Tag Archives: insurance

National Insurance backlash threatens serious harm to Tories

What has he done? By the time Boris Johnson realises his error in taxing poor people to pay for the rich, it will probably be too late and an expression like this won’t save him.

Could this be Boris Johnson’s ‘poll tax’ moment?

Her disastrous miscalculation that the UK’s electorate would tolerate a hugely-regressive flat-rate tax that treated the poorest wage slave the same as the richest billionaire led to Margaret Thatcher’s ejection from office in 1990.

Now, with his plan to charge working people for care services that will also serve rich people who won’t have to pay for it, it seems Boris Johnson has made the same critical blunder.

That’s why message like this are starting to appear:

And this one, referencing Priti Patel’s threat to force refugees to jump into the English Channel – potentially drowning themselves – rather than allow them onto UK soil:

The betrayal of so-called ‘key workers’ – the lowest-paid but vital majority who keep the UK running – is clear:

Already the Tories have plummeted by five points in the latest YouGov opinion poll, putting them one point behind Labour because of Boris Johnson, not Keir Starmer…

… and while some may believe the situation will return to normal as soon as something else takes people’s attention from the fact that Boris Johnson is subjecting them to an ongoing, perpetual daylight robbery, others believe the situation is more serious:

The real question is whether the Labour Party can capitalize on this colossal Conservative pratfall:

The trouble is, Keir Starmer doesn’t want a National Care Service and has ditched former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s plan for one.

And here’s another suggestion that is vetoed by Starmer’s behaviour:

So it seems Labour isn’t about to rock the boat.

Perhaps Starmer thinks voters don’t have anywhere else to go. He’s mistaken about that.

As for the Tories: if Boris Johnson insists on ramming this unfair tax down the throats of the poor, he’ll be toast.

Tories won’t tolerate a threat to their power and if the poll dip turns into a trough – or indeed a trench – then he’ll face a strong challenge to his leadership. And he isn’t enough of a leader to face it down.

And then, history suggests, the Tories will backtrack and we’ll get a sticking-plaster tax that may even be slightly more fair – and a sticking-plaster PM who’ll be a lot worse than John Major was, back in the 1990s.

And he was dire.

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Pension triple lock scrapped for a year. But will the Tories stop there?

This Site predicted the suspension of the pensions triple lock, so it’s no surprise here.

The problem with the commitment to increase pensions every year by the highest of pensions, earnings or 2.5 per cent is that it did not anticipate a huge fall in earnings like that caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by a similarly whopping rise when everybody went back to work and pay packets re-balanced.

It meant the highest of the three benchmarks – this year – is a massive eight per cent increase. And the Tories don’t want to pay it.

Back in July, I suggested the Tories were making a big fuss about nothing because they could impose a stop-gap increase that reflects the increase in the cost of living (which is what the triple lock is supposed to do).

It turns out that the Tories are doing something similar. Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said that – for this year only – pensions would rise by inflation or 2.5 per cent, whichever is higher. The earnings increase will be restored to the calculation next year.

The decision has caused bitter resentment in some quarters, because people are upset that the Tories have broken a manifesto promise.

But this misses the point completely.

The point is that the UK state pension is one of the worst pension deals in the whole world.

On retirement, our pensioners will receive, on average, 29 per cent of their former earnings. This compares with an increase of 0.6 per cent in the Netherlands, more than 90 per cent of former earnings in Portugal, Italy and Austria, and an OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) nations’ average of nearly 63 per cent.

In fact, the UK’s pensions deal comes in at slightly worse than that provided in… Mexico.

This was a chance to level up the UK pension with some of our closest neighbours – but the Tories didn’t want to. That’s why people should be angry.

Of course, with the national insurance increase that the Tories say will pay for social care (eventually), pensioners will be worse off than ever – because pensioners who are still earning an income will pay towards it.

And there’s another aspect to this.

It is the rivalry between the old and the young over state benefits, the perception that pensioners get more than their fair share, and that they should lose some in order to correct a perceived imbalance.

This is utter piffle.

As Craig Berry states in The Guardian,

We can and should spend more on social security for young and old people alike.

To believe that a Conservative government would invest what it saves by removing the triple lock on today’s young people requires some magical thinking.

In practice, by reducing the state pension accrual rate (the entitlements we build up in return for paying national insurance), scrapping the triple lock would effectively amount to a significant tax hike on young people.

That’s because the tax they pay now would entitle them to a lower income in retirement than previously anticipated.

So it is ridiculous to suggest that we need to cut pension increases in order to help the young. It simply won’t happen.

Let’s face it – it simply hasn’t happened.

The (alleged) social care-related increase to National Insurance will affect young people and pensioners alike.

Because that’s what Tories are like.

They don’t take away from one group that needs help, in order to give to another.

They take from both, in order to give to themselves – as you can see with Boris Johnson’s National Insurance hike.

My only question is, do we believe them when they say they’re going to bring the triple lock back?

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.

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Boris Johnson’s lie-ridden social care proposals are a disaster for workers – and pensioners

“I’m going to apply the pincers and drag every last penny out of the poor”: Boris Johnson explains how he’ll make sure rich people don’t have to pay a penny towards their social care, so they can pass their millionaire mansions to their kids [no, he didn’t really say that. But it is what he intends to do].

Boris Johnson’s announcement of a rise in National Insurance, claiming it will pay for social care, was expected. It seeks to camouflage a new catalogue of his lies and hide the fact that he is making the poorest pay for the care of the richest.

Let’s think about what we know:

Firstly, Johnson was lying in 2019 when he said he had a plan to overhaul social care. It is clear now that he didn’t. His current proposals are to fund the existing – predominantly privately-owned and poorly-functioning – system rather than replace it with one that actually works.

Yes indeed: he is imposing a 10.42 per cent increase on National Insurance contributions that are paid by people earning between £9,500 and £50,000 per year. People earning more will pay nothing extra.

Do not be confused: this is a 1.25 percentage point increase – NI contributions will rise from 12 per cent of earnings to 13.25 per cent – but this represents a rise of more than 10 per cent in the contributions themselves.

He is also imposing a 10.42 per cent increase on profits from shares in companies, saying that this means rich people will pay a significant amount towards the cost of social care. This is a lie. Shareholders will merely pass the cost onto employees by denying them wage increases. It means the de facto increase in payments for people earning between £9,000 and £50,000 is 20.83 per cent (the slightly lower-than-double figure is due to roundings-up and -down).

The changes are expected to raise around £12 billion a year – a paltry pittance in comparison to the amount that would have been raised by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had proposed a tax on the UK’s wealthiest people.

Johnson has said that none of the money raised will go towards social care for three years after the NI increase is imposed in April 2022. Instead, it will be used to ease the backlog of NHS treatments that has been caused because Johnson’s Tory government had weakened the health service so badly that it could not cope with Covid-19 and continue to carry out these procedures at the same time.

Johnson has not said how much of the annual £12 billion will eventually be diverted to social care. Nor has his health secretary, Sajid Javid.

After April 2023, this extra payment will become a separate tax – called the Health and Social Care Levy – on earned income. It will show up separately on payslips.

Unlike NI, people who work beyond retirement age will also pay this Health and Social Care Levy, meaning Johnson’s already-broken promise to keep the pensions ‘triple lock’ is smashed to smithereens and pensioners will be punished hard.

The government says people earning £20,000 a year will pay £130 to the new levy. Those on £30,000 will pay £255; those on £50,000 – £505. It provides figures for people on £80,000 (£880) and £100,000 (£1,130) but these must be notional amounts as their NI payments will be unchanged. People with shares that provide those amounts in dividends (as already noted) will merely pass the burden onto employees.

Johnson has said the increased payments will fund changes meaning that, from October 2023, nobody will pay more than £86,000 for care costs (excluding accommodation) in their lifetime. Is that a permanent commitment? So even as inflation means £86,000 is worth less and less as years pass, people will still have to pay no more than that amount? This Writer doesn’t think so. I reckon Johnson was lying again.

Once people have paid this amount, their ongoing costs will be paid by local authorities. Those with between £20,000 and £100,000 in assets will get means-tested help from their council; those will less than £20,000 won’t have to pay from their assets but might have to contribute from their income – an additional burden for low-earners.

It means people are still likely to have to sell their houses to pay for care – unless they are rich.

As far as I can see, the exception if spouses still live in the family home still applies.

That’s a lot to take in. It is likely that Johnson is hoping ordinary people will not recognise the enormity of the impact his plan will have on poor and working people.

Fortunately, we have clever people available who are able to work out the facts.

Here’s the headline:

So, for example, here’s the impact on graduates:

So such a graduate would take home slightly less than £16,000 a year.

And do you remember that measly three per cent pay rise for NHS workers? It is now, once again, a pay cut:

And people employed in the social care system – such as it is – will now pay more towards it than their bosses, who profit from it:

Average earners lose a lot too…

… and if you earn less than the average, you get hit by the Universal Credit cut as well…

… and this means child poverty will increase:

Johnson has tried to justify this new attack on low earners by claiming that the Covid-19 crisis has cost the nation billions of pounds. That could not have been foreseen when he promised no tax increases in the run-up to the 2019 election, and that is the reason this measure is necessary. He was – of course – lying.

The government created new money to pay for the Covid crisis; there was no cost to the nation at all. So the situation now is exactly what it was in 2019, as far as tax increases are concerned.

And there is the issue of what Johnson did with all the money that was created to handle Covid – like blowing £37 billion – more than three times what he expects to raise every year with his NI increase – on Dido Harding’s ‘test and trace’ service that did not work at all.

And what happened to all that Brexit money?

Back in 2016, Johnson campaigned for the UK to leave the EU, in a big red bus emblazoned with the message, “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund the NHS instead”. The UK has now left the EU and not a single penny of that so-called “Brexit bonus” has reached the National Health Service. Instead, Johnson is taxing the poor on the pretext that they will pay for it.

Johnson’s apologists have leapt up to praise him for doing something about the social care crisis in the UK – but they haven’t been able to hide the fact: what he has done is worse than nothing.

They don’t mention facts like this, either:

The failure of the mainstream, mass media to hold Johnson and his government to account has been monumental – if expected. That doesn’t mean it should be accepted:

Particularly damning has been criticism of Labour leader Keir Starmer, whose feather-light opposition to the proposals makes a mockery of his party.

The best he had to offer was an attack on Conservative claims to be the party of low taxation…

… but Labour’s philosophy has always been that tax is fine, as long as it has a purpose and is fair. Johnson’s plan for social care demonstrates neither of those traits but Starmer couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see it.

He has become a sick joke, as critics have been quick to point out:

Worse, Labour had solid plans for a well-funded National Care Service – along NHS lines – under former leader Jeremy Corbyn – as he, and some Labour MPs, remember:

Do you know how much a wealth tax would bring in? See for yourself:

But Starmer has thrown Corbyn’s plans away because they would lift people out of poverty – and he seems uninterested in helping poor or working people (a strange stance for a Labour leader).

Another Twitter user, @aconda_an, added – referring to Corbyn: “They had someone with solutions and meaningful policies. They didn’t want it. Shame on them.”

And shame on everybody who voted Conservative in 2019 because they believed Johnson’s lie that he wouldn’t tax them. He’s a Conservative – it is his nature to lie.

You only have yourselves to blame, and you have dragged the rest of us down with you.

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.

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National Insurance punishment for the poor would mean Johnson lied YET AGAIN

Liar, liar, liar: I know this image was created in relation to Johnson’s Covid-19 policy but it now applies equally to his apparent plan for National Insurance.

We’re hearing that Boris Johnson’s Tory government is planning a National Insurance rise to pay for improved social care.

The Daily Torygraph reckons a one per cent increase is being demanded by Johnson’s office at Downing Street, while the Treasury – Rishi Sunak’s mob – wants a bigger increase of 1.25 per cent.

And The Times says Sajid Javid at the Department of Health and Social Care wants two per cent (although apparently he has denied this, saying he wants a lower figure).

The BBC reckons

For someone on average earnings of £29,536 a year, a 1% increase in national insurance would cost them £199.68 annually.

Most of us aren’t on that kind of pay packet because the national average is grossly inflated by the amount taken by people in the top 10 per cent, but it would still be a huge hike for those on £15-16k – and money that they can’t afford to lose.

Why should we pay any extra at all? Johnson promised in his 2019 election manifesto that there would be no National Insurance increases during this Parliament.

Hear the proof for yourself, from Johnson’s own lips:

The very first thing that occurred to This Writer when I heard about the plan was that Johnson has given so much money in Covid-related contracts to his Tory friends and doners – in return for nothing useful, remember – that he feels justified in saying there is no cash for this.

The corruption in such an act should be obvious to even the most blinkered working-class Tory.

Furthermore (or alternatively; there’s very little difference), this will be another opportunity for him to push working people into poverty. Those of us who receive Universal Credit are to lose £1,000 a year when the weekly £20 uplift is stripped away and now Johnson is targeting those of us who earn enough that we have to pay National Insurance – which also includes people on UC.

Richard Murphy puts it very well on his Tax Research UK site:

In the article, he states,

Rishi Sunak wishes that people should be punished for wanting more NHS spending.

He explains:

NIC is a deeply regressive tax. As the government’s own table of rates, allowances and reliefs makes clear, the tax targets those on lower pay. The charge starts on income below the income tax threshold. It is cut drastically on income above £50,268 a year. It is, therefore a deeply unfair tax already.

But worse are the exemptions from the tax. The retired, however well off they might be, do not pay it.

NIC is not paid at all on unearned income, whether from interest, dividends, rents, trusts or other sources.

And those with the means to manipulate their income – as many self-employed people with their own companies have been able to do – can avoid large parts of their NIC liability.

So, this is a tax on those in paid employment above all else.

This means that this is a tax on those most likely to be least able to afford a tax increase in this country.

Murphy makes very good points that the government doesn’t need to raise NI – firstly because it can just create the money (as it did with all the cash used to pay for the Covid contracts), and secondly because the economic multiplier effect of ensuring that people have proper care and their relatives aren’t distracted by trying to provide it means that the cost – and possibly more – is paid back into the Treasury in an increased tax take.

He adds that Sunak is not proposing an increase affecting the rich because he assumes they have all opted into (inferior) private health care, although there is no evidence to support this.

Read the article for the full details.

His final point is perhaps the most damning of all: by increasing the tax demand on poor and working people, Sunak will cause more stress that harms their health, thereby increasing the strain on our already-overstretched National Health Service.

Sunak knows this and wants it, because it will increase dissatisfaction with the NHS and – he hopes – increase demand for full privatisation (even though that will make the health of the vast majority of the UK population even worse).

Worse still for this policy is the apparent lack of any strategy to use the extra money on improvements in the social care system. It seems the money will simply go into the bank accounts of the private companies that own (we can’t say “run”) social care homes:

And of course people are asking the obvious questions of the prime minister who told us the massive savings we would make from ceasing to pay huge amounts into the European Union could be put to use over here:

What happened to all that money? Where is it?

So we see that Johnson is again making a liar of himself, Sunak is planning to use that lie to punish poor and working people, and the social care system won’t even enjoy any improvement.

It’s another typical Tory cock-up and they don’t care because it only hurts poor 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.

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Every new MP receives briefing on how Tory social security reforms have harmed us – so they can’t say they don’t know

Long-term readers of This Site will remember Mo Stewart, the researcher into the harm being caused to claimants of sickness and disability benefits by successive Conservative governments’ determination to convert the social security system to a for-profit insurance scheme.

Mo spent 10 years researching and writing a book on this subject: Cash Not Care – The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State.

After the 2019 general election, she became concerned that the huge new influx of Conservative MPs – along with those from other political parties – were ignorant of the harm that government policies had caused.

So she wrote a briefing paper specifically addressing the issue and sent it to all of them.

Labour’s John McDonnell has apparently offered to arrange a debate on the subject, if possible.

Whether or not that happens, Mo has provided me with a copy of the document so we all have a record of what these MPs should know – and so they won’t be able to plead ignorance.

And here it is:

Social Policy Abused:
The Creation Of Preventable Harm

Executive Summary

The Preventable Harm Project (the Project) ran for ten years and closed in November 2019, with the evidence identified within the Project findings widely promoted during 2019/20. The Project identified the bipartisan political ambition to eventually remove the UK welfare state, to be replaced by private income replacement health insurance. In order to remove the welfare state, it was first necessary to remove the psychological security provided by the welfare state. This was achieved by the adoption of a flawed disability assessment model, and the manipulation of the general public aided by the tabloid press, that successfully demonised claimants of disability benefit(s). Large numbers of suicides linked to the adoption of the Work Capability Assessment are overlooked by the Department for Work and Pensions, and successive Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports, highlighting the link between the Work Capability Assessment and suicides, have also been disregarded. The Work Capability Assessment was fatally flawed by design and should be abolished, and the departmental intimidation of disability benefit claimants should be outlawed.

Introduction: The Creation of Preventable Harm

1. Introduced in 2008 to restrict access to the new Employment and Support Allowance long-term out-of-work disability benefit, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a ‘non-medical functional assessment’ that disregards all clinical opinion. Since 2010, the WCA has been linked to the deaths of thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants who applied for state financial support when unable to work, yet were deemed to be ‘fit for work’ by the fatally flawed WCA.

2. Twelve years since the adoption of the WCA there is an identified and growing mental health crisis within the UK linked to claimants of disability benefit(s), and a disturbing increase in suicides directly linked to the WCA, as identified by published academic research but dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

“The worst thing, I find, is realising that I am forced into looking for a life that I want but have no chance of having. I seriously feel I may kill myself because being sick, having next to no money, no life, no future, no cure, constant pain and constant disapproval defeats me.”

An extract from the ‘Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group’ project, conducted by Catherine Hale and published by MIND and the Centre for Welfare Reform.

3. In both 2006 and 2007 the government’s own expert medical panel warned the administration not to adopt the WCA, advising that it was ‘not fit for purpose’ due to the predictable negative impact on public mental health. The expert panel’s clinical opinion was disregarded by the DWP. The removal of clinical opinion from disability assessment using the WCA guaranteed that many of those in greatest need were destined to die, as the state removed the financial and the psychological security of a guaranteed income when unfit to work.

4. There have been two official Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports linking the WCA to suicides, with other Coroners expressing concern at inquests due to the identified enforced suffering of the deceased by the DWP. Coroners’ official Rule 43 reports and identified concerns are disregarded by the DWP, whose social policy reforms since 2010 created preventable harm to those in greatest need linked to intimidation. The constant threat of sanctions, which removes all disability benefit income, leaves the chronically ill and disabled community in need of state financial support living in fear of the DWP.

5. Regardless of the Jobcentre being advised that a claimant is unable to attend an interview due to ill health, disabled claimants are routinely met with an ‘institutional reluctance’ to meet their needs, as identified in Coroner’s reports. Jobcentre staff’s decisions to sanction a claimant can cause death by starvation, in C21st UK, when all income is removed for a period of weeks or months. No-one is held to account when some of those in greatest need are starved to death by the state.

6. The WCA is used to limit access to all state disability funding including the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Universal Credit and the War Pensions for older working-age disabled veterans, which is a military medical pension not an out-of-work benefit.

7. The WCA is regularly and inappropriately referred to as a ‘medical assessment’ by the DWP, MPs, academics, policy advisers and journalists. The WCA is not a medical assessment and is totally unrelated to clinical opinion. The adoption of the WCA is identified as being attributed to psychocoercion by successive administrations, to remove what once was the psychological security of the welfare state for anyone who is unfit to work.

8. Identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America, the corporate insurance giant Unum (Provident) Insurance have been advisers to the UK government since 1992, and were appointed as the official UK government consultants for ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994. Concerned by the increase in various conditions that could not be confirmed by blood tests or x-rays, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Unum Insurance adopted a biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment, which disregards all clinical opinion.

9. Unum advised the UK government as to how to adopt a similar BPS assessment model in the UK, and funded an assessment centre at Cardiff University for this purpose. The DWP adopted the discredited Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines. The human consequences of using the WCA is that many of those in greatest need would die, with many driven to suicide with a common perception that anyone claiming to be unfit to work, and in need of state financial support, will be persecuted by the DWP. The Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment failed all academic scrutiny.

Policy recommendations

• Since 2009 every clinical authority in the UK have demanded that the WCA should be abolished. This includes the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nurses and the British Psychological Society. Introduced by the private health insurance industry, disregarding clinical opinion was always dangerous. The WCA is fatally flawed and should be abolished without further delay, to be replaced with a disability assessment that considers clinical opinion, with many assessments being paper-based, so that the chronically ill and disabled community are no longer intimidated by the DWP.

Research findings
• In order to remove the past psychological security provided by the welfare state it was necessary to discredit vast numbers of disability benefit claimants, aided by the tabloid press, which helped to manipulate the British public.
• Social policies were adopted with a fiscal priority whilst disregarding health and wellbeing, which policymakers failed to take into account when recommending policies which were harmful.
• Since 2010 the social policy reforms, and the additional austerity measures, were destined to have a catastrophic and often fatal consequence for many of those in greatest need. Thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants have died when ‘killed by the state,’ with a 2014 NHS Digital Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey report that identified that almost 50 percent of ESA disability benefit claimants had attempted suicide at some point.
• Prosecuted disability hate crimes, including murder, increased by 213 percent between 2010-2016, during the coalition government’s term in office.
• The relationship between physical health and mental health is well documented. The numbers of benefit claimants who have perished due to social policies since 2010 will never be known.
• Published in September 2016 ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ provides the results of the first six years of independent disability studies research for the Preventable Harm Project. The book is now recommended reading for various social policy, health and legal courses at universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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Tories are stalling on social care because they don’t want you to have it

Matt Hancock: millions of people are going without vital care because this bubblehead can’t be bothered to read a report.

Is it really any surprise that the Tory response to Covid-19 in social care situations has been a massacre?

They have no interest in using public funds to provide care for people who need it; they don’t think the money is meant for that.

Also, of course, anything with the word “social” in its title is like garlic to a vampire for them.

For example, has Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock got round to reading a report that stated – in July 2019 – that the social care system needed a cash injection of £8 billion, just to keep it ticking along?

Who knows how much cash it needs now?

Hancock was supposed to respond within two months but didn’t. Perhaps he was on his summer holibobs.

It is now more than a year later. Yes, Hancock has had to handle the Covid-19 pandemic – but if he was a responsible minister, he would not leave other matters dangling, and in any case the crisis has identified serious failings in care home provision.

Hancock has done nothing about them, nor has he lifted a finger to address failings that have left no fewer than 1.4 million older people in the community without help that they need desperately.

Public funding has fallen by £700 million since the Conservatives came back into office in 2010, and 400,000 people have lost their entitlement to help because successive Tory minister couldn’t be bothered to increase the level of means below which a person should be eligible for help, in line with inflation.

Boris Johnson ignored the scandal in his manifesto for last year’s election because he was afraid it would derail is campaign – and your true-blue Tory mass media dutifully turned a blind eye.

Theresa May’s 2017 election campaign was derailed by the issue of social care, after she proposed draconian measures to take families’ property away from them, in order to fund care for frail relatives.

Finally, last week, pressed for an answer on social care by a coalition of English councils, Hancock volunteered a cobbled-together choice between forcing everybody aged over 40 to contribute extra taxes to fund social care in later life – in line with models running in Japan and Germany, and compelling us all to take out insurance that will pay the bills later.

Neither plan is workable.

Firstly, what if people who are taxed for social care in later life never actually need it? This Writer’s grandmother lived to the ripe age of 88, with Altzheimer’s in her later years, but never had social care; my parents are both in their 80s now and are happily – and healthily – at home. Contribution to such a fund for any of them would have been a waste of money.

And the insurance plan is a no-hoper too: payment into private insurance schemes inevitably creates the temptation to cheat the payee out of their funds. Look at the way the criminal US insurance firm Unum cheated its clients out of their payments by ensuring that they could never meet the conditions required for payouts. Look at the number of UK pension funds that have been raided.

And of course we already pay into an insurance fund for our old age: National Insurance. The Tories could simply increase that by 1.5 per cent (that’s the amount of their income that Germans pay), rather than farming the job out to let privateers rob us all.

Either Hancock hasn’t considered any of these issues or he doesn’t care.

Source: Matt Hancock has failed to respond to report warning of social care ‘scandal’ nine months after deadline | The Independent

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Changing benefits so people ‘get out what they put in’ can only reward the rich

"I'll squeeze them 'til the pips squeak!" Alternatively, Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green may be saying something else about benefit claimants [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].

“I’ll squeeze them ’til the pips squeak!” Alternatively, Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green may be saying something else about benefit claimants [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].


Here’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The concept seems sound – revive the contributory principle for benefits so that people who put more into the system are able to take more out.

But any suggestion that it will benefit the poorest is a lie: Poor people don’t have extra money to contribute to the benefit system.

This seems like a front for further dismantling of benefits. A contributory scheme such as is suggested here could make way for a private insurance scheme very easily.

Does the public support that? Are we willing to pay regularly into insurance schemes that deplete our meagre savings and probably won’t pay out when we need the cash (look at the example of Unum in the United States)?

Sure, those who have worked longer deserve more support, but we already have a good, working principle on which our benefits are based.

It’s this: From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.

Ah, but you won’t see any Torygraph columnist repeating that, will you?

It was coined by Karl Marx.

There is now an opportunity for the Conservatives to build a popular and effective welfare system that adequately protects what Theresa May has called “ordinary working-class families” who are “just managing”.

There is a growing number of policymakers, inside and outside of Government, who believe the next stage of welfare reform should be to offer more “contributory benefits”.

The public are on side: an overwhelming majority believe that it is fair that those who have worked longer – who have put more into the system – deserve more support in testing times.

The new Government should introduce a Contribution Supplement to Universal Credit and the base rate of Statutory Maternity Pay, rewarding higher amounts to claimants with longer work histories.

The Government should also introduce tax-free, contributory top-up accounts for those on low incomes. Those who decide to use them would have some of their savings matched by government, and would be able to draw down from their account in challenging financial circumstances to top up existing welfare support from government.

Source: Conservatives should reform welfare on a simple principle: you get out what you put in

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Protest today against work capability assessment creator

Mansel Aylward, former chief medical officer at the Department of Work and Pensions: Architect of misery?

Mansel Aylward, former chief medical officer at the Department of Work and Pensions: Architect of misery?

The Disabled Activists’ Network Cymru (DAN Cymru) is organising a vigil and protest against a decision by the Socialist Health Association to give a platform to Sir Mansel Aylward, the man behind the Department of Work and Pensions’ Work Capability Assessment.

Data released by the DWP last month show that thousands of people have died after being found “fit to work” by the deeply flawed WCA, which was introduced by Sir Mansel while he was Chief Medical Officer of the DWP.

A statement by DAN Cymru declared: “As disabled people we are dismayed at the lack of solidarity shown to us by Socialist Health Association through their decision to give legitimacy to Sir Mansel and the discredited ‘biopsychosocial model’ of disability on which the WCA is based.”

The biopsychosocial model on which the WCA is based is a brainchild of the US medical insurance industry, particularly Unum, which funds Sir Mansel. Unum Provident Insurance were fined $31.7 million in 2003 in a class action law suit in California for running ‘disability denial factories’ in which they use the pseudoscientific and discredited biopsychosocial model to deny medical insurance payouts to thousands of ill and disabled Americans.

Dr Liza van Zyl, a disabled member of DAN Cymru, said: “A lot of disabled people who become involved in DAN Cymru initially found us when they were searching the internet for ways to commit suicide because the DWP stopped their income after the WCA found them fit to work.

“The WCA has been the cause of so much suffering and destitution of disabled people in Wales. It is staggering beyond belief that the Welsh Government has appointed the man responsible for the WCA to chair Public Health Wales.”

Rob Marsh, convenor of DAN Cymru said: “The biopsychosocial model is a cargo-cult science with no credibility in the medical and scientific establishment.

“The British Medical Association has condemned the WCA and called for it to be scrapped. The BMA has found that eight out of 10 GPs report that their patients find the WCA and the DWP-administered benefits system so stressful that it causes mental ill-health in those patients who did not previously have mental health conditions.

“And over half of WCA assessments are overturned on appeal, at huge cost to the taxpayer. It is staggering that Aylward is considered an appropriate person to advise the Welsh Government on public health and disability matters”.

A summary of the Work Capability Assessment, the Biopsychosocial model of disability, and its introduction into the UK welfare system by Sir Mansel Aylward can be found here.

The protest will take place at 6.30pm today (Tuesday, September 8) outside the Unison Wales offices on Custom House Street, Cardiff CF10 1AP.

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NHS funding to come from insurance and user charges, says unelected health minister

Keep the NHS public: These demonstrators don't want the NHS to be funded by private means. They want a publicly-run service, catering for everyone, regardless of their means to pay.

Keep the NHS public: These demonstrators don’t want the NHS to be funded by private means. They want a publicly-run service, catering for everyone, regardless of their means to pay.

A junior health minister in the House of Lords has called for an independent inquiry into ways of changing the way the National Health Service is funded, away from taxation and towards insurance and user charges.

It’s the Conservative Party’s dream come true – but you probably missed it because it was announced very quietly last Thursday (July 9) in a House of Lords debate on the “sustainability” of the NHS, by the unelected Tory Government’s Under-Secretary of State for NHS Productivity, Lord David Prior. One suspects he may have overstepped his job description.

The gist of the debate is presented in this Open Democracy post. Basically, Tory Lords called for “a plurality of funding” to make the NHS sustainable. Rather than taxing the rich (who can afford to pay), they want to tax the sick (who can’t).

Astonishingly, Labour peers didn’t have a lot to say against the idea. Pro-privatisation Lord Warner (why is he Labour, if he’s pro-privatisation?) said: “A wise Government should begin now the process of helping the public engage in a discourse about future funding of the NHS.”

Prior, summing up, said that, although he preferred a tax-funded NHS, “if demand for healthcare outstrips growth in the economy for a prolonged period, of course that premise has to be questioned.”

He called for an independent inquiry on healthcare funding – perhaps to be carried out by the King’s Fund or Nuffield Trust – ignoring the fact that the King’s Fund’s Barker Review has rejected user charges and called for more taxes to pay for healthcare, through a review of inheritance tax and national insurance increases – which George Osborne has recently cut.

This plan, coupled with the recently-announced possibility of social security becoming based on private insurance, would pronounce the death sentence on the Welfare State.

The Open Democracy article asks: “Are we being nudged towards an inefficient, unfair ‘pay NHS’ in the only way possible – undemocratically?”

It seems so.

Let’s nip this one in the bud.

Back in 2011, David Cameron told the world: “We will not be moving towards an insurance scheme, we will not introduce an American-style private system. In this country, we have this most wonderful, precious institution and idea. That whenever you’re ill, however rich you are, you can walk into a hospital or surgery and get treated for free. No questions asked. No cash asked. I will never put that at risk.”

It seems that now would be an excellent time to contact your MP (via the Write To Them website if you like), reminding them of Cameron’s words.

Then – as a Vox Political reader suggested in a comment to the Facebook page, point out that an unelected junior health minister, Lord Prior, has suggested to Parliament that he plans to launch an inquiry to consider whether we should move away from a tax-funded NHS, towards one funded by insurance and co-payments.

Finally ask if it is now official government policy to consider such a move to an insurance or user-fee funded NHS, away from the core principles that have been in place since the 1940s.

Don’t forget to ask all your friends to do the same.

This government only listens if enough people raise their voices.

Let’s give David Cameron and his ministers a reason to prick up their ears.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Art imitates life: Coalition ‘welf’ policies get comic-book treatment

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Judge Dredd: The Cop. Script by Al Ewing; art by Ben Willsher.

Sometimes, when you’re a blogger, an article comes along when you think you’re doing something else – for example, catching up on a little light reading.

Yes, even hard-nosed political bloggers like This Writer have to kick back and have a little ‘me’ time now and then – in this case, with the Judge Dredd Megazine, issue 356, dated February 17, 2015.

In the lead story ‘The Cop’, we see title character Judge Dredd’s domain – the Mega City One of a future North America – struggling to cope with the effects of a disaster. Already you can see parallels with the Great Recession of 2007 onwards.

Citizens are encouraged to help clear damage from buildings, making them usable again, in return for food rations. No effort – no food. This is actually described in the story as a ‘Work Programme’!

Then the story focuses in on “those adults who are unable to work”; one such person is thrust out of the line of workers by a classic bully-type character. Ordered to explain what’s going on, the character – clearly in bad shape, his body withered and weak – states that he has a condition in which half his body doesn’t function properly. He explains that he reported for ‘disability testing’ (a Work Capability Assessment).

“I waited six hours an’ then they told me to come down here!” the pitiful creature, named Carmody, explains. “Said if I could wait that long, it meant it couldn’t be that bad–”

Captions provide us with Judge Dredd’s reaction: “More than credible. He’s heard stories like it a thousand times.” How many times have we heard or read similar stories about so-called healthcare professionals and their assessments?

“Admin call it ‘creative bureaucracy‘ saving… by the cold application of red tape and the occasional Catch-22. In the current climate, ‘criminal negligence’ might be more appropriate.” In comics, you see, there’s no space for diplomacy or political correctness; they say what they see. Criminal negligence is as good a description of Coalition Government policy towards the sick and disabled as any This Writer has seen.

The Judge decides that the sick guy has a good case and makes provision for him to receive food anyway. What happens next is something that would make the right-wing press proud.

“HE’S FAKIN’ IT!” screams a man in the crowd. “I seen that guy yesterday pullin’ the same scam! He’s a fake!

The caption points out what we already know: “The accusation’s obviously false. Dredd doesn’t need a lie detector to know that. But the mob hears what it wants.” Another parallel with the UK of the present-day.

The result? Instant riot – put down with rubber bullets – for which the Mega-City always has enough money: “Maitland in accounts had … made the budget adjustments. Feeding the cits was all well and good, after all — but first things first.” Boris Johnson’s water cannon, anybody?

Getting back to Carmody – who’s been injured and is just about to be carted off in an ambulance – it turns out he recognised the man who started the riot: “Suh-sure. He tuh-tried to sell me… I dunno, he cuh-called it insurance.”

And haven’t we just learned that the Tories want to introduce private health insurance into British industry?

Back to the captions: “The cits are angry, resentful, looking for someone to blame— anybody will do. So whisper in the right ear— make an accusation at the right moment that some poor sap’s not pulling their weight— and you’ve got a whole city ready to do your legbreaking for you.” As the right-wing press have been working hard to demonstrate over the last few years.

scrounger

Of course, this works equally well with the ‘chequebook euthanasia’ argument that has been put forward in this blog. Whisper in the ear of someone who’s depressed that maybe they should take the easy way out; relieve the burden on their relatives/friends and the taxpayer – and they’ll probably top themselves while the balance of their mind is disturbed. Isn’t that right, Iain Duncan Smith?

“Meanwhile, your own hands stay clean– an incitement rap at the very worst. It’s some smart thinking, all right. Organisation thinking.”

Okay, in the story, the bad guys are known as ‘the Organisation’. It’s a comic-book. In the real world, they mean the Establishment; the neoliberals whose thinking informs the government’s. As this blog has noted previously, the government’s hands stay clean if an ESA claimant goes out and commits suicide after a Work Capability Assessment – at least, that’s how ministers would like us to see it. “An incitement rap at the very worst.”

And in the meantime, down goes the benefit bill.

The script for this mini-classic is by Al Ewing. It seems clear that, like another comic scriptwriter called Al – Alan Moore – he knows the score.

It’s one of the great things about the comics counter-culture. It isn’t monitored and censored anything like as heavily as mass cultures like TV.

So comics get to say what people really think.

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