Tag Archives: DH

Tory austerity may be responsible for one of history’s worst genocides

[Image: @ukdemockery.]

People really do have short memories.

Prominent in some news media at the moment is a report in the British Medical Journal that health and social care spending cuts by the Conservatives in government since 2010 have led to 120,000 excess – read “needless” – deaths.

The BMJ states:

The squeeze on public finances since 2010 is linked to nearly 120,000 excess deaths in England, with the over 60s and care home residents bearing the brunt, reveals the first study of its kind, published in the online journal BMJ Open.

“The critical factor in these figures may be changes in nurse numbers, say the researchers, who warn that there could be an additional toll of up to 100 deaths every day from now on in.

“Between 2010 and 2014, the NHS in England has only had a real term annual increase in government funding of 1.3 per cent, despite rising patient demand and healthcare costs.

“And real term spend on social care has fallen by 1.19 per cent every year during the same period, despite a significant projected increase in the numbers of over 85s–those most likely to need social care–from 1.6 million in 2015 to 1.8 million in 2020, say the researchers.

“The spending restraints were associated with 45,368 excess deaths between 2010 and 2014 compared with equivalent trends before 2010.

“Most of these deaths were among the over 60s and care home residents. And every £10 drop in spend per head on social care was associated with five extra care home deaths per 100,000 of the population, the analysis showed.

“These associations remained after further detailed analysis and taking account of global and national economic factors.

“Changes in the numbers of hospital and community nurses were the most salient factors in the associations found between spend and care home deaths. From 2001 to 2010 nurse numbers rose by an average of 1.61% every year, but from 2010 to 2014 rose by just 0.07%–20 times lower than in the previous decade.

“On the basis of the trends between 2009 and 2014, the researchers estimate that an extra 152,141 people could die between 2015 and 2020, equivalent to nearly 100 extra deaths every day.

“The funds needed to close this ‘mortality gap’ would be £6.3 billion every year, or a total of £25.3 billion, they calculate.”

That’s nearly 200,000 people likely to have died needlessly between 2010 and 2020, due to Tory cuts in social care, and affecting mostly people aged over 60 and care home residents.

Those figures are bad enough – but we seem to have forgotten the deaths caused by the Department for Work and Pensions. Remember them?

Back in 2015, when my Freedom of Information request about the number of sickness benefit claimants who had died was finally honoured, we discovered that 2,400 ESA claimants had died within two weeks of being found fit for work. That was the headline figure, but it didn’t tell the whole story because it referred only to a two-week period when the DWP recorded what happened to these people, and only to those who had been found fit for work.

But we have a plethora of evidence that people have died after that two-week period, when the DWP had ceased monitoring their condition. This site has covered dozens – perhaps hundreds – of stories about such people.

And consider this: The number of claimants of any kind of incapacity benefit who died between January 2011 and the end of February 2014 was 91,740. It’s true that many of these people may have been likely to die in any case, due to the seriousness of their health condition.

But we know that the frequency of these deaths increased from 32 per day between January and November 2011, to 79.5 per day between January 2011 and February 2014. That’s a huge increase, for which no explanation has been put forward.

Evidence that the DWP tried to withhold from its response to my FoI request showed that fewer claimants died after the DWP suspended its intrusive and stressful repeat assessments of claimants’ capability for work.

The Work Capability Assessment itself caused a massive increase in mental health problems among benefit claimants who had to take it, leading to 590 suicides in a period covered by an Oxford University and Liverpool University report.

And claimants of both ESA and PIP, who admit they have mental health problems during the assessment, are routinely asked why they have not committed suicide in a modern-day permutation of the practice known as “chequebook euthanasia”.

Put all that together and the total – from deaths caused by austerity cuts in the Department of Health and just the sickness and disability component of the Department for Work and Pensions’ workload – must be a national scandal.

Several commentators have pointed out that the deaths are concentrated among the old and the sick or disabled, and have questioned whether they are evidence of eugenics-based social engineering by Conservatives including David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May.

I seem to recall, in previous articles, comparing Tory austerity deaths to the “harrying of the north”, in which William the Conqueror’s forces killed around 100,000 people after he took the English throne in 1066. This now seems a pitifully low estimate.

It’s time to be honest: UK austerity deaths are almost certainly causing one of the worst genocides in history.

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Why do we tolerate ‘slavery’ schemes that rely on secrecy?

Cait Reilly took the government to court after she was forced to stop volunteering at a local museum – with a view to getting a job as a curator – and go to work in Poundland for nothing. The government said the scheme was voluntary but – and the clue’s in the title, ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ – this is not accurate. Those on the scheme now could be stripped of their benefit for three years if they refuse to take part, so one wonders what would happen if Ms Reilly or someone like her tried a similar court action today.

It’s like the NHS privatisation all over again.This time, the Department for Work and Pensions is refusing to publish the names of charities and businesses where unemployed people – in their tens of thousands – are being forced to work for no pay, for periods of four weeks at a time.

Readers with long memories will recall that, earlier in the year, the Department of Health refused to honour a ruling by the Information Commissioner that it should publish a risk assessment on the effects of the then-Health and Social Care Bill.

The argument was that publication would discourage the civil servants who write these reports from including the more controversial likely effects from future risk assessments on other subjects. The reason that the public accepts as true is that the scale of the changes, the waste of public money in achieving them, and the amount of profit to be made by private ‘healthcare’ companies from UK citizens’ misery would be unacceptable to the British people if they knew about it.

Some details leaked out anyway and, now we are experiencing those effects, we are able to see just how accurate those predictions were (and in many cases, how far short of the mark they fell).

Both the requirement that the DoH publish its risk assessment and the demand that the DWP publish its list of businesses and charities involved in ‘Workfare’ follow Freedom of Information requests made to the government.

So much for open government. It seems that such requests are a waste of time when the government in power is determined to operate in secrecy.

Note that the government’s line on organisations taking part in Workfare is now that they “tend to be charitable organisations”. Previously we were led to believe they were all organisations that provide “social benefit”. It seems, once again, this government has lied to us (and not very well). How many profit-making businesses are involved, then, and what are their names?

The real problem with this one is that the ConDem Coalition seems to be childishly ignoring the facts of the matter, which are (i) Workfare doesn’t work, and (ii) Workfare is unpopular in the extreme.

The government’s own research shows that the scheme does not help unemployed people to get a job. Once they have finished their four weeks of work – for whichever unnameable company or, God forgive them, charity – they get thrown back onto Jobseekers’ Allowance and somebody else is picked up to work for nothing. Workfare has no effect on getting people off benefits in the long term.

In fact, the effect of Workfare on the economy is harmful. I commented yesterday on figures showing that, after Job Centre Plus staff started putting people into jobs instead of any of the government’s several work placement programmes, unemployment has dropped and productivity has gone up. I think this may be a temporary blip, with more jobs available because of special events over the summer like the Olympics, but the statistics are revealing.

The government has ploughed on, with changes in the rules a fortnight ago which mean that unemployed people who refuse to take the unpaid placements can have their JSA benefit stripped from them for up to three years.

Note (again) that one of the reasons Cait Reilly lost her court case against the government over Workfare was that the DWP claimed incessantly that the scheme was voluntary and she had the opportunity not to take it up. I wonder what would happen if someone like her took the scheme to court now?

Whatever happens next, it seems the names of the organisations taking part in Workfare (or Mandatory Work Activity, to give it its current official title) will continue to be secret. The reason? The DWP has said the programme would “collapse” if the names were made public, due to the likelihood of protests against the organisations involved.

Doesn’t that give anyone in the DWP a clue?

These schemes are totally unsuccessful and utterly unpopular with the British public.

So why persist?

I think it’s an ideological programme. The government is complaining that the benefits bill is too high and needs to be shrunk, but no employer in his or her right mind would think of paying the full amount for an employee when they can get them on Workfare instead, and have the taxpayer foot the bill.

Workfare is therefore a way of ensuring that the current lack of full-time jobs continues into the future – thereby allowing the government to use it – and the consequent, high benefits bill – as justification for its welfare benefit cuts.