Ash Sarkar: she posted this innocent image of herself enjoying an orange ice lolly after cycling – and racist loonies claimed it showed her supporting an alleged terror attack in which three people were killed. Is that how it looks to you?
What’s wrong with the picture above?
Nothing, as far as This Writer can see. It’s a shot of a healthy young lady enjoying an ice lolly after exercising on a bicycle – posted on her personal Twitter feed.
It might be considered a little risque as, if she’s wearing shorts, they appear to be very short indeed. But that’s the worst of it.
So why, then, did this happen?
The 3 orange emojis, by the way, are because you can see 3 orange things in the photo (saddle, wheel, lolly). That’s it – you can call off the investigation, Poirot.
Apparently Ms Sarkar was being accused of using the orange emojis as symbols celebrating the three deaths.
When have orange emojis ever been said to symbolise that?
They don’t. But that’s what the lunatics have been saying.
Is it because the BBC initially associated the killings with a Black Lives Matter protest in Reading and, besides being a political commentator, Ms Sarkar happens to have darker skin than some of us?
If so, it is beyond reason (that’s why I suggest that those saying it are lunatics). And who are the racists in this situation – the young lady posting a summery pic on her timeline, or the foam-at-the-mouth individuals perversely accusing her?
Sane Twitter users have made their choice:
Sometimes, as I'm sure Freud once remarked, an orange ice lolly, is just an orange ice lolly!
Then it became clear that Ms Sarkar’s critics were, in fact, just another gang of racists. They made it clear themselves.
In the next exchange, Ms Sarkar is replying to that classic racist trope: “go back to where you came from”. The tweeter appears to have deleted their message, which is a clear indication of guilt, and I would appreciated it if anybody who may have taken a screenshot could send me a copy.
Akala’s book Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire has this to say about the “go back to where you came from” trope: “Their assumption is that anyone who is not racialised as white is not really a citizen, echoing the old white-supremacist adage ‘Race and Nation are one’ and the ‘blood and soil’ logic of the Nazis.”
Ms Sarkar, being a citizen of the UK, comes from Enfield.
And of course, I’m giving her the last word because it is far more mature than anything her detractors had to say:
“Three families are grieving… and I feel really angry that there are people out there who are appropriating that grief, that shock, and that horror, and then using that to take down someone on Twitter.
“I don’t know how you live with yourself if you’re doing that.
“Beyond the racism and beyond the threats, I just feel that’s completely immoral.”
This is a timely warning, as the coronavirus lockdown forces legal procedures out of the courtroom and online:
People taking part in benefit tribunals that are heard on video and audio, so they do not have to leave their own home, must treat their home as a part of the courtroom for the duration of the hearing.
This means they must sit somewhere with a blank or neutral view behind them, and if they need to move away from their screen or phone during the hearing they must ask permission.
If they need someone with them who is not a legal representative (for example, a carer) they must ask the court’s permission.
They may not eat or smoke anything, including e-cigarettes, and may only drink water.
Crucially, it is a criminal offence to publish images or audio from a court hearing without authorisation.
The advice is timely because, between March 19 and April 6, use of audio increased from 100 hearings to 1,850, while use of video went up from 150 hearings to 1,100.
On April 6 itself, around 85 per cent of cases heard in England and Wales used audio and video technology.
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.
Mims Davies: Not only does she not know the effect of benefit sanctions on claimant’s mental health; she doesn’t care.
This isn’t the first time the Department for Work and Pensions and the Tory ministers running it have turned down a demand to assess the impact of benefit sanctions on claimants.
They’ve been doing it for years.
But it’s nice to see that public disgust with the implication behind it is growing.
Employment minister Mims Davies responded to a Parliamentary question on the subject, said no assessment has been made of any link between benefit sanctions and mental health problems in claimants, including suicidal tendencies.
But look at the reactions – like this, from Manzoor Ali, director of Barakah Food Aid, which offers donated goods to people struggling to make ends meet:
“People are committing suicide, or on the verge of suicide. Once this sanction comes in, they’re left with no money. It becomes this rollercoaster of a journey. It creates more problems for them,” he said.
“Their benefits are completely cancelled so they’ve got literally nothing coming in. It can take four to six weeks. Sometimes they’ll get an emergency loan, but that is then immediately taken out of their benefits once it’s reinstated. It’s a vicious cycle.
“Some of the people tell me they’re on the verge of calling it a day they don’t know how much longer they can take it. It’s unbelievable.
“The number of children I’m seeing who are just silent. Many are going to school without breakfast. This issue is going to have a future impact – the children will grow up with mental health issues.”
Research by Salford City Council in 2016 found that sanctions were “devastating” for claimants and could lead to suicide. It was ignored.
Leading psychologists urged ministers to immediately stop the practice or risk soaring rates of mental health problems – in 2017. They were ignored.
A report by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute in March 2019 found that universal credit was “ruining lives” with burdensome red tape for people with mental health issues, and called for an end to sanctions for those in crisis who can’t attend job interviews. It was ignored.
The DWP did pledge in 2013 to review the policy of suspending benefits “on an ongoing basis”, but a report by the Work and Pensions Committee in 2018 found that no such evaluation had been carried out and the government subsequently had “no idea how many people were suffering” as a result of the policy.
The only possible conclusion is that the policy is doing exactly what the Tories want and that mental suffering leading to suicide is the intended aim.
That is not the policy of a government that has the interests of its people at heart.
I wonder how anybody could ever believe that.
Fortunately, it seems only a dwindling number of people still do.
So, I’ll tell you what.
Why not share this article, and see if we can increase the number of people who don’t believe the Tories any more?
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.
I would welcome this admission from the Work and Pensions Secretary if it meant anything, but it doesn’t.
The DWP has already refused to change its assessments and sanctions regimes, and the changes it has made to payments are cosmetic. In fact, they will create more debt.
The problem does not lie in the fact that we have a bad benefit system, you see.
The problem is that we have a bad Conservative government that very much enjoys the poverty and misery that its bad benefit system has caused.
Amber Rudd says the increased use of food banks is partly down to problems in rolling out universal credit.
The work and pensions secretary said she was “absolutely clear there were challenges with the initial roll-out” of the benefit and that the difficulty in accessing money was “one of the causes” of the rise.
Remember, folks, the Department for Work and Pensions is adamant that we must not claim any causal effect between its decisions and any downturn in benefit claimants’ health – including death.
I imagine that will be hard for some of you to accept, given the fact that Esther McVey’s people have refused to provide Personal Independence Payment – the benefit that should be provided to everybody with a serious long-term illness or disability – to a woman with stage four cancer who is immune to chemotherapy and fighting for her life.
Roisin McWilliams’ father said the refusal has had a “profound” harmful effect on her mental health.
But Ms McVey and her cronies at the DWP want you to know that it is nothing to do with them.
Well, I’m sorry; I can’t do it. Ms McVey, her ministers and spokespeople are liars. Of course their decisions – made because they want to save money, not to help people – are costing lives.
Like Alice (of Wonderland fame), I like to believe six impossible things before breakfast. But I would have to be an imbecile to believe their babble.
A 28-year-old single mum fighting for her life against stage four cancer has been denied disability benefit PIP.
Roisin McWilliams spends much of her life exhausted, breathless and in pain after being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma last Christmas.
Because of the disease, the hardworking chef had to leave her £1,300 a month job because “she couldn’t breathe” and “fractured her rib from coughing, it was that severe”.
The young mum recently learned she is immune to chemotherapy and needs “very expensive” immunotherapy treatment and a stem cell transplant if she is to have any chance of surviving.
This latest blow from PIP has had a “profound effect on her mental health” according to her dad.
Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson. He ‘found that poverty and social inequality have direct and indirect effects on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual,’ writes Maureen Tilford [Image: Linda Nylind for the Guardian].
It’s a classic example of failed Tory thinking.
They say they want the NHS to work properly, within the budgets set out for it – but then they worse conditions in society, forcing more people to seek medical help.
In this case, more people are seeking help with mental illnesses because of poverty that has been forced on them by stupid Tory austerity policies.
Only yesterday, This Site published an article on medical experts’ plans to record social issues including poverty as contributing factors to mental illness.
Now, people have been writing in to The Guardian to support political action against poverty – precisely to stop it affecting mental health.
Here’s Dr Maureen Tilford:
As far back as 1963, research by Langer and Michael found that psychiatric conditions not only occur at higher rates in the poorest areas, but also cluster together, usually in disintegrating inner-city communities. Money is not a guarantor of mental health, nor does its absence necessarily lead to mental illness. However, it is generally conceded that poverty can be both a determinant and a consequence of poor mental health.
More recently, the epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson found that poverty and social inequality have direct and indirect effects on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual. It is clear that poverty and inequality are closely linked and that income inequality produces psychosocial stress.
The wealth gap in the UK is greater than at any time since the first world war and continues to grow. Unless this is addressed at a most senior level in government, the demand on the police will continue, not to mention the suffering of all those callers. This cannot be viewed as a purely health service issue. Allowing the wealth gap to spiral out of control is having serious adverse effects on the UK population on many levels.
And Reverend Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty has this to say:
Prevention of mental illness, and hunger created by low income and debt, requires an increase in taxation and unemployment benefits which many of us would be willing to accept. Central government is making households destitute by shredding unemployment incomes and then stopping them with the benefit sanction, allowing zero-hours contracts and by rolling out the universal credit. Local government then taxes the benefits and sends in the bailiffs to collect the inevitable arrears, adding court costs and huge bailiffs’ fees.
It takes a very rare degree of resilience for mental health to withstand three powerful government departments shelling out threats of bailiffs, prison, eviction and homelessness against a single debtor, who is often struggling to put food on the table for dependent relatives. As Psychologists Against Austerity have reported, such abuses of power are creating humiliation, shame, fear, distrust, instability, insecurity, isolation and loneliness in trapped and powerless citizens.
The link between disability benefit assessments, mental health problems and increases in suicide rates could be made explicit in a new plan announced in medical journal The Lancet.
Kate Allsopp and Peter Kinderman have called for mental health professionals to record psychosocial codes in official NHS records, to show whether a patient is suffering from the effects of social inequality, poverty or trauma.
Links between the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and an increase in suicides, mental health problems, and prescription of antidepressants are specifically mentioned, following on from a study covered by This Site here.
The proposal in The Lancet states [boldings mine]:
It is well known that poverty and social inequity are major determinants of our mental health, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur characterises mental health care not as a crisis of individual conditions, but as a crisis of social obstacles, which hinders individual rights.
It is important, therefore, that the circumstances that have given rise to distress should be formally recorded alongside the distress itself. Psychosocial codes… incorporate descriptive information regarding adverse life experiences and living environments, but are almost never used or reported in clinical practice or academic publications.
These quasi-diagnostic codes document neglect, abandonment, and other maltreatment… homelessness, poverty, discrimination, and negative life events in childhood, including trauma… problems related to family upbringing, and housing and economic problems.
Broadening routine data capture within UK National Health Service records could establish more inclusive, social, systemic, and psychologically comprehensive patterns of difficulties, which could target information regarding established social determinants of mental health problems, such as inequality, poverty, and trauma.
Imagine if it were as serious to fail to document extreme poverty as it would be for a clinician to fail to identify severe depression.
We do not expect that clinicians should resolve such difficulties; it is not the job of mental health professionals to end poverty.
Nevertheless, proper recording of psychosocial… codes in the context of psychiatric diagnoses is imperative because of the close relationship between the two.
The UK government programme of reassessing disability benefits… using the Work Capability Assessment has been associated with an increase in suicides, mental health problems, and prescription of antidepressants.
Transitions into poverty (relevant to codes [on] inadequate housing… lack of adequate food… extreme poverty; and… low income) have been associated with increased odds of children developing socioemotional behavioural difficulties, and individuals who have had an institutional upbringing… are approximately 11 times more likely to experience paranoia compared with those with a less disrupted early history.
As clinicians, we might be better able to serve our clients if we can use such data capture to apply more effective pressure on the political system and drive wider system reform.
Science has shown that the Tory-sanctioned badger cull is a huge waste of time and money*, but that won’t stop Tories wasting money on it.
They love killing things and people – look at the wars they support across the world, and their ‘Aktion T4’-style policies toward people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.
Now, half a million pounds has been spent on efforts to ensure that their badger killers are less likely to be disrupted by people dedicated to protecting the animals.
Do you think that’s a worthwhile use of our money?
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds have been spent on equipping badger cull marksmen with radios that link them directly to police, the Guardian has learned.
Police have advised the government to invest in the same communications system they use to make it easier for officers to get to conflicts with cull saboteurs in remote areas where the mobile phone signal is poor.
However, anti-cull activists plan to turn the tables on the marksmen by investing in devices that trace the signals produced by the radios, meaning they can pinpoint their position and disrupt shooting.
*Vaccination of cattle and/or badgers, increased levels of testing, improved biosecurity and stricter controls on the movement of cattle would be better. Ah, but the UK keeps running out of vaccine, doesn’t it? Odd, that. It’s not as if there isn’t any money available, after all.
Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
Labour’s Anna Turley MP, standing up for victims of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy in exactly the way some people want you to think Labour doesn’t.
Some readers of This Blog may be unfortunate enough to have witnessed a conversation with a person calling him- or herself ‘Ghost Whistler’ in the comment column of the recent article on Momentum, in which this person has resorted to accusing the Labour Party of complacency in the deaths of benefit claimants. What a despicable distortion.
“Where are the Labour politicians when kids are taking their own lives due to benefit sanctions and DWP bullying?” That’s what this person asked, in a clear reference to the case of David Brown that This Blog covered yesterday (December 7). The implication is, of course, that Labour was complicit in the death.
Clearly this person had failed to do any research at all, as that particular comment was made more than four hours after Labour MP Anna Turley directly challenged the government over that very case, during Prime Minister’s Questions.
She told Leader of the House David Lidington, standing in for Theresa May while she’s off on a junket to sell weapons to Middle East countries: “I know that the whole House will join me in sending heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family of David Brown, from Eston, who, aged just 18, took his own life.
“The inquest into his death has heard that he did so on the day he was due to sign on at the Job Centre, after saying that he felt ‘belittled’ by staff despite actively looking for work and seeking an apprenticeship. Shortly before taking his own life, he told his mum: ‘The way the Job Centre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.’
“Will the Leader of the House undertake to review that individual case? Will he also undertake to take stock of six years of brutal welfare reform, and look into the way the Department for Work and Pensions treats its most vulnerable constituents, particularly young people?”
If anybody wants to find complacency about this death, they need look no further than Mr Lidington’s reply. After expressing what he described as “unreserved sympathy” for Mr Brown’s family, the Leader of the House contradicted himself thus: “Clearly, human beings in any organisation sometimes make decisions that get things wrong, and I will ask the Department for Work and Pensions to have a look at the particular case that the hon. Lady has described.
“However, I have to say to her that I think the principle remains right that while staff should always behave with courtesy towards people seeking to claim benefits, it is also right for us to expect people who are receiving benefits to be subject to the kind of disciplines that apply to people in work even if they are on low pay. There is a principle of fairness here, which is what lies behind the approach that the DWP takes.”
What’s fair about putting an impressionable young man into the clutches of a woman who clearly had not respect for him at all and from whom he could not demand proper treatment for fear of being removed from the interview by the guards that are now routinely posted at these facilities, his benefit sanctioned on the grounds that his behaviour fell short of the mark?
Who says it is right that jobseekers must be placed under the same pressures as people who are in work? They are not in work. They are seeking work. The two conditions are not that same and it is wrong to pretend that they are.
What will be gained from asking for the DWP to examine the David Brown case individually? This is not an isolated episode. DWP ‘advisers’ are constantly attacking claimants.
Today I read of a young man with severe disabilities that mean he has the mentality of a small child, being called in for a highly-distressing and pointless work capability assessment by the DWP.
The Department later apologised, saying he would not have been invited to an interview if the Job Centre had known the full extent of his condition – a condition for which the same department had been paying benefits for his entire life.
The problem is system-wide. Singling out a single case won’t stop the abuses from happening – unless the DWP intends to give, to the woman who forced David Brown towards suicide, a bonus? That seems far more likely.
The DWP’s response to Mr Brown’s death was an insult to him and everybody else who has died as a result of Conservative ‘welfare’ policy – and, make no mistake, there have been thousands upon thousands; far more than those covered by official statistics, even though they now run into the thousands.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Brown’s family at this difficult time. Suicide is a very complex issue and there is no evidence of a link between Mr Brown’s suicide and his interaction with Jobcentre Plus.”
That is exactly the same line the DWP always trots out when somebody on benefits commits suicide – in defiance of the facts.
I read that comment on the Channel 4 News Facebook page and was so incensed I penned the following in response: “This is a person who made it clear he was being treated like dirt by a DWP staff member – and actually said, ‘The way the Job Centre treats people, it’s no surprise that people commit suicide’. Then on the day he was due to visit the Job Centre again, he was found dead.
“And the DWP wants us to believe there is no link?
“I’d like to know who made that comment and ask them just what somebody would have to do to get them to accept that there is a link.
“Their comment is an insult – not just to David Brown and his family, but to everybody else who has lost a friend or loved one because of the Conservative Party and its homicidal attitude, and to the public in general who they think they can patronise in this manner.”
All of the above was triggered by a Labour MP’s concern over the death of young man due to his treatment by the benefit system.
But that doesn’t matter because ‘Ghost Whistler’ wants to blame the Labour Party for it.
These deaths aren’t going to stop any time soon – not because Labour isn’t opposing them but because people like ‘Ghost Whistler’ are blaming Labour rather than putting responsibility where it is due, on the Conservatives. ‘Ghost Whistler’ is contributing to the problem, along with anybody else who would rather accuse the wrong people to make some obscure political gesture. This person is such a coward, they won’t even support their words with their own name.
So I’ll tell you what, ‘Ghost Whistler’ – do us all a favour. Take your ill-informed and offensive opinions, take yourself, and take all the other blinkered bigots like you, and toddle off back to whatever slimy hole you call home.
Don’t come out again. Don’t try to infect anybody else with your ignorance. Don’t insult the memory of the dead.
George Osborne: Far from poor, but the table displays evidence of an unfortunate habit!
Isn’t it strange how there’s one rule for Iain Duncan Smith and his Department for Work and Pensions, but a completely different rule for the rest of us?
Spokespeople for the DWP have spent more than a month telling newspaper reporters that “It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim”, in response to calls for the Department to reveal the number of deaths among claimants of Employment and Support Allowance since November 2011 (the last date for which any statistics have been released).
Yet on the morning of June 25, the Gentleman Ranker showed he was happy to suggest a causal link of his own, despite producing no evidence for it.
He was crowing over the fact that new statistics have shown no significant increase or decrease in child poverty – a fact that confounded expectations – and lecturing Labour on what he saw as its own policy failings.
Accusing Labour of adopting a position in which providing families with extra money to push them above the poverty line did nothing to transform their lives, he said:
“Let me give an example of a family who are officially in poverty under those measures, with parents who have huge drug problems.
“When they go over the line, according to the measurement, they are not in poverty, but because the parents are likely to spend all their money on drugs, the children do not get fed” [boldings mine].
This Blog is not about to suggest that nobody in poverty has drug problems, or that nobody has huge drug problems – but the Gentleman Ranker here makes a claim that he cannot support – either with figures or by the example he is setting for himself and his department.
Here’s why – and let’s paraphrase the DWP’s own songsheet to make our point:
It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between drug use and poverty.
He only has to look along his own front bench at George Osborne to understand that.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.