Firebombed: Ms Waugh’s car was firebombed by vandals last July, in what may have been a politically-motivated attack.
A court case against men accused of threatening to break the legs and throw acid in the faces of trustees at a vocal charity helping people in poverty has been halted – because the Crown Prosecution Service says it is too expensive.
Elaine Waugh of Humanity UK (also Humanity Torbay) said the threats, believed to be from far-right activists, were made in May last year; it has taken this long for the case to come to the Crown Court.
The accused were also said to have threatened to firebomb the building.
“These guys pleaded ‘not guilty’ and now the CPS said it would cost too much money for a three-day Crown Court trial – and they’d just get a slapped wrist,” said Ms Waugh.
“Our charity has been broken into and our offices destroyed. They threw bleach – and the police were not interested. They were here for 25 minutes, gave us a crime number and we didn’t hear anything again.
“They took a list of our donors from the Labour Party – and nothing else. Something is going on.”
She told This Site she understood that the people harassing them run a “hate” page on Facebook.
“It’s weird that if we say anything at all [that is objectionable to people on the political right wing], our page gets suspended – but they can say what they like and they aren’t taken down.”
Ms Waugh’s own car was firebombed last July, in an attack that endangered her house and the lives of herself and her family. She said the police told her it was a hate crime against Jews – but she is not Jewish.
“My husband was Jewish, and my two sons,” she said. But if the attack was due to her charity work, she could not see the connection because she is Catholic.
“We’re now on a list for hate crime and minority support and help,” she said. “We then had the Jewish Chronicle getting in touch with me and I had to explain.
“I said it was political.”
Ms Waugh added that she had it on good authority that nearly 500 other UK charities are going through the same abuse.
“We have been told that 465 other charities have been victimised. It has been outrageous,” she said.
Ms Waugh said the charity had lost its chief source of funding after a video she made, criticising the Conservative government, was seen more than six million times during the general election campaign.
It costs only £1,400 per month to run, and the service it provides is vital to poverty-stricken and homeless people.
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.
“A charity says it’s ‘outraged’ after coats left out for the homeless were removed by the council and given to a charity shop.
“Hundreds have been left on the railings of Torquay Town Hall in the past few weeks.
“It was part of a national initiative to help those struggling locally and highlight the issue of rough sleeping.”
Did you register that? It was part of a national initiative to highlight the issue of homeless people who sleep rough.
The charity taking part in that initiative was Humanity Torbay; that organisation is a friend of This Site and we all know we can trust the word of chief executive Ellie Waugh – so here she is, to explain what happened in her own words:
As we have already established that there hadn’t been any rain, it seems the council has been caught in a… contradiction, shall we say?
It is possible there was another such… contradiction in the official word from the council’s spokesperson, who said: “A number of coats had been left on the Town Hall railings over a two week period and we were concerned that they would become wet and unusable, particularly as there had been rain.
“A member of staff handed the coats to MASH, which kindly agreed to keep the clothing dry and hand out to the homeless free of charge.”
Can anybody confirm that this is what has actually happened?
The next part is nauseating:
“We’d like to thank members of the public for their donations and we would encourage anyone who wants to make donations in the future to give clothing directly to charities who offer support to the homeless.”
That is exactly what happened – before Torbay Council took it upon its corporate self to steal those coats and give them to someone else.
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Remember Humanity Torbay – the charity for homeless and vulnerable people whose boss Ellie Waugh spoke out about the harm and hardship being wrought upon the people of her area by the implementation of the Tories’ cruel and misnamed Universal Credit?
Now it seems Conservative-run Torbay Council has cut the charity out of an annual count of homeless people in the area, in spite-fuelled revenge for Ms Waugh’s exposure of the Universal Credit fiasco.
Don’t take my word for it, here’s Ms Waugh herself:
What an excuse for a government!
This organisation is doing hugely valuable work showing the real effect of government policy on the people of the UK. In a sane country, the government would be falling over itself with gratitude.
But the Tories are falling over themselves to penalise Humanity Torbay.
The reason is clear: They don’t want anybody to know that their policies are causing homelessness to proliferate. They want us to think the situation is fine. And they will attack anyone who says otherwise.
Readers will be familiar with the name ‘Mo Stewart’ – it belongs to a researcher into government attitudes to – and policy on – the disabled who has provided Vox Political – not to mention Parliament – with a wealth of invaluable information on the damage that has been done by uncaring politicians over the years.
Yesterday Mo gave her first public speech on the subject, in London, after being asked to help open Disability History Month by its organisers.
For Mo, this was a courageous act; she has spent years avoiding any kind of limelight and was extremely nervous of standing up in public. But she had a message to pass on and – as you can see from the headline – it was important.
Don’t take VP‘s word for it – read it for yourself. Here it is [all boldings mine]:
At the same time as the Prime Minister was waxing lyrically about what this nation owes to British Military Forces and veterans when speaking at the recent Conservative Party Conference, the DWP were busy advising 80,000 disabled War Pensioners that we were about to lose access to DLA and could, if we wished, apply for the new – highly discredited – PIP award.
PIP has a 12 month waiting list for all new applicants and, according to the DWP, a guarantee that the majority will not be successful.
By May 2014 only 15.4 per cent of new PIP claims had received a decision, and only 12,654 of the 220,300 people who had made a new claim since April 2013 have been awarded some rate of PIP.
This unexpected threat to this nation’s working age War Pensioners was despite the fact that I received a personal telecom from the Cabinet Office 12 months ago, as witnessed by my carer, claiming that the Cabinet had ‘… just agreed that all War Pensioners could keep their DLA for life and will not be reassessed, as an acknowledgement of their service to the nation.’ My opinion was invited and given and, of course, I was delighted with the news.
Then, the very nervous caller asked me what this decision would mean for my research? Evidence from the research exposed the Work Capability Assessment, conducted by Atos Healthcare, as being bogus and using a totally discredited assessment model. The WCA was copied from a notorious American corporate insurance giant in order to remove as many as possible from long-term sickness benefits, regardless of the consequences in terms of human suffering. The research has been accepted by the UN and evidence from it has been used in welfare debates in the House of Lords and especially in the House of Commons – largely thanks to John McDonnell MP.
Ask yourself why the national press will not publish the research evidence accepted by academics throughout the UK. Do we have a free press or a government controlled press?
The same research also exposed the fact that the welfare reforms were totally unrelated to the financial collapse, regardless of repeated government claims.
The evidence confirmed that the destruction of the welfare state is the legacy of the Thatcher government, and the current prime minister had been waiting for a plausible excuse to justify introducing this long-ago planned destruction of the welfare state, masquerading as welfare reforms, as the UK moves ever closer to health care and welfare funded by private insurance.
Twelve months later, it seems that the phone call from the Cabinet Office last year was an attempt to stop the research and, being naive, I didn’t anticipate that the Department for Work and Pensions would now threaten 80,000 working-age War Pensioners because my integrity is not for sale.
Since the outpouring of public and political outrage the last time the DWP published the mortality figures of the thousands of sick and disabled people who had died, often within weeks of being found fit for work and removed from long-term sickness benefit, the DWP has refused to publish any more annual death totals.
The unelected Lord Freud has far too much authority and the press have blood on their hands. They willingly quote any new DWP fantasy attacking sick and disabled benefit claimants as people are dying, in their thousands, killed by the State.
For some of us, this DWP decision to remove DLA from working age disabled older veterans will be a death sentence whilst all other disabled veterans, including War Pensioners over the age of 70, have a government guarantee of DLA for life without any further reassessment, in recognition of their ‘service to the nation.’
ALL disabled veterans were disabled serving this nation and all War Pensioners should be treated the same, regardless of age, and be allowed to retain the promised access to DLA for life.
The UN are apparently investigating the UK government for breaches of the disability rights of disabled people and time will tell how long it takes for members of the present UK government to be investigated for the identified crimes against humanity, masquerading as welfare reforms. Members of the House of Lords now compare the Coalition government to 1930s Germany where elderly, sick and disabled people were nothing more than a burden to the State that needed to be removed.
Clearly, the social consequences of disablement in the 21st century UK are the abuses of hard-won disability rights by a very dangerous government. There are now in excess of three million disability benefit-dependent claimants living in fear of imminent destitution or worse, including 80,000 working age War Pensioners.
They also fear possible public hostility due to the often-extreme press headlines that report the deeply disturbing rhetoric of DWP ministers, as disability hate crime is now the highest ever recorded.
There are reported examples of disabled people being thrown out of their wheelchairs and spat at in the streets, in the 21st century UK, thanks to disabled people being constantly vilified by DWP ministers, politicians and commentators who have all joined the bandwagon.
Speaking personally, over the past 12 months in particular, I have been very aware of members of the public looking at me in a judgemental manner, to the point where some will make derogatory comments, no doubt encouraged by influential press headlines and the Secretary of State’s frequently-quoted comments referring to ‘shirkers and skivers.’
There can’t really be any surprise that many sick and disabled people now no longer feel comfortable when venturing out of the safety of their homes into the no-man’s land of public opinion. Many are now prisoners in their own homes, and that includes disabled working age War Pensioners fearing imminent death or destitution. There really isn’t much difference between being incarcerated in institutions or a prisoner in your own home, as independent living is being systematically destroyed by these very dangerous welfare reforms.
Few benefit-dependent disabled people can possibly absorb a monthly reduction of £300 per month or more without serious or fatal consequences.
The removal of DLA from working age War Pensioners is a totally indefensible decision given our much proclaimed ‘service to the nation’ – as frequently acknowledged by the prime minister – [but] only when in front of the TV cameras.
Following the bogus Work Capability Assessment (WCA) conducted by Atos Healthcare, as contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the United Kingdom (UK) Government admitted that it was wrong to cut the disability benefits of Mark Wood, the vulnerable disabled man who starved to death following the removal of his benefits, in the 21st century UK, when weighing only 5st 8lbs.
Despite the fact that the WCA was introduced by the Labour Government in 2008, it was originally designed by previous Conservative Governments, in consultation with the notorious American corporate giant now known as Unum Insurance, identified in 2008 by the American Association for Justice as the second most discredited insurance company in America.
Without a welfare state, sick and disabled people in America are required to use private healthcare insurance. The tyranny now imposed on the sick and disabled people in the UK, using the WCA, was designed in consultation with Unum Insurance to oblige the general public to purchase private income protection insurance policies once it was made very clear that chronically sick and disabled people could no longer rely on the British State for adequate financial support.
Americans often suffer when attempting to claim from the income protection insurance policies of Unum Insurance, who use an identical bogus disability ‘assessment’ model as that used by Atos Healthcare.
Due to the similarities of the negative and damaging experiences of claimants, American sick and disabled people are periodically informed about the struggle in the UK by the high calibre and relentless work of Linda Nee, who tries to encourage claimants to publicly protest as witnessed in the UK, which it seems disabled Americans still don’t dare to do – such is the intimidation of Unum Insurance & the American authorities (see here, here and here).
The new report by The Mental Health Welfare Commission for Scotland, regarding a woman’s suicide after being ‘stripped of disability benefits’, was reported by John Pring at the Disability News Service (DNS) and by many others. The Coalition Government knew this carnage would happen.
Three years ago a list of distinguished academics, together with politicians and disability support groups, identified the future in a letter as published in The Guardian newspaper: ‘Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor.’ Now, three years after this letter was published, questions are being asked as to why the appointed and totally unsuitable Lord Freud, in his capacity as the Minister for Welfare Reform – who was not elected by anyone in the usual democratic way – deemed it necessary for the DWP to stop collating the numbers of deaths recorded after the long-term sickness and disability benefit, Incapacity Benefit, now changed to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA), is removed from claimants. (My emphasis.MS)
Questions are also being asked as to why this unelected former City banker was ever afforded so much authority and power in the UK Government given his reputation, where one commentator described Freud as: ‘…one of the key players in several of the most embarrassing and badly managed deals in investment banking history.’ (See here and here)(My emphasis. MS)
The recent welfare Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons (HOC) was granted due to the 104,000 signatures on the WOW petition, as gathered by disabled people and their carers, who are demanding a cumulative impact assessment of all the welfare reforms. The debate was held on February 27, 2014 where, lamentably, most Coalition Government Members of Parliament (MPs) failed to attend this very important and historic debate. Of course, Coalition MPs still played the ‘blame game’, reminding the opposition that the previous Labour Government had introduced the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
However, the Coalition routinely overlook the fact that they knowingly changed the WCA into the government-funded nightmare that it is today, whilst MPs such as George Hollingbury (Column 430) actually claimed that the Coalition “took it forward”… (Welfare Reform Act 2012) whilst disregarding the fact that a WCA face-to-face assessment with Atos Healthcare is taking over six months to arrange. (Column 433) (My emphasis.MS)
Hollingbury waxes lyrically about all the ‘expert’ opinion (Column 431) that totally failed to expose the dangerous and limited reality of the WCA, not least due to the restricted possible answers in the tick box WCA computer questionnaire, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that fail to offer the choice of ‘none of the above’ as an additional possible answer when the WCA questions do not refer to a particular claimant’s situation.
Hollingbury quotes Dr Litchfield’s WCA review whilst overlooking the fact that Professor Harrington, who conducted the first three annual reviews into the WCA, when no longer responsible, appeared in a BBC Panorama documentary and confirmed that ‘…people will suffer.’ No government representative can answer the subsequent obvious simple question – why should chronically sick and disabled people ‘suffer’ in the UK, apart from at the whim of a tyrannical government? (My emphasis.MS)
During the historic WOW petition debate, Alan Reid (Column 434 & 435) claims to be proud of his record in government as a Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem), still claiming that Lib Dems in government have been responsible for ‘improving’ the WCA process, whilst totally disregarding the fact that it is irrelevant how much more ‘flexibility’ is given to the DWP ‘Decision Makers’ and overlooking the fact that the ‘Decision Makers’, by their own admission, are totally unqualified for the vast responsibility they have. (My emphasis.MS)
They are basic grade administrators, not medical administrators, and they are incapable of comprehending diagnosis, prognosis or the implications of long term drug use when using a combination of prescribed drugs. (See here and here) More and more DWP bureaucracy with more and more administration means more and more delays, increasing DWP errors and utter chaos with a system clearly in meltdown as more and more victims of this UK government suffer and die. (See here and here) (My emphasis.MS)
Guto Bebb (Column 442) demonstrated that he is very poorly briefed, and doesn’t appear to want to be better informed, claiming that the damning report by the National Audit Office was ‘disappointing’ but insisted that the policy aims were OK. Bebb still seems to think that any sick or disabled person not in paid employment is ‘unproductive’. This disabled researcher begs to differ and, if the MP reads the very detailed published reports (here and here) as accessed by academics at universities throughout the UK, he’d know how incorrect he is.
Dame Angela Watkinson (Column 445) also appears to be remarkably poorly informed, as were various other speakers in this poorly attended yet important debate, who continued to repeat government rhetoric whilst disregarding the detailed evidence that has exposed the realities behind the ‘reforms’ as paving the way for private insurance to replace the once-hallowed UK Welfare State.
Since being introduced by the Conservative Government in 1992, all UK Governments have used the second worst insurance company in America as “government advisers” on welfare reforms, and the dangerous and totally discredited WCA is the result. (See here and here)
Jim Sheridan’s comments (Columns 448,449) were especially welcome during the debate when making reference to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA: “Reference has already been made to the obsession with people receiving welfare benefits, but for those with money – the tax avoiders and evaders – life goes on as normal. If only a fraction of the resources used and the time spent on chasing down those on welfare benefits was diverted to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, some people might understand the rationale behind it.”… “When people finally hear about their assessments, there is not much hope. Only 15.4 per cent of new claims have received a decision, and only 12,654 of the 220,300 people who have made a new claim since April 2013 have been awarded some rate of PIP. A constituent of mine got in touch because her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Because there is a possibility that his treatment will work, giving him a life expectancy of up to five years, he has not been classed as terminally ill. He is not well enough to attend a medical assessment and so will have to wait longer for a home visit. It appears that letters from his GP, cancer doctor and cancer hospital are not enough to prove the seriousness of his illness.”… “Inclusion Scotland has highlighted the case of the father of an applicant who was told that they would have to wait at least 10 months for any kind of decision, and perhaps even for a first assessment. A constituent of mine who is undergoing cancer treatment has been told that the eight-week time frame given by DWP is an unrealistic amount of time in which to process an application and offer an assessment slot. When my staff called the MP’s hotline, they were told that they simply cannot process the number of applicants as there is not enough staff. They also say that most people who have applied for PIP will not be entitled to it, even before individual cases have been looked at. If that is the mindset of the staff processing the applications, it is hard to see how balanced decisions will be made.” (My emphasis. MS)
Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s comments during the debate were also very welcome (Columns 450 & 451) and highlighted the vital work of the disability support groups such as the Black Triangle Campaign: “The Government are looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. Raising the bar on eligibility will not make anyone any less sick or any less disabled; it will just make it more difficult for them to function in society and place more pressure on those on whom they rely for their care and support”…. “One of the most profoundly disheartening experiences for me as an MP since being elected in 2010 has been the relentless way in which disabled and sick people have been vilified and stigmatised in the public discourse about welfare reform. Those who had very little responsibility for the financial collapse and subsequent economic problems have nevertheless had to carry the can. The attempt to discredit disabled people in order to justify harsh and punitive cuts in their already fairly paltry incomes is quite shameful. It appals me that the most disadvantaged have been asked to pick up the tab disproportionately for the profligacy of others. As we look to the future, we see further cuts of £12 billion, at least, promised in the years ahead. For disabled people in Scotland, the choice between two very different futures is opening up before them: one with decisions on welfare made in Scotland or one where further cuts slash their incomes even more. That choice must seem very stark indeed.” (My emphasis. MS)
The very experienced Labour MP, John McDonnell, who requested this Backbench Business debate, actually confirmed the involvement of Unum Insurance with the entirely bogus WCA (Column 426): “The work capability assessment was flawed from the start. It stemmed from the work of the American insurance company Unum, and the so-called biopsychosocial model of disability assessment. That was exposed as an invention by the insurance companies simply to avoid paying out for claims.” … “The staff employed in order to achieve that often had minimal medical or professional qualifications, and their expertise or experience was often totally unrelated to the condition or disability of the people they assessed.”… “Assessments largely disregarded people’s previous diagnosis, prognosis or even life expectancy. The recent Panorama programme Disabled or Faking It? exposed the scandal of seriously ill patients—people diagnosed with life-threatening conditions such as heart failure or endstage emphysema—being found fit for work. The so-called descriptors, or criteria, on which assessments are based bear no relation to the potential employment available, take little account of fluctuating conditions and are particularly unresponsive to appreciating someone’s mental health issues.” John also identified the utter absurdity of this Government, introducing yet another bogus assessment as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that will ‘replace’ DLA although it is likely to remove this additional support from the vast majority of the 3.5 million people in receipt of DLA.
Shockingly, the provision of a Motability long leased vehicle, as funded by the mobility component of the DLA, will now be removed from the majority of chronically disabled people who do work; thus actually preventing them from going to their place of work since they are physically unable to use public transport, which will dramatically and knowingly increase the numbers of disabled people not in paid employment. (Column 428) (My emphasis.MS)
No matter how many unnecessary tragedies are reported, or how many people die in utter despair and destitution, Conservative MPs like George Hollingbury will dismiss them all as ‘questionable’ results….and Alan Reid, for the Lib Dems, still actually claims to have had some positive function in a Government that helped sick and disabled people, whilst disregarding the horrors, the deaths, the suicides and the overwhelming evidence; including distinguished academic papers from UK universities, together with detailed reports by both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses. Reid accepts no responsibility for the nightmare he helped to create, blaming anyone except the Government he belongs to. He needs to read the detailed, referenced research to help him learn what the disability movement already know. As he talks nonsense, people die.
Reid complains about Atos whilst ignoring the fact that the DWP is complicit. Totally unqualified DWP ‘Decision Makers’, under any UK Government, are dangerous as they aren’t qualified; they can’t comprehend diagnosis or prognosis and hence they are a liability and constantly make incorrect decisions. Their decisions to remove benefits from genuine claimants are killing the innocent victims of this UK State tyranny. Their countless wrong decisions mean that people die, encouraged by this enthusiastic and very dangerous UK Government, who sit back and watch as the majority of people blame Atos Healthcare who are simply following the DWP contract by using the bogus Lima computer assessment to conduct the WCA, as required by the DWP. (My emphasis.MS)
Atos Healthcare doesn’t remove anyone’s benefits – a constant incorrect claim by many – as they don’t have the authority. All Atos staff can do is to decide if someone is ‘fit for work’ based on the results of a bogus imported computer assessment. Any other company in the same position would result in the same conclusions as that is how the computer software in designed, which is why the Lima software should be banished and this particular WCA cancelled. (My emphasis.MS)
By definition, DWP ‘Decision Makers’ actually make the decisions about welfare benefits. These totally unqualified administrators are required to consider all additional evidence provided by the claimant; including detailed letters from Consultants and GPs who know their patients very well. It is the incompetence of the unqualified DWP Decision Makers, who fail to comprehend the details of medical information and choose to accept any decision following the WCA, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that makes these DWP staff so very dangerous to the most vulnerable people in the UK. Mandatory reconsiderations won’t help if the Decision Makers remain unqualified for the job. What better way is there to remove as many people as possible from welfare benefits than to employ totally unqualified staff to make these vital decisions? (My emphasis.MS)
Identified claimant suffering includes dramatic increases in the onset of mental health problems. The General Practice (GP) service is close to collapse due to overwhelming numbers of patients needing support with DWP paperwork, that limits GP time spent with other patients who are ill and the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) have both exposed the WCA as causing ‘preventable harm’ (as we have already seen). Yet this dangerous UK Government, with a Cabinet full of millionaires who fail to comprehend need, dismisses all other evidence regardless of source. They disregard the obvious fact that the ‘reforms’ are falling disproportionately onto chronically disabled people, and those who are very ill and in need of guaranteed long-term welfare benefits, as the Government sells the UK and transforms a once-great nation into UK plc. (My emphasis.MS)
In a now-infamous 2008 interview, Lord Freud claimed that he ‘couldn’t believe’ that anyone had been awarded a benefit ‘for life’, demonstrating the immense danger of permitting a former investment banker to have control of welfare spending when he fails to comprehend that many health conditions are permanent and do indeed last a lifetime. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee’s report of February 2013 regarding the DWP’s contract management of medical services was unlimited in its criticisms of the DWP: ‘Poor decision-making causes claimants considerable distress, and the position appears to be getting worse, with Citizens Advice reporting an 83 per cent increase in the number of people asking for support on appeals in the last year alone. We found the Department to be unduly complacent about the number of decisions upheld by the tribunal and believe that the Department should ensure that its processes are delivering accurate decision-making and minimizing distress to claimants.‘ (My emphasis. MS)
There were many powerful speeches in the historic WOW petition debate and it isn’t possible to highlight them all. However, one name in particular should be highlighted for the courage to expose the fact that, if a link could be proven, “…there would be a case for corporate manslaughter.” (Column 460) (My emphasis.MS)
I salute Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party for her courage and, in particular, for her condemnation of the official opposition for their total failure to offer detailed, significant support to this nation’s chronically sick and disabled people, with the new Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves MP, using her first interview to announce that she ‘…would be tougher on people on benefits’. (My emphasis.MS)
What a catastrophic announcement from the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions that, effectively, offers this nation’s most vulnerable people no hope if the Labour Party were to win the next General Election in 2015.
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What follows is intelligent, adroit and not mine. It was written by Bernadette Meaden on the Ekklesia website and passed on to me by a mutual friend.
It constitutes what I think may be a complete answer and refutation of ‘accusations’ that the Labour Party is the so-called ‘party of welfare’. Tories love to bandy this about as though it is an insult. What they don’t tell you is that their alternative is abject poverty for all but an elite few.
I’m jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Bernadette had to say:
“Conservative MPs frequently say that the Conservatives are the party of ‘hardworking people’, and the Labour Party is ‘the party of welfare’. It’s said as an accusation, an insult, and many Labour MPs take it as such, attempting to deny the charge as if it’s something to be ashamed of.
I would like to see Labour MPs acting as an Opposition, and to meet this ‘accusation’ head on, with conviction and pride. Here is what I’d like to hear a Labour MP say.
“Yes, we are the party of welfare, and we’re proud to be so. Let me tell you why.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that, if you have a stroke tonight, you should have poverty added to your misfortune.
“We’re the party of welfare because, if you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease tomorrow, we don’t believe that you should worry about eviction as you wait six months for an assessment, only to be denied the support you so obviously need.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that when 1,700 people apply for eight jobs at Costa, or when 1,500 people queue for hours to apply for 40 jobs at Aldi, there is a big problem with people being ‘workshy’. We don’t believe unemployed people are to blame for unemployment.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe ordinary workers need to be motivated by the threat of hunger, whilst bankers need huge bonuses to motivate them.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that if a person loses their job, they need to have their distress exacerbated with the threat of benefit sanctions if they are late for a Jobcentre appointment.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that ‘hardworking people’ and people in receipt of benefits are somehow two different species. We know that in an unfair economy, many hardworking people rely on benefits to keep a roof over their head and their children fed. And until such time as the economy is fair, and those people’s wages are sufficient, we will not begrudge them the support they need.
“So yes, we are the party of welfare, because we’re the party of humanity, compassion, and fairness, and we do not view people who are poor or in difficulty with thinly disguised suspicion and contempt.”
That is what I would like to hear a Labour MP say, the next time they are ‘accused’ of being the party of welfare.”
Vox Political is the blog of hardworking people AND those on benefits
… but we do not have a wage and we can’t rely on the state.
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This blog mentioned a few days ago that LieDS and his department have decided to withhold up-to-date information on the number of deaths involving people going through the assessment process for benefits (via Atos), who have been refused benefit or who are appealing against a decision.
Vox Political has put in a Freedom of Information request, requiring the DWP to produce that information, and we know that many of you have followed that lead.
Mr Miller has been in the fortunate position to write an authoritative inquiry – as the person who made the original request all the way back in (and this will make your eyes water if you don’t know about it already) November last year!
“On November 6, 2012, I wrote to your department regarding the number of Incapacity Benefit claimants who had died that year,” he writes.
The letter goes on to detail the DWP’s reticence in responding, until he received a reply on June 24 stating that there is “no intention” of releasing an updated version of the statistics.
Mr Miller’s appraisal of the situation, while polite, goes straight for the jugular, and if I were Iain Pretentious Smith, the Secretary would be in a right State after reading it.
“If your department is too understaffed and underfunded to compile such data, then I fully understand and sympathize,” writes Mr Miller- in the knowledge that the DWP has thousands upon thousands of employees and spends billions of pounds every year on pointless money-wasting projects like the Work Programme (see recent Vox Political articles for the current state of that road crash).
“However, I must confess that while I have been very patient and reasonable regarding this matter over a period of many months, I am succumbing to the belief that your department is resorting to petty obstructionism — even a full-fledged cover-up — because the mortality of the sick and disabled has become too politicized for the Tories to cope with”.
That’s a crippling blow, right there. Now that the observation has been made, it will be interesting to watch Smith squirm out of answering it. So let’s keep asking him until he does.
“I suspect that there has been a staggering increase in the number of benefit claimant deaths since November 2011.”
This, of course, is the killing blow. We all want the answer to that one. A proper answer. A straight answer.
And we want it now.
… which isn’t soon enough for Mr Miller, whose legendary patience has worn out: “I intend to file a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office unless the transparency of your department improves.”
That is the next step for the Vox FOI request – if there’s no reasonable response (and you’ll read about it, whatever it may be) then the Information Commissioner will be receiving another complaint.
If you believe this cause is just, go thou and do likewise.
Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time in November last year, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”
Once bitten, twice shy – the DWP has refused to release an update to its figures on the deaths of people in receipt of incapacity benefits (including Employment and Support Allowance).
“Just received word from the DWP that they will NOT release an update to ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’,” he wrote.
“Is this tantamount to a cover-up of thousands of deaths and/or has mortality of the sick and disabled become too politicized for the government?
“Needless to say, I am furious.”
The response from the DWP runs as follows:
“Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.
“The publication you refer to was released on Department’s website as an ad-hoc statistical analysis publication. As such there is no intention of releasing an updated version of these statistics.” [Emphasis mine]
The “delay in responding” was a particularly long one. Mr Miller sent, by email, a copy of the original acknowledgement he received from the DWP, dated – if you can believe it – November 16, 2012. Were they hoping he would forget about it?
That letter stated: “I am sorry that the information you require is not readily available. As this would take a considerable length of time to pull together I am unable, at this stage, to tell you when the next report will be available.”
Never, if the department has its way, it seems.
This is not good enough, and we would be letting down everybody who has died if we let it pass.
I have therefore, today, sent a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking almost exactly the same questions as those to which ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’ responds.
Sent to [email protected] and under the title ‘Freedom of Information requests’, it runs as follows:
“Please provide the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died in 2012. Please break that figure down into the following categories:
Those who are in the assessment phase
Those who were found fit for work
Those who were placed in the work-related activity group
Those who were placed in the support group
Those who have an appeal pending
“I am aware that the Department for Work and Pensions came under criticism last year because it did not follow up on the conditions of people who had been found fit for work and signed off the benefit. It is to be hoped that this has been rectified and follow-up checks have been carried out. If this is the case, please provide details of:
Former ESA/IB claimants who have died after being put onto Jobseekers’ Allowance
Former ISA/IB claimants who were taken off benefit but put onto no other means of support, and the number of these who have died.
“Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.”
I strongly urge you to do the same. There is strength in numbers.
Sick and disabled people in Britain who are losing hope that they will receive justice from the Department for Work and Pensions’ ‘work capability assessment’ regime can take heart from the Greek example.
This blog has reported on Samuel Miller’s bid to take the DWP and its political leaders, including Iain Duncan Smith, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for crimes against humanity.
The allegation is that the assessment system for people claiming sickness and disability benefits is hugely biased, depriving claimants of the wherewithal – not just to stay above the poverty line, but to continue surviving.
The loss of benefits inflicted by the draconian regime increases emotional and physical stress until it becomes too much to bear, and claimants have suffered downturns in their physical and mental health, leading to their deaths – either due to the condition that a refusal from the DWP means they don’t have, or suicide.
This is all-too-familiar to educational psychologist Olga Yeritsidou. She tried to take the Greek government to the International Criminal Court back in April. The attempt was turned down by the court, but she is now working on a wealth of information, in order to win an appeal.
In April, she told the BBC: “The austerity measures deprive us of our freedom. By taking away our income and our property, we don’t have access to shelter, food, health and education.
“The suicide rate has skyrocketed. And a lot of our young people are obliged to migrate to other countries, with only the elderly staying here. But they too are dying because they don’t have medication.”
The interviewer challenged her by saying genocide involves intent, so she would have to prove that the Greek government knew the consequences of austerity and intended them, but her daughter Tanya responded: “You must show that not only did they know of the consequences but they were willing to have the consequences… We can prove they knew the extent, they knew the severity and not only were they completely fine with it, but they actively opposed all other solutions.”
This should seem familiar to you.
We live in a nation where more sick and disabled people die every six weeks, due to complications arising from the loss of benefits, than have died on active service in Afghanistan since the Army moved into that country in 2002. Government figures show an average of 73 deaths per week – many due to suicide.
Greek authority figures said it was simplistic to blame deaths there on austerity, rather than seeing them as the result of decades of economic mismanagement. In the UK, we don’t have that problem. Our economy has not been mismanaged (the debt was created because the government bailed out the banks, to stop them from collapsing; it is the banks that were badly managed) and I hope I have started to show (in my series of articles about the economy) that austerity – cutting public spending including welfare benefits – is not the only, or even a desirable, way to climb out of this nation’s debt hole.
But we know from the government’s own figures that it is aware of more than 10,000 deaths of people who used to be on Incapacity Benefit, during or following their participation in the work capability assessment programme, run by Atos on behalf of the Coalition Conservative/Liberal Democrat government.
And we know that Iain Duncan Smith has resisted – vigorously – all attempts to persuade him that his programme of cuts – essentially a pogrom against the disabled – should be modified, making these deaths less likely. Indeed, he explicitly refused to be moved from his post in last October’s cabinet reshuffle, in order to continue overseeing his plan.
He knows the extent and severity and is not only completely fine with it, he actively opposes all other solutions.
In Greece, Olga Yeritsidou is continuing her fight. In an email to our own Samuel Miller, she wrote: “I do have data in my possession pertaining not only to deaths that could have been averted were the medical services and facilities working properly but also studies and estimates from credible sources (or at least allegedly credible) regarding the current situation of the ill, disabled and those with a propensity for illness in Greece.
“Right now I am sorting through a literal mountain of data, evidence and reports on this exact matter and other similar mountains for all the other issues related, correlated or caused by the situation of the so called ‘memorandum-austerity’ in Greece.
“The reason we are doing all this is because the prosecutor’s office at the ICC has asked for further data before they move on our appeal. In short, they are asking me and my daughter to do their work for them, perhaps in hopes of us giving up and certainly for them to gain time.”
Mr Miller, as previously reported, is working on a submission to the ICC with regard to the situation in the UK. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights is now recognizing that austerity measures may violate human rights, and to bolster his own case with the ICC, he is seeking coroner’s reports from the British government and UK citizens, and also first-hand accounts of damage to health caused by the DWP’s austerity-based withdrawal of sickness and disability benefits.
He has also written to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointing out the fears that have been raised among sick and disabled people by the latest diktat from Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP – that they should be put on the government’s work programme and made to work, in order to receive their benefits.
If you have a story to tell Mr Miller, you can contact him by emailing [email protected]
The more people help him, the better his chances of success.
If all that isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps you’d care to look at some of the stories of people who have already lost their fight, people fighting for those who are left, or browse some background information about Iain Duncan Smith. It isn’t pleasant reading, and this list isn’t even exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of the extent of the situation. Here it is:
It might seem ridiculous but the DWP and Atos are guilty of the behaviour described in this image – and much worse – leading to loss of income and stress that, for some, has been intolerable. Thousands of deaths have been recorded.
Pressure is mounting to have leading Conservative politicians tried from crimes against humanity, with the launch of a new e-petition on the government’s own website, to compliment a submission to the International Criminal Court over the summer.
The e-petition by Christopher Gare calls on the government “To Investigate the DWP and connected MPs for corporate manslaughter, in relation to the WCA & Atos Healthcare… We have seen deaths rise of people on sickness benefit from 310 in 2010 to 10,600 in nine months of 2011.”
The reasoning behind both bids is simple enough – that the so-called ‘reform’ of welfare benefits and, in particular, those related to sickness and disability, have in fact led to the deaths of more than 70 sick or disabled people every week.
These deaths have occurred as the victims have been passing through the government’s dreaded work capability assessments, as administered by the private company Atos, under instruction from the Department for Work and Pensions. The stress of the assessment process, couple with fears about the future, if benefits are removed, has been too much for many to manage and they have died. I believe the most common cause of death is heart attack, although I sit ready to be corrected.
Everybody who died had been found unfit for work by their own GPs. In order to cut their benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions must have relieved those doctors of their duty of care for those patients. That duty would have then passed to the DWP. For those disability benefit claimants to have died after the DWP took over that duty of care, it is logical to believe that the DWP was reckless about the effect its decisions would have.
The government ministers most responsible for the current system are those who were at the head of the DWP until the government reshuffle last month: Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller. Therefore it seems most likely that they should be the subjects of any investigation.
… Which is exactly what disability specialist Samuel Miller told the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He contacted the ICC during the summer, seeking clarification on whether austerity deaths of the sick and disabled in the UK are considered a crime against humanity by that court.
If they are, he intended to file a complaint against Messrs Smith, Grayling and Ms Miller for the “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.
If you think the DWP has caused the deaths of sick and disabled people, then follow the link and sign the petition. If you don’t, have a look around the web and read the evidence for yourself. There’s plenty available!
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