Tag Archives: inform

Amber Rudd is right and people have been using food banks who didn’t need to: TORY MPs

He didn’t need to visit a food bank: Iain Duncan Smith – the man considered more responsible for sending people to food banks than any other – contributed a small bag of sugar, the cost of which he’ll probably claim back on expenses, to his local foodbank in a photo opportunity intended to pretend that he cares about the poor people he sent there.

The minister responsible for making sure everybody who is entitled to state benefits knows what benefits they should have has claimed that people are using food banks because they don’t know what benefits they should be getting.

Amber Rudd, who had to resign as Home Secretary over the racist Windrush scandal, appears to be trying to prove she can’t function as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions either.

She told BBC Five Live: “Sometimes I discover when I go to visit the food banks there are people in there who don’t know what access to benefits they had, which is why it’s important that there’s a good relationship between us and the food banks, which generally there is.”

This makes no sense at all.

If there is a good relationship between the DWP and food banks, and the reason for that is to ensure that people visiting food banks know what benefits they can access, then nobody visiting a food bank should be unaware of the information they need… unless the DWP isn’t doing its job properly, of course.

Let’s consider an alternative theory. The Trussell Trust published information showing that food bank use as increased by 52 per cent in areas where Universal Credit has been in place for at least a year, compared with 13 per cent where it had not been, and Ms Rudd admitted in February that “the main issue… could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough”.

Perhaps that is because the DWP, in fact, didn’t inform claimants of the difference between the benefits they had been getting and the amounts they would receive in the future.

There is evidence to support this. A report on the transition from tax credits to Universal Credit shows nearly half of claimants were not aware their tax credits would stop when they claimed universal credit, and 56 per cent felt they did not receive enough information.

More than a third were in financial difficulty – of whom six in 10 said their troubles started after they began claiming Universal Credit.

Now, here’s the punchline: The release of this report was delayed for 18 months. It was made available to Ms Rudd’s forerunner David Gauke (and, presumably, to his replacement Esther McVey before coming into the hands of her replacement, Ms Rudd) and to Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they immediately decided not to publish it.


That is the question asked by the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, Frank Field, in a letter to both (current ministers), sent on Monday (April 15).

His letter points out that the delay came at a time when pivotal decisions about Universal Credit were about to be made, and asks what actions the ministers took after reading the report, other than ordering that it be shelved.

On April 16, the Work and Pensions committee published new figures showing that the DWP had “serially botched” payment of the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance, meaning it is likely that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people were underpaid.

How many of them ended up having to visit food banks because of the DWP’s errors?

How many Universal Credit claimants had to visit food banks because they were not properly informed of what it means to go from tax credits to UC – making a mockery of Ms Rudd’s claims about users being ignorant of their entitlements?

While we’re thinking about those questions, let’s all remember that these issues were all current at a time when Conservative MPs were visiting food banks for photo opportunities, arranged to make it seem these super-rich Tories actually cared about the poverty-stricken people they had sent there.

It seems clear that the only people using food banks who didn’t need them were those Conservative MPs.

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Tories put Labour’s cart before their horse in budget row

Iain Duncan Smith has had 15 months in which to tell us where he'll make £12 billion in cuts to benefits. He simply doesn't want you to know and can't be bothered to tell you.

Iain Duncan Smith has had 15 months in which to tell you where he’ll make £12 billion in cuts to benefits. He simply doesn’t want you to know and can’t be bothered to tell you.

This writer is a big fan of The Critique Archives. Martin Odoni has no problem saying what he means and backing it up with facts – and the latest piece, In a democratic process you are supposed to tell us what your own damned budgets are before you insult someone else’s, is a prime example.

“Well, that was a blundering start to the Election campaign, even by the standards of the modern Conservative Party,” he writes.

“According to [Iain] Duncan Smith, the Conservatives have not yet made decisions on exactly how they are going to make the pledged cuts of twelve billion pounds to public spending, even though they announced them well over a year ago. They just have a nice, juicy-sounding target-figure to aim at, without even calculating whether it is a suitable target, and they are going to work out a budget to reach it ‘after-the-fact’? However, they have managed to calculate a budget for the Labour Party’s plans – and in such impressive detail that they can even tell us how much extra tax the average household will pay?

“After four hundred and fifty days of not figuring out their own budget, that may go down as a disproportionately-rigorous examination of Labour’s plans.”

Having gone on to show that the Institute for Fiscal Studies had comprehensively debunked the Tory claims, the article gets downright festive in its description of how “Britain’s Most Perennially-Caught-Out Serial Liar” – that’s Grant Shapps – responded. You’ll have to go and visit the article to read it.

The point is that the Tories were more concerned with lying about Labour’s plans than they were with telling the public about their own.

In an election period, those details become very important, don’t you think? And the Tories can’t be bothered… after around 15 months.

There are more festive descriptions of the possible outcome of any further Tory spending cuts, then we get to the meat and the (blue) blood: “It says a great deal about the arrogance and inflated self-importance of Cameron and his closest circle of colleagues that they see no need to explain to the country what they hope to do next. Make no mistake, these are people who see themselves as ‘above’ most of the rest of Britain, and as such, feel no compunction over lying to them, and sneer at the very thought of being ‘accountable’ to them. No, it is their innate ‘right’ to lead.

“It is the nature of democracy, if it is ever to work, that the public are trusted with the truth, so that they can make informed decisions on whom to trust in turn with their vote. The Conservatives will not co-operate with that ideal though. Their priority is power alone, and they rightly fear that an informed public, aware of precisely what a Tory Government would do to them, would never trust them with that power.”

That’s worth bearing in mind when you’re watching the televised leader debate on ITV tomorrow!

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Will the government really penalise GPs whose patients opt out of data sharing?


It seems the government has found a way to dissuade GPs from letting patients opt out of having their medical records sold to private firms – the threat of penalties or even an investigation into the way they run their practice.

Vox Political revealed earlier this month that the government is planning to make a profit from selling the private records of NHS patients in England to healthcare and pharmaceutical firms.

The records are said to be ‘anonymised’, but in fact anyone buying your details will be able to identify you.

The system, originally called the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES), now the Health and Social Care Information Centre, may also be described as the care.data scheme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants you to think the information will be used for medical research and screening for common diseases, but in fact it could be used by private health companies as evidence of failures by the National Health Service, and could help them undercut NHS bids to continue running those services – accelerating the privatisation that nobody wanted.

Patients have the right to withhold their data, but they must specifically inform their medical practice of their wishes. This is why medConfidential created a web page containing a special opt-out form, along with a form letter in various formats, allowing patients to opt out themselves, their children and any adults for whom they are responsible.

Now GPs are living in fear of reprisals if they don’t deliver enough details to the new system.

According to GPonline.com, Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter failed to rule out penalising GP practices with a higher-than-average proportion of patients opting out of new NHS data sharing arrangements.

In a written answer to Labour MP and health select committee member Rosie Cooper, Dr Poulter also refused to say what level of patient opt-out from the scheme would trigger an investigation.

Asked whether practices would be penalised, who would investigate practices with a high opt-out rate, and at what threshold this would apply, Mr Poulter said: “NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre will work with the BMA, the RCGP, the Information Commissioner’s Office and with the Care Quality Commission to review and work with GP practices that have a high proportion of objections on a case-by-case basis.”

Ms Cooper took this as an admission that GPs were “being threatened and bullied into ensuring patients don’t choose to opt-out”.

Reacting on Twitter, NHS national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey ruled out fines for practices where large numbers of patients opt not to share data. He wrote: “Nobody is going to get fined if patients opt out.”

None of this offers a good reason for you to leave your medical records unprotected – in fact, it gives you more reasons to opt out than before, and might provide GPs with the excuse they need to retaliate.

Doctors have been pushed further and further by the Conservative-led government’s changes to the NHS. For example, they were told they would have a greater say in where the money went, as members of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), but that was not true – they don’t have the time to take part in such decisions so they have been handed over to firms that are often part of the private companies now offering services to the NHS (for a price).

Now they are being told they may face reprisals if they do not betray the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality.

But you can only push a person a certain distance before they push back.

How will NHS doctors in England respond?

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Restoring the balance: We know what's on the Home Office's so-called 'racist' vans; here's the response from human rights organisation Liberty.

Restoring the balance: We know what’s on the Home Office’s so-called ‘racist’ vans; here’s the response from human rights organisation Liberty.

Those of us who are lucky enough not to live in London have yet to see the amazing advertising vans that have been conveying instructions to Conservative-leaning voters, to treat with hatred, suspicion and contempt anybody who is not a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant.

It seems clear that these vehicles are intended to promote racism and heighten racial tension, setting British citizens against each other – because the aim is to encourage the suspicion that another person may be an illegal immigrant – in the same way Coalition policy on social security set citizens against each other by pretending it was commonplace for individuals to receive more in benefits than in paid work.

According to the Public Order Act 1986, it is an offence for a person to publish threatening, abusive or insulting material if this is intended to stir up hatred against any group in the UK, defined by reference to colour, race, nationality, citizenship or ethnic or national origins, or if it is likely to stir up hatred with regard to all the circumstances.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 added an offence of intentional harassment – that it is an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, intending to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress. There is a defence that the conduct of the accused was reasonable. This Act was introduced by Michael Howard, who spoke in favour of the advertising vans on the BBC’s Any Questions on Friday.

The Unite union has been seeking legal advice about whether the Home Office-sponsored vans – running a week-long ‘pilot’ scheme that could be expanded to the entire country – incited racial hatred, which implies that their message was intended for domestic consumption, rather than for the benefit (sorry) of illegal aliens.

The message on the vans reads as follows: “In the UK illegally? GO HOME OR FACE ARREST. Text HOME to [a number] for free advice and help with travel documents.”

A stamp in the top-right corner reads: “106 arrests last week in your area.”

The Home Office Twitter account spent the week-long pilot period tweeting messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wished to claim had been detected or turned themselves in – and even transmitted photographs of suspects in a move that is certain to undermine claims that it was not trying to incite hatred.

And spot-checks have been taking place at railway stations, where people who were notably not white were stopped, apparently at random, by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally. It seems they became unreasonably aggressive when asked what right they had to behave like this without direct cause for suspicion.

Immigration minister Mark Harper has rejected claims that people were targeted because of their race, confirming that the law demands that officers need reason to believe an offence had been committed before stopping anybody.

He said the street operations “involved immigration officers talking to people in the local area and, where there was a reason to do so, asking questions in relation to immigration status”. Are we to take it, then, that his underlings were inviting local people to act as informants, ‘dobbing in’ people they suspected (or possibly, simply didn’t like and wanted to put into trouble)?

Harper’s argument was severely undermined when he admitted he could not reveal the different ethnicities of the people who were stopped, and their numbers, because it is not recorded – officials were told to take down only the names, dates of birth and nationalities of people they stopped.

So they didn’t record information that is vital in determining whether they have been breaking the law. Have we heard about that dodge before, Iain Duncan Smith?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is investigating.

All of the above is the latest in the Coalition government’s continuing war against immigrants – let’s drop the word ‘illegal’ from the issue. The national debate is framed around people who come into this country – legally or not – and either take employment here or claim benefits.

The facts appear to show that the hysteria surrounding this has been blown completely out of proportion.

There is an argument to be made about enforcement of illegal immigration laws, but it is about ‘people smuggling’, cheap labour and forced labour – not about people coming here to take your job or claim benefits that they don’t deserve.

According to Scriptonite Daily, “the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation, these immigrants are mostly assessed via a Points Based System, only seven per cent are asylum seekers, and only 33 per cent of asylum claims are accepted.

“There is no open door.

“Finally, the immigrant population does not have access to a vast majority of the benefits available to UK citizens, the benefits they do receive are nowhere near the same value as those received by UK citizens and they are a third less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens.”

Owen Jones, speaking on Any Questions, voiced the belief that “the Conservatives, fearful of a threat from UKIP, are using taxpayers’ money to tap into people’s fears and prejudices… What we’re seeing is government-funded vans with ‘Go home’ emblazoned on them. That is a term long-associated with knuckle-dragging racists.

“We’re seeing spot-checks and racial profiling of people at tube stations. We have a woman on the news… she was born in Britain; she was told she was stopped because she ‘didn’t sound British’. And we have the official Home Office [Twitter] account being used to send gleeful tweets which show people being thrown into vans with a hashtag, ‘#immigrationoffenders’.

“Is this the sort of country you want to live in, where the Conservatives use taxpayers’ money to inflame people’s fears and prejudices in order to win political advantage? Because I don’t think most people do want that to happen.”

Moreover, it seems the authorities have created a perfect opportunity to start rounding up anybody deemed “undesirable” by the powers-that-be. Greece is already rounding up people of unorthodox sexuality, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants and the poor and transferring them to internment and labour camps.

Will the UK follow suit? Only last week we learned that the Coalition government was planning to expand its ‘residential Workfare for the disabled’, rounding up people with disabilities and putting them into modern-day workhouses where someone else would profit and they would receive benefits alone – because that’s how Workfare works. Now this.

This blog was criticised a couple of days ago, by a commenter invoking Godwin’s Law after an article comparing the new workhouses with Nazi concentration camps.

Every day it becomes easier to make comparisons between the current UK government and the Nazis, or other fascist-style institutions. How long will people watch and accept it before they realise what is happening?

And when will they decide to act?

When it’s too late, perhaps?

What’s your opinion?