Misjudged: It seems David Cameron has found a way to impose even MORE “bloody imperialism” – the worst excesses of his neoliberal agenda – on us all, using English voters as his weapon [Image: Ceasefire Magazine].
Vox Political is grateful to Craig Cartmell for the following, which he posted on the Facebook page as a comment:
Have we all been victims of the greatest confidence trick of the early 21st century?
Let me put a scenario to you: 1. The current government has been slowly putting plans into action to privatise as much of the government as possible, and under the excuse of austerity and the label ‘value for money’ has managed to get rid of a fair chunk:
– Education is increasingly in the hands of mostly unaccountable, private academies. – The Prison Service is being sold off one prison at a time, and the Probation Service is all but gone. – The Royal Mail was sold off for a song, a move that benefitted a gang of Tory donors. – Billions of pounds of NHS contracts are being awarded to private, and often American, healthcare companies. – The emergency services are next on the list, with Air-Sea Rescue already sold to a private concern. 2. However, there is no way that this programme can be completed within a single term in office. The Tories know that their austerity programme has been exceptionally unpopular, even amongst their core middle class demographic, so it is likely that the 2015 election will be Labour’s to lose rather than the Conservative’s to win. 3. Wales and Scotland are solid opposition territory, and there will be no gains there. So how can the Tories energise the English vote? They need a core policy that will resound at all levels of English society and it cannot be the Health Service as they are busy dismantling that and they would really rather nobody discusses it if possible. 4. The answer is the devolution of powers and the West Lothian question. Now before the Scottish referendum only a few commentators south of the border were discussing the West Lothian question or the Barnet Formula, and only in the context of a victory for the Yes campaign. 5. Immediately after the referendum was won the first words to come out of the Prime Minister’s mouth is that he will hold to his promise to grant Holyrood more powers, but only in conjunction with laying down legislation to effectively ban opposition MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from debating or voting on ‘English matters’. This will be hugely popular with English voters and could deliver the next election to the Tories. 6. This is a major constitutional change that Cameron will try to fast track before May 2015. He is talking about a draft bill to be in place in January 2015. 7. Remember that the referendum was allowed to happen, and to become a binding agreement, by Cameron. He could have simply ignored the SNP’s referendum completely. 7. So was it allowed, or even encouraged, in order to bring this all to pass? Were the ambitions of Alex Salmond and his SNP used as a Trojan Horse? It would explain why Cameron and his cronies only rode in to save the day with promises of more devolved powers at the very last moment.
So what else could Cameron and his Tories achieve in a second term? a. The repeal of the Human Rights Act to be replaced by a seriously watered down Bill of Rights which shall not hold the government to account. This may also require the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and thus the European Council and the International Criminal Court. b. The complete privatisation of all non-core governmental services. c. The withdrawal of the UK from the EU. d. Draconian immigration policies and regulations. e. The deregulation of the financial sector. f. The removal of all remaining employment rights and the crushing of the last unions.
This neo-liberal agenda would deliver billions of pounds in profits for the mega corporations at the taxpayers’ expense. It would drive down wages and further increase the wealth gap between rich and poor. Services would be seriously reduced in availability and quality as each would be run to maximise profit for the providers’ shareholders.
Everybody should know by now that British citizen Mark Wood starved to death four months after a medical assessment by Atos found him fit for work, even though it was only reported widely yesterday.
The ruling on the 44-year-old was made against the advice of his GP and in the knowledge that Mr Wood – who lived in David Cameron’s Witney constituency – had mental health conditions including phobias of food and social situations. He weighed just 5st 8lbs when he died in August last year.
His GP, Nicolas Ward, told an inquest into Mr Wood’s death: “Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt he was under when his benefits were removed.”
In a normal society operating under the rule of law, that should be enough to trigger a halt on all work capability assessment medical tests while the entire system is examined with a view to preventing further harm. This was discussed in Parliament last week (read my live blog) but because this was a backbench motion the government has insisted that it only needs to take the unanimous vote in favour of the move as “advisory” – and has done nothing.
That is not good enough for many of us. Samuel Miller, the campaigner who has been trying to bring UK government discrimination against the disabled to the attention of international organisations like the United Nations has already signalled that he will be demanding action.
On Twitter yesterday (February 28), he wrote: “I’ll inform the UN’s human rights office… as well as write the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); a corporate manslaughter investigation into Atos and the DWP needs to be opened.
“I’ll also file a criminal complaint against Atos and the DWP with Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service.”
Mr Miller has also been awaiting a ruling from the Information Commissioner on his Freedom of Information request from November 6, 2012, demanding details of post-November 2011 Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimant mortality statistics. The Commission called on the Department for Work and Pensions to come up with a valid reason for its refusal, under the FoI Act and the DWP has failed to provide one so far.
For Mr Miller, the situation has now dragged on far too long. “I’m not going to wait for a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which I’m unlikely to win. Due to the tragic starvation death of Mark Wood, I’m going to request that the UN’s human rights office obtain a subpoena from the International Criminal Court prosecutor, requiring that the Department for Work and Pensions release the post-November 2011 IB and ESA claimant mortality statistics that I requested on November 6, 2012.”
He is also awaiting the findings of an inquest into the death of Stephanie Bottrill, the Bedroom Tax victim who died when she walked in front of a lorry on a busy motorway, after leaving a note blaming the government. That hearing has not yet taken place.
Samuel Miller has cerebral palsy and lives in Canada, and yet he is willing to do all this to correct injustice in the UK. He puts most of us to shame.
Of course, I am looking forward to my tribunal hearing, in which I hope to trigger the release of those post-November 2011 IB and ESA claimant mortality statistics. If Mr Miller manages it first, then my hearing will focus on why my request for the information was dismissed as “vexatious”, as this has serious implications for any future Freedom of Information requests.
I’d like to hear from others who are doing something about this – even if it only comes down to contacting their MP.
Or do you think this man’s death should be in vain?
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The villain of the piece: Iain Duncan Smith drives all of the government’s policies that discriminate against the sick or disabled. Others have memorably noted that his idea of helping them is to kick away their walking-sticks to see how far they can crawl.
The UK Coalition government is to face trial by the European Court of Justice over an alleged failure to correctly assess the benefits EU migrants are entitled to claim. This is very laudable, but begs the question: When are the European courts going to address the Coalition’s transgressions against its own citizens?
I refer, of course, to the continuing scandal of Employment and Support Allowance, the disability benefit that isn’t (according to the government’s plans for another so-called benefit, Universal Credit).
Vox readers are, by now, well aware that the so-called “work capability assessment” that allegedly determines whether a person is entitled to the benefit or is fit for work is in fact a sham, run by a French Information Technology company (Atos), using a computerised, tick-box assessment system that is based on a scheme that earned the American insurance company that devised it (Unum) a criminal record, because its sole intention was to prevent as many people as possible from fitting the criteria necessary to win a claim.
The application of this assessment system has led to an average of 73 deaths every week. This means that, between the moment I woke up this morning and the time I’m writing this (around midday), at least two more people are likely to have died – either because their condition has worsened due to the strain of the assessment procedure, or through suicide; their mental health was not strong enough and they decided to give up, rather than fight for what should be theirs by right as UK citizens.
A BBC documentary (Week In, Week Out, May 28, 2013) recently quoted a statistic that claimed people with chronic pain – who are therefore entitled to claim ESA – are twice as likely to die prematurely than those without, so why is the Coalition forcing them through these fake “medical” examinations and then telling them they are fit to work – effectively trying to induce such premature deaths?
That question has been taken to the European courts – and the United Nations’ International Criminal Court. The response, so far, has been breathtakingly disappointing. It seems that they need proof that the UK’s own justice system will not rectify the problem before they will agree to take action.
How much proof do they need?
Within the last couple of weeks, Linda Wootton, a lady who had endured multiple organ transplants due to illness, died – within days of receiving notice that a work capability assessment had found her fit for work and her ESA had been cancelled.
In the same period, a High Court tribunal ruled that the Coalition has broken the law by discriminating against people who are mentally ill. This is exactly the kind of discrimination that causes the suicides. It is something about which the government has been warned – not rarely, but continually and with passion. And what is the government’s response?
It intends to appeal against the decision. It says it has made enough concessions to the mentally ill already.
We know what happens when the government appeals against court decisions. It loses.
And then it changes the law, in order to make its actions legal again.
That is the act of a criminal regime.
But the international courts are still sitting on their thumbs.
By the time I finish posting this article, according to the averages, another ESA claimant will be dead – making three, or thereabouts, since I woke up this morning. If the international courts finally get their act together, examine the mountain of evidence that has built up against the Coalition over the last three years, and find it guilty of corporate manslaughter – or procuring suicide under the Suicide Act 1961 – it will be a tremendous day for the most vulnerable people in the UK.
And make no mistake – the chronically sick and disabled are far more vulnerable than most European migrants.
But one fact will remain: Thousands upon thousands of these vulnerable people will have died, and no court decision will ever bring them back.
ESA isn’t the only benefit system that is failing the British people. Look at Stephanie Bottrill, who committed suicide because she was facing eviction. She couldn’t afford to pay the Coalition’s hated Bedroom Tax.
You see, these aren’t just numbers. They’re people. Thousands and thousands of real people. With real families who are left to mourn the loss.
In the UK, the Coalition and the press have worked hard to create a lack of empathy for these people – calling them scroungers, or skivers, or work-shy. In reality they are nothing of the sort. They are seriously, seriously ill. They are victims of a libellous hate campaign. And they are too sick, and too poor, to mount a challenge against what is happening to them.
Now, I don’t want the Comment column after this article to fill up with hate-speak for Johnny Foreigner. The fact is, the Coalition probably is denying benefits to migrants.
My rationale for suggesting this is the fact that it is denying benefits to the UK’s own citizens, and is perfectly comfortable with letting them die as a result.
So, while I applaud the European Court of Justice for taking this step against the UK government, I must also add this:
Get your priorities right.
Postscript: You know, it isn’t my job to point out these things. There are people in this country who are employed – in fact, there are people in this country who are elected – to do so. Why aren’t these people spending every waking hour campaigning for justice, for their constituents and for the nation as a whole? Why aren’t they fighting the media lies? Where is the opposition to this government criminality?
Post-postscript: Have a look at this article, reporting that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has found the Coalition government in breach of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Now we have proof that the Coalition is actively discriminating against the disabled, and breaking UN conventions to do it, will the UN, finally, step in?
Oh! I just looked at the time. That’ll be another person dead, then.
A face of evil: Theresa May wants to take away your human rights and leave you at the mercy of government repression.
Tory plans to take away your human rights are moving ahead with Theresa May announcing that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election, “in the national interest”.
In whose interest? Not yours. Certainly not mine. She’s quite clearly confusing minority Tory interests with those of this country. They do that a lot.
If you want to get humour from the situation, Mrs May made her announcement at a conference organised to find ways of winning broader support in 2015. How badly off-track can you go?
There may, in fact, be a reasonable argument for modifying human rights legislation; we have all been appalled when judges have made decisions in favour of defendants because the alternative would “infringe their human rights” – but this is not a good reason to scrap the lot. It’s a reason to give out guidance on how it should be properly interpreted.
But getting rid of these rights altogether shows that the Conservative Party wants to turn government into an instrument of suppression, grinding the workers and the poor underfoot. Better people have already raised concerns that the Coalition is becoming an Orwellian “boot stamping on a human face – forever”; this would make that future a certainty.
It is likely that Conservative members of the Coalition government – most notably Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Maria Miller and Mark Hoban – will fall foul of human rights laws, either in this country or in Europe, if the UK continues to abide by them, and this in itself provides enough grounds for us to speculate about why Mrs May wants to get rid.
As everyone in the UK should know by now, the draconian rules of the sickness and disablement benefits system overseen by Smith and his cronies has led to the deaths of thousands of people who had a right to expect a reasonable level of care from their government. If efforts to seek justice through the UK’s legal system fail, then there is likely to be an attempt at international level. The Tories could fend this off by removing the UK from the convention, although it seems likely that the International Criminal Court might then take a position on the matter.
Scrapping your human rights provides the Tories with many more opportunities for evil, though. Let’s look at what we could lose.
The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.
As you can tell from the behaviour of the Department for Work and Pensions, the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power.
Is killing disabled people – or rather, allowing their deaths when this outcome can be clearly foreseen – in the national interest? Do you have any family members or friends who are disabled? Do you know any who have died as a result of this government’s barbaric policies? What do you think of that, and of the fact that withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would get away with it?
Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government could try to weasel its way out of accusations relating to this, by saying these schemes are labour “considered to be a part of a person’s normal ‘civic obligations'” but the argument against this – that they have not served the interests of the person but of the companies to which they were attached – is strong. These schemes have been worse than useless at getting people into employment but an excellent money-making scam for the businesses concerned, including the ‘Work Placement Provider’ companies that receive government money for very little.
Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, including the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within reasonable time, the presumption of innocence, and other minimum rights for those charged with a criminal offence. The government’s current attempt to push through laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which they defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present – is a clear violation of this.
Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course Mrs May would be in violation with her “Snooper’s Charter” that would allow the government to look at your emails.
Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, which means that, if Mrs May has her way, anti-Conservative websites like this blog would be swept away and its author could be imprisoned (for an indefinite period of time, as the protections under Article 6 would no longer apply).
Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. The Tories have always hated the unions, even in their current, very nearly toothless, form. They would relish the opportunity to make unions illegal and remove the rights of all employees.
There are more, but you get the gist. The Human Rights Act of 1998 is the British legislation that makes the European Convention effective in the UK, as far as is possible, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
So that’s what Mrs May means, when she says she wants to scrap these laws. If you have been paying attention, you should be terrified.
You may also be questioning her definition of “the national interest”!
It is clearly a controversial move, and this is why the Tories are taking a “softly, softly” approach to it. They’re putting it out now, two years before the general election, to test the waters, and they know they’ll probably get a reaction against it.
Suppose something happens over the next two years that gives them an opportunity to say – and they will – that “restrictive European laws on Human Rights have prevented us from acting in the public interest”? Won’t that sway the opinion of the Daily Mail-reading public against the very rights that protect them?
It’s a strategy that has worked in the past. By the time the election arrives, you can expect the Tories to have worked the nation up to fever pitch about it – to the best of their ability.
It’s a trick.
They think you’re turkeys and they want you to vote for Christmas.
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:
Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, 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.”
People whose family members have died while going through the DWP/Atos work capability assessment are being urged to contact a disability specialist – who has been seeking international legal action against the austerity-enforced injustice.
Vox Political reported back in September that Samuel Miller had contacted the International Criminal Court in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, considered most responsible for “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable”.
Mr Miller got in touch over the weekend, but said that the result had been disappointing: “They stated that the International Criminal Court has a very limited jurisdiction. The Court may only address the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as defined by Articles 6 to 8 of the Rome Statute.”
The Rome Statute is the document under which the ICC was established. Article 7, which covers crimes against humanity, states: “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
“(k) Inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”
I thought this – Article 7 (k) – was a perfect description of what the DWP and its ministers are trying to achieve, and Mr Miller agreed. But he said: “Clearly the ICC is striving to discourage the filing of austerity complaints.”
There is a way forward. He added: “On a welcome note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently acknowledged that austerity measures may violate human rights — which certainly is a step in the right direction.”
He’s right. The chair of the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay said on October 23 that, although member states face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of their legal obligations to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the committee earlier this year that clarified the committee’s position on austerity measures.
By ratifying the Covenant, member states like the UK have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards. These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources.
Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.
The committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights.
The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the committee had noted.
Having identified the possibility, we come to the burden of proof. Mr Miller said: “My best hope lies in procuring coroner’s reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.”
Inevitably, there is a problem. The UK Coronial system does not involve the collating of such information, nor does it look for national trends. The role of the Coroner is case specific, so wider information is not available. This is because the system of inquests into deaths was never intended to investigate whether those deaths were being caused by insane decisions of the government itself.
The law in relation to death certification may be amended in 2014 to provide for Medical Examiners whose role will be to examine such matters – but that is two years from now, and the DWP/Atos system could pile up another 7,600 bodies in that time (using the generally-accepted average of 73 deaths per week).
Mr Miller has written to the DWP, seeking a change of coroners’ duties to allow proper and robust reporting of trends such as stress-related deaths, suicides and/or destitution deaths of welfare recipients and recipients who perished shortly after being stripped of their benefits can be reported to both the DWP and the Ministry of Justice.
But I think we all know there is little chance of success there. This government is hardly going to hand over the tools by which its own ministers might end up in an international court. They’re insane, but they’re not stupid!
So people are going to have to do it themselves. We know about high-profile cases in which deaths have been blamed on Atos. Information about the others needs to be available now.
This is why I want to appeal for anyone who has lost a loved one because of the DWP/Atos work capability assessment system to get in touch with Mr Miller. He needs to know the verdict that was reached at the inquests into their deaths.
I would strongly urge that anyone writing to Mr Miller keeps their correspondence to the point. It is to be hoped that he will receive a strong response, but this entails a large amount of work. It is therefore important to make that work as easy as possible, perhaps by putting the deceased’s name, address and the verdict at the top of your email.
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!
As a nation, we should be ashamed of this story in so many ways.
Firstly, we should be ashamed that a family of three asylum seekers from abroad came to the UK, believing that they would be treated well.
Then we should be ashamed that this group became dependent on charity handouts – despite their successful claim for asylum – because of ‘significant problems’ transferring them from Home Office administration to mainstream welfare support. This meant they had to be on the streets before local authorities – in this case the Conservative flagship Westminster Council – could offer help.
It is bitterly shameful that the child of this family, living in destitution on British streets, was allowed to starve to death.
Even worse is that, after this happened, the government axed its funding for the Refugee Integration and Employment Service (RIES)- which paid transitional support for successful asylum seekers like this family. This means others will find themselves in an even worse situation, as soon as they arrive in the UK.
Most damning of all is the fact that this is a major news story across the world – but in the UK both the BBC and Sky News have ignored it, apart from a link on the BBC website to a report by Inside Housing.
Why is that?
Is it because our Coalition government doesn’t want us to know it is letting asylum-seekers starve?
Is it because, even in a country where anti-immigration and anti-asylum-seeker feeling has been stoked by the right-wing press, ministers know that letting them die will still upset the British sense of fair play that many of us still (perhaps surprisingly) have?
Is it because the government has no intention of changing its ways?
Westminster Council warned the government to fix the flaws in its support system for successful asylum seekers, by letter, in March 2011. Support for RIES was cut six months later. It seems clear that the government never paid serious attention to the council’s comments.
The Refugee Council has said stories like this are increasingly common, and Refugee Action says more and more asylum-seekers are being forced onto the streets.
And guess who is partly responsible for this, alongside the Home Office?
Yes, yet again it is the Department for Work and Pensions, which seems to have set itself the task of causing the most avoidable deaths ever, within a single Parliamentary term.
The International Criminal Court has already been asked to consider charges against Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, alongside his former cronies Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, both of whom have moved on to bigger Cabinet portfolios, where presumably they can cause even more havoc.
Perhaps this latest scandal could be added to the list.
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.
It may seem like fantasy but the International Criminal Court has been asked to consider whether to take legal action against ministers in the UK government whose enforcement of austerity measures has led to the deaths of sick and disabled people.
Disability specialist Samuel Miller has written to the office of the prosecutor at the ICC in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions who are considered most responsible for the “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable” – Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller.
He believes there is precedent for such a case, thanks to a request for a Greek austerity trial at the Hague.
But the matter is not cut and dried. Mr Miller’s letter seeks clarification on whether austerity deaths of the sick and disabled in the UK are considered a crime against humanity by the ICC and whether the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would be taken into consideration by the court.
Mr Miller has spent the past year reporting on the crisis for the UK’s sick and disabled to the United Nations. His own verdict is clear as crystal: “Austerity measures consisting of draconian welfare reforms and ‘sham’ means-testing (Atos Healthcare UK and the Department for Work and Pensions) are ostensibly to blame for their plight – with disability hate crime and inflammatory media attacks factored into this mix.”
My own opinion is that Mr Miller is right. At the very least, IDS and his cronies are guilty of corporate manslaughter (see previous blog posts on disability, Atos, the DWP and the many, many deaths).
Will the International Criminal Court see it this way? We’ll have to wait and see.
To be honest, I doubt that this campaign will score a victory at its first attempt.
But the recent verdict on the Hillsborough tragedy has shown that people are prepared to work hard and wait a long time for justice.
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