Tag Archives: pilot

General election 2019: Labour pledges to pilot Universal Basic Income

 

A Labour government may pilot a Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme, possibly to replace the current benefit system, it has been claimed.

In an interview with The Independent, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he intended to include a pilot UBI scheme in Labour’s manifesto – adding that the it would be even more radical than the document that turned around the party’s fortunes in the 2017 election.

Mr McDonnell, a long-term supporter of UBI, said he was looking at including “at least one pilot” in Labour’s blueprint for government:

The concept generally involves overhauling the welfare state by scrapping means-tested benefits and replacing them with weekly or monthly payments to all citizens.

Pressed on whether it was going to be in Labour’s new manifesto [Mr McDonnell] replied: “… Sheffield have really made a big pitch for the UBI, a pilot, but there are a few other places as well. They are the ones really that are willing to look at how they can tackle poverty.”

A report presented to Mr McDonnell earlier this year by Professor Guy Standing, an economic adviser to the shadow Treasury team, highlighted various models a government could use in a pilot scheme of basic income. One included providing every adult in a selected community with £100, and a further £50 for each child per week. Additional benefits would be put in place for those with disabilities.

This could restore hope to the UK’s millions of benefit claimants.

Universal Credit has been nothing but an expensive disaster from the moment Iain Duncan Smith announced it, plunging people who have been forced to claim the new benefit into debt and despair.

Meanwhile, Tory policies on the administration of legacy benefits including – and especially – disability benefits like Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment have been deemed to have caused thousands upon thousands of deaths.

We don’t know how many people have died while trying to claim benefits under the Tory system because the Tories have refused to provide honest answers to our questions.

UBI would change all that.

Instead of being forced to go through the humiliation of a prejudicial benefit assessment system, people would automatically receive a payment to support their living costs.

Those with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities would get appropriate supplements.

And that’s it. No fuss, no humiliation, and hopefully no more despair, destitution and death.

The Conservative Party, which thrives on causing misery, will hate it.

But anybody who has had to endure the current system would be well-advised to vote Labour and bring it in.

Source: General election: McDonnell vows to present Labour’s most ‘radical’ manifesto with universal basic income pilot | The Independent

Psychiatrists try to defend failure to speak out on ‘abusive’ Universal Credit project

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has tried to explain its reasons for failing to object to a pilot project in Cornwall in which Job Centre advisors – with no training – decide whether claimants need mental health care.

This Site reported on the project in August:

The department… is trying to cut doctors working on mental health out of the benefit system by claiming that rank-and-file Job Centre advisers are just as able to spot mental health problems – and recommend the best treatment.

They aren’t; they can’t. It’s just a cynical bid to stop people with mental health problems from claiming Employment and Support Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

The Tory government’s press release stated: “The initiative means work coaches can continue to refer people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment.”

I responded:

“Without the need”? Translation: “Without the support of evidence from a qualified doctor who can bring their expertise to a benefit tribunal.”

The press release said: “The support is also designed to help people find their way back into the workplace when they’re ready.”

I responded:

Translation: “The intention is to ensure that people with mental illnesses must continue to seek employment, whether they are ready or not.”

Disability News Service is now reporting that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has responded to this insult against its practitioners – after being nudged to do so by no fewer than five disability groups.

RCP states, according to the article, that:

RCP’s social inclusion lead has “continued to raise concerns and provide expert advice about the impact of welfare reform on people with mental illness and those with learning disabilities”.

[It says] it is “clear that anyone undertaking a mental health assessment needs to be sufficiently qualified to do so and, as part of the assessment, should engage with clinicians involved in providing care to the person concerned”.

[It also says] RCP believes that a jobcentre would not be “a suitable therapeutic environment to assess and discuss an individual’s mental health”.

[It adds:] “Having to do so would likely increase the stress and pressure on people with a mental illness when seeking support, and the possibility of them seeing the receipt of benefits as being conditional on them agreeing to mental health treatment.

“In addition, there is a risk that being referred to the wrong type of treatment may reduce the likelihood of seeking help in the future, make their illness worse and increase the likelihood of experiencing a future crisis.”

The disability groups are not happy with this response – and rightly so.

Why the delay in responding? Were these psychiatrists hoping the issue would go away?

Is the RCP going to talk to the Department for Work and Pensions about its concerns? Or were its comments just a sop to the disabled people’s representatives?

And what about the people of Cornwall?

What have they experienced while the RCP stood by in silence?

Source: Dismay over psychiatrists’ failure to speak out on ‘abusive’ universal credit project – Disability News Service

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London NHS patients to have essential care rationed under new Tory plan to save cash

Not for sale: That’s unless you live in North West London, it seems.

More than two million Londoners are set to have their NHS services rationed in a scheme to save cash that may do little for their health.

The Tories are using North West London as a testing ground for the scheme that will deprive patients of essential NHS services in order to save £60 million.

That’s right – unlike previous schemes that targeted elective treatments, this round of cuts will take away services that patients need.

I recall reporting on the rationing of hip operations in 2017. At the time I stated that I foresaw huge extra costs: “Either you spend a fortune having your hip operation done by a private company, or you cost the NHS a fortune in unnecessary further costs from delayed treatment and pain management.”

I think many Londoners may be induced into forking out to have their care provided by a private company – and/or having to rely on the NHS for help to manage complications caused by the rationing.

The programme of cuts was announced on the same day Boris Johnson reinforced a commitment to NHS spending. But then, what are his promises worth?

Apparently the NHS in that part of London has racked up debts of more than £120 million. I wonder how much of that has been caused by spending on unnecessary profit-driven health “care” companies?

Services to be hit include:

 Patients currently receiving treatment from more than one consultant may no longer be able to access treatment from both or all of the specialists.

 “Repatriation” of some acute treatment from various specialist hospitals to local ones.

 New scrutiny – described as “demand management” – of GPs who refer patients for acute treatment, with GPs being asked to look at “alternative ways” of dealing with patients’ needs.

 Reduction in intravenous feeds through “better prescribing”.

According to The Guardian,

North-west London has previously been the testing ground for major NHS blueprints across the country, such as Shaping A Healthier Future, a failed hospital closure programme which wasted £76m on management consultants alone.

Health campaigners fear that the cuts to essential NHS acute services contained in the list could be rolled out nationwide to deal with budget shortfalls.

I wonder how the Tories plan to hide the adverse effect of their changes on NHS patients?

Will they pretend the problems they create have “many causes”, as they do with the deaths of benefit claimants?

Source: London GPs told to restrict specialist referrals under new NHS ‘rationing’ plan | Society | The Guardian

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Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

Surveillance: This is an unmarked police facial recognition van. If you passed it in the street, would you realise police officers were taking photographs of you in order to match your face with that of a known offender?

Would you want the police to be allowed to scan your face as you walk down the street, minding your own business?

I would not. These authorities are famously irresponsible.

Remember when people started finding out that they had criminal records falsely attributed to them? These crimes turned up when prospective employers carried out background checks and led to innocent people losing jobs for no good reason.

Or how about the DNA database scandal? Genetic material belonging to millions of innocent UK citizens was being kept by the police, and some of it was used in genetic research, without permission. This is an ongoing issue.

Now the police are testing out facial recognition software as a way of tracking down criminals – by taking photographs of innocent people as they walk down the street.

This has proved to be a disaster; instead of catching people who have already committed crimes, it has provoked angry altercations leading to the application of a fine against at least one man for disorderly behaviour.

The incident was recorded and broadcast on the BBC’s Politics Live:

I commented on it at the time the programme went out:

And don’t be convinced by the spokesman’s claim that the trial is intended to ensure that police can protect human rights and safeguard the public at the same time:

Facial recognition scans have wrongly identified members of the public as potentially being criminals in no less than 96 per cent of scans in London so far.

That’s according to figures compiled on eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018. Here‘s The Independent:

“Eight trials carried [out] in London between 2016 and 2018 resulted in a 96 per cent rate of ‘false positives’ – where software wrongly alerts police that a person passing through the scanning area matches a photo on the database.

“Two deployments outside [a] shopping centre in Stratford last year saw a 100 per cent failure rate and monitors said a 14-year-old black schoolboy was fingerprinted after being misidentified.

“Police allegedly stopped people for covering their faces or wearing hoods, and one man was fined for a public order offence after refusing to be scanned in Romford.

“Scotland Yard called the trials ‘overt’ but The Independent found shoppers unaware facial recognition was being used, and campaigners accused police of rolling out the technology ‘by stealth’.”

Despite the obvious failure of this technology, the police are determined to hold on to it – and so is your Conservative government, which is always looking for ways to keep the proles down.

Going back to the Independent article, we have a statement from policing minister Nick Hurd, who said facial recognition has “real opportunities”.

There’s more: “We are not a surveillance state and have no intention of becoming one,” Mr Hurd added. “That means that we must use new technologies in ways that are sensitive to their impact on privacy, and ensure that their use is proportionate.”

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

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Now the Tories are trying to cover up the cost of stopping us from voting

The Conservative government is withholding the facts about the cost of its pointless “voter ID” checks.

The scheme puts barriers in the way to prevent ordinary people from voting – at huge cost to the public purse.

A pilot during the local government elections this year cost £1.7 million and resulted in an alleged 350 people being turned away from polling stations in five constituencies.

The result was entirely disproportionate to the problem. There were only 21 cases of alleged in-person voter fraud in 2014, 44 in 2016, and 28 in 2017 – 0.000063% per vote cast.

It gave rise to criticisms that the Conservatives are trying to disenfranchise huge numbers of voters – who are demographically more likely to support the Labour Party.

Now the Tories are withholding details of the cost of another pilot “voter ID” check, due to take place next year.

These Conservatives are constantly telling us there is no money for vital services, but they are happy to spray public cash up the wall when it suits them.

Remember the water cannons that Boris Johnson bought for £322,000 while he was Mayor of London? They have been sold for just £11,025 – for scrap – after never having been used.

Of particular note to those who think the Tories are the party of financial responsibility is the cost of fitting CD players – £1,000 per water cannon.

And we know that the Conservatives offered £1 billion of our money to the DUP, just to support them in Parliament, with a further £1 billion included in this year’s Budget. Of course, they only handed over a little more than £400 million of it, but think what a difference that could have made to people struggling to make ends meet on pared-to-the-bone benefits that no longer cover the necessities of life.

Now they think they can spend our own money on schemes to stop those of us who support Labour from doing so at a polling station.

The sooner they lose the “no confidence” vote that seems certain to happen in the next few weeks – and all their silly spending splurges are scrapped – the better.

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Voter ID pilot turned away too many people. Tories are bound to roll it out across the UK

It’s ridiculous – after 28 cases of possible voter fraud among 45 million votes in 2017, the Tory government turned away 3,981 people on Thursday, claiming they didn’t have the right identification.

People were turned away in more than one in five polling stations across Bromley, Woking, Gosport, Watford and Swindon, where the pilot was carried out.

The question now is, what will the Conservative government do with this information?

As a test of a system intended to ensure that everybody with a right to vote was allowed to vote, the trial was an utter, unmitigated disaster.

But some of us suspect that the Tories have an ulterior motive – to use a demand for forms of ID that many people don’t have as a way of cutting down the vote for other parties.

So Cat Smith, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, was right to say: “There was absolutely no case for introducing voter ID in the first place but after [Thursday’s] fiasco, it is impossible for the Government to justify rolling it out.

“After completely ignoring a number of serious warning signs, the Government decided to pilot discriminatory measures which denied people their right to vote.

“We cannot allow the Conservative Party to undermine our democracy, which is why Labour is calling on the Government to scrap their voter ID plans as a matter of urgency.”

If the Conservatives go ahead with this, based on the evidence we’ve seen, we’ll know they are trying to nobble democracy.

Over to you, Tories.


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Revealed: Labour did NOT pilot the Bedroom Tax

141230SNPbedroomtaxlie

The ‘infographic’ above is very popular among Scottish nationalists at the moment. In line with the wishes of the Scottish National Party (SNP), they are working hard to smear or discredit the Labour Party in order to undermine its support north of the border. There’s just one problem.

The claim is untrue.

The facts were revealed by a Labour councillor, Paul Bull, on Twitter today (December 30) after Yr Obdt Srvt spent yesterday evening arguing the matter with some particularly avid nationalists.

“I too was concerned by Malcolm Wicks’ comments in Hansard that seemed to suggest [a] Bedroom Tax pilot,” he tweeted. “So troubled that I decided to research what form that Bedroom Tax pilot took. That research … has even gone as far as the House of Commons Library.”

Then he wrote:

141230bedroomtaxfact

So this was a scheme that was announced by a Labour minister, certainly – but the Labour government of 2001 did not go through with it.

So much for the nationalists’ claims. “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive”, as someone once said. Or, more appropriately (perhaps), “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”.

Cllr Bull continued: “However, back then Labour did do something to encourage social tenants to downsize, where many local authorities offered cash incentives to encourage [it], and this scheme was available to ALL social housing tenants, so not just those on Housing Benefit.”

He provided information on Exeter City Council’s schemes, which are available to read here and here. The second link is to a PDF file which may not open in some browsers.

He concludes: “Elements of [the] Exeter Council scheme [are] still in place but incentives are not so generous. But Exeter Council now employ a Downsizing Officer to assist social housing tenants who do want to move.”

The reality, it seems, is a long way away from the harsh brutality of the Coalition’s Bedroom Tax, with which the SNP and its supporters hoped to tar the Labour Party.

Next time anyone tries to tell you Labour had anything to do with the Bedroom Tax, point them to this article.

How can people trust the SNP when it launches lying smear campaigns like this?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Why blame the civil service, Mr… Smith? They only do what you tell them to!

Don't blame Whitehall: Civil servants are highly-trained experts in their field; Conservative politicians are amateurs with opinions. Who do YOU think is responsible for the cock-up called Universal Credit? [Picture: Daily Telegraph]

Don’t blame Whitehall: Civil servants are highly-trained experts in their field; Conservative politicians are amateurs with opinions. Who do YOU think is responsible for the cock-up called Universal Credit? [Picture: Daily Telegraph]

Isn’t it a shame for the Tories that they hung their ‘welfare’ ‘reforms’ on an incompetent like Iain Duncan Smith?

Accused of wasting £140 million of taxpayers’ money on his white elephant Universal Credit scheme (or is it scam?) he can at least take comfort that the latest report followed his lead and fell back on what is now becoming a Conservative Party Standard Excuse: Blame the civil service.

That won’t wash, though. The real reason, as detailed in this blog previously, is lack of interest by Conservative Party ministers like Smith himself.

We call him ‘RTU’ because we believe his incompetence as an Army officer led to him being ‘Returned To Unit’ and eventually shuffled out of the service and it is this history that seems to be repeating itself here.

Let’s have a look at the “alarmingly weak” management for which the Secretary-in-a-State was rightly criticised by the Commons Public Accounts Committee this week.

We know that the project is now well behind schedule, despite protestations to the contrary from RTU and the Department for Work and Pensions. A planned pilot roll-out in April was restricted to just one Job Centre, where they handled only the simplest cases, working them out on spreadsheets because the IT system is open to fraud.

Since then it has been started in Hammersmith, in London, where its success or failure is not yet known.

It is now doubtful whether the project can still be delivered, on-budget, by its 2017 deadline. If it is, what kind of service will it provide?

Of the £2.4 billion set aside, £425 million has already been spent and a sum between £140 million and £161 million is likely to be written off, depending on whose figures you believe.

We know that a secretary was allowed to sign off £23 million worth of purchases because RTU’s systems were so lazy. Does anybody even know what this money bought?

“From the outset, the department has failed to grasp the nature and enormity of the task; failed to monitor and challenge progress regularly; and, when problems arose, failed to intervene promptly,” said Public Accounts Committee chair, Margaret Hodge. She described the system’s implementation as not only poor but “extraordinarily” poor.

And she said the pilot scheme was not a proper pilot, as “It does not deal with the key issues that universal credit must address: the volume of claims; their complexity; change in claimants’ circumstances; and the need for claimants to meet conditions for continuing entitlement to benefit”.

The report by the committee singled out the DWP’s permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, for particular criticism, saying he only became aware of problems in ‘ad hoc’ reviews, because reporting arrangements were inadequate and had not alerted him to problems. Even after he knew of major problems, he did not closely monitor the project, the report stated.

It seems Conservatives on the committee wanted more criticisms to be included, and The Guardian has stated that senior Tories have said they would accept Devereaux’s resignation, if offered.

Let’s face it: we’ve been here before.

Michael Gove’s Education Department is now in a terrible mess because he brought in a gang of “advisors” to operate “above” his officials – who have meanwhile faced huge cuts in their workforce and a disastrous fall in morale. Gove brought his ignorant mates in to force their foolishness on the professionals, as this blog reported in June.

That was when The Spectator weighed in against the civil service, lodging an advance claim that if Universal Credit flops it will be due to the civil service, but if it succeeds it will be a victory for Tory ministers alone.

what a lot of nonsense.

Civil servants do what elected Members of Parliament tell them to do. They pay attention to the wishes of their political leaders and apply their considerable expertise to the problems set for them, in order to produce the required result, within budget, while complying with the strictures laid down by those political leaders.

They are very good at their job.

If they are failing, then the problem must lie with the politicians. If a goal is unrealistic, then blaming the ‘help’ is totally unproductive – it only serves to make them hostile.

And, let’s face it, we’ve all seen sheep with more intelligence than Iain Duncan Smith.

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Doubletalking DWP’s new assault on the sick

Their doctors will say you're not sick: The DWP's new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren't good enough for the Department. It's bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are health, no doubt.

Their doctors will say you’re not sick: The DWP’s new policy is another sign of disrespect to PROPER health professionals across the UK; their diagnoses aren’t good enough for the Department. It’s bringing its own people in, to pretend more sick people are actually healthy, no doubt.

“People on sickness benefits will be required to have regular meetings with doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists to help them address their barriers to work – or face losing their benefits,” the Department for Work and Pensions announced yesterday.

The initiative was revealed under the euphemistic headline ‘Help for people on sickness benefits to address barriers to work’ and shows yet again that ministers in the DWP do not understand the meaning of the word “sick”.

“Around 3,000 people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have been assessed as being able to work in the future will have regular appointments with healthcare professionals as a condition of receiving their benefit. The meetings will focus on helping claimants to move closer to being able to get a job,” the DWP press release states.

“The proposed pilot scheme will compare the help given by doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists to two other pilot schemes which will offer enhanced support from Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers to see which is best at helping people off sickness benefits and into work.”

This is all very well, but has it not occurred to DWP officials that perhaps a person who is off work because of illness may already be involved in meetings with healthcare professionals?

This is anecdotal evidence, I know, but Mrs Mike has attended many, many appointments with her GP, physiotherapists, osteopaths, other back specialists, nerve specialists, surgeons, she’s had MRI and CT scans, spent a week at the pain clinic in Bronllys Hospital (recently featured on a BBC documentary which notably focused on its successes and not its failures – it does have them) and is currently due to attend an appointment at the orthopaedic hospital in Gobowen.

What do DWP officials think its people can do, that these specialists – who are experts in their field – cannot?

Employment minister Mark Hoban trotted out the usual line that “we need to ensure that people who are able to work get the encouragement they need to get a job, while those who are too sick to work get real support”. What, by threatening them with losing their sole source of income? That’s not encouragement – it’s bullying; it’s threats; it’s intimidation.

“Many people on sickness benefits want to work, so it’s vitally important that we give them the right help to move into a job if they are able. The help we give people at the moment tends to focus on work-related skills, but doesn’t necessarily address health problems. But by giving people regular support from doctors, occupational health nurses and therapists we can do more to help people manage or improve their conditions.”

The thought of the DWP – an organisation that absolutely refuses, under any circumstances, to publish the number of people its policies are killing every week (or have killed already) – claiming it is trying to help people into work is laughable. The fact that it will do this by threatening to remove their benefits is serious to the point of being deadly.

The release goes on to remind us all that people in the work-related activity group of ESA recipients already have ‘work-focussed interviews’ with Job Centre Plus staff as a condition of receiving their benefit. This is true – Mrs Mike attended and, due to her interest in finding work, was passed on to a work programme provider who immediately – within one telephone conversation – told her she was not fit for any kind of work, the Atos assessment had put her in the wrong group and she must seek re-assessment with a view to going into the support group immediately.

That was in January; the DWP has been dragging its heels somewhat. I would say this demonstrates the department’s real concern for people with long-term health problems (almost as much as those nebulous death figures).

In the pilot area, the press release states, the work interview would be replaced by meetings with healthcare professionals – provided by the DWP. The length and frequency of the meetings would be flexible, depending on the individuals’ needs.

Would these healthcare professionals by contracted in from private health companies? If so, isn’t this just another ‘bung’ of taxpayers’ cash to friends of the Conservative ministers in charge of the DWP? Does anyone else sense yet another monumental, Work Programme-style waste of taxpayers’ cash on the horizon here?

“The regular discussions will focus claimants on how they can improve their view of their readiness for work by taking steps to manage their health issues,” the release claims. “They will not replace a person’s GP, but can promote health support and help a claimant to re-engage with their GP if they are struggling to adapt to their condition.” Plausible language, but let’s remember this is DWP doublespeak, so we must not expect anything of the sort.

There will be three separate pilot schemes:

  • Healthcare professional-led – mandatory engagement with health care professionals. Interestingly, this will use funding from the European Social Fund. How they managed to persuade the EU that this was a good idea defies rational explanation.
  • Jobcentre Plus – enhanced Jobcentre Plus support
  • Work Programme – enhanced support designed by Work Programme provider

The pilots will begin in November and will run until August 2016 – so, if there’s any justice, they will be terminated in May 2015 when a sensible government takes over. This depends on whether Labour can devise any reasonable ideas for Work and Pensions in the next 18 months or so, of course.

The pilots will involve people on ESA in the work related activity group who are expected to be able to return to work in 18 months or over – based on the flawed Atos work capability assessments that we all know make wrong decisions in an unacceptable number of cases.

While we’re discussing ways of getting sick people off-benefit (which is what this is about – never mind putting them back into work), I wonder whether DWP officials partaking in this scheme will also employ the “Pester Power” strategy?

I learned about this from Vox Political commenter Maria Nelson this morning. She wrote: “They partake in something called ‘Pester Power’ to bully and harass claimants… knowing it may push people over the edge.”

Apparently it is employed by staff “who bully claimants by hanging up on them and aggravating stressed, angry claimants, losing paperwork etc to create misery – sanctioning etc… Their horrid phone service is privately operated and numbers changed regular[ly] – wrong numbers given out – and it generates nice profits for that private company, and there’s supposed to be a free number for mobile callers but no-one gets told… I was so shocked [by] what I was told, I forgot to ask [for] it”.

Following on from the negative response to my Freedom of Information request about the Atos/DWP deaths, we all know that the DWP is monitoring this blog – so how about making yourselves useful? Why not come out of the undergrowth and give us some useful information about this alleged strategy?

Come to that, why not come out of the undergrowth and give us the facts about the number of people who are dying because of the fatal policies practised by your department? You do realise, don’t you, that your continued participation involves you in mass murder, don’t you? After the response to the FOI request, I see no reason to give any of you the benefit of the doubt; not only are you participating in a scheme that leads to death – it is revealed as a scheme that is intended to cause death. You don’t cover up mass deaths, with an intention to continue the policies that cause them, without intending to induce those deaths.

That’s murder. If you are an employee of the DWP involved in this process, then you are implicated. There will be trials; the dead will have justice. And, just as in Nuremberg in the 1940s, saying you were “only following orders” will not help you.

You should consider a change of career.

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