Philip Daves, Conservative MP for (to that constituency’s great embarrassment) Shipley: With this history, he should be the last person the Daily Mail asks to justify Coalition policy on the disabled.
Where, exactly, is the “fury” that the Daily Mail wants us to believe has been sparked by the UN’s decision to investigate breaches of human rights by the Coalition government?
Nowhere, apart from at the Daily Mail and the Coalition government!
The paper reported yesterday (correctly) that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has launched a formal investigation into whether the UK’s Coalition Conservative and Liberal Democrat government has committed “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people.
It then went right off the rails by adding that Conservative MPs had branded the investigation as “politically motivated”, saying this country’s record on help for disabled people was among the best in the world. Take particular note of the word “was”.
“These people at the UN are idiots,” said Mr Davies, who is an imbecile. Nobody should accept his word on anything. The people of his Shipley constituency must be bitterly embarrassed that they ever elected him.
In fact, the paper is not wrong in saying the UK’s record was very good, as long as it qualifies that remark by adding “until the general election of 2010”. After then, disability policy went pear-shaped in a big way.
Even the box-out in yesterday’s article – which, one must presume, is intended to show how well the government is treating the disabled – shot itself in the foot.
“The disability living allowance (DLA)… has now been replaced by the personal independence payment (PIP),” it states. “In 2012, there were over 3 million DLA claimants in the UK, but the Government estimates 600,000 fewer disabled people will qualify for PIP by 2018.”
Take note of the wording; the paper accepts that the people losing benefit are disabled. DLA and PIP are intended to provide support for the disabled in their daily lives (including work), so this passage is an admission that the government is cutting disabled people off from the support they need.
Discussing the Work Capability Assessment “for those claiming Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support”, the box-out comes seriously unstuck in its attempt to use – shall we say – diplomatic language to disguise what is happening.
“Almost two million people were assessed by health workers” it states. These people were not doctors – they were “health workers”. In fact, it turns out that these so-called medical professionals were almost entirely unqualified to confirm or deny the conditions of the people they were examining; their job was to put simple “yes” or “no” answers in a computer-based tick-box system devised by a private insurance company called Unum, for the purpose of denying benefit to as many people as possible.
“Those ruled unfit for work were then moved onto the new Employment and Support Allowance and were given another exam, again using a points-based system, to decide how much support they qualified for,” the box-out added. This is completely inaccurate, of course. People on the old benefits received just one WCA, to determine whether the government would allow them to receive ESA. They were, however, forced to undergo reassessment at uneven intervals thereafter, in a form of government-sponsored psychological torture.
The sheer volume of error caused by the system was such that no less than 10,600 claimants died between January and November 2011. We have no data on fatalities since then because the cowards in the Coalition government have refused to release them. In addition, the volume of appeals against WCA decisions skyrocketed – even after some of those who lodged proceedings died due to the stress of going through a lengthy procedure while having to survive on nothing but fresh air and the kindness of others.
In response, the government has changed the rules in order to make it harder for people to appeal.
Is this the kind of treatment that your government wants you to think is among the “best in the world”?
The main article also sideswipes UN special rapporteur for housing Raquel Rolnik, although a paragraph rehashing the abusive nickname ‘Brazil Nut’, coined by the Mail a few months ago, appears to have been removed from the web version.
It merely states that she “sparked a furious reaction from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith after she criticised the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax'”. He wasn’t the only one. Grant Shapps had a few things to say about it too – and both of them were slapped down hard by her response, which demonstrated very clearly that their information was wrong and hers was accurate.
This one is particularly revealing about the Tory reaction to Ms Rolnik’s visit.
Here is information that shows Ms Rolnik was right and the Tories – and the papers supporting them – were wrong.
Finally, here is an article about the Mail‘s response to the UN poverty ambassadors who said Coalition welfare changes may breach the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor.
Put it all together and there’s no reason at all to pay any attention to the Daily Mail or its coterie of Tory rent-a-quotes.
Samuel Miller should be known to all those of you who have followed the plight of the sick and disabled under the Coalition government.
He has written the following comment, which Wordpress seems keen to deny with an ‘Invalid security token’ warning:
“The Daily Mail’s fury at the UN’s inquiry into disability rights violations is predictable and frankly feigned. An initial analysis of its published news stories reveals that the tabloid has, for the most part, willfully ignored the welfare crisis for Britain’s sick and disabled people and has paid scant attention to the deaths associated with the draconian welfare reforms.
“As an experiment, take the names from this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=LmTI3NETGGs) and insert them into the site search of the Daily Mail, filtering by ‘most recent’, ‘oldest’, and ‘relevance’. You’ll easily find Stephanie Bottrill (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?sel=site&searchPhrase=stephanie+bottrill ), but be hard-pressed to locate other deceased individuals, such as Craig Monk (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2117718/British-people-committing-suicide-escape-poverty-Is-State-wants.html; thanks largely to the concern of journalist Sonia Poulton).
“Other welfare deaths covered by the Daily Mail include only Jacqueline Harris (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2513284/Half-blind-woman-crippled-pain-killed-benefits-bosses-stopped-disability-payments–following-TWO-MINUTE-assessment.html), and Mark Wood (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2570144/Aspergers-sufferer-phobia-food-dead-judged-fit-work-benefits-cut.html)—the death of David Clapson, a diabetic former soldier, recently received coverage by both The Mirror and The Guardian, but was ignored by the Daily Mail.
“I wish to commend you for your tireless efforts and support, Mike.”
Thank you for the kind words, Samuel.
The victim: Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations’ expert Special Rapporteur on Housing is once again the victim of a baseless Daily Mail smear piece.
Yet again, the Daily Heil has been using the tactics of its best friend Adolf Hitler – the ‘Big Lie’ – to attack a United Nations official whose job is to point out that Coalition government policies are harming the innocent poor.
The Flail‘s tone was Nurembergian – and almost entirely fact-free – as it denounced ‘Brazil Nut’ Raquel Rolnik for imaginary crimes against Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts – the homicidal, if not genocidal, measures that are driving hundreds of thousands of people into destitution and despair.
You see, the Fail is fine with destitution and despair for the poor – its readers are all rich middle- or upper-class housewives who pass their days spending their husbands’ vast fortunes (this is not entirely true, but is exactly the sort of generalisation you can expect from that paper. If you are a Mail reader, it isn’t such fun when you’re the victim, is it?) and gossiping.
The news story is that a group of United Nations poverty ambassadors has written a 22-page letter pointing out that cuts to social security benefits introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and enforced by his Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Coalition government may constitute a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor.
The letter states: “The package of austerity measures enacted could amount to retrogressive measures prohibited under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified in 1974.”
Among the benefit changes it highlights are alterations to housing benefit, council tax benefit, working age benefits and the bedroom tax and the benefits cap – which everybody agrees would be a good idea if it had been limited to a reasonable amount, rather than one at which the Conservative-led Coalition could throw people into hardship.
The Mail‘s report pays little attention to the facts, lavishing far more space on Mrs Rolnik herself. It said she had been nicknamed the ‘Brazil Nut’, which she had – by the Daily Mail; and went on to attempt to cast doubt on her authority as special rapporteur on housing and those of fellow UN ambassadors Maria Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, special rapporteur on extreme poverty; and Olivier De Schutter, the special rapporteur on the right to food.
These are experts in their field who have been engaged by the United Nations – a higher-ranking legal authority than the UK – to investigate government policies, but that’s not good enough for the Mail.
It prefers to get its opinions from tupenny-ha’penny Tory thinktanks.
So it casts doubt. The letter is from ‘ambassadors’ and follows an ‘investigation’, according to the Mail, because putting those words in that way casts doubt upon their validity.
Mrs Rolnik was brought up as a Marxist, the Mail states – as if that has anything to do with her findings. And the report claims she should leave the UK alone and concentrate on problems in her own country, where millions of people live in shanty towns – even though the writer, ‘Jason Groves’, should know perfectly well that her job involves just that.
He clearly doesn’t want you to see her comments on housing in Brazil, prior to the football World Cup which is being held there at the moment: “We expected that the champion of many football cups would use this opportunity to show the world it is also a champion of the right to housing, in particular for people living in poverty, but the information I have received shows otherwise.”
She had received allegations of evictions without due process or in breach of international human rights standards, cases in which residents and citizens had not been consulted and were barred from to participation in decisions that had a grave impact on their standard of living. Concerns had also been expressed about very low compensation that might lead to the creation of new “informal settlements” (shanty towns) with inadequate living conditions or greater rates of homelessness.
“Authorities should avoid at all costs any negative impacts on then human rights of the individuals and communities, especially the most vulnerable… [and] should ensure that their actions, and those of third parties involved in the organization of the events, contribute to the creation of a stable housing market and have a long term positive impact in the residents of the cities where events take place.”
So critics who think she has ignored issues in her home country are wrong.
That’s a bit of a blow to the Mail‘s credibility, isn’t it?
The measures criticised by Mrs Rolnik and her colleagues were brought in “to tackle the huge budget deficit left by Labour”, according to the Mail. Again, this is wrong. The Coalition government has made no real effort to tackle the budget deficit which was necessitated when Labour saved our banking system, the threat having been created by Tory-supporting bankers whose greed put their firms into overwhelming debt. Look at the annual deficit for the last financial year; it is still well above £100 billion. If you agree that the cuts were to bring the deficit down, you have swallowed a lie.
Iain Duncan Smith, the man this blog describes as ‘RTU’ (standing for ‘Returned To Unit’ in tribute to his failed Army career) is reportedly furious at this intervention from the United Nations, which has a duty to intervene if governments of member countries descend into criminality, as has happened with the UK (here’s just one example).
According to the Mail, he said: “They talk down our country, criticising the action we’ve taken to get control of the public finances and create a fairer more prosperous Britain. They simply do not have a clue – and we will not be taking lessons from a group of unelected commentators who can’t get their facts straight.”
Taking no notice: Councillors appear to be breaking the law in order to enforce Bedroom Tax evictions. [Picture: The Guardian}
It seems the ruling group of Powys County Council, here in Mid Wales, has challenged the law in its attempts to block a ‘no-eviction’ motion on the Bedroom Tax.
The Labour motion was put forward at a meeting of the full council on October 24. It called on councillors to note the comments of Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Housing, who said that the Bedroom Tax policy could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing, and asked them to pledge that Powys will not evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of it.
Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion. They have a financial (or pecuniary) interest in the matter as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the policy. This meant around 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.
It seems that members of the ruling Shires Independent Group, realising that there was a real possibility that the motion would be carried, then called for any members who are themselves social housing tenants – or have friends or family who are social housing tenants – should also be barred from taking part.
This made it impossible to continue the debate. The matter has been passed to the council’s Standards Committee, whose members have been asked to judge whether landlord councillors should receive special dispensation in order to debate the motion.
It seems that this decision is wrong in law.
According to Essential Local Government, a journalistic textbook from the Vox Political vaults, “In some cases, the Secretary of State for the Environment or Secretary of State for Wales can issue either a general or particular dispensation entitling members with declared interests to take part in debates and to vote. An example of this is that councillors who are council tenants may take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.”
That book was published in 1993 but there is no reason to expect such a general dispensation to have been removed and therefore it seems that any call for councillors who are tenants – or who know tenants – not to be able to take part in a debate can have no basis in law.
The motion should have been debated by councillor-tenants and members with no interest, and a decision made on the day, nearly a month ago. The delay means social housing tenants in Powys (and VP knows of 686 affected households in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency alone) may have been subjected to an unnecessary month of evictions or threats of eviction.
It has been suggested that the decision to block the motion may have been prompted by figures from the House of Commons library which suggest that as a result of the Bedroom Tax the amount of Housing Benefit paid to private landlords (remember, HB is a landlord subsidy and does not enrich tenants at all) will rise from £7.9 billion to £9.4 billion.
If the Standards Committee decides to allow them to debate the motion, it is likely that the decision will therefore be corrupt.
The matter went unreported by the local press because none of the newspapers had sent any reporters to cover the meeting.
The Tory Faraway Tree: By the power of very bad image editing, David Cameron, Iain (RTU) Smith and Grant Shapps have replaced the protagonists. Careful, Mr Shapps – your panties are showing! How unusual that they aren’t on fire!
Do any British readers remember what it was like to live in a country where the government respected the law, and accepted facts without making up silly little stories about them?
What an amazing place that must have been.
Sadly, we’re all trapped in Tory-Coalition purgatory for the next 19 months at least, and have to endure the relentless procession of nonsense associated with it.
Yesterday (Friday) we were provided with two glowing examples.
Firstly, the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, was treated with extreme prejudice by the Tories and their poodles in the right-wing press, after she announced she would be filing an unfavourable report after investigating the effect of the bedroom tax on the British people.
Tory chairman and ‘Michael Green’ impersonator Grant Shapps then wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to complain about the Special Rapporteur’s behaviour. A reply has now arrived and, rather than give it the due consideration it deserves, Shapps seems to have handed it straight to The Sun.
That newspaper reported that the UN had “slapped down” Ms Rolnik for her behaviour. Shapps himself told the paper: “People expect the UN to be neutral, yet on this occasion a former Workers Party politician came with a clear agenda” – a bizarre claim, when the letter itself creates a completely different view.
It states: “Ms Raquel Rolnik is one of 72 independent experts appointed by the United nations Human Rights Council – the lead UN body responsible for human rights – on the basis of their expertise and independence, and following a competitive selection process. As in the case of all mandate holders, Ms Rolnik serves in an independent capacity and in accordance with a Code of Conduct adopted by the Council. She is not a staff member of the United Nations, is neither accountable to nor appointed by the Secretary-General, and does not receive any compensation beyond a daily allowance when engaged in mandated activities.
“Among other activities, Special Rapporteurs are mandated to undertake country visits to assess human rights enjoyment on the ground. The United Kingdom is one of 94 Member States which has extended a standing invitation to mandate holders thus indicating that it is open to the visit of any Special Rapporteur. Country visits are governed by rules and procedures set out in the Code of Conduct referred to above and the Manual of Operations adopted by Special Procedures. Ms Rolnik’s visit was planned and organised over many months in consultation with the Government in compliance with these rules and procedures.
“As in the case of all country visits, Ms Rolnik’s visit concluded with a press conference and a press statement, provided to the Government in advance, which indicate preliminary findings and recommendations. The final report on the visit will be submitted to the Council’s twenty-fifth session which will take place in March 2014 in Geneva.”
Reading between the lines, we can piece together the gist of Shapps’ correspondence – and it’s clear that he made a lot of mistaken assumptions. Firstly, it seems likely he wrote to Ban Ki-moon demanding that Ms Rolnik be fired from her position, in the belief that she is a hired hand and that the Secretary-General can hire and fire her as he pleases, the way Tories would like to run the UK. She’s just ‘the help’ in Shapps’s eyes. He must also have made a claim about her remuneration – possibly that she receives too much money from the UN or that, as a Socialist, she must be pulling pennies out of the public purse like there’s no tomorrow. Both claims get short shrift.
Next, Shapps is likely to have reasserted his claim that “It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible.” The UN response is the same as Ms Rolnik’s own statement in her preliminary report.
And the final paragraph seems to be a response to his further claim that it was out of line “to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring.”
Taken at face value, then, this is a letter that entirely supports Ms Rolnik, both in her position within the United Nations and the way she carried out her role in the UK.
But that wasn’t enough for the United Nations, whose higher echelons clearly wanted to ensure there can be no doubt about the way this – let’s face it – international incident is being viewed.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Huffington Post: “The Sun‘s take on it – that ‘The United Nations has slapped down’ Ms Rolnik – is pure spin. There was no such intention whatsoever.
“In the face of a blizzard of misinformation and personal abuse of Ms Rolnik, published in one or two other UK tabloids during and immediately after her visit, the letter to Mr Shapps simply corrects the factual errors that have been asserted about her status and her role as an independent UN expert, or ‘Special Rapporteur.’
“Ms Rolnik’s visit was planned and organized over many months in consultation with the UK Government in compliance with these rules and procedures.
“As in the case of all country visits, Ms Rolnik’s visit concluded with a press conference and a press statement, provided to the Government in advance, which indicate preliminary findings and recommendations.
“The final report on the visit will be submitted to the Human Rights Council’s session next March in Geneva.
“In short, there was nothing unusual or untoward about Ms Rolnik’s visit – apart from some of the reactions to it.”
No doubt Mr Colville will have drawn his own conclusions about the current UK administration from that Sun article – conclusions that, one hopes, will be included in that final report next March.
The New Statesman reckons the Tories have an “antipathy for evidence” and presents a theory regarding why this should be so: “If all the facts are against you, your best tactic is to make stuff up and hope you can shout the other person down (changing your mind obviously not being an option).”
Alternatively, we return to V for Vendetta territory. The graphic novel’s writer, Alan Moore, referenced Enid Blyton’s novel The Magic Faraway Tree several times. For an anarchist like the story’s protagonist, the Land of Do-as-you-please would be very attractive – but here in reality, it seems the Tories think they’ve taken the ladder to that land and can do and say whatever they want – and facts don’t matter.
For more evidence of this, let’s turn to our second example: The Department for Work and Pensions and its reaction to a benefit tribunal in Scotland, who ruled against Fife Council, saying that a room of less than 70 square feet should not be considered a bedroom for the purpose of the bedroom tax. This led the council to call the tax “unworkable” and demand its reversal. Since then, a disabled gentleman has won a ruling against Westminster Council, after he claimed that a room used to store equipment that helps him manage his disability was not, and never has been, a bedroom.
In his decision notice, the judge wrote: “The term ‘bedroom’ is nowhere defined [in the relevant regulations]. I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so defined.”
Perhaps we are to assume Iain Returned-To-Unit Smith believes that, having achieved one retrospective law via the normal legislative route, he can now ordain such rulings willy-nilly. He’s wrong.
His Department’s demand that “when applying the size criteria and determining whether or not a property is under-occupied, the only consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord, but not by measuring rooms” is worthless.
If he wanted that to be the case, he should have written it into his silly little Bedroom Tax Bill (or whatever it was called).
For the moment, Shapps and RTU can get away with their bizarre pronouncements – although they can’t expect to be believed – because the Conservatives are in office.
But they won’t be in office forever.
In the meantime, let’s all keep supporting the opposers, wherever they turn up. If you are being subjected to the Bedroom Tax – appeal. And write to the UN, supporting Ms Rolnik and her findings against the tax.
You have a chance to prove that the Land of Do-as-you-please is a very small place.
And, as in the book, the return to normality involves a very, very long descent.
[Image: Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation]
This is how the right-wing media try to stifle popular protest against their masters – by trying to distract attention away from the facts.
There can be no doubt about what today’s big news story is: According to the Daily Mirror, hundreds of thousands of families have been put into rent arrears because of the ConDem government-imposed Bedroom Tax – and, according to the Independent, 50,000 of those people are now facing eviction.
Isn’t that exactly what the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, was saying at the end of her recent tour of Britain to investigate the effect of the Bedroom Tax (often wrongly described as the spare-room subsidy. A subsidy would give money to people; this takes it away)?
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which the UK is a signatory) includes housing as part of the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.
But Ms Rolnik said that in Britain “the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life” were being hit hard by the policy – and called for it to be abolished.
The alleged newspaper published a series of character assassination pieces on the internationally-respected United Nations special rapporteur, in which it criticised her for staying in a £300-a-night hotel (booked on her behalf by the United Nations and nothing to do with her personally), and for being born in a country (Brazil) that it described as “violent” and “slum-ridden” (an accident of birth).
It also quoted some stupid Tory lucky-to-be-an-MP called Stewart Jackson, who said she was a “loopy Brazilian leftie”.
But none of its claims about her mission – or those of the Tory MPs it quoted – were true. All were refuted within a day of being voiced.
Today, the Mail thinks it is more important to tell us that the B&B owners who refused to let a gay couple stay on their premises have been forced to sell up because of lack of business.
That other bastion of Conservatism, the Torygraph, tells us that Conservative MPs are on a mass outing to Chipping Norton today. How wonderful for them.
One couple for whom Chipping Norton isn’t wonderful consists of Toni Bloomfield (25), who lives there with her partner Paul Bolton (42) and his four children.
“I have to pay £98 extra a month since the bedroom tax came in,” she told the Independent. “We’ve got a four-bedroom house and Paul’s four children, aged between two and eight, live with us. Before the school holidays we were struggling and now we’re nearly three months behind on rent.
“The children get free school meals and feeding them through the holidays was tough. Paul and I are only eating in the evenings two or three nights a week to make sure we can put enough food on the table. We’re not working, but not out of choice. Trying to find a full-time job here is a nightmare.”
Chipping Norton is the home of David Cameron, when he isn’t pretending to be the Prime Minister, and lies in his constituency of Witney. If people in the Prime Minister’s constituency can’t get on in life, what hope does anyone else have?
It would be interesting to hear more from Mr Bolton and Ms Bloomfield. What is it like, living below the breadline in the home of the infamous ‘Chipping Norton set’? Do they rub shoulders with Jeremy Clarkson down the supermarket (when they can afford to go)? If so, would they kindly suggest to him that he lay off the drink for a while, as it’s encouraging him to say silly things about standing for election?
The information supporting the story was supplied by campaigning group False Economy, which submitted Freedom of Information requests to local authorities across the UK. Of these, 114 replied, providing the figure of 50,000 tenants threatened with eviction.
As not all local authorities responded, the newspaper stated that the total number of affected council tenants was likely to be much higher.
Separate research by the National Housing Federation swells this number by 30,000 housing association tenants, the Independent states.
Clifford Singer, campaign manager for False Economy, said: “Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the Government has forced through, both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.”
The Daily Mirror‘s report estimated 330,000 families to have fallen behind with their rent, including around 165,000 who always paid on time in the past.
The reality of the situation is that it shows how badly wages have slipped since Margaret Thatcher came into power with all her silly neo-liberal drip-down economic theories. The Bedroom Tax is a threat because working people do not earn enough to pay the rent along with all their other overheads. This is why the Housing Benefit bill has blown up to huge proportions; if only the unemployed were claiming it, it would be manageable. Employers are to blame – partly.
And who really benefits from Housing Benefit? Not the tenant! No, the people who really receive Housing Benefit are landlords. This is why some, including this blog, have called for it to be renamed ‘Landlord Subsidy’. So part of the blame must also lie with them and the amounts they charge – especially for council houses, where the money never really leaves the local authority’s bank account; it would go out, only to be paid straight back.
So we can say that the debt into which these people have fallen is not their fault; working people should be paid enough to be able to cope, and the unemployed should be able to rely on the state to support them until they can get back on their feet – without the state, itself, going into debt.
It has been created because, somewhere along the line, somebody has been taking too much money for themselves.
The masks were adopted by the loosely-affiliated protesters Anonymous as a clear indication of members’ feelings towards a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government whose actions, they believe, have been increasingly fascist.
These people have a point.
Has anyone read V for Vendetta lately? An early chapter, ‘Victims’, provides the historical background to the fascist Britain of the story – and provides very disturbing parallels with the current government and its policies.
In the story, there is a recession and a nuclear war. Fortunately, in real life we have managed to avoid the war (so far) but the recession of 2007 onwards has caused severe hardship for many, with average wages cut by nine per cent (in real terms) due to government policies.
In the story, the line “Everybody was waiting for the government to do something” is notable. Isn’t that just about as British as you can get? As a nation, we seem unwilling to take the initiative; we just wait for someone else to do something. We queue up. And then we complain when we don’t find exactly what we wanted at the end of the queue. But then it’s too late.
Does the government “do something”? Well, no – not in the story, because there isn’t any government worth mentioning at this point. But then… “It was all the fascist groups. The right-wingers. They’d all got together with some of the big corporations…”
Here’s another parallel. How many corporations are enjoying the fruits of the Conservative-led (right-wing) government’s privatisation drive?
The NHS carve-up signified huge opportunities for firms like Circle Health and Virgin, and Bain Capital (who bought our blood plasma supplies). Care UK, the firm that famously sponsored Andrew Lansley while he was working on the regressive changes to the health service that eventually became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, no doubt also has fingers in the pie.
The Treasury is receiving help – if you can call it that – from the ‘big four’ accountancy firms – PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. They have written the law on tax avoidance. By no coincidence at all, these are the firms that run the major tax avoidance schemes that have been taken up by businesses and rich individuals who are resident in the UK. For more information on the government’s attitude to taxing the rich, see Michael Meacher’s recent blog entry.
The Department for Work and Pensions has employed many private firms; this is the reason that department is haemorrhaging money. There are the work programme provider firms who, as has been revealed in previous blog entries, provide absolutely no useful training and are less likely to find anyone a job than if they carried on by themselves; there are the IT firms currently working on Universal Credit, about which Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith lied to Parliament when he said he was having to write off £34 million of expenditure – the true figure was later revealed to be closer to £161 million, almost five times as much; there are Atos and Capita, and probably other firms that have been hired to carry out so-called ‘work capability assessments’ of people claiming sickness, incapacity and disability benefits, according to a plan that intentionally ignores factual medical evidence and places emphasis on a bogus, tick-box test designed to find ways to cut off their support; and there is Unum Insurance, the criminal American corporation that designed that test, in order to push British workers into buying its bogus insurance policies that work on exactly the same principle – this is theft on a grand scale.
So we have a government in cahoots with big business, and treating the citizens – the voters – like cattle. We’ll see more of this as we go on.
“Then they started taking people away… All the black people and the Pakistanis…” All right, these social groups have not been, specifically, targeted (yet) – but we have seen evidence that our government would like to do so. Remember those advertising vans the Home Office funded, that drove around London with a message that we were told was for illegal immgrants: “Go home”?
“That is a term long-associated with knuckle-dragging racists,” said Owen Jones on the BBC’s Any Questions.
“We’re seeing spot-checks and racial profiling of people at tube stations. We have a woman on the news… she was born in Britain; she was told she was stopped because she ‘didn’t sound British’. And we have the official Home Office [Twitter] account being used to send gleeful tweets which show people being thrown into vans with a hashtag, ‘#immigrationoffenders’.
“Is this the sort of country you want to live in, where the Conservatives use taxpayers’ money to inflame people’s fears and prejudices in order to win political advantage? Because I don’t think most people do want that to happen.”
This blog’s article on the subject added that not only this, but other governments (like that in Greece) had created an opportunity to start rounding up anybody deemed “undesirable” by the state. “Greece is already rounding up people of unorthodox sexuality, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants and the poor and transferring them to internment and labour camps,” it stated.
Note also the government’s response to criticism from UN special rapporteur on adequate housing Raquel Rolnik. Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith and their little friends tried to say that she had not done her job properly but, when this was exposed as a lie, they reverted to type and attacked her for her racial origin, national background, and beliefs – political and personal. You can read the lot in this despicable Daily Mail smear piece.
Back to V for Vendetta, where the narrative continues: “White people too. All the radicals and the men who, you know, liked other men. The homosexuals. I don’t know what they did with them all.” Well, we know what Greece is doing with them all, and in the story, such people also ended up in internment and labour camps. We’ll come back to that.
“They made me go and work in a factory with a lot of other kids. We were putting matches into boxes. I lived in a hostel. It was cold and dirty…”
Last month this blog commented on government plans for ‘residential Workfare for the disabled’, rounding up people with disabilities and putting them into modern-day workhouses where someone else would profit from their work while they receive benefits alone – and where the potential for abuse was huge. If that happens, how long will it be before every other jobseeker ends up in a similar institution?
A while ago, a friend in the cafe I visit said that a Tory government will always see every class of people other than its own as “livestock”. That’s the word he used – “livestock”. From the above, with descriptions of people being treated like cattle, or being herded into the workhouse for someone else to profit from their work, it seems he has a very strong case.
So let’s go back to these internment and labour camps – in V for Vendetta they’re called “resettlement” camps. A later chapter – The Vortex – reveals that inmates at such camps are subjected to unethical medical experimentation. The doctor carrying out the trials notes in her diary that the camp commandant “promised to show me my research stock… they’re a poor bunch.”
Her research stock are human beings who have been subjected to conditions similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps. Notice the language – this doctor considers the other human beings taking part to be her property. And they are “research stock” – in other words, she does not see them as other human beings but as livestock – exactly as the friend in the cafe stated.
Today, Vox Political hands over to Geoff Reynolds, a commenter who submitted this in response to the government’s announcement that it is putting a 5p charge on plastic bags in order to discourage their use.
Here in Wales, the Welsh Government levied a charge on plastic bags a long time ago; clearly the Tories and the Lib Dems have realised that this was successful and their scheme is a copycat strategy – but you probably won’t see them admitting it.
Here’s Geoff, who starts his comment with his habitual shout:
‘WHILST THE DEATHS OF THOSE WHO HAVE SUCCUMBED TO THE FALLOUT CAUSED BY THE TRULY EVIL CRIMES OF WELFARE REFORMS SPIRAL HOPELESSLY OUT OF CONTROL, THIS IS THE ANSWER FROM OUR GOVERNMENT:
‘“PLASTIC BAGS ARE TO COST 5 PENCE.”
‘WHAT F**KING WORLD DO THESE IMBECILES BELONG ON? IT CERTAINLY ISN’T THE ONE WHERE I LIVE!
‘PENSIONERS ARE DYING OF HYPOTHERMIA, PEOPLE ARE HAVING THEIR HOMES TAKEN, DISABLED ARE BEING STARVED TO DEATH AND MORE CHILDREN ARE BEING BORN INTO POVERTY THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE THE LAST WAR.
‘The only things that are booming are food banks, yet these gormless b*st*rds, who got more for attending a Parliament call-back for Thatcher’s death than I get to live on for a full year, have the impudence to place “a shilling tariff on plastic bags”, at the top of the agenda.
‘They chose to ridicule a report by a UNITED NATIONS inspector on the real plight of our nation, while they pass legislation on a bag!
‘The leaking of the bag tariff has taken the thunder from the Lib Dems’ conference… It has been revealed!
‘WAKE UP YOU DELUDED T*SSBAGS!
‘THERE MUST BE MORE BRAIN CELLS IN A DISCARDED SHOWER CAP THAN THE WHOLE OF OUR REPRESENTATIVES IN WESTMINSTER!
‘WORDS FAIL ME. WE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE A GOLDFISH ON A LEAD.’
When he realises we’ve started making satirical music videos about him, Iain Duncan Smith will probably think he’s hit the big time.
Sad, deluded little man.
This is a project that has been developing for a while, after RTU himself went around the media, denying all the factual evidence that said his benefit cap had not put 12,000 people into work, as he was then claiming.
(A previous claim that 8,000 had gone into employment to avoid the effect of the benefit cap had been disproved by polling organisation Ipsos Mori, who surveyed 500 of those 8,000 people and found that only 45 had started work because of the cap. That’s nine per cent of the total claimed by the Secretary-in-a-State).
On this particular media junket, he refused to countenance the factual evidence that was put in front of him, saying he “believed” the anecdotal evidence provided to him by a few members of staff at Job Centre Plus.
That is now worthy of comment in itself, as he has been quick to dismiss the findings of the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, as “anecdotal” – and she has spoken to far more people than he did!
That would have been the end of it – but then it became clear that Mr … Smith was delaying a meeting with the Commons Work and Pensions committee, convened to make him account for his manipulation of the statistics.
It seems clear that he has been waiting for the fuss to die down.
Dear reader, you can probably work out the rest for yourself. The lyrics and music were available and, with the addition of a few more words, Vox Political went into the recording studio.
The audio track that resulted is rudimentary but does the job. Yes, that is Vox founder Mike Sivier’s voice, for which he apologises. He played all the instruments as well, so he supposes he should be doubly apologetic.
The video was put together with photographs trawled from the Internet, interspersed with specially-written captions, and is intended only to give YouTube viewers something visual to enjoy while they’re listening to the song. All the images are copyright their respective creators and were freely stolen for humorous use – for which, again, we apologise.
We think the result is a lot of fun – amateurish, haphazard and slapdash though it is.
It gets the point across.
Please feel free to copy the code and embed the YouTube video anywhere you see fit. This was made to be seen, to be enjoyed, and to get across a message about Iain Duncan Smith and his beliefs.
“Not even this much”: Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates how much he cares about the damage his policies are doing to public health, and to the public finances. (Image: Evening Standard)
When it comes to Iain Duncan Smith, it seems the point still isn’t being made forcefully enough.
So let us be perfectly clear: This man is a liability to the United Kingdom. He is costing this country billions of pounds with his failed pet projects like Universal Credit, his contracted-out work programmes that are more likely to hinder people looking for a job then get them into one, and even his enormous expenses claims – £39, just for breakfast!
Now it seems he has lied to Parliament – yet again. He told the House of Commons, and the country at large, that his Department for Work and Pensions expected to write off £34 million of investment in the IT systems being developed to administer his real-time, six-benefits-in-one Universal Credit. The actual amount, revealed to Parliament’s public accounts committee yesterday, is more like £161 million.
Not only that, but he was lying when he said he had been monitoring the project constantly. If that is true, then why was a civil servant’s personal assistant allowed to sign off contracts when the responsibility lay with himself, or at least his ministers?
Even more damning, it seems the DWP has spent the last six months sitting on this information, rather than actually doing anything about it!
And this odious little liar last week tried to blame the civil service for Universal Credit’s failure. He is a lower form of life than an intestinal worm.
He described her call to abolish the tax as “outrageous”, claiming that it undermined the impartiality of the UN. Isn’t it more accurate to say that she has revealed the truth, and now he is panicking?
He said he wanted UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to investigate Ms Rolnik’s conduct – a line already pointlessly taken by Grant Shapps, all of whose claims were lies, as we discovered yesterday.
In the Daily Mail, he said she had not asked ministers or officials for their input, adding: “I find it staggering that without this official information Mrs Rolnik feels she is in a position to be able to properly prescribe what the future of the policy should be.” In fact, she met many officials and government representatives, all of whom are listed in her preliminary report.
So IDS – or RTU, as we like to describe him here (it refers to Army personnel who are Returned To Unit for failing to make the grade) – has lied again. And he joined a deeply dodgy cadre of Conservatives in denouncing her for – among other things – being born in a country with worse deprivation than the UK. Doesn’t that put her in an excellent position to point out the faults in our system?
But then, what can we expect from this vile creature. There are strains of syphilis with more charm and social grace.
Is the point made yet?
Back in May, Vox Political published ‘Iain Duncan Smith has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled’. That article has been read by more than 12,600 people who almost unanimously supported it. Now we see that he has shown the same contempt, to Parliament, to the British people, and now to a respected and senior United Nations representative. Go back and refresh your memory if you need to do so.
Is the point made now?
No, it probably isn’t.
The fact of the matter is that most people won’t care, because most people don’t think they are affected by the disasters Iain Duncan Smith is inflicting on us.
They are wrong.
Just go back and consider the cost of all his mistakes: Billions of pounds wasted. Possibly tens of billions, when you consider the cumulative effect (although this would be a hard concept for him; he has resisted all attempts to get his Department to provide a cumulative assessment of his regressive changes’ effect on this country’s poor for many months, claiming it would be “too difficult”).
Tens of billions of pounds have been wasted on his so-called attempts to cut the benefit bill, while that bill has increased, year on year, because of his government’s policies.
As Adlai Stevenson said of Nixon (and the comparison to Nixon is well-deserved): “He is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree and then mount the stump to make a speech for conservation.”
This hypocrite does not speak for you. He doesn’t speak for the taxpayers because he is robbing them of their hard-earned money and wasting it despicably. He doesn’t speak for the unemployed, the sick or the disabled because he is a social darwinist who would steal a wheelchair to see how the owner managed without it. He doesn’t speak for Parliament because he has lied to Parliament.
Why aren’t you demanding his dismissal in your millions?
A liar revealed: Grant Shapps, chairman of the Conservative Party (not ‘Michael Green’, as his name-badge suggests). The assertions he made this morning were proved wrong this afternoon.
Oh, so she wasn’t invited by the government and she didn’t visit government offices, did she?
And did she really not use the proper terms for government policies like the bedroom tax?
The press statement by Raquel Rolnik, UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, on her mission to examine the effects of the bedroom tax on the people of the UK suggests otherwise. In no uncertain terms.
Once again, Grant Shapps is exposed as a liar.
He is the chairman of the Conservative Party, the organisation that tells us it is running the country, and you can’t believe a word he says.
From 29 August to 11 September 2013, I undertook an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the invitation of the Government. My visit included various cities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I also had the opportunity to meet Government office from Wales in London.
The main objective of my visit was to assess the country’s achievements and challenges in guaranteeing the right to adequate housing and non-discrimination in this context, in accordance with existing international human rights standards. The assessment includes legislation and policy frameworks as well as the consideration of concrete outcomes from those policies, examining how they respond to the housing needs of women, men and children, with a particular focus on those most vulnerable and disenfranchised.
I wish to start this statement by expressing my gratitude to the various Government Departments, for the cooperation and hospitality extended to us during the organization and throughout the development of this fact-finding visit. I have had the opportunity to meet with numerous Government officials, including some Ministers. In England I met with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Homes and Communities Agency, the Department for International Development and the Manchester City Council. I also met with officials from the Department of Housing and Regeneration from the Welsh Government. In Scotland, I met with the Scottish Government, including the Housing Services and Regeneration, the Housing Supply, the Homelessness and Equality Policy Departments; and with the Scottish National Housing authorities and Planning and Architecture Division. In Northern Ireland, I had the opportunity to meet with the Department for Social Development, and with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, including a representative from Wales, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and with a wide range of civil society organizations, including housing charities, human rights organizations, housing federations, housing associations, campaigners, researchers, litigators and academics.
Lastly, but most importantly, I am thankful for the opportunity to visit housing estates, local areas, Gypsy/Traveler sites and homeless centers, which took place in London, Basildon, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Great Manchester. I was able to hear first-hand testimonies and insights from residents of all ages, and witness living conditions. I wish to thank all those who took the time to meet with me, to travel to join meetings and hearings, and to offer their personal experiences to help me better understand the situation. Without their involvement, support and cooperation this mission would not have been possible.
As I have said throughout my visit, the United Kingdom has much to be proud of in the provision of affordable housing. It has had a history of ensuring that low-income households are not obliged to cope with insecure tenure and poor housing conditions, and can be well-housed. Some of the policies and practices that have played a role in providing social housing include the construction and further regeneration of a large social housing stock as well as a welfare system which covers housing as part of a social safety net. These can serve as an inspiration to other parts of the world. There are also specific efforts to prevent and address homelessness, and the Scottish Homelessness Act abolishing a priority needs test deserves mentioning. These, and others, must be commended and recognized as good human rights practices to be sustained for present and future generations, both by the Central Government as well as the devolved Governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
At the same time, I wish to suggest that the United Kingdom’s Government revisits some policy decisions with direct and indirect impacts on housing as a human right. I will limit myself to a few preliminary and provisional remarks on some of the issues of special concern. These along with other topics will be explored in more detail in my official report to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its 25th session in March 2014.
In carrying out my assessment, I am guided by relevant international human rights law, in particular by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, articles 2 and 11. The United Kingdom ratified this binding instrument on 20 May 1976 without reservations. According to it, the United Kingdom has obligations to take steps to ensure and sustain the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, making use of the maximum of its available resources. Progressive realization represents a strong presumption against retrogressive measures in the protection and promotion of human rights. State parties cannot move backward without offering a strict, evidence-based justification of the need to take such measures and without having weighted various alternatives. Most importantly, Governments must put in place effective safeguards to protect the most vulnerable sectors of society if such decisions are made.
Some of my main preliminary findings indicate signs of retrogression in the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing. It is not clear that every effort has been made to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of retrogression, indeed much of the testimony I heard suggests they are bearing the brunt. Housing deprivation is worsening in the United Kingdom. Increasingly, people appear to be facing difficulties to accessing adequate, affordable, well located and secure housing. The numbers of people on waiting lists for social housing have risen, with reports indicating waits of several years to obtain a suitable house.
The trend has been to give priority to home ownership in detriment of other forms of tenure and to encourage a private renting sector with flexible tenure arrangements. Today, in England, approximately 17.4% of the population is renting in the private market and social housing renters provides for 17.3%. Figures of social renters are slightly higher in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but considerably lower than two decades ago everywhere in the UK. Furthermore, private tenancies can be as short-lived as six months and significantly more expensive than the social rental sector.
Home ownership has provided housing for more than one generation and it is deemed a common aspiration for many. However, the takeover of the housing sector by the financial sector has exposed many households to a highly volatile market, with skyrocketing prices during the boom years and, since 2008, a credit crunch that has essentially paralyzed access to credit. Various stakeholders have warned of potential risks once the interest rate on mortgages starts to claim back. In Northern Ireland, repossessions due to mortgage default continue to be one of the issues of concern.
In England the Government and most stakeholders report that there is a clear shortage of housing due to a mismatch between supply and demand. For example, estimations range around 221,000 new homes needed in England per year, with less than 50% of this need actually being met (approximately 110,000). In view of the Government, this shortage is due to two main factors: the lack of available financing for the housing sector and planning constraints which lead to lack of available land for housing development.
In order to respond to this critical situation, the current Government has launched several initiatives contained in its 2012 Housing Strategy in England, and has created various schemes for investment such as “Help to buy equity loan” and the “Build to Rent” to support private house buyers and developers. A smaller funding allocation is provided for grants for affordable housing under this same package of initiatives. In devolved Governments, various schemes have also been created. For example, in Wales, the “Houses to Homes” initiative aims at bringing long term empty homes back into use.
A second element of this strategy is a significant reform to the planning system which, among other aspects, aims at reducing long and cumbersome administrative processes, by eliminating the regional level planning and pre-defined benchmarks for local councils to provide housing. In turn, this means that local authorities have more responsibilities as well as more direct and autonomous decision-making power. In Scotland, regional level planning has been retained in the four largest cities. A third aspect of the strategy involves the unlocking and selling of public land for housing development, through auctions in the private market without any conditionality.
Simultaneously, the Government has also taken fiscal austerity measures in the context of the economic downturn in efforts to curve spending. The Welfare Reform Act of 2012 which applies UK-wide, includes some measures that have particular impact on the housing benefits, including the housing benefit cap, reductions in legal aid, and in council tax benefit.
Especially worrisome in this package is the so-called “bedroom tax”, or the spare bedroom under occupancy penalty. It came into force on 1 April 2013, without having been previously piloted. It essentially means a reduction in the amount of benefit paid to claimants if the property they are renting from the social housing sector is considered under occupied. The Government has argued that this policy reduces dependency and will make available a stock of under occupied homes.
Fiscal austerity measures include budget cuts in local Government expenditure, as well as significant reduction on the grants available for housing associations to provide social and affordable homes. This implies that social landlords will be required to reach out to the private financial markets in order to fund their building activities. As a consequence they will be pressured to increase their profit-making activities, potentially being forced to increase rent and reduce the stock made available to social renters.
Let me briefly examine how these measures are in line with the right to adequate housing and their impact on the lives of individual people. Allow me to explain.
It is true and I fully share the view of many stakeholders that house building is essential for the economy and for creating much needed jobs. I also fully share the view that there is a shortage on the supply side of the equation, especially in some high demand areas like London or other main cities. However the right to adequate housing compels Governments to look beyond aggregated general figures of supply and demand in order to place housing needs – and not housing markets – at the center of the decision-making.
The right to housing is not about a roof anywhere, at any cost, without any social ties. It is not about reshuffling people according to a snapshot of the number of bedrooms at a given night. It is about enabling environments for people to maintain their family and community bonds, their local schools, work places and health services allowing them to exercise all other rights, like education, work, food or health.
Some researchers argue that the “Help to Buy” scheme can intensify the pressure on prices, which are already high in a number of places. Also, according to recent trends in the housing market and taking into account the high prices of land, market builders have moved towards the higher end of the market. This will not increase the supply for the ones who are struggling to pay their rents or who linger for years in the social housing waiting lists.
Historically, access to affordable housing has been sustained by two main policies, namely, development of social housing with public funding and a needs-tested welfare system including housing benefits and other services that have been directly or indirectly been linked to housing for low income households.
I would like to refer now to the package of welfare reform and its impact on a number of human rights, but especially on the right to adequate housing, such as for those seeking to live independent and dignified lives with physical and mental disabilities. The so-called bedroom tax is possibly the most visible of the measures. In only a few months of its implementation the serious impacts on very vulnerable people have already been felt and the fear of future impacts are a source of great stress and anxiety.
Of the many testimonies I have heard, let me say that I have been deeply touched by persons with physical and mental disabilities who have felt targeted instead of protected; of the grandmothers who are carers of their children and grandchildren but are now feeling they are forced to move away from their life-long homes due to a spare bedroom or to run the risk of facing arrears; of the single parents who will not have space for their children when they come to visit; of the many people who are increasingly having to choose between food and paying the penalty. Those who are impacted by this policy were not necessarily the most vulnerable a few months ago, but they were on the margins, facing fragility and housing stress, with little extra income to respond to this situation and already barely coping with their expenses.
Another aspect that deserves some comments is the reform of planning policies in England, gives local level authorities expanded responsibilities. The power dynamics of a particular local council may not allow for a forceful negotiation with developers, to speed up delivery, and this situation may last for years despite the urgent need for additional housing stock. In fact, several documents and assessments acknowledge that land with permits has increasingly become the asset in itself, rather than an asset for the social well-being of the community. Similarly, it is also of concern that there is no property tax on land, including dormant or vacant land for years. Land value, including in the financial circuits, has escalated in the last decades, yet it is still mostly regarded as a private matter, hence for-profit. I would recommend that the Government sets a regulatory framework to avoid this kind of speculation.
Similarly, on the land and planning strategies let me say that selling public land to private developers for the best price can mean that a valuable public resource is not being used as a means to increase the availability of housing for those who need it, in times of housing stress. A significant part of the existing social housing stock in UK was built on local council and other public land. In times of pressure on affordable housing, the mobilization of public land can be an important tool, so I recommend that the Government releases public sector land only for social and affordable housing to be built.
Planning systems reforms are also being considered in Northern Ireland, devolving powers to Local Councils, which will also be territorially redefined. In this context, I want to express my concern at the potential that this decentralization may have for increased sectarianism and discrimination.
In closing, let me also mention that during my visit I have also received multiple testimonies on the shortage of sufficient, adequate and safe sites for Gypsy and Traveller communities across the United Kingdom, many of whom feel this is part of the stigma and discrimination they regularly face from Governments and society as a whole. Despite multiple efforts and policies put in place to address this situation, it is fair to say that leaving local authorities to make their own decisions with no accountability and national process to reconcile the Gypsy and Traveller communities with settled communities remains a source of concern. Gypsy and Traveller communities too should engage more in the political debate and make efforts to ensure that their situation effectively changes.
Other population groups, highlighted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009, which continue to face inadequate access to affordable housing are Catholics in Northern Ireland, specifically in North Belfast. The current allocation scheme was created to be fair and open, and to allocate accommodation on the basis of meeting the housing need of people. Despite the efforts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, I remain concerned that full equality has not been achieved yet.
I also received information and testimonies about discrimination in access to housing by EU citizens, migrant workers and their families, refugees and asylum seekers. I am especially concerned with the policy which places the responsibility (backed by the threat of a fine) on landlords to check residence status of tenants, which I have heard often pushes undocumented people into the most insecure, worst quality and poorest located housing.
Summary of recommendation
As a brief summary of my preliminary remarks, I would like to highlight three recommendations: First, and foremost, I would suggest that the so-called bedroom tax be suspended immediately and be fully re-evaluated in light of the evidence of its impacts on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals. Secondly, I would recommend that the Government puts in place a system of regulation for the private rent sector, including clear criteria about affordability, access to information and security of tenure. Thirdly, I would encourage a renewal of the Government’s commitment to significantly increasing the social housing stock and a more balanced public funding for the stimulation of supply of social and affordable housing which responds to the needs.
I hope that my visit and subsequent report will be able to assist the Governments in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in these efforts and I look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue established during my visit.
Look at those recommendations.
Ms Rolnik has put the UK’s Coalition government in direct opposition to the United Nations. There is no way the Conservatives will accept the need to repeal the bedroom tax. The Party of Deregulation will never willingly install a new regulatory procedure and increasing social housing would reverse a policy they have been running since the days of Thatcher.
Shapps’ complaint to the UN secretary general will come to nothing because he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
And anyway – to mix metaphors – the shoe is on the other foot now.
Do not expect to see this in the right-wing mass media unless they are given no choice about it, as it shows up the Coalition government for the steal-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich, money-grubbing liars that they have been all along – and that’s not part of the narrative the Murdoch press or the Daily Heil want to push onto you.
But something’s going to happen because the Coalition – and especially the Tories – are being told in no uncertain terms: Change direction or be declared an outlaw state.
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