The bank holiday weekend may be over, but this article is being produced in the period before everybody goes back to work – so I’m still putting up material that has interested me – and I hope it interests you. Make of it what you will:
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.
This is exactly what Debbie Abrahams was talking about when she said the “healthcare professionals” who conduct benefit assessments must be held to account.
Here’s a lady who is five months away from retirement age and disabled. Whoever carried out her work capability assessment has messed it up, by all appearances, and the DWP has compounded the crime by giving her a load of waffle that it’s not worth appealing.
Of course it’s worth appealing – even such a short time away from retirement – because every successful appeal is more proof that the Tories’ genocidal hate campaign against the sick and disabled must end.
A claim that it “wasn’t worth” appealing is an attempt to stave off that eventuality, because DWP officers know they’re doing wrong.
They’ll all say they were “only following orders” – the Nuremberg defence – when push comes to shove. It will have been their bosses’ responsibility – except of course that responsibility for actually pushing someone off-benefit and into financial trouble lies with the person who made the decision, so that doesn’t work.
But push won’t come to shove with no evidence that it needs to – and that’s why this lady needs to appeal.
I then spoke to a 64 year old lady who was clutching hold of her large empty shopping trolley that she was carrying. She told me that she had failed her ESA medical and also had been told that it wasn’t worth her time appealing. I told her that it is always worth appealing.
She then went on to tell me that her advisor had told her that she had to sign on daily. Yes daily. She’s 64 and disabled.
What sort of job are they expecting her to find? Her advisor told her that there is a job for everyone.
Well I disagree with that. No there isn’t.
She will receive her pension in February. I informed her of her right to appeal, of why she should appeal and that she should do this as soon as possible.
Let’s look at this realistically, no one would employ her and why should she have to find work. Shes disabled and should, if the law hadn’t been changed, be claiming her pension already.
Harriet Harman seems to have caused confusion by mixing Labour’s lack of opposition for the Welfare Reform and Work Bill with the party leadership’s reaction to the proposed cut in tax credits.
A Labour MP named Helen Hayes contacted This Writer on Twitter after the disastrous vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, asking me to read a blog article explaining her reasons for abstaining after our party’s “reasoned amendment” failed.
According to this piece, it seems she found reason to support certain parts of the Bill, namely the provision of three million new apprenticeships, support for troubled families and reduced rents for council tenants.
She opposed the abolition of child poverty targets, the reduction of Employment and Support Allowance, and the shrinking of the benefit cap in London.
She voted for the Labour leadership’s “reasoned amendment”, in which changes to the Bill were proposed alongside reasons for it. When this failed, she said she abstained because she wanted the elements she supported to be enacted.
She went on to point out that the Bill will not become law until it has been discussed, line by line, in the Committee Stage, sent to the House of Lords for detailed consideration there, and returned to the Commons for its Third Reading.
Finally, she pointed out that the Bill does not include the proposed cuts to tax credits, which are to be implemented in the autumn via a Statutory Instrument which Labour vehemently opposes.
It is impossible for This Writer to agree with Ms Hayes.
Yes – new appenticeships, support for troubled families and reduced council rents are potentially good moves. But the other elements of the Bill are disastrous for the people the affect.
If the Labour leadership had wanted to adopt a principled position, it would have required them to say that the offer is tempting, but the price is too high – and to reject the Bill, as it is, in its entirety.
Ms Hayes suggests, “It would be much harder to hold the government to account for delivering high quality apprenticeships and an effective troubled families programme, if I had voted against the principle of these proposals”.
Yes indeed – but it will now be much harder to stop the government from abolishing child poverty targets, cutting ESA and reducing the benefit cap – across the who of the UK – now that most of the Labour Party allowed those thing to continue along the legislative process unopposed.
Furthermore, This Writer would have been more impressed by Ms Hayes’ article if I had not read almost exactly the same sentiments in words by fellow Labour MPs Andrew Gwynne and Peter Kyle.*
Both of these gentlemen mentioned the elements that Labour supported and rejected, the stages through which the Bill had to progress, Labour’s “reasoned amendment” and further amendments to be made later, and the fact that tax credits are not part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
The elements were arranged in different ways, and each article was clearly written by each individual MP, but it seems clear that they were all working from the same starting point.
Oh look – Karin Smyth, the new Labour MP for Bristol South (This Writer’s original home constituency) has written a piece that is, again, startlingly similar.
Is it paranoia or healthy scepticism that prompts This Writer to suggest that someone in the current Labour leadership has issued a bullet-point list or factsheet to all abstaining MPs, showing them how to defend their indefensible position and claim that they came to this decision by themselves? You decide.
Or perhaps the author of such a document would like to step forward and admit the attempted deception?
*Apologies to the kittysjones blog for using it to highlight this; the articles by these two were the very first blog pieces I read after Helen Hayes’ article, and the similarities were too pronounced to ignore.
Conservative Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has rejected calls for an independent body to make decisions about the school curriculum, saying parents should be able to hold politicians to account for their decisions.
What a generous statement! This is possibly the modern-day equivalent of stretching one’s neck out over the executioner’s block.
It is heartening that she is prepared to let the Conservative Party take the blame for its ‘Free Schools’ pet project, which has been rocked by successive failures including that of its flagship, the Discovery School – declared inadequate by Ofsted and shut down. The Observer revealed that former Education Secretary Michael Gove wanted to hush up further damaging revelations by ensuring that problems were tackled before Ofsted could publicise them.
Free Schools have taken billions of pounds of public money and given nothing back – certainly not an education. Academy schools – publicly-funded companies set up by central government and answering to central government and not to the local education authority or even parents – have also overspent by more than a billion pounds.
In 2013, the “ring-fenced” education budget was cut by 5.7 per cent in real terms. The remaining funds were divided up, with non-academy schools receiving a cut of 4.31 per cent, infrastructure spending was cut by 81 per cent, and academy schools received a funding increase of no less than 191 per cent.
As Kerry-Anne Mendoza put it in Austerity – The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy: “The state sector is being starved of funds, while the academy sector enjoys a glut of funding, which it spends inefficiently and opaquely.”
It is also heartening that Nicky Morgan is prepared to take the flak for Tory attempts to curtail the teaching of science in our classrooms – notable in Mr Gove’s attempts to halt the study of climate change; he wanted to deny it exists.
This writer is glad that the Tories are willing to take the rap for trying to reduce World War One into a display of “patriotism, honour and courage” while deriding examples of popular culture like Oh, What a Lovely War! and Blackadder Goes Forth. Gove claimed that the war was a “noble cause” and a “just” conflict against the “social Darwinism” of the Germans, while Blackadder portrayed it as “a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite. Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”
It is, frankly, terrifying that a man with such ludicrous and – in context – dangerous views has held the position of Secretary of State for Education.
Do you remember Kate Nash on the BBC’s This Week, ripping into Gove’s attitude that learning-by-rote is better than understanding and creativity? She said: “There are certain things we need to be addressing, that are being completely missed – and that’s to do with education being inspiring and interesting for young people, rather than just about purely passing tests and pressure.”
Television historian Simon Schama has described Gove’s curriculum as “insulting and offensive”. He told an audience at the Hay Festival, “This is a document written by people who have never sat and taught 12-year-olds in a classroom.”
There are many more examples of Tory education ineptitude, but let’s finish this with a poem – ‘Dear Mr Gove’ by Jess Green, from only a little less than a year ago. At the time Vox Political first publicised this video, I wrote: “If enough parents saw, and listened, and thought about what this poem says – about their own lives and the lives their children can expect thanks to the worst-ever British government, perhaps it might persuade them to think again before putting their cross next to the Conservative candidate at the next few elections.
“It isn’t rocket science.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering why this article hasn’t mentioned any of Nicky Morgan’s achievements as Education Secretary, the reason is that she simply hasn’t had any.
Poverty rates by 2040, according to the JRF: The different levels, marked out by differently-coloured bars, show the effect if social rents rise at one per cent above inflation per year, or to meet market values.
When a Conservative-run government messes up your life, it doesn’t go in for half measures!
Earlier today you all read how the Conservative Party had miscalculated – badly – the effect of its ‘welfare reforms’, meaning that people were being forced into expensive privately-rented accommodation by the Bedroom Tax, then claiming more in Housing Benefit because their wages were not rising fast enough to accommodate the increase.
(Wages have, of course, been held down because the government’s insistence on cutting the amount paid to the unemployed has created an underclass of people desperate to take any job available – meaning employers can brush off calls for wage rises by saying hundreds of other people would be happy to do these jobs for less.)
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has put flesh on the bones of these findings in a report published yesterday (November 17).
It states that “compared to 2008, private rents will rise by 90 per cent – more than twice as fast as incomes – pushing up to 50 per cent of private renters into poverty”. The average private rent today is £132 per week – it will be £250 per week in 2040 in real terms.
“People who rent will be more than twice as likely to be living in poverty than homeowners.
“Private rents are forecast to rise by 90%, twice as fast as incomes.
“One in five (10.6 million people) will be living in private rented homes, up from 7.2 million today. Half of these, 5.7 million, will be in poverty (a rise of 2.6 million).
“One in 10 will be living in social housing, down from the current figure of 8.2 million to 5.7 million in 2040. Social rents will increase 39% to reach £92.10 per week in real terms.
“If social rents continue to rise towards market rates, the cost of Housing Benefit could rise by 125% – adding £20 billion to the current bill.
“Real median house prices for owners will increase to £263,000, a rise of 57%. 35.3 million people will be home owners by 2040 (a reduction of 820,000 people from 2008). Real household incomes will grow from £32,300 to £45,500.”
In light of these figures, JRF has called on the government and housing providers to work together to solve the housing crisis and keep poverty in check, saying poverty levels are likely to reach one in four by 2040.
“The reality facing many people is a life below the poverty line because of the extortionate cost of keeping a roof over your head,” said JRF chief executive Julia Unwin.
JRF reckons this growth in poverty can be contained if:
Housing supply doubles to more than 200,000 units a year;
Social rents continue to go up by inflation plus 1%, rather than move towards market rents;
Housing benefit continues to support housing costs at similar levels;
The fall in the proportion of affordable social housing in the overall market is halted.
Of course that is a forlorn hope under any Conservative-run government.
The increase in poverty levels to one in every four people should worry everyone – if it doesn’t affect you, then it will affect somebody in your family or somebody you know. It is clear that this is the intended result of Conservative-led government policy, and the Liberal Democrats have supported it.
Labour – on the other hand – already has a policy to increase housing by 200,000 units per year. It supports social housing. It wants to cap rent increases in the private sector, and its plan to cut the amount spent on housing benefit is based on increasing wages so that fewer people need it, rather than increasing the number of people who are homeless.
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.
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