions. Dozens killed in football stadium tragedy. Hundreds more injured. There were images quite clearly showing fans being crushed against each other; trying to escape; being lifted to safety by other fans; but I also have a recollection of fans trying to climb fencing but being forced back by police. Is my memory cheating?

April 15, 1989. The deadliest football disaster in British history. It killed 94 people on the day and a further two died in hospital, bringing the total death toll to 96. The number of injured totalled 766.

The match was a semi-final FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, being played at the neutral Hillsborough ground in Sheffield and overseen by South Yorkshire Police. This force chose to place Liverpool fans – the largest group – in the smaller end of the stadium. It became visibly overcrowded before kick-off, so police ordered a large exit gate to be opened, allowing supporters to enter straight down a tunnel leading to two pens. This caused crushing. Moments after kick-off, a crush barrier forced fans to fall on top of each other. (This information courtesy of Wikipedia)

Who got the blame? The fans.

Four days after the disaster, The Sun newspaper headlined a story about Hillsborough “THE TRUTH”, following it with three sub-headlines: “Some fans picked pockets of victims”, “Some fans urinated on the brave cops” and “Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life”. The story, using words attributed to unnamed police officers and Irvine Patnick, then-MP for Sheffield Hallam, made allegations which contradicted the reported behaviour of the Liverpool fans, who in fact helped security personnel stretcher away victims and also gave on-site first aid. It was described in Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie’s history of The Sun as “a classic smear”.

The story seriously backfired against the newspaper. My understanding is that Liverpool has, as though it were a single entity, boycotted the newspaper ever since.

It took a further 23 years for the real truth to come out, and we had it from the Hillsborough Independent Panel today:

  • Serious mistakes in the policing of the match.
  • Falsehoods in the post-mortem reports.
  • An attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised to relatives of the deceased for what he described as a double injustice: The “failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”; and the efforts to denigrate the deceased and suggest that they were “somehow at fault for their own deaths”.

South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton also offered “profound apologies”. He added: “When police lost control, lies were told about how that happened.”

Kelvin McKenzie, the editor who ran the piece in The Sun, stated that he regretted doing so in 1993 but later retracted the statement and has remained unrepentant since. The Sun apologised “without reservation” for its smear piece in July 2004, more than 15 years after the original article.

Are these apologies enough? No. I agree with the fans who are still angry because of one simple fact:

Nobody has been brought to justice.

The football website Transfer Tavern put it this way: “The apology [from Mr Cameron] is undoubtedly sincere but what is as important [is] that those who were involved directly and indirectly in the process of corrupting this tragedy are brought to justice.

“Not just those who lost relatives, but society in general needs to search out those who not only falsified evidence but deliberately ignored it in order to suffocate the truth. The excuses will undoubtedly be wheeled out by those soon hopefully to be cornered, but a crime is a crime.

The Sun newspaper in particular is worth a mention here… In light of the announcement today… it is surely time now for The Sun to go… The choice must be removed.

The Sun passed off untruths to a huge readership and they need to answer for the damage they did.”

The truth – the real truth – has finally been revealed, but for the families of the Hillsborough victims, the wait for justice must continue.

*The Berlin Wall.