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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.
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.”
“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.”
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?
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.
There can be no doubt any more: From Margaret Thatcher onwards, the Conservative Party has deliberately worked to plunge most of the UK into poverty.
The Jobs, Welfare and Austerity report links very well with a paper published a couple of years ago, The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain, published by Durham University, stated that Margaret Thatcher, along with other leading Tory neoliberals of the 1970s like Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley, decided that they needed to end full employment.
The paper states: “In the years between 1975 and 1979, those around Thatcher—in particular, Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley—developed detailed proposals for government. Their view was that defeat of the movement that had forced Heath’s U-turn [from neoliberalism to Keynesianism – it prompted the famous statement, “The lady’s not for turning”] would require, not simply the disengagement of the state from industry, but the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base.
“The full employment that had been sustained across most of the post-war period was seen, together with the broader security offered by the welfare state, to be at the root of an unprecedented self-confidence among working-class communities.
“In particular, large-scale manufacturing and extraction industries, generally strongly unionized and often linked to the large-scale provision of social housing at subsidized rents by local government, were seen to underpin a working-class solidarity that gave this confidence a potent political expression.”
So they killed those industries, ended full employment and parked millions of people on incapacity (now sickness and/or disability benefits). Here’s the proof of that claim:
You see, when Tories say Labour is responsible for the high number of sickness and/or disability benefit claimants, they are lying.
Marry this information with the new data from Sheffield Hallam University and you can see that the Conservative Party has deliberately de-industrialised the UK – in order to ensure a high rate of unemployment – and is now deliberately cutting off access to benefit payments – in order to render working-class people destitute.
They knew the result would be a high budget deficit; this was to be used as an excuse for the cuts that would plunge working-class people into poverty.
Make no mistake: This was a deliberate, pre-meditated plan, and anybody who voted ‘Conservative’ between 1979 and 2015 has actively supported it, whether they were aware of it or not.
The enduring impact of closing factories and shutting coalmines in the 1980s has been revealed in new research showing that the drain on the exchequer from former industrial areas is responsible for up to half the government’s £55bn budget deficit.
In the first comprehensive analysis of the cost to the state of the de-industrialisation that began three decades ago, Sheffield Hallam University said the annual bill was at least £20bn and was perhaps as high as £30bn.
The report found that the cumulative legacy of the hollowing-out of manufacturing and the year-long miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a far heavier concentration of people claiming incapacity benefits than in the richer parts of Britain and a more widespread use of tax credits to top up the wages of those in low-paid jobs.
The report’s co-author, Prof Steve Fothergill, said: “The long-term effect of job destruction in older industrial Britain has been to park vast numbers out of the labour market on incapacity benefits, these days employment and support allowance (ESA). The cost to the Treasury is immense, especially if all the top-up benefits are included.
“Added to this, low wages in these weaker local economies have jacked up spending on in-work benefits such as tax credits and reduced income tax revenue. None of these impacts have diminished over the years, despite the recent upturn and efforts to cut claimant numbers.
“We estimate that the ongoing cost to the exchequer, in extra benefit spending and lost tax revenue, is at least £20bn a year, and possibly nearer £30bn. To put this another way, approaching half the current budget deficit is the result of job destruction in Britain’s older industrial areas.”
The report – Jobs, Welfare and Austerity – said there was a continuous thread linking what happened to British industry in the 1980s to the welfare cuts being borne by communities in the north, Scotland and Wales today.
All the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons: The evidence fails to support George Osborne’s economic austerity policies – the only likely explanation seems to be an intention to rob this nation of everything possible before 2015.
The more we learn of the Tory-led Coalition’s policies, the wider the gap grows between what it is doing and what it should be doing.
Look at the sham psychometric tests, exposed by fellow blogger Steve Walker in a series of articles on his Skwawkbox site. It is now firmly established that the DWP – aided by the Cabinet office ‘nudge unit’ – set out to pressgang put-upon benefit claimants into taking part in a crude piece of neuro-linguistic programming – no matter what answers you provided, the test always pushed out a ridiculously upbeat appraisal of your character and then tried to get you to act according to this verdict in your jobsearching activities. The theory is that this will make a jobseeker more confident and finding a job easier. The problem is that it’s quite utterly ludicrous.
If you haven’t already, you can read the Skwawkbox exposure of this particular caper on that site – there are plenty of links to it from this one. The reason it is mentioned here is that it provides a useful set of questions with which to analyse any government activity: First, is the theory behind this activity sound? Second, if that theory is being used to support a particular course of action, is that action justifiable?
Firstly, the letter warns against the perils of losing market confidence. By this, we can see that it means we should fear any downward revision of our credit rating by the credit agencies, as “a one percentage point increase in government bond yields would add around £8.1 billion to annual debt interest payments by 2017-18”.
What’s being said is that a drop in our credit rating would mean the people and organisations that have invested in UK government debt (by buying our bonds) might move their funds to others, meaning the government could be faced with an interest rate rise, leading to increased difficulty in borrowing.
As Professor Malcolm Sawyer notes in Fiscal Austerity: The ‘cure’ which makes the patient worse (Centre for Labour and Social Studies, May 2012), “It is well-known that a government can always service debt provided that it is denominated in its own currency. At the limit the UK government can ‘print the money’ in order to service the debt: this would not take form of literally ‘printing money’ but rather the Central Bank being a willing purchaser of government debt in exchange for money.” This is what is happening at the moment. Our debt is in UK pounds, and we can always service it. Our creditors know that, so they remain happy to continue financing it.
This means that the Treasury’s next point, that “any loss of investor confidence in the UK’s fiscal position would not only affect the UK, but also the global economy” is also meaningless. There won’t be a loss of investor confidence, so there won’t be an effect on the global economy.
We move on – to the Chancellor’s claim that fiscal austerity is required to prevent the slowing of economic growth that happens when the national debt hits 90 per cent of gross domestic product (or thereabouts).
Obviously I haven’t had time to look up eight academic works to support any opposing theory I may wish to create – and I think I would be foolish to try. I don’t have any grounding in economics beyond what I’ve been able to pick up by following the national and international debates.
He writes: “Most economists are unable to conceptualize anything that someone with more standing in the profession did not already write about. This is the only reason that the Reinhart-Rogoff 90 per cent debt-to-GDP threshold was ever taken seriously to begin with.”
That prodded my curiosity to check some of the papers listed by the Treasury in support of its stance, and the three that I checked (The Real Effects of Debt, Public Debt and Growth, and How Costly Are Debt Crises?) all listed the Reinhart-Rogoff paper in their supporting references. So Mr Baker is right.
“Debt is an arbitrary number,” he continues. “The value of long-term debt fluctuates with the interest rate… The value of our debt will plummet if interest rates rise… This means that we could buy back long-term debt issued today at interest rates of less than 2.0 percent for discounts of 30-40 percent. This would sharply reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio at zero cost.
“Bonds carry a face value, meaning the amount that will be paid off when they reach maturity. This is what gets entered in our debt figure. However bonds also carry a market price, which fluctuates inversely with interest rates. The longer the term of the bond, the more its price will vary with interest rates.
“If interest rates rise, as just about everyone expects over the next three-to-five years, then the market price of the bonds we have issued in the current low interest rate environment will fall sharply. Since we count our debt at the face value of the bonds, not their market price, we could take advantage of the drop in bond prices to buy up… bonds at sharp discounts to their face value.
“The question is why would we do this, we would still pay the same interest? The answer is that the policy would make no sense for exactly this reason.
“However, if we accept the Reinhart-Rogoff 90 per cent curse, then reducing our debt in this way could make a great deal of sense. Suppose we can buy back debt with a face value of 60 per cent of GDP at two-thirds its face value, or 40 per cent of GDP. In our debt accounting we would have reduced our debt-to-GDP ratio by 20 percentage points. If this gets us below the 90 per cent threshold then suddenly we can have normal growth again.
“Yes, this is really stupid, but if you believed the Reinhart-Rogoff 90 per cent debt cliff, then you believe that we can sharply raise growth rates by buying back long-term bonds at a discount. It’s logic folks, it’s not a debatable point — think it through until you understand it.”
I found Mr Baker’s piece after asking Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for his opinion on the Treasury letter. He described it as “Predictable and largely irrelevant”.
So despite my lack of economic education, we have a working theory that suggests the Treasury has built its economic castle on the sand; that its justification for austerity is unsound. What about the austerity measures themselves? Are they justifiable on any level at all?
Evidence suggests not.
Let’s go back to our other friend in this matter, Prof Malcolm Sawyer. “Fiscal austerity and cuts in public expenditure do not work – there is a limited, if any, effect on reducing the budget deficit, and any return to prosperity is severely undermined.” We can see that this is true, using the government’s own figures. It managed to cut the deficit from £150 billion to £120 billion in 2011-12, mostly by axing large projects that invested in the UK economy. How much did it cut from the deficit in 2012-13? Less than £1 billion. The benefit cuts that created much of the fuel for this blog have not helped to cut the deficit at all.
“The reduction of the budget deficit can only come from a revival of private demand which is harmed by an austerity programme,” Prof Sawyer continues. Again, we can see that this is true. Austerity measures such as benefit cuts and the axing of infrastructure investment projects means there is less money available to the people who are most likely to spend it – the working- and middle-classes, and those who are unemployed. People with less money have to spend just about everything they receive in order to cover their costs. That money passes into circulation and the economy grows, through the fiscal multiplier effect. An attempt to explain this effect appeared on this blog within the last few days. The point is that demand increases when the people who earn the least have more to spend.
Therefore we see that Prof Sawyer’s next statement, “Deficit reduction requires investment programmes and reduction of inequality to stimulate demand”, is already proved.
So the answer is to reduce the unemployment rate by creating more jobs and closing the jobs deficit, as highlighted in this blog only a few days ago; to raise incomes by significantly increasing the minimum wage and adopting the proposed ‘living wage’, as promoted in this blog frequently; and investment in infrastructure projects.
What has Osborne done, along with his economically-illiterate chums?
He has created high unemployment.
He has depressed wages.
He has cut infrastructure projects.
He has, therefore, sucked all the demand out of the economy. What effect has this had?
Economic growth has, in the single word of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, “flatlined”, borrowing has remained high and the national debt is continuing to rise.
In other words, this part-time Chancellor’s strategy – a plan on which we have all been asked to judge the entire Coalition government, let’s not forget – has failed. Hopelessly.
I return you to Prof Sawyer, one last time [bolding mine]: “The austerity programme is economically irrational, socially irresponsible, and lacks credibility that it can reduce the budget deficit and secure any return to prosperity. The time has come to rebuild through investment and through a major assault on inequality.”
Get your votes out: But who will you support, if your local council is holding elections this year? The mid-term poll is always carefully watched, so your vote could sway predictions for the 2015 general election!
Hard though it may be to believe, in the midst of all the ‘Mrs T’ drivel, but life goes on and there are elections on the way.
The Liberal Democrats have launched their bid for seats on 34 councils in England and one in Wales, predictably, with a smear campaign.
Apparently, both their Coalition partners the Conservatives, and Labour, are inefficient and waste money on “vanity projects”.
This will be a hard criticism for the Tories to counter, considering they are about to waste up to £10 million of taxpayers’ – our – money on a ceremonial funeral for Baroness Thatcher that the majority of the people in the UK simply don’t want.
Apparently, MPs can claim £3,750 each, from the taxpayer, because Parliament has been recalled to pay tribute to her. If they all take advantage of it, that alone will cost us £2,437,500!
Praise is due to Labour’s John Mann, who the BBC placed among those calling the debate a waste of money. He said tributes could have been made next week, when Parliament is due to return.
But then, what is the Liberal Democrat plan to increase the Personal Allowance, that we are all allowed to earn before we start paying Income Tax, if it isn’t a vanity project?
Nick Clegg says the Liberal Democrats will spread “the burden of austerity fairly”, but if this policy really has made 24 million families in the UK £600 better-off than they were in 2010, that means the Treasury has received £14,400,000,000 less than it otherwise would have. Nearly 14-and-a-half BILLION pounds!
This is money that could have eased the severity of the benefit cuts on the poorest in society, or the government could have invested it in projects that would have created jobs, increasing the tax take and lessening the burden of debt repayments and benefits for the poor.
Noticeably absent from Mr Clegg’s speech, at the Eden Project in Cornwall, was any mention of what his party would do with any new council seats it picks up. Instead, he went back to the Liberal Democrat ‘message script’ that was thrust upon his party back between Christmas and the New Year. “Only the Liberal Democrats will build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life” he droned.
Here in Radnorshire, Wales, people hearing that will be thinking those words are familiar, and asking themselves when they were aired before. Oh yes – it was last week, when our MP Roger Williams and AM Kirsty Williams were talking up the increases in the Personal Allowance.
So there’s no offer from the Liberal Democrats.
At least Labour’s Ed Miliband launched his party’s campaign with a solid commitment – he wants councils to be allowed to prevent payday lenders from operating in their areas, and to stop bookmakers from opening as well.
In hard times, it makes sense for gambling to be curbed – although it is a shame that the last Labour government allowed it to become commonplace before the financial crash hit. And payday lenders must be brought to heel – the huge interest rates they charge mean borrowers – who need the money because they receive such a poor pay packet from their fatcat bosses, don’t forget – fall even further into debt.
But Labour’s recent behaviour in Parliament has created deep mistrust of the party among its core voters. Labour betrayed the poorest workers in the UK, and everybody who is looking for a job, by supporting Iain Duncan Smith’s retroactive law to legalise his illegal sanctions against jobseekers who would not take part in his slave-labour ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes to raise cash for ‘work programme provider’ companies and commercial enterprises that took part.
If Labour wants to win that trust back, it needs to field prospective councillors who genuinely want to represent the interests of the people in their wards, with good Labour values – ensuring they get the best value for their council tax money, rather than turning services over to private enterprises who then make councils pay through the nose for inferior work, for example.
And what about all the new contenders that have sprung up since the Coalition came to power and started reversing all the good work the previous Labour government did, justifying it by saying the new austerity made it necessary (it isn’t)?
The National Health Action Party can be ruled out, I think. That organisation is a single-issue party created solely to attack Coalition members of Parliament, and anyone else who voted in support of the Health and Social Care Act, that allows private, for-profit companies to run NHS services.
What about the ‘No’ Party? This group claims the UK needs a fresh start, and wants to contend the next general election “on a massive scale”. In that case, they should start at local level. Political organisations of any kind won’t be trusted with Parliamentary seats until their members have proved themselves in the local arena and the May elections are a perfect opportunity to get started. Where are the ‘No’ candidates?
What about the People of the British Political and Lawful Rebellion Party, which says it aims “to put the People back into politics”.
This organisation’s Facebook page says: “It is time this country came together and started the mass political and legal upheavel required for a legitimate, lawful, peaceful and successful rebellion. As a newly founded political party, we take one-step at at time while learning to utilise our skills as individuals and collectively.”
Okay, then why not start now – in local councils? Then the ordinary people will be able to find out what they’re all about.
It seems too early for any wide-based, mainstream ‘Party of the Left’, of the kind Ken Loach has been pushing, to come together in time for these elections – which is a shame.
In the light of Labour’s actions on the Jobseekers (Back to the Workhouse) Bill, it is possible that there does need to be another mainstream, national left-wing political organisation – if only to remind Labour of what it ought to be.
One of the most telling comments about the late Baroness Thatcher was that she changed not only the Conservatives, but other political parties, meaning that Labour followed a similar course to the Conservatives when it came to office in 1997.
It’s time Labour remembered that there are other, real and workable alternatives – and started working on them.
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