Tag Archives: package

Coronavirus: Government food package for thousands in need was a Biblical failure

Feeding the 6,500 with this: Jesus had less to start with, but he had fewer to feed.

How are you supposed to feed 6,534 vulnerable people with 11 2kg bags of porridge oats, 11 tins of beans, 11 instant Scotch Broth, 11 Kit Kats, 28 Loaves of bread and 10 litre bottles of orange cordial if you’re not Jesus Christ?

That was the question facing Merseyside MPs when they received a food delivery from a Tory government that had promised to keep residents stocked up while they “shielded” from coronavirus by self-isolating at home.

The food was promised as part of a contingency policy, in case the national supply system should fail – but this is yet another Tory coronavirus policy that simply isn’t working; another promise they couldn’t be bothered to keep.

A few kit kats, some beans and 10 bottles of cordial – this was the extent of a “disappointing” food delivery from the government aimed at supplying around 6,500 vulnerable Merseyside residents.

This image [above] shows the lacklustre delivery that arrived in Wirral, intended to keep the borough’s 6,534 most vulnerable residents stocked up while they were being told to isolate at home because of the dangers of coronavirus.

Now all Wirral MPs have written to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to criticise the delivery – and ask what steps are being doing to improve things.

A government spokesperson has claimed that the delivery misrepresents the contents of food boxes that are being delivered direct to the homes of vulnerable people.

These, we’re told, contain cereal, fruit and vegetables and pasta, and will provide enough food for one person for one week.

Really? This Writer isn’t convinced it would provide enough food for Iain Duncan Smith’s breakfast.

Source: 11 Kit Kats, 11 tins of beans and 10 bottles of cordial in government food package to area with thousands in need – Liverpool Echo

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Chancellor’s ‘jam tomorrow’ package for the self-employed is worse than useless now

Rishi Sunak: still discriminating against the self-employed? Why not just bring in Universal Basic Income? Then we can all relax.

How kind of Rishi Sunak to announce aid for self-employed workers who are likely to lose money because of the coronavirus crisis – except he didn’t did he?

He made a vague promise that we (This Writer is self-employed) might be able to get a grant of up to 80 per cent of our profits, which is taxable, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month – but not until at least the beginning of June, more than two months from now.

Oh, but we can claim Universal Credit in the meantime – except we can’t, because thousands upon thousands of people are queuing online and on the phone and the Department for Work and Pensions simply can’t cope with the deluge. We will lose valuable time just trying to announce that we want to claim, and even more in the processing of that claim.

Employees of companies who signed up to the government’s scheme for them can get their money straight away. Why not the self-employed?

Is this some back-handed attack on people who actually contribute to the economy on their own initiative?

Here’s a visual representation of the way Sunak and the Tories expect us to live:

It has already attracted flack.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the delay was unacceptable: “If people cannot get access to the scheme until June it will simply be too late for millions. People need support in the coming days and fortnight. Asking people to rely on Universal Credit when more than 130,000 people are queuing online will be worrying to many people, so there is a real risk that without support until June the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.”

Stephen Timms, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, pointed out that a wait until June simply isn’t practical: “Few will have enough in the bank to tide them over until then, so they’ll have to rely on Universal Credit in the meantime. The Committee heard yesterday that that system is already buckling under the pressure of half a million new claims. The Government must now do all it can to shore it up, so people get the money they need, and quickly. And the Advance, payable up-front to those who need it, should be made non-repayable.”

Sunak said devising a scheme had been “difficult” and it would be “operationally complicated” – but this has attracted no sympathy from anybody who knows anything at all about it.

It’s the biggest advert for implementing a Universal Basic Income scheme – in which everybody will receive enough money to support them, regardless of their circumstances – that the public could be shown.

Sunak and the other Tories have squirmed and dissembled and eventually brought forward scheme after scheme that is incredibly complicated – which means they are likely to go wrong, to the detriment of the people they are supposed to be helping.

UBI is simplicity itself – and has a lot of support:

UBI – it’s simple, it’s popular, and it’s immediate. But Sunak wants to bring in something complicated, slow (if it actually happens at all) and discriminatory. Why not get in touch with him and tell him which you would prefer?

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With so many others closing, why not hairdressers? Because they haven’t been told to

I was talking to an acquaintance the other day – a person of senior years who fits into several of the coronavirus “at risk” categories.

“Oh yes,” she assured me. “I’m self-isolating.”

Great!

“I was only telling my hairdresser about it at the salon today.”

What?

I mean, what?

Yeah. She was absolutely staying away from contact with any other people who could possibly pass on Covid-19 to her – apart from any other people who happened to be at the hairdresser’s at the same time as her. And she didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.

And here’s the thing:

Even the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) – that represents hairdressing salons – knows that people who attend such establishments are putting themselves at risk.

Why haven’t they closed?

Well, some have done so voluntarily.

But most have not – because the government hasn’t told them to do it.

See, without an order from Boris Johnson’s administration, hairdressers can’t get access to the financial help that has been put in place for businesses.

That’s why the NHBF has asked for salons to be put on the list of businesses that must close.

Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself:

The Government issued instructions on Friday 20 March about which businesses must close but made no mention of hair salons, barbershops or beauty salons. The NHBF has urgently contacted a number of key government officials and departments (see details below) to ask for all salons and barbershops to be immediately added to the list of businesses that must close.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we fully understand how worried everyone in our industry is at the moment. Our priority is to protect our industry, colleagues, business owners, employees and clients from the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Some salons and barbershops have already taken the decision to close, and we believe that this is the right decision. Stylists, therapists and barbers are inevitably in close contact with a wide range of clients which means they cannot follow the government’s social distancing guidelines.

My own experience with my acquaintance tells me that the NHBF is right.

It’s vital that the government puts hairdressing salons on the ‘closed’ list – otherwise people like her will blithely put themselves in danger without a second’s thought.

Source: Coronavirus: NHBF update 22 March 2020 – National Hair & Beauty Federation

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Mealy-mouthed, lying politics: Tories congratulate themselves for a law that has nothing to do with them

Liar: Theresa May merrily passes off EU directives as her own laws.

How will the Conservative Government be able to pat itself on the back for implementing new laws that help people, after Brexit has happened and the organisation imposing those laws – The European Union – no longer has any power in the UK?

And will it matter, considering the fact that many of us have already cottoned on to what they have been doing?

The latest wheeze was the implementation of an EU directive to protect package holidaymakers, which the Tories announced as if it were their own:

The backlash was immediate:

The Mirror article is handy as it carries a list of other EU directives that Tories have shamelessly passed off as their own.

But be warned: Although we are wise to this trick, many people may not be. As Tom Pride stated (above), around 40 per cent of the UK electorate still think voting Conservative is a good idea.

So please, if you happen to meet one of these deluded individuals, introduce them to this handy rule of thumb:

If a new law makes you worse-off, it was probably introduced by the Conservatives. If it actually helps you, it most likely came from somewhere else.


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My Labour branch wrote a motion to Labour’s NEC, Mr McNicol – where is it?

NEC chair Paddy Lillis. Here he is unhappily announcing Jeremy Corbyn’s retention of the Labour Party leadership, despite his NEC’s best efforts to prevent it [Image: BBC].

Yes, this is about the motion I wrote after Labour’s former NEC chair, Paddy Lillis, acted unconstitutionally in overruling the will of the party conference last year.

He refused to accept demands that a package of 15 changes, including the addition of unelected representative of Scottish and Welsh Labour to the NEC, should be considered individually.

This means that the additions – along with the other 14 changes – are not valid and party members should not consider themselves bound by them or any decision made as a result of them.

Steve Walker, who writes SKWAWKBOX, contacted me with the information he had received from the NEC member, and I said it would be better for him to write the article about it, as I am too closely involved.

I did ask the Brecon and Radnorshire CLP secretary if he could cast any light on the matter, and he told me the information he had received was that the motion had gone to the NEC for “noting”. He speculated that this could be the limit of any discussion as the motion asks the NEC to do something it cannot constitutionally do – overrule conference.

But then, Mr Lillis overruled conference too – something he could not constitutionally do, in order to get his changes passed.

So, in constitutional terms, if my CLP secretary is right, I think the NEC is on very thin ice indeed!

As for the motion… Time is moving on. It would probably be better to bring a new resolution to this year’s conference, calling for the nullification of the package of 15 changes, and for each measure to be re-considered individually; for those responsible for pushing through the package, against the will of conference, to be reprimanded and for an ad hoc, independent body, separate from the NEC, to be set up to consider whether these people should be removed from any positions of responsibility.

That sort of thing. We take our democracy seriously in the Labour Party nowadays.

Last October the Welsh CLP of Brecon and Radnorshire (B&R), approved a motion declaring the unlawful addition of two unelected members to the NEC during Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool.

In accordance with normal procedure, as soon as it was approved the B&R motion was sent forward by a member of the CLP’s executive for the NEC to discuss – and acknowledged by the General Secretary.

But the SKWAWKBOX has obtained emails between a north-west Labour member and a well-known member of the NEC, which culminates in the latter denying that the motion was ever received by the committee.

Either Mr McNicol appears not to have sent the motion forward to the NEC or he sent it to someone in the NEC and they didn’t give it to the rest of the organisation committee.

Another NEC member, in a separate discussion, commented that

“CLP motions never get to the NEC.”

If the latter NEC member’s claim is true – and the confirmed instance involving the Brecon motion tends to support that conclusion – then it is further evidence of the apparent disdain with which many at Labour HQ regard their members.

Source: McNicol/NEC ‘disappearing’ inconvenient Labour documents? | The SKWAWKBOX

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Labour groups rally to support Vox Political writer’s bid to restore party democracy

[Image: Getty Images.]

[Image: Getty Images.]

Labour branches and constituency parties across the UK are being asked to support a series of moves intended to restore democracy in the party – and This Writer couldn’t be happier because they are based on a motion that I drafted.

The summer of 2016 was a long and difficult one for Labour Party democracy. There was the rebellion and attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn that ended with him being re-elected as party leader with a larger mandate. And there was the election of six new Constituency Labour Party representatives to the ruling National Executive Committee.

All six places went to members of the Corbyn-supporting Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (although one of the candidates, Ann Black, has since proved to be less loyal than some of us might have hoped) – giving Mr Corbyn a narrow majority.

It seems right-wingers in the Labour Party decided to dispense with the rule book – and party democracy – and introduced a plan to put two new members on the NEC to overthrow Mr Corbyn’s majority. The idea was that Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour would be given representatives on the NEC, who would be nominated by the leaders of those party groups, who are both anti-Corbyn, rather than elected by their memberships who support the party leader.

The resolution to add these new members to the NEC was passed as part of a package of 15 changes to party rules at the national conference in September. They were pushed through against the wishes of delegates who wanted to vote on each matter separately, and who demanded a card vote. Instead, then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis refused both demands – breaking conference procedural rules in the process. The full story is here.

This is where I became involved. I raised the matter with my local Labour Party branch, and wrote a motion pointing out that Mr Lillis broke conference rules, that the changes he imposed are therefore undemocratic and may not be enforced, and that the decision should be nullified.

That motion was supported by Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency Labour Party and is to be considered by the NEC as soon as possible.

I publicised the matter on This Blog, and I know other CLPs have passed similar motions. I was also contacted by Steve Burgess, a Labour member based near Manchester, who raised issues with the wording of my motion and with my opinion of Ann Black, who was present as a speaker at the CLP meeting when it won members’ support, despite her comments in opposition to it (a dialogue with Ms Black followed in the comment columns of This Blog, ending with this article, after I finally lost patience with her).

Mr Burgess thought my motion needed to be modified in order to pinpoint exactly the faults in Mr Lillis’s behaviour and the breakdown in party democracy that followed. He has devised a series of five motions which he urges Labour Party branches to consider passing and taking to their CLPs, and from there to the CLP representatives on the NEC. He has gained the support of Corbyn-supporting group Momentum in this, and his motions can be found on an unofficial Momentum website, here.

The introduction to the page suggests, “These are the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party, since [they defeat] a constitutional amendment that undermines the will of conference to direct and veto changes to the supreme ruling executive body which controls everything from expulsions to shortlists and membership in the Labour Party.”

Some might think that I should be offended by what appears to be an attempt to seek credit based on work that I have done. Well, I’m not offended.

It is extremely flattering to have created the basis for “the most important motions in the recent history of the Labour Party”. It is unlikely that they would have appeared as the do – possibly at all – without my original work.

I think Mr Burgess has produced an interesting and exhaustive piece. It’s a little long-winded – I was told my own motion was extremely long, and it is much shorter than the series of five that he has produced.

My feeling is that other BLPs and CLPs may wish to render the actual motions down to the basic demands, with everything else tacked on as supporting information.

I know several CLPs have already submitted motions based on mine; hopefully more will submit motions based on his.

I’m pleased to have started this but I knew that it wasn’t something I could manage alone, so I am delighted that others are doing their own thing with it.

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Labour NEC member should reconsider her position if she continues to oppose democracy

[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images].

[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images].

By “reconsider her position”, I mean Ann Black should resign and make way for somebody who is willing to represent Labour Party members, if she is determined to deny the facts.

Readers of This Blog will know that Ms Black has taken issue with me for sending a motion to Labour’s National Executive Committee, calling for it to nullify rule changes that were wrongly imposed at the party’s conference.

Then-NEC chair Paddy Lillis, who was chairing the conference at the time, broke the conventions under which voting is carried out at the conference – its rules, if you like – in order to deny delegate a chance to vote on 15 rules changes separately, and by card (which gives an accurate number of votes ‘for’ and ‘against’) rather than by hand (which doesn’t).

The package of changes included one that would put members of Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour on the NEC who would not be elected by their respective membership, but nominated by the regional leaders. This would have changed the composition of the NEC in a material way, as the balance of power would have changed from a narrow majority in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to a narrow majority against him.

I have reported on these facts, and on the motion that was raised by my local Labour branch and passed at a Constituency Labour Party meeting which Ms Black attended. You can read my report on it here.

Ms Black, it seems, is not happy with the result of that meeting and has been trying to claim that the motion is based on errors ever since. She is either mistaken, or she is deliberately attempting to mislead Labour Party members. If the latter, then I think it is time she handed in her resignation.

It would indicate that she got onto the Welsh Labour Grassroots ‘Left Slate’ under false pretences and should make way for somebody who actually represents the views of that organisation, including respect for democracy.

Her latest comment to This Blog was received on Thursday, when This Writer was at a meeting of a local organisation, of which I am vice-chair of its board of trustees. The meeting was 30 miles away from my home and took all day. By the time I got back, I was too tired to do anything but put up a few articles and call it a day. I spent yesterday (Friday) working to get caught up on the blog, and also dealing with other matters (don’t forget that I am a carer and this site is a spare-time occupation).

In the meantime, I received a message on Facebook from a Labour member elsewhere in the country, who has been communicating with me because he is interested in submitting a motion to his own CLP, similar to mine. He told me he had been in communication with Ms Black and she had said she had submitted comments to my blog but I had not published them.

Is it paranoid of me to take this as an implication that I only publish comments that support my own opinions? That would be outrageously offensive.

You can see from the foregoing that I have been busy, and you can also see – from the comment columns attached to other articles – that I publish comments of all kinds, reserving the right to respond if I think it is necessary.

This is the first chance I have had to respond to Ms Black, so I think I’ll make her a special case. After all of the foregoing, I’m sure you’ll want to know what she had to say – and I certainly have a few things to offer in reply. She begins:

Life is too short to pick up all the errors online and elsewhere, but here goes:

Oh, I’m in error online and elsewhere, am I? How interesting that she frames her comment with such an assertion from the start.

1) Lifting the motion from a website. I said this because someone in Lewes submitted a motion with text identical to that on voxpoliticalonline, right down to mis-spelling Christine Shawcroft’s name as Shawcross. Clearly they had the same origin. I don’t believe Mike gave his surname at the Brecon meeting, but accept that he wrote the motion and Lewes lifted it, rather than both lifting from the voxpolitical original. Interestingly after I’d corresponded with Lewes they amended their motion to keep the sense but correct most of the inaccuracies in Mike’s version;

This refers to her claim, voiced at the CLP all-member meeting, that I lifted my motion from another website. I commented on this in an email to branch members, who knew that I had published the motion on Vox Political. As a result I received a rather incredulous reply from one member, asking: “She thinks you plagiarised yourself?” Yup.

She accepts now that I wrote the motion and the website where she read it was my own. She says she was confused by a motion that went to Lewes CLP(?) that was exactly the same, including the misspelling of Christine Shawcroft’s name (which is simply a typo. I try to ensure everything is right but sometimes errors creep in).

She says Lewes has since amended its motion to remove the inaccuracies in mine – presumably these are limited to the misspelling of Ms Shawcroft’s name and, possibly, an amendment of the claim that the CAC committee’s conditions are rules, even though they are de facto rules for the running of conference, as we have discussed already. If that’s what she wants to call an error, I think she’s in a minority.

2) I took no part in running the meeting, either to curtail or extend discussion – I’m not a member and would not dream of intervening;

Nor did I suggest that she did. She was a guest speaker whose speech was primarily a long attempt to justify the actions of the NEC over the summer – the moratorium on meetings, the ‘purge’ of party members in the run-up to the leadership vote, and so on.

3) Ditto the vote on the motion, where I gave my views, but as always it’s up to local members to decide;

Again, I did not suggest otherwise. Was it appropriate for her to comment as part of a discussion among CLP members, where she was not a member? I didn’t have the chance to call for her not to take part on the day – I tried but was not able to be heard. It seemed to me that her comments as an NEC member might carry more weight with members than they deserved. As it turned out, I need not have worried.

4) However where Mike says that there was “a huge amount of support”, the vote was recorded as 17 in favour, 11 against, two abstentions. I can understand why calls for a card vote at conference were seen as having “a huge amount of support” if that’s your definition;

Yes, the vote was recorded as 17 for the motion, 11 against, and two abstentions. In fact, one of the ‘against’ votes was intended to be for the motion but the lady doing the voting was 96 and was not able to get her hand up in time. I was only made aware of this fact at a branch meeting on Wednesday, otherwise I think the vote should have been run again to allow her vote to be recorded accurately. The motion had nearly twice as much support as opposition.

Even taking the vote as recorded, it’s 56.67 per cent in favour against 36.67 per cent against – almost as large a majority as Jeremy Corbyn’s “landslide” first Labour leadership election victory. I think support for my motion was big enough – don’t you?

5) Mike and other speakers for the motion said that it was nothing to do with Scottish and Welsh representation on the NEC. Which raises the question of why he put them into his motion and why they are mentioned in most of the commentaries here and elsewhere about rule changes at conference.

This comment seems to be suggesting that the motion is about eliminating the nominated representatives to the NEC, and the illegitimacy of the way the vote was carried out is simply a means to that end.

It seems to me that this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack – Ms Black is suggesting that my motives are other than I have presented them – in an attempt to undermine support for me, as the person putting forward the motion, because she cannot defeat the logic of the motion itself.

What a nasty, underhanded way to behave! Is that the behaviour we would expect from a member of Labour’s highest authority? I don’t think so.

I could argue, in opposition, that Paddy Lillis intended to gerrymander those undemocratic, nominated-rather-than-elected, members onto the NEC and denied delegates their right to a card vote, taking each of the 15 rule changes separately, in order to achieve that. Such a suggestion would have more validity than Ms Black’s, because the facts strongly support it.

We have seen evidence, since I wrote my motion, that the 15 rule changes were not sent to the NEC as a package, but as separate measures; that the CAC members were misled into believing they were to be taken as a package; and that there is no precedent at all for new rules to be forced through as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ package at an annual conference, meaning the claim from the platform that it was standard practice is a lie.

None of the above changes the facts as laid out in my motion – that Mr Lillis broke the rules (or conventions, if you like) under which votes are taken at conference, meaning the result of that particular vote is therefore his will and not the will of the conference, and should be disregarded.

I mentioned Scottish Labour and Welsh Labour representation on the NEC in the motion in order to make absolutely sure that there could be no doubt about the package of measures to which I was referring. If I had not, it seems possible (if not downright likely) that attempts would have been made to confuse those measures with some other conference vote, or otherwise render my motion invalid or void.

I have no wish to deny Welsh Labour or Scottish Labour an opportunity to have representatives on the NEC – but I do believe those representatives must be democratically elected by the memberships of Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour, not unelected nominees of the regional parties’ leaders (or, in the case of Scottish Labour, the leader herself, having taken it upon herself to seize the seat on the NEC that was offered to her).

There are serious and legitimate concerns here, but it’s helpful to get the facts straight first.

It is indeed – but Ms Black was trying to distort them.

I think she needs to reconsider her position, as a matter of urgency – not just regarding this matter, but also her position on the National Executive Committee.

Looking at the recent controversy over the NEC’s support for a report attacking members of Wallasey CLP, that contains accusations of criminal behaviour without solid evidence to support it, I wonder how Ms Black voted on that matter?

This behaviour should not be tolerated. We need representatives who will actually represent us, rather than peddling lies and distortions.

Am I right?

Send me your opinion using the comment box below. Please indicate whether you are  a Labour member or not.

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Labour’s power struggle can only end if grassroots members lay down the law

161024-power-grabIt seems clear that the Labour Party’s right-wing has turned its back on democracy and is now doing everything within its power to hinder Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

That is no way to behave, in a party of government. Labour cannot oppose the Conservative government if its once-favoured few are determined to throw a spanner in the works every five minutes.

They need to be shown that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

This Writer has already shown the way – my CLP has passed a motion calling for the National Executive Committee to nullify the decision to introduce 15 rule changes at once, because Paddy Lillis prevented conference delegates from voting in the proper manner.

The vote may be voided because what followed was the will of Mr Lillis – not conference.

Further, similar, motions are on the way from other constituencies, I understand.

Now, we have information that conference was misled about the package of rule changes in three important ways – further invalidating the vote.

All those involved need to face party disciplinary procedures. They should be removed from positions of responsibility as they clearly cannot be trusted to fill them in a responsible way.

It is for the members to ensure that this happens, through the National Executive Committee.

If you’re a member of the Labour party (if you’re not, join!), then it’s essential that you move a resolution, in time for your next monthly CLP meeting, demanding the annulment of this completely-illegal power-grab, which cannot be allowed to stand, and the immediate removal of the two additional ‘crowbarred’ members from the NEC.

New evidence has emerged that confirms not only the desperate lengths to which the plotters were prepared to go in order to nullify a huge democratic landslide, but that they acted in an unprecedentedly illegal manner. A new Left Futures article reveals that it wasn’t only at the Conference that the rules were ignored and broken, but also that:

  • contrary to what was claimed at the Conference, the CAC (conference arrangements committee) had not been sent a package of rules by the NEC, but a list of individual rule changes to be voted on by delegates
  • that a staff member misled the CAC by advising them that it was a package deal
  • that there is no precedent whatever for rules being forced through as a ‘take it or leave it’ package at an annual Conference – which means that delegates were lied to from the platform when it was claimed this was standard practice

It’s clearer than ever that the right-wingers of the Labour party have no intention of ‘unity’ or ‘pulling together’ and that the words are regarded merely as convenient cover for their continued attempts to control the party by undemocratic means. Expulsion is the only real remedy.

Source: We told you so – new evidence confirms NEC power-grab rule package illegal | The SKWAWKBOX Blog

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Conservatives in chaos over food bank stance

Credit where it's due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Credit where it’s due: The vast majority of reasons for people being referred to food banks are attributable to the Department for Work and Pensions. Could that be why the DWP is so desperate to silence the food bank charities?

Tories – what are they like?

The answer is, of course, even they don’t know – as evidenced by their current confusion over food banks.

David Cameron has enthusiastically backed their work at a Christian faith group’s Easter reception (and so he should, having sent so much of it their way), and Treasury minister David Gauke also praised them in an interview on Channel 4 News last week.

But the DWP says leading food bank provider the Trussell Trust is guilty of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity seeking”, with the rise in food bank use being the result of the charity’s leaders “aggressively marketing their services” and “effectively running a business”.

At least one commenter on this blog has been completely taken in by the DWP’s prattling, claiming that demand for food banks has not risen at all since Cameron came to office. No, it’s clear to this demented individual that opening a food bank anywhere is like opening a supermarket – if there isn’t one nearby already, people will flock through your doors.

This, of course, completely misconstrues the way food banks are used and assumes that anyone can walk through their doors, claim food poverty and take away a packet of supplies whenever they want. It doesn’t work like that.

Food banks operate on a referral system. As Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould put it in an Observer report: “You can’t get free food from the Trussell Trust by walking through the door and asking for it; you must have a voucher. More than 24,000 professionals – half of whom work in the public sector and health service, the police, and in social services – ask us to give this food to clients of theirs because they’ve made the decision that this individual or family is in dire straits and needs help. We’re not drumming up demand.”

This is absolutely correct and no amount of negative campaigning by the DWP can change it. In fact, Mr Gauke spent some time crowing about the fact the DWP rules have been altered to allow “signposting” to food banks by Job Centre advisors, in his Channel 4 News interview (although claiming credit for government employees sending people to someone else, rather than providing help themselves, is in itself a mean-spirited shot in the foot).

Once again, the Conservatives are getting stuck in the mire while trying to claim the moral high ground.

Not only have they created a poverty-driven starvation threat that organisations like the Trussell Trust have been forced to step in and fight, but the Tories have also tried to vilify those good people for laying the blame where it belongs.

It is a situation so twisted, there can be no wonder the Tories are tying themselves in knots.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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You are ‘infrahuman’ and your government thinks you are ‘stock’ – even if you voted for it

130516colinbrewer

The public voted him back in: Disgraced former Cornwall councillor Colin Brewer resigned over remarks he made about the disabled – it seems he has suggested disabled children should be treated in the same way as deformed lambs. These comments are beyond the pale but the electorate in his Cornish ward voted him back into office, knowing what he had said! What does that tell us about attitudes in Britain today?

 

This is a sequel. Last October, Vox Political published Living under the threat of welfare reform, a personal account of the hardships suffered by just one disabled benefit claimant as a result of the Coalition government’s crude and unnecessary attacks on people who are unable to work and must rely on social security. The author expressed fears about her future, after the main changes to benefits that were expected in April this year. Vox Political contacted her earlier this week to find out how she was coping, and this article is the result. Please welcome Sasson Hann:

Definition of ‘welfare’: the good fortune, health, happiness prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organisation; well-being: to look after a child’s welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society.

When I first read ‘21st Century Welfare‘ published in the summer of 2010, 10 months after I was forced to give up my professional career, I realised that those of us reliant on benefits were facing an almost insurmountable challenge to their well-being: a challenge like nothing before in recent history.

At the time, I spoke to friends about the possible consequences of welfare reform, then subsequently became distraught and angry when hearing that people had died after having benefits reduced or removed; sadly, now a weekly occurrence. So when Vox Political asked me to write a guest blog – an update of my personal circumstances – in all honesty, I felt that my situation was nothing in comparison: it’s challenging nonetheless.

The collective mindset towards people who claim benefits has definitely changed since 2010. ‘Hate crimes’ are in the news; hateful comments under articles in online newspapers. In fact a new term coined by researchers for this change – particularly toward benefit claimants – is ‘infrahumanism‘; people viewed as ‘less’ than human. Colin Brewer, the disgraced former Cornish councillor who was forced to resign after making derogatory comments about disabled children is an extreme example of this. Only yesterday he was reported as saying that society should treat disabled babies like farmers treat deformed lambs: the police are investigating. What concerns me more is why a community recently voted him back into office: what does this indicate?

Attitudes have certainly altered towards me, though not as drastically. Strangers think that they have the right to walk up to me and demand: ”What’s wrong with your legs then?’  People think it’s fair that the government should force me from my home of 27 years. Others cast doubt on my integrity, not believing that I’m too disabled to work. Some repeatedly ask me to explain why I receive certain levels of care and benefits, even why I should need a wheelchair outside: not indicative of ‘infrahumanism’ exactly, but definitely insensitive. Of all the pressures a disabled person faces, frequently having to justify your disability is one of the hardest challenges.

As for financial matters, my income has dropped drastically since 2010. I receive DLA and I’m in the ESA support group; a half decent income. That was until 2 years ago when my local authority started charging me for my care – some £3,000 per annum – despite me having no assets or savings. Nevertheless, I adjusted, and figured that unlike some, at least I had a ‘personalised’ care package.

Then I had a care reassessment last year. The assessor informed me that most of what my carers do was ‘no longer funded’. Basically, the new packages focus on eating and keeping a person clean: we do more for pets. I fought and gained a hollow victory: whilst I retained 75 per cent of the hours, social services dictated their use; I would also have to pay extra for private care. Ironically, in 2011, the government published a document about personalisation, but implemented the exact opposite. The reassessment commences again in July – another six months of stress compounded by the additional yearly financial and disability reassessments. I tell myself this is the ‘new normal’: I must rise to these challenges; not so easy when chronic illness dominates your life.

Beginning in April, I had the extra cost of a £100 per month bedroom tax (my housing association has nowhere for me to move to); along with the extra care costs, this totals £5,900 per annum. As a result, I can rarely socialise now, and it will take much longer to save to replace things. I reasoned that at least I have a home, enough money to pay bills, buy food, and the occasional treat. It’s unnerving though not having a financial buffer if my benefits are removed: a sobering thought. I have a good network of family and friends to help me, but ultimately, like others, they can’t afford to keep me financially long term; is it any wonder that some feel they cannot carry on, that there is no way out?

Multiply what I’ve lost by thousands of households in my area and country-wide, and imagine just how much money is being taken out of the local/national economy; how damaging this will become. In Wales for instance, due to historical poverty, the cuts to benefits have affected one in three people, such that the Welsh Assembly have recently appointed the first ‘Poverty Minister‘, claiming that austerity will cause hardship not known since the 1930’s.

When the Conservatives were last in power in the 80s, they scrapped housing benefit for the low-paid, water was privatised, and the Poll Tax was introduced. It had a dire affect on my family: we couldn’t afford heating so we suffered painful chilblains and contracted continual chest infections; without heating, the flat developed inch thick black mould on the walls; we couldn’t dry our clothes properly so they smelled of mildew; we were lucky if we could afford one meal a day; after a number of years our clothes and shoes wore out; we regularly had to go without soap, washing powder, loo roll, personal hygiene products and the like. It was a dark and miserable time for us.

I cannot begin to describe what it is like to have your dignity stripped away like this; I never thought I would see such hard times again: I was sadly mistaken. The current cuts to services and benefits go much further than this, leaving people with no safety net and no access to legal services. Incredulously, it isn’t even saving the government much money.

The government say we can’t afford the welfare bill, but regular readers of Vox Political will know there is in fact plenty of money sloshing around. The moving of public money into private hands, and also into the pockets of MPs and Lords: money that should be used to stimulate growth and improve the lives of all. If the post war government had enough money to set up the NHS, the welfare state, and embark on a massive building programme – when they were in a far worse financial situation – then our government can do the same. Yet laughably, MPs were this week lambasting the BBC because of the ‘excessive’ £24,000 average payment made to staff who moved to Salford, when MPs claim far more in expenses every year. On the other end of the scale, the ‘stock’ – as the government like to call us – who suffer and die for the sake of a few pounds a week are collateral damage; acceptable losses like deformed lambs. And if those who are left cannot afford a home and food, so what? A nightmarish ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario.

I can’t do much to oppose this; I’m too ill to attend protests. Occasionally I help people claim benefits and appeal, apply to charities, look up information and advise them, write and print a CV, and I’ve even negotiated with bailiffs! I tell everyone I meet about how welfare reform is affecting people, and I write as much as I’m able. This is all some of us can do; facing each challenge and fighting each battle, one by one. Notwithstanding this human catastrophe, I remain sanguine: I love life and I will not despair.

Martin Luther King Jr said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.” The government’s answer to that ‘challenge’ is to make the poorest destitute, the opposite to the definition of ‘welfare’: in this we perceive their ‘measure’. Consequently, we ‘infrahumans’ are facing a challenge so great that it will be remembered in history: are you up to this challenge? For all of the people who aren’t; for the many families who have lost loved ones: those of us left have to be.

Sasson Hann May 13, 2013.