This is what happens when you let a gang of entitled, overprivileged posh boys and girls run public services.
The Tories at the top of the Department for Work and Pensions are convinced that they are right to do what they have done, therefore they are right to spend any amount of public money trying to put down challenges to their supremacy.
They have wasted a fortune on this case, and This Writer is willing to bet that they’ll waste another fortune before they let it go.
The government has been urged to concede a legal challenge relating to the Universal Credit migration arrangements for severely disabled people after losing two previous legal challenges to the same arrangements.
The issue in this third claim is whether £120 a month in transitional payments constitutes unlawful discrimination because those people who moved onto UC before 16 January 2019 are still around £60 a month worse off.
In the letter sent today to the Department of Work and Pensions by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of TP and AR, the two men argue that the only reason the government have given for not compensating them the actual amount they have lost is cost, and that the Court has already made clear that cost alone cannot justify the differential treatment.
It seems to This Writer that the Tories haven’t got a legal leg to stand on.
But they’re happy to blow a load of public cash – your money – asserting their right to victimise the vulnerable.
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.
Do you enjoy a breakfast waffle? If you were listening to Radio 4’s Today programme, you got one whether you wanted it or not – from that master of baffled-gab, Boris Johnson.
In 20 minutes, he managed to reverse his ‘go whistle’ position on paying to exit the EU, back-stabbed his boss Theresa May (with a side-swipe, which makes it seem more impressive than it was), and demonstrated that he both supports and opposes Donald Trump – at the same time.
Let’s start with Brexit because he got into a real pickle over it. You will recall that he said, in Parliament, that the EU’s proposed bill for the UK to leave the political bloc were “extortionate” and that it could “go whistle”.
Today anchor Mishal Husein asked, what did he mean when he said the EU could “go whistle” over the Brexit bill?
“I was being asked about some very large sums of money… that the EU suggested we were on the hook for, and that’s not a number I recognised…” he began stumblingly (and inaccurately).
“Of course we will meet our obligations. We are law-abiding, bill-paying people. The UK has contributed hundreds of billions over the years.”
Oh! So he’s happy to pay?
“I’m not saying I accept Mr Barnier’s interpretation of what our obligations are, but we will meet our obligations as we understand them.”
He wouldn’t say how much he was prepared to pay before the sum became “extortionate”, adding: “I’m not going to get into a financial haggle…”
“Can they ‘go whistle’ if it’s more than £30 billion?” asked Ms Husein, obviously enjoying his discomfort.
And he collapsed. His response was waffle about getting “the best possible value for the UK taxpayer”.
Then he seemed to realise what he had done, because he claimed that he would give an absolutely precise answer. Here it is: “We should pay not a penny more, not a penny less, of what we think our legal obligations amount to.” Waffle.
And on the possibility of a two-to-three-year transition period, he started with more waffle about the government’s position. Pressed on what he thinks, he said: “There are several transition periods that are envisioned.” More waffle.
He went on to waffle that the UK would be “getting out with confidence and determination and doing it in a timely, orderly and effective manner”.
Grief! Boris Johnson waffling for England over Brexit on #r4today. We will leave 'with confidence and determination'. Spare us please!
“What business would want us to achieve is speed and efficiency,” he added, with the relish of a man who had reached the end of his pre-scripted lines.
“The crucial thing is certainty,” he said, oblivious of the irony in the fact that he wasn’t offering any.
If that amount of waffle is making your stomach turn over, let’s consider something else:
The backstabbing side-swipe against Theresa May came during a discussion of the political situation in Libya, where an intervention supported by the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition government of 2010-15 left the country with two rival parliaments and four governments (according to the Telegraph).
The Libyan Army band gives a unique rendition of God Save The Queen for Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson criticised US President Donald Trump over his comments following the Charlottesville rally in which an anti-fascist protester was killed, saying he was “totally wrong” to suggest that white supremacists, neo-Nazis and racists were “fine people”.
Despite this, the foreign secretary confirmed that the UK will still be welcoming Mr Trump on a state visit – at a future date that has not yet been set.
So he was both supporting and opposing Mr Trump, at the same time.
Blimey. Boris Johnson demonstrating lack of grasp on almost every issue covered on #r4today. Genuinely clueless.
— Jim Campbell — Socially Distant Since 2009 (@CampbellLetters) August 25, 2017
And Mr Johnson was mistaken on whether international students are included in official migration figures (they are; he said they weren’t)…
"To succeed in life you need two things: Ignorance and Confidence" – Mark Twain. Boris Johnson has both in spades. @BBCr4today
… and had to backtrack: “I am content with the success we are having in attracting international students”.
He said he was glad they were not overstaying their period in the UK and were “doing the right thing”. In that case, why include them in migration figures? They haven’t immigrated into the UK; they’re here for a specific purpose and then they leave.
“That is the way they are currently counted,” he dissembled.
The snap verdict, from Twitter, was damning:
Boris Johnson interviewed on #r4today reminds me of a bubbling pan of porridge
Paper exercise: To some people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, the sight of an ESA50 form is enough to trigger anxiety, panic, or even heart attacks.
This Writer was amazed – yes, dear reader, amazed – to discover a new wrinkle in the DWP’s web of deceit, while writing a letter in support of a friend’s appeal against an Employment and Support Allowance decision.
My friend – who has multiple conditions, both physical and mental – had been placed in the work-related activity group nevertheless, and at 2pm yesterday, Yr Obdt Srvt was staring in astonishment at the DWP decision-maker’s professed reason for doing so.
It was the same for all the descriptors: “I place greater weight on the evidence of the Health Care Professional because they are trained disability analysts and the advice they provide is both impartial and unbiased”.
The DWP decision maker had not based his (or her) reasoning on any evidence at all, of course.
Examining the wording of this statement, we see that the decision was in fact based on two unsubstantiated claims about an unnamed ‘Health Care Professional’ who has never met the claimant – my friend had been migrated onto ESA from another benefit in a paper exercise and had not been asked to take part in one of the DWP’s medical assessments (which, in any case, we know are unfit for purpose).
Who is this ‘Health Care Professional’? How do we know this person is a trained disability analyst? Because this was a paper exercise, the ‘Health Care Professional’ had gone unnamed and had never met the claimant. They had never been asked to produce any credentials so the claimant was left with no idea whether this person really was a “trained disability analyst” or not.
I knew their advice was not impartial or unbiased because it was wrong. They had not taken account of the evidence they had been given but had chosen to ignore it instead. Looking at the ‘mobility’ descriptor alone, I know that the claimant in question has significant problems with walking so the advice that “there was no evidence to indicate that you were unable to do this activity” is incorrect, therefore the decision is also incorrect.
Most pernicious of all is the fact that my friend’s disabilities make it extremely difficult to challenge this faked, falsified decision. My friend suffers from chronic anxiety, with poor concentration and memory, panic attacks, and a tendency towards stress. When dealing with authority figures, my friend tends to lose track of what they are saying, fixating on elements that are tangential to the main issues. This makes it very hard to fight wrong decisions, which is why This Writer was asked to step in.
How many other disabled benefit claimants are there, who don’t have recourse to somebody like me?
Reading between the lines, it seems possible, if not downright likely, that the DWP decision maker saw an opportunity to achieve benefit savings targets by pushing somebody, who is clearly not going to be ready for work within a year, into a group where they will lose benefit after that time and be forced to seek work anyway.
If you want to know what happens to people in that position, look at the case of Michael O’Sullivan.
Immigration fail: When Theresa May tried to get illegal immigrants to “go home” with an ad campaign on vans driving through London, it caused national protest – and this response from the campaigning group Liberty.
Remember when David Cameron pledged to get immigration into the UK down from the hundreds of thousands into the tens of thousands?
He and his party are trying to wipe that from history.
On immigration, Cameron pledged to get it below 100,000 per year – but now his own spokesman describes it as an “objective” and Theresa May, the Home Secretary who was charged with achieving this feat, called it a “comment”.
From The Guardian: “Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the home secretary made clear that the government was preparing the ground for a public admission of failure on the migration target.
“Asked to explain the missed target, May said: “When we made that… comment, when we said … we would be aiming to bring the net migration down to the tens of thousands and we wanted to do that within this parliament – yes we were very clear that was what we wanted to do.”
“The cautious remarks by the home secretary, who stumbled slightly as she referred to the net migration target as “that comment”, contrasted with the unequivocal “no ifs, no buts” declaration made by the prime minister in April 2011.”
The government has now announced a push to increase the number of British STEM students, and this is clearly to counter the loss to universities. The cover story is that they want more young women taking up the subjects.
Still, there are arguments that immigrants are taking jobs away from British-born people – and that their presence is pushing down wages.
But Mrs May can’t say that to the other EU member states without seeming racist, so she is calling on them to “reform” one of the fundamental pillars of the Union – freedom of movement – on the grounds that it encourages criminality.
She said: “There is a growing concern across the European Union of the way in which the freedom of movement is now being used.
“We’re seeing it being abused, possibly by criminal gangs who are trafficking human beings, we’re seeing it being abused through sham marriages.”
Why not just admit that freedom of movement is being abused – most clearly because people in the less-advantaged EU countries see it as an opportunity for a better life elsewhere?
It could be argued that the EU made a huge mistake in letting some countries – particularly in eastern Europe – into the Union before they were on a level with the rest of us, economically.
If we’re going to let these countries in, then it seems reasonable that we should protect ourselves from this kind of opportunism by working to bring their standard of living up to the same level as the rest of us before allowing freedom of movement to kick in.
It seems certain that far fewer people would want to immigrate into the UK if it offered no material difference in their quality of life.
Doesn’t that seem reasonable?
What a shame reason has nothing to do with the Conservative Party.
Cameron, May and the rest are going to continue pushing in the wrong direction, ever-harder as each successive plan fails.
Perhaps they are the ones who should be shown the door.
Yet another Coalition policy has leapt up to bite David Cameron in his tender parts.
His government’s “contradictory” immigration policy has caused a 10 per cent drop in the number of international Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students coming to the UK over the last two years.
This is because the government is simultaneously committed to reducing net migration and attracting increasing numbers of international students (by 15–20 per cent over the next five years).
Owing to its – by now – internationally-renowned stupidity, the government has not removed international students from the net migration figures. This means that UK policy is both to attract foreign students and reject them.
No wonder the Lords inquiry into whether the UK’s immigration policy has had any impact on the numbers of international students in STEM subjects has declared the UK “unwelcoming“.
Nobody should be surprised by the Tory-led Coalition’s twisted attitude, though – it seems to reflect attitudes across the UK as a whole.
As Tom Pride reports on Pride’s Purge: “On Question Time last week, Giles Fraser told a funny story which nicely illustrates how batty the whole discussion over immigration has become in the UK.
“He said he’d got into a conversation with a taxi driver who told him he was so fed up with the number of foreigners coming to live and work in the UK he was going to move to Spain.
“Well just in case anyone thought this kind of absurd opinion was a one-off – have a look at this recent survey by respected polling company ComRes.
“When asked if all citizens of other European Union countries should have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom, just 36%of British people agreed.
“But when asked whether British people should be free to live and work anywhere in the EU, 52%of British people agreed.”
One has to ask whether this position has been impressed on the British public by newspapers like the Daily Mail or the Daily Express.
Tom concluded: “If someone doesn’t bring some common sense to the immigration debate soon, the UK is in danger of becoming a laughing stock.”
Too late, Tom!
“When we really need to send the message that international STEM students will get a warm welcome in the UK, they’re getting the cold shoulder and heading elsewhere,” said Lord Krebs, chairing the Lords Committee.
“International student numbers have fallen dramatically, in particular from India. As a result we’re missing out on the talent, the economic and cultural contribution that international students bring when they come here to study, and our competitors are reaping the rewards.”
He said: “The overwhelming evidence that we received led us to conclude that changes to the immigration rules in this country have played a direct part in putting overseas students off from choosing the UK.
“The rules are seen as too complex and subject to endless changes, the visa costs are not competitive, and the rules relating to work after study are so limiting that prospective students are heading to the US, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.
“Allowing just four months for a student to find work after graduation is more or less tantamount to telling overseas students they’d be better off going to study elsewhere.”
The Lords have made a series of recommendations but these will put the government between a rock and a hard place.
Does Cameron give in – and be accused by the tabloids of going soft on immigration – or does he stick to his guns – and turn away all the talent he’s so keen to import*?
*We learned yesterday that Free Schools have ruined the chances of any British students ever being able to compete.
Lest we forget: We know that, on average, 73 people died every week between January and November 2011 – after undergoing the DWP work capability assessment administered by Atos. Who knows how many are dying now?
Interestingly, the DWP story differs from that published by the BBC, even though the corporation must have used a version of the press release provided to it in advance.
In the BBC story, released on Saturday, “More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews” – but the DWP press notice, released today, claims “More than a million others withdrew their claims before reaching a face-to-face assessment”.
In addition, the DWP release features a long section on its Disability Confident roadshow, and there is another statistic which claims that the proportion of disabled people in work has reached 45 per cent.
Disability Confident, designed “to encourage more employers to hire disabled people”, “to showcase the talents of disabled people and highlight their tremendous value to the British economy” is, on the face of it, a good idea.
But I wonder if it isn’t a smokescreen to hide how the DWP is pushing thousands of disabled people into saying they are self-employed and taking tax credits rather than ESA, in order to fudge the figures and make it seem as though good work is being done.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…
Of course, the best source of ESA-related statistics is on the iLegal site where the figures behind the press release have been picked apart by an expert who doesn’t have a vested interest in saving ministerial face.
They show that an average of 83 per cent of the 1,078,200 Incapacity claimants who were assessed qualified for ESA between October 2012 and May last year, while 88 per cent of the 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying.
While the DWP and the BBC have claimed 1.8 million people have magically disappeared from the Incapacity/ESA claimant count, the DWP’s own figures confirm that overall numbers have reduced by only 156,630 since May 2010.
The iLegal article makes it clear that “the claimant count is far from a static number; each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits”. But it seems clear that the BBC/DWP figure is a conflated total, simply adding up all new claims – rather than claimants – from 2008 onwards.
This is exactly why UK Statistics Authority chief Andrew Dilnot chastised the government after the Conservative Party released an almost-identical press release last year, using then-current (but still inaccurate) figures and not mentioning Disability Confident.
Let’s go back to the number of people found ‘fit for work’ after assessment. Has everybody forgotten the hammering that the government took during a debate on Atos’ handling of the Work Capability Assessment, exactly a year and a week ago today? If you have, don’t worry – you can read all about it here.
The debate demonstrated time after time that the work capability assessment, as devised by the DWP’s Conservative ministerial team and run by its employees at Atos, was not fit for purpose; that the overwhelming majority of those who had been found ‘fit for work’ were nothing of the sort; and that “this is a government that is perfectly happy with a system that is throwing thousands of sick and disabled people to the wolves”.
The government refused to listen. Then-Employment minister Mark Hoban (standing in, conspicuously, for Esther McVey, who was minister for the disabled at the time) said the independent reviews conducted by Professor Malcolm Harrington had identified areas of improvement and appropriate steps were being taken.
This claim was false. Out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his year one review alone, almost two thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.
The government also claimed, repeatedly, that Prof Harrington had supported the migration of Incapacity Benefit claimants to ESA. When fellow blogger Sue Marsh contacted him for confirmation, he responded: “I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast. I then said that i would review progress of that during my reviews. The decision was political. I could not influence it. IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?”
I’d say so – to everybody but the Coalition government.
A good reporter at the BBC would have had all this information to hand. They would have known that the work capability assessment was extremely controversial and had been shown, many times, to be unfit for purpose. They would have known that the government had been slapped down by the UK Statistics Authority after releasing an almost-identical press release last year. They absolutely should have known that other reporters in the same organisation had revealed that the DWP had been pushing disabled people into claiming they were self-employed in an effort to cook the books.
With all that information to hand, it begs the question: Why did they then go ahead with the propagandised misrepresentation of the facts that appeared on the BBC News website on Saturday?
In 2008, Labour introduced a new out of work sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, to replace the old Incapacity Benefit.
The new system of application and assessments was much tougher, and politicians originally hoped that up to a million people could be moved from the benefit.
However, by 2010, it was clear there were significant flaws in the process. People with mental health and fluctuating conditions were not being fairly treated and successful appeals against “fit for work” decisions soared to 40%.
Professor Harrington was asked to review the new benefit and make recommendations for improving it. As the election took place in 2010, crucially, only new claimants were being assessed. ESA was yet to be rolled out to the more complicated, and often longer term, Incapacity Benefit claimants, though trials were underway in Burnley and Aberdeen.
Most people claim out of work sickness benefits for short periods – perhaps to get through a sports injury, accident or one off surgery – and stop their claims within 2 years. However, this will always leave a few people with serious, life limiting conditions who will need to claim the benefit for longer periods. Over the years, those claims build up, increasing the proportion who need long term support.
When the coalition came to power in May 2010, they immediately announced that they would go ahead and start to reassess those already claiming Incapacity Benefit.
I could never understand this decision. Why would you take a failing benefit and roll it out to almost 2 million of the most vulnerable claimants? Not only that, but at first, just 25,000 people per month were being assessed, but the government constantly increased and increased the numbers until today, nearly 130,000 assessments are carried out every month.
For the answer, please visit Sue Marsh’s Diary of a Benefit Scrounger where the full story is revealed – that Professor Harrington never approved the migration of IB claimants onto ESA, that the decision was politically-motivated and that millions of people are being rushed through a failed and unfair assessment system.
The government will not want anyone to know about this and the mainstream media are unreliable when it comes to exposing such behaviour. As Sue states in the article, “We must be our own media”. Please therefore publicise the link to her blog on all the social media available to you.
Let’s put pressure on these white-collar thugs to answer for their actions.
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[Picture: I Am Incorrigible blog – http://imincorrigible.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/evidence-not-ideology-benefit-tourism-the-problem-only-fruitloops-and-tories-can-see/ – which agrees that benefit tourism is a non issue and distraction from the UK’s real problems.
David Cameron seems to have created quite a stir with his plan to restrict access to benefits for EU immigrants. Would he have made such a splash if it was widely known that, firstly, benefit tourism is a myth and, secondly, most of his ‘new’ measures are already in place?
The BBC has reported that Cameron is “proposing powers to deport homeless migrants and cut rights to unemployment and housing benefits”. This is simply not accurate.
The ‘proposal’ to stop out-of-work benefits being paid after six months unless a claimant has a “genuine” chance of a job is already enshrined in UK law.
Take a look at the Citizens Advice Bureau website, which states quite clearly: “If you’re looking for work and have registered as a jobseeker at Jobcentre Plus… you will … have to take the Habitual Residence Test [to prove residence in the UK] and prove you intend to settle in the UK and make it your home for the time being. Usually, you can only have jobseeker status for six months. However, this period can be extended if you’ve a genuine chance of finding work.
“If you lost your job in the UK and it wasn’t your fault and you’re still genuinely looking for work you won’t have to take the HRT. This is called involuntary unemployment. For example, you might have been made redundant or your fixed-term contract ended. You must also have been employed for one year before you lost your job, and be now registered as a jobseeker. If you’ve been employed for less than one year you can only keep the status of worker for six months after you lose your job. However, you can keep the status for longer if you show that you’ve a genuine chance of finding work.”
So the plan to stop payments unless a claimant has a “genuine” chance of a job is not a plan at all. It is already taking place.
What about the ‘proposal’ to ensure that new migrants cannot claim housing benefit immediately?
This one’s a little less clear, but the CAB website again comes in handy, where it states: “If you are from overseas or have recently come to live in the UK you may have difficulty claiming the benefit, depending on your immigration status.”
Some might say that the new plan does not go far enough. The maximum fine for transgressors is currently just £5,000; quadrupling it is just £20,000. That’s peanuts to a large firm.
All of the above leaves just one new ‘proposal’ in Cameron’s list – to deny out-of-work benefits to new migrants for the first three months of their residence in the UK.
In all honesty, we should be able to live with that. If a person is coming to this country to work, it makes sense for them to have a job waiting for them – or for them to be able to support themselves until they are able to secure one.
[But it turns out that even this is nothing new. As commenters have stated since the article went up, EU migrants who claim benefits and then move to another country in search of work must fill in an E303 form in order to receive benefits at the destination country. These are issued at the same rates as in their country of origin, for a total of three months only. Failure to find employment in that time means the loss of the benefit or a return to the country of origin. This means Cameron has proposed nothing that is new.]
It is the context of this measure that is sinister. Cameron is implying that EU immigrants are coming here as “benefit tourists” – setting themselves up in the UK to suck down benefits that they do not deserve, with the British taxpayer footing the bill. Evidence shows that this claim is untrue.
Channel 4’s FactCheck Blog made it clear – less than one month ago – that it “found little empirical evidence that the problem existed”.
The evidence shows that “immigrants are generally net contributors to the British economy, paying more into the system in taxes than they take out by accessing public services.
“Migrants from the A8 countries of central and eastern Europe who joined the EU in 2004 were 60 per cent less likely than native-born Brits to claim benefits, and 58 per cent less likely to live in council housing. In every year since 2004 the A8 immigrants had paid in more than they had taken out.”
The blog entry quotes a study from CReAM (the Centre for the Research and Analysis of Migration) which states: “Whereas [European Economic Area] immigrants have made an overall positive fiscal contribution to the UK, the net fiscal balance of non-EEA immigrants is negative – as it is for natives.”
In other words, UK citizens are a greater drain on the state than immigrants from Europe. Between 1995 and 2011 EEA immigrants paid in 4 per cent more than they took out, whereas native-born Brits only paid in 93 per cent of what they received. Between 2001 and 2011 recent EEA immigrants contributed 34 per cent more than they took out, a net contribution of £22bn.
Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions agree with the thrust of this research (although the figures are not directly comparable): At February 2013, 16.4 per cent of working-age UK nationals were claiming a working-age benefit compared to 6.7 per cent of non-UK nationals, and 5.9 per cent of foreign nationals who registered for a national insurance number in 2011/12 were claiming out-of-work benefits within six months, down from 6.6 per cent the year before.
There is no evidence that significant numbers of people come to the UK seeking a life on benefits.
David Cameron has proposed a series of phantom measures to combat a phantom problem.
It might please his swivel-eyed followers, but the rest of us should despair of him.
He is pandering to fantasies rather than working for the national interest.
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