Tag Archives: hardship

‘Scum’ Tories use indignation over insult to hide their refusal to support people in Covid-related hardship

If the cap fits: Christopher Clarkson breaks off whizzing through a speech vilifying Labour to wonder why Labour MPs are vilifying him.

What a lot of fuss over such a little word!

Admittedly, I wouldn’t like it if someone called me “scum” while I was making a speech.

But let’s consider the context.

The Labour Party was using its Opposition Day to discuss the criteria under which the government provides funding to jobs and businesses facing its new restrictions, and to demand that the Tories honour their claim that they will ensure workers receive at least 80 per cent of their previous incomes while on the Job Support Scheme extension and facing hardship.

Here’s what prize Tory Christopher Clarkson had to say about it:

You can see why Angela Rayner said what she did, I’m sure!

Clarkson’s complaint cut no ice with members of the public, for whom Rayner’s contribution to the debate had made up for six months of near-silence as Keir Starmer’s sidekick. Here’s part of her speech:

Responses so far show the public overwhelmingly on her side:

And they were quick to call out Clarkson’s complaint as a tactic, intended to distract from the thrust of the debate:

Last word goes to this commenter, who raises the issue of class:

“Spumae”, by the way, is the Latin for scum. Expect to hear it in the Commons – a lot – over the next few years.

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MP of the Year award attacked over harmful corporate sponsor. Time for a campaign to remove it?

KPMG: this corporation, part of the Atos group that has done so much harm to sick and disabled people, sponsors the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year awards, Should it?

It seems the only element likely to stop Jeremy Corbyn from winning the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year award is the fact that it is sponsored by corporations that have contributed to the oppression of the poor and vulnerable.

Mr Corbyn is on the shortlist of MPs for whom the public is asked to vote.

But some supporters of the former Labour leader – including his own former Shadow Chancellor – are having nothing to do with it because it is sponsored by firms including KPMG.

The controversy sprang up on This Writer’s Twitter feed overnight, springing from discussion over whether certain vested interests would allow Mr Corbyn to win, after their success in ousting last year’s popular left-wing candidate, Chris Williamson.

Paula Peters, a popular campaigner for people with disabilities and friend of This Site, raised the alarm:

It was confirmed by others:

Atos is the company that – now under an alias – carries out assessments of benefit claimants’ ability to work, when they claim sickness and/or disability benefits. It took over KPMG in 2002, and it seems some have little to say in its favour.

The firm’s record for refusing benefits to people who genuinely deserve them – who have then gone on to suffer extreme hardship and, in many cases, death – is well-documented on This Site and elsewhere.

It reflects extremely poorly on the Patchwork Foundation that it would seek – or allow – sponsorship of any of its work by a firm of such character.

KPMG’s sponsorship of the award is not well-signposted; it appears as one of many on a tickertape at the bottom of the awards’ web page.

Paula’s tweet sparked strong responses:

For This writer, the most telling comment in the discussion is Paula’s below:

So perhaps that is what should be done.

Obviously I am too busy with annoying distractions like my two court cases to take on another campaign, but would anybody like to launch one calling on the Patchwork Foundation to decline sponsorship from organisations that are known to cause harm to people?

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MPs keep hearing disabled people must fight to live ordinary lives. When will they listen?

Anne Severwright.

This is an old, old story.

Successive Tory governments since 2010 have heard evidence of the hardship they have forced on people with disabilities – and done nothing but worsen it.

It has been said that one definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviour and expecting different results.

So I have to ask why anybody in Parliament possibly thought any good would come of this?

Other strategies are necessary now – and have been for years.

Let’s talk about them.

Disabled people are being forced to fight for their right to live ordinary lives because of the flawed and under-resourced social care system, MPs have been told by a disabled campaigner.

Anna Severwright told members of the Commons health and social care committee on Tuesday that she and other users of council-funded care and support were unable to live normal lives because of cuts to their support packages.

She said the system was characterised by fear, a lack of trust and unfairness.

She said: “People my age talk about it being a fight, fighting the system, and that constant sort of sense that we are having to fight for our rights and fight to have a life.”

Source: Disabled people forced to fight for right to live ordinary lives, MPs hear – Disability News Service

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Ann Widdecombe has lost the plot. Brexit is nothing like World War Two

Puppet-master and marionette? Nigel Farage appears to be pulling Ann Widdecombe’s strings. Perhaps that’s why she’s talking nonsense, comparing Brexit with World War Two.

Former Tory – now Brexit Party candidate – Ann Widdecombe has made a bizarre rant comparing Brexit to World War Two:

Brexit Party candidate Ann Widdecombe suggested that any disruption brought on by a no-deal Brexit is justified as it will not compare with the suffering during the Second World War.

Talking about a no-deal Brexit she said: “It is as nothing compared to the sacrifice that we asked a previous generation to make an order to ensure Britain’s freedom.

“My granny was bombed out in Plymouth just over there. People lost sons and husbands and fathers, and they did this because they wanted freedom.”

Has she lost her mind?

Brexit is nothing like World War Two.

In that conflict, the UK was fighting for its existence against a genuinely evil world military power that wanted to destroy our way of life altogether, along with a large proportion of our population.

Brexit is about decoupling from an alliance with a bloc of European countries with whom a significant proportion of our population no longer feels an affinity. It isn’t a life-or-death situation.

Not only that, but the hardship that Ms Widdecombe predicts for the UK would be voluntary. And there’s no justification for it.

She is trying to invoke some kind of Churchillian spirit – steadfastness in adversity – that simply doesn’t fit the situation.

Brexit will hugely disadvantage a large proportion of the population – specifically, those who are not super-rich – many of whom have been manipulated into supporting it by the super-rich people who control the media.

And by super-rich career politicians like Ms Widdecombe.

The people of the UK need to be aware that any hardship caused by Brexit has nothing to do with the spirit of World War Two.

It has everything to do with the stupidity of people who were told they would be better off – and believed the lie.

Source: Brexit Party candidate Ann Widdecombe says no-deal Brexit wouldn’t be as bad as the ‘sacrifice of World War Two’

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Full rollout of Universal Credit has been delayed – but planned changes are no good

Ironic: The admission that Universal Credit is being delayed to alleviate some of the hardship caused by its cuts to claimants’ paymants has come less than two weeks after Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said claims the Tories had cut benefits were “fake news”.

The Conservative government’s campaign to inflict misery and torment on the poor and vulnerable, known euphemistically as Universal Credit, is in trouble yet again.

The scheme, which terminates six ‘legacy’ benefits by combining eligibility for them into a single payment that is worth much less and is delivered five weeks late, was intended to be working across the UK by 2017.

Today’s announcement means the rollout of the new mechanism will not be complete until 2023 – if it lasts that long.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with the idea of streamlining the benefit system by putting people’s entitlement to different state payments into a single pot.

But we should remember that it is being introduced by a Conservative government that hates the very idea of taxpayer-funded social security.

The Tories want to push us into paying through the nose for private insurance against the circumstances that would require us to claim, and have spent more than 20 years in cahoots with a criminal American corporation called Unum, working on ways to achieve that end without raising concerns among the public that this is what they are doing.

So benefits like Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance are all paid at lower rates than the schemes they have replaced, in a deliberate plan to force people into debt.

Then, claimants will either find a way back into work (or rather, into better-paid work, as there are plenty of employees on Universal Credit or its legacy benefits), or they will die in a way that allows the Tory government to deny responsibility – even though we all know the score.

The experience of these claimants is intended to persuade people who are currently earning enough – the “just about managing” people who Theresa May used to mention in speeches – to take out private insurance.

But the joke’s on them if they do, because Unum earned its criminal conviction for refusing to pay out on people claiming their policies had matured!

No doubt some of you are reading this and thinking, “Ah, but! The Tories are planning to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to stop claimants suffering the kind of hardship mentioned here! It was in leaked documents.”

That’s true – but you can be sure that they are only doing this because people like This Writer, and other organisations within the social media and the charity sector, have been kicking up a stink about the benefit system since May 2010 when the Tories first slithered back into office.

Remember: It isn’t a fortnight since Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey denounced claims that benefits had been slashed by the Tories as “fake news”. In fact, they are currently inflicting £7 billion of cuts on claimants.

And where do you think the money will go? Direct into the hands of claimants? Unlikely. I think it will be paid to the private companies the Tories hired to carry out the dirty work of assessing benefit claimants’ eligibility – and for ensuring that a high percentage of them were denied any money at all.

According to the BBC, the Tories’ remedial plans are as follows:

Plans have been drawn up to continue paying income support, employment and support allowance, and job seekers allowance for two weeks after a claim for universal credit has been made.

This will indeed smooth over the transition a little, but it still means people will have to survive an extra week on the same amount of cash as they’d normally be paid for two – and it isn’t very long since the Tories slashed £30 from the value of ESA payments, while JSA has been frozen for years.

Next:

Claimants can ask for an advance to help them get by while waiting for their first proper universal credit payment – later the government takes deductions from their regular monthly award to pay that back. Under the revised plans, the maximum amount that can be deducted will be reduced from 40% to 30% of their total award each month.

Think about what this means. Claimants who can’t make ends meet are told to borrow from a below-subsistence-level payment, and are then denied two-fifths of that payment each month until the amount is paid off.

The plan is to deny them three-tenths of that payment instead – so they will still be pushed into debt and despair; the only difference is the amount of the debt.

That is not helping anybody; helping would be ensuring that nobody is pushed into debt at all.

More help is set to be given to the self-employed, after warnings they could be left in serious financial trouble because of incorrect assumptions by the Department for Work and Pensions about their earnings.

But we have no information on the nature of the help to be offered. If it is anything like the other two examples, it will be a pretence of help that does little to improve matters.

One more thing: The government cannot even provide assurances that these changes can be made. An extract from the leaked documents states:

“We can currently offer no assurance that ultimately these proposals will prove to be deliverable, can survive legal challenges where they can be delivered, and do not invite new political criticism by generating new policy issues.”

What may we conclude, then?

The delay in the rollout of Universal Credit is cause to celebrate in itself – particularly for people on Employment and Support Allowance who would have faced yet another substantial cut in their income. These are the people the Tories are trying really hard to kill off.

But the promise of improvement in the system is likely to prove illusory.

Many commentators are waiting for Labour representatives to say they would end Universal Credit as a costly failure in terms of both government resources and human lives. But Labour says it is a good idea in principle and would try to turn it into the safety net that any benefit system should be. We all have reason to be sceptical about this.

But a Labour government is the best chance for benefit claimants.

There is nothing in today’s announcement that should encourage the unemployed, low-waged, sick or disabled to vote Conservative – unless they have a death wish.

Source: Universal credit rollout delayed yet again – BBC News

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Here’s hard evidence that sickness benefits are causing severe hardship rather than helping

Kevin and Amanda Stannard [Image: Daily Gazette].

Long-term disability campaigner Samuel Miller sent me the article quoted below, with the following words:

“The news story that I just brought to your attention is solid evidence that seriously ill and disabled people in the ESA WRAG are suffering immense hardship—and validates my tireless campaigning against these life-threatening cuts.”

He is absolutely right, of course.

And he quoted the following, from the Huffington Post:

“Nor are we dealing here with people with minor illness. Charities report that 45 per cent of people who put in a claim for ESA, and had Parkinson’s, Cystic Fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, were placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

“Around 700,000 apply each year for ESA, of which number around 60 per cent proceed to full assessment (the others generally return to work before the process is complete). Currently around 14 per cent of these go into the WRAG. That’s around 60,000 people affected every year.”

A survey of people claiming ESA shows 60 per cent of 1,755 respondents say the amount they receive is not enough to live on.

When asked about the consequences of this, 62 per cent said they struggled to stay healthy, while 49 per cent said they could no longer pay their bills.

For most people, the news that you have Parkinson’s Disease is earth-shattering enough.

But for sufferer Kevin Stannard, 62, the worst was yet to come.

In 2010, he was made redundant from the blind-fitting firm [where] he had worked for … 40 years due to his worsening symptoms.

He was forced to begin claiming disability benefits or Employment and Support Allowance.

For the next few years, he and his wife, Amanda, struggled financially as part of the ESA Wrag group – which was set up especially for people who may be fit for work in the future.

Unfortunately for Kevin and Amanda, 60, from Colchester, the allowance was not enough to cover the cost of living.

The stress of working while dealing with the “confusing” process of claiming ESA for her husband led to Amanda suffering a minor stroke, which meant she also had to give up her part-time work as a director with a housing association.

The struggle experienced by Kevin and Amanda is not uncommon, according to the latest findings of the Disability Benefits Consortium, a national coalition of more than 80 different charities and organisations.

Source: ‘Sickness benefits just aren’t enough to live on’ says family of Parkinson’s sufferer


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These are the financially-crippling reasons Universal Credit has to be fixed

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, (pictured speaking at the Labour Party Conference): She provides more sense on Universal Credit in a short news article than the Tories have in the last seven years.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has written in The Independent, highlighting the reasons the minority Tory government’s version of Universal Credit is flawed in its conception.

Simply put, Tory Universal Credit is neither universal, nor a credit; it is restricted to a limited number of claimants – and still plunges them into debt.

So Universal Credit harms people while providing the Tories with a pretext to claim they are helping.

It pushes people toward suicide:

https://twitter.com/MutazElnour/status/920697937927311361

And the struggle to change the system is Herculean because, as this audience member on yesterday’s (October 19) BBC Question Time points out, the Tories’ contempt for the poor is disgusting:

Although the vote on whether we should pause [Universal Credit] was won, the battle continues. We know that it is the serious flaws in the design of Universal Credit that are driving the rising debt, arrears and even evictions being faced by those brought under the programme. The high cost of calling was aggravating these deeper issues.

Primarily, the six weeks that the Government were asking people to wait between making a new claim and receiving support was leaving families with nothing to live on.

Foodbank use is rising in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out. Based on local authority estimates, the Greater Manchester Mayor raised concerns that rough sleeping in the city could double over the winter as a result of the programme.

Surely the social security system is there to prevent people getting into debt and suffering hardship, not exacerbate these problems? The Government could follow Northern Ireland and proposals in Scotland and introduce a two week payment system which would go some way to addressing this problem, at little additional cost.

The programme has also suffered deep cuts by this Government that have moved it further away from its original ambitions.

A reduction to the amount you can earn before support is withdrawn, cuts to disability premiums, and an inflexible approach to the self-employed are all leaving people worse off. Some families are losing £2,600 a year compared with the old system. Child poverty is expected to increase by a million children by 2020.

The cuts to Universal Credit have meant that the key principle that work should always pay has been lost. The cuts together with the delays in receiving the first payment, the costly call charges to the so-called helpline and other design issues have led to the issues so many claimants now face.

It is therefore vital that the Government looks again at the design of the programme before roll out continues. Under the current schedule, a million people will be using Universal Credit within the next few months, up from 600,000. We must get it right before so many are asked to rely on the programme to make ends meet.

Source: Theresa May might be scrapping helpline charges, but the battle to reform Universal Credit goes on


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Did anyone tell Iain Duncan Smith about the first duty of government?

Here comes the reaper: Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Here comes the reaper: Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

According to David Cameron, the UK government’s first duty is “to keep the British people safe”.

Does that duty not extend to the Department for Work and Pensions and its genocidal secretary of state, Iain Duncan Smith, then?

Only in the last few months, we’ve had revelations that thousands of people have died after being found fit for work by his silly ‘capability assessments’ – while they were still on the DWP’s books.

We don’t know how many thousands have died after being cut off from benefit, but several coroners have blamed the DWP for such deaths and there’s no reason to believe many, many more haven’t been overlooked.

My own researches have revealed that the work capability assessment pushes people to their deaths – in three months after repeat assessments for ESA claimants were suspended, 156 fewer people died than the average over the years before.

A major study by Oxford and Liverpool Universities has demonstrated that the work capability assessment increases mental illness and suicide among benefit claimants.

And there are constant fears that winter hardship payments will be removed – even after it was revealed that more people died last winter than at any time since 1999/2000.

Iain Duncan Smith is responsible for the deaths of more UK citizens than any terrorist.

But he still walks free.

So much for Cameron’s “first responsibility”.

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People with mental health problems ARE vulnerable and the DWP has lied AGAIN

zDWP-Vulnerable

A claim by the Department for Work and Pensions that jobseekers with mental health problems are not classed as vulnerable and may be sanctioned with impunity is false, documentary evidence has shown.

Welfare Weekly revealed last week that JSA claimants with even the most serious mental health illnesses are not considered vulnerable by DWP. This has a knock-on effect when their Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is reduced or stopped.

In that circumstance, everyone can apply for a hardship payment totallying up to 60 per cent of their JSA, to help cover the cost of food and bills while they have no other means of support.

Those classed as ‘vulnerable’ can normally claim this vital support immediately, but others may have to wait at least two weeks, and then go through what could be a lengthy application process.

In the case of claimants with mental health problems, that two-week wait could be extremely dangerous.

According to the article: “DWP guidance on hardship payments states: ‘Requests for hardship payments may be made by people who say they have a mental condition. A person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if the condition causes limitation in functional capacity because of a physical impairment.’

The guidance goes on to clarify that mental health problems without physical impairment include: “Affective disorder, Agoraphobia, Anorexia nervosa, Anxiety, Bipolar Affective disorder, Bulimia nervosa, Depression, Dissociative disorders, Nervous Debility, Neurasthenia, Neurosis, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Panic attacks, Paranoia, Phobias, Phobic anxiety, Psychoneurosis, Psychosis, and Schizophrenia.”

Oh, really?

Vox Political has received information showing that both the Department of Health and the Home Office disagree with this definition – and the DWP has in fact made itself vulnerable to accusations that its own guidance is encouraging decision makers to abuse vulnerable adults.

The Department of Health/Home Office paper No secrets: Guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse adopts and confirms a broad definition of a “vulnerable adult” from a 1997 consultation paper entitled ‘Who Decides?’, that had previously been issued by the Lord Chancellor’s Department.

It defines a ‘vulnerable adult’ as a person “who is or may be in need of community care services* by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation” [bolding mine].

The paper adopts as a “starting point” for its definition of abuse, that it is “a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons”.

“Any other person or persons” includes officials working for the Department for Work and Pensions.

It seems the DWP has a huge amount of explaining to do.

Please publicise this widely and pass it on to anybody who is vulnerable due to mental health issues, along with anybody dealing with such people in a professional context (including carers). Everybody needs to know about this.

Of course, anyone with serious mental health problems should be receiving Employment and Support Allowance rather than JSA, but of course the work capability assessment process used by the DWP is hopelessly inadequate at identifying people who need the alternative benefit – it was designed to be that way.

Anyone affected by the DWP’s discrimination against the vulnerable should also consider campaigning against the work capability assessment.

*For the purposes of this guidance ‘community care services’ will be taken to include all care services provided in any setting or context.

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Tories run from welfare debate after Cameron’s Marr Show disaster

Tonight’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight did not feature Conservative or Labour Parliamentary candidates in a debate on welfare – because the Conservative Party pulled out at the last minute, according to a tweet from Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves.

Fellow tweeter Anita Bellows immediately asked: “What have they got to hide?” including this image as an attachment:

150421clapson

The reference is obvious – David Clapson is the benefit claimant whose case was raised by Andrew Marr in his interview with David Cameron on Sunday.

Cameron’s responses indicate that he seems to think it was right for Mr Clapson to die as punishment for missing a single Job Centre appointment (for reasons that have not been disclosed). He refused to accept that the system should be reviewed.

The interview caused outrage among members of the public and now we can see the Conservatives’ reaction.

Like all bullies, they like to torture the weak. When public opinion rises up against them and they have a choice between “fight” and “flight”, they run like rabbits.

Here’s why:

150421cameronwelfare

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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