Tag Archives: Red Cross

Why should doctors resign because of the #NHSCrisis caused by Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt?

Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are the Tory fools who have created the crisis in the English NHS. Tell them they are to blame. Tell them they should resign now.

The more I think about the unreasonable comments and demands made by Theresa May and her health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the less acceptable they seem.

We are told senior GPs could resign in huge numbers because Mrs May has irrationally chosen to scapegoat them for the humanitarian crisis sweeping the National Health Service in England. But why should they?

Surely we can all see where responsibility really lies?

The Conservatives aren’t responsible for the NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and those countries aren’t experiencing any crisis – except possibly where their services are reliant on facilities based in England.

The Conservatives are responsible for the NHS in England, and it is in England that the crisis has occurred.

Therefore Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are responsible for causing the current crisis; so Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt should resign.

Why are high-profile politicians and medical leaders not already demanding their heads on a plate?

Theresa May seems keen to blame anybody but herself – she tried to pin the crisis on the elderly before claiming that A&E departments are buckling because she thinks GPs are lazy.

Enough is enough.

Whenever Mrs May, Mr Hunt or any other Tory (with the exception of Dr Sarah Wollaston, who has spoken up for the NHS, thereby proving she is in the wrong political party altogether) tries to run down the NHS, its doctors, nurses, specialists, workers or users, let’s just tell them:

“No. You are to blame. Resign.”

It’s a simple message, and easy to repeat.

Put it out there a few times and even our Tory-loving mass media might get the hang of it.

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Tory lies and the #NHSCrisis: Health service ISN’T getting more cash than it wanted

“Let’s not rewrite history,” said NHS England chief Simon Stevens – but Theresa May has tried to do exactly that.

She knows perfectly well that he said the NHS in England would need between £8 billion and £21 billion in order to sustain the service up to 2020.

Her claim that, by giving the service £10 billion over six years, she is providing more than was requested is a lie.

That’s £8.4 billion over five years – the absolute lowest end of the scale presented by Mr Stevens.

It takes no account of cuts to social care, closed walk-in centres, closed pharmacies, limited availability of GP appointments – all caused by Tory mismanagement.

More money than the NHS requested would be at least £22 billion.

And the fact is that Tory cuts to the English health service will amount to nearly £40 billion – including the extra £8.4 billion – by 2020.

Theresa May is a liar and should resign because her lies are threatening people’s lives. Jeremy Hunt is a liar and should resign for the same reason.

The claim: The NHS is being given more money than it asked for.

Reality Check verdict: The amount that the NHS in England is being given over this Parliament is at the bottom end of the range that it asked for. It doesn’t take into account the knock-on effects of shortfalls in other areas such as social care.

“We asked the NHS to work out what it needed over the next five years in terms of… the funding it would need,” Prime Minister Theresa May told Sky News on Sunday.

“We gave them more funding then they required.”

But NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens denied this on Wednesday.

Mr Stevens has made clear that when he mentioned the £8bn figure, that was the minimum amount needed just to plug the funding gap.

But this figure is not enough to keep pace with rising demand, improve services or accommodate plans for seven-day services.

Speaking to NHS leaders last June, he said: “Let’s not rewrite history.

“In the Forward View, we actually said that the National Health Service would need between £8bn and £21bn by 2020 in order to sustain and improve.”

Source: Reality Check: Is the NHS getting more than it wanted? – BBC News

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The #NHSCrisis is only encouraging private firms to bite larger chunks from the health service

[Image: Martin Shovel.]

Even as the UK erupts in protest at the government’s neglect of the NHS, the Tory privatisation plan is working, it seems.

The crisis has created a perception that the public health service is unable to cope. Private firms can capitalise on this – and don’t forget that more private contracts are being offered up for NHS work, every day. Here’s the latest:

It’s for an ‘integrated urgent care service’ (whatever that may be), offered by Kernow CCG (in Cornwall?) and is worth nearly £50 million.

It should be remembered that private healthcare will not offer treatment for the most complicated, long-term conditions; the people who need it most. Instead, they take contracts that draw funding away from their treatment.

And the ‘crisis’ narrative gains momentum – but it lacks one major element.

The only reason there is a humanitarian crisis in the NHS is underfunding by the Conservative Party in government. They will have inflicted nearly £40 billion of cuts by 2020, and have already passed on around £20 billion of funding to private companies, much of which will be transferred to shareholders’ bank accounts as profit, rather than having anything to do with treatment of illness.

The bureaucratic cost of private involvement alone is astronomical.

Yet Theresa May tried to blame the crisis on the increase of elderly patients, in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

In fact, decades of ward closures have led to the bed crisis. Bed-to-population ratios are worse than in some eastern European countries. Funding of the NHS, in total, is well below the EU average. But Mrs May keeps rattling on about a “strong economy” being the answer. Didn’t Philip Hammond say our economy is the strongest in the developed world, during his Autumn Statement last year? Yes, he did.

The only way the NHS can receive proper funding is the removal of private sector involvement from the National Health Service and the redirection of the funds this frees, back into healthcare.

That must be the first priority of any campaign to save the NHS.

The way to achieve it is simple: Destroy the Tory narrative.

The aging population isn’t blocking up A&E – Tory underfunding and bed closures did that.

Why isn’t the NHS properly funded, considering the Tories say we have the healthiest economy in the developed world?

If the Tories didn’t want A&E departments flooded with non-urgent patients, why did they close walk-in centres and pharmacies?

There must be no let-up, no relief for Conservative pro-privatisation mouthpieces. They must be challenged at every opportunity.

Their answers must always be challenged. If they fail to provide adequate answers, the question should be put again.

Challenge the narrative. Undermine their confidence.

Win back your health service.

 

 

 

#NHSCrisis: Theresa May wants to cover it up – but she is digging her own political grave

Simon Stevens holds up a copy of the Daily Mail at a public accounts committee meeting focusing on the crisis in the health service [Image: Parliament TV].


The crisis in the English National Health Service is deepening while Tories, led by Theresa May, quibble over the amount of money it is getting.

Mrs May told Sky News on Sunday that, “when the government had asked the NHS what it needed for the next five years, it had been given ‘more funding’ than ‘required’.”

But Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, denied this point-blank in evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday (Wednesday).

Ministers had said NHS England had requested £8bn and been allocated £10bn. But Mr Stevens told MPs that was to cover six years rather than the five-year plan he had put forward.

“I don’t think that’s the same as saying we are getting more than we asked for over five years.”

He also held up a copy of a Daily Mail report showing that health spending in England is much lower than in other European countries.

In any case, as This Site has pointed out – £10 billion won’t cancel out the £20 billion of cuts inflicted over the last few years – or the £22 billion consigned to private healthcare firms that Conservatives have invited to raid the NHS for lucrative contracts, and the bureaucracy associated with it. Mr Stevens described cuts to capital expenditure as “robbing Paul to pay Paul”.

In many cases, the companies gaining from NHS contracts – which turn public money into profits for their shareholders – had financial links to Conservative politicians. It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to understand that the introduction of private companies into the NHS was about enriching these Conservatives rather than improving health outcomes.

Former Conservative Health Secretary Steven Dorrell has supported Mr Stevens’ comments, and said the government “should be addressing the evidence about what is happening on the ground rather than engaging in a rather high-profile discussion about, frankly, what sound to the public like telephone numbers of public expenditure”.

In other words, the NHS needs action, not pointless arguments.

Meanwhile, more than 20 hospitals in England have had to declare a black alert this week after becoming so overcrowded that they could no longer guarantee patient safety and provide their full range of normal services.

A black alert is defined as as a “serious incident”. It means the system is under severe pressure and is unable to deliver certain actions and comprehensive emergency care.

At least 23 hospital trusts have declared they cannot cope since Monday. Theresa May described this, at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, as “extra pressures on the NHS”. Do you think that is a fair description?

Labour MP Toby Perkins – whose father reportedly died in his arms after being mistakenly sent home during the last major NHS crisis in July last year – might take a different view.

Remember the NHS crisis last July? Nor do I. Apparently everybody was too busy to notice, as they were being whipped up against junior doctors, who were threatening industrial action over the danger to patients posed by a new contract introduced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt’s contract, which he later forced on junior doctors in spite of their concerns, demanded more work from them in conditions that were less safe. And here we are.

Do we believe Mrs May, who has lied about more money going into the NHS? Or Mr Hunt, who forced an unsafe contract on junior doctors that has almost certainly contributed to the current crisis?

Or do we believe junior doctor Rachel Clarke, who has made it absolutely clear that she believes the Conservatives are covering up the crisis and putting savings before safety.

She writes: “First-hand testimony from frontline doctors backs up the scale of the crisis, depicting almost unimaginable conditions of squalor and indignity up and down the country. “It’s an absolute war zone” said one junior doctor, “completely out of control” said another.

“Hunt’s denial of frontline reality has left doctors like me feeling utterly terrified for our patients. Two deaths on trolleys are two too many.

“Just how many more are required before the Government acts?”

I asked much the same question, days ago, after it was revealed the Red Cross had stepped in and called this a “humanitarian crisis”.

Dr Clarke writes: “Hunt condemned the ‘times when it might feel easier to conceal mistakes, to deny that things have gone wrong and to slide into postures of institutional defensiveness’, vowing instead to foster ‘a climate of openness, where staff are supported to do the right thing and where we put people first at all times.'”

Yet we know Theresa May had demanded that NHS trusts should not reveal the extent of the current crisis to the press and public.

“So why, at this time of crisis for NHS patients, has the Government spin machine cranked into overdrive, denying the seriousness of doctors’ concerns and promising the public that all is well? That is the precise opposite of what the nation was promised,” writes Dr Clarke.

“Everyone who works in the NHS has a duty of candour, and no Health Secretary should be exempt from that. If Hunt really cares about patients, then when frontline staff are clamouring to warn of crisis conditions that we know are costing lives, he owes it to patients to listen.”

Well, here’s a possibility: Perhaps Mrs May and Mr Hunt are holding on because they know their job is nearly finished. With NHS trusts facing a 21 per cent increase in tax next April – thanks to Tory changes – and the healthcare it provides in crisis – thanks to Tory changes – perhaps they think they only have to wait a while before being able to claim the NHS has had its day and it is time for an expensive private insurance system to take over – meaning more profit for them.

Theresa May set up a blind trust arrangement when she became prime minister, allowing her to hold on to shareholdings or other investments without disclosing what they are to the public. Does she have shares in private health? It is in the public interest to know, but she has refused to surrender the facts. Why?

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” That was the mantra when Mrs May – the same Mrs May – was pushing her Snooper’s Charter through Parliament against the will of the public. She is clearly afraid of divulging the details of her shareholdings. What does she have to hide?

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson certainly thinks the current issue brings the sustainability of the NHS into question.

He said a regular meeting of NHS chiefs discussed “at what point does public confidence in the NHS model of care, delivered free at the point of use based on clinical need not the ability to pay, come into question” – and the conclusion was that “What we are doing at the moment is not sustainable.”

One has to question this man’s attitude. Rather than fight for the NHS, he is ready to give it up – exactly as Mrs May and Mr Hunt must want.

But the people of the United Kingdom aren’t having it.

The NHS is our most precious possession – one that we know Conservatives hate and want to end. That is why we must fight them for it – all the way to the ballot box.

Theresa May and her cabinet cronies will stop at nothing to win this battle. They don’t care if your friends or relatives die on hospital trolleys after waiting unendurable times for treatment.

They don’t care that we know the NHS is only failing because they have deliberately crippled it.

They don’t care that three-quarters of the UK’s population didn’t vote for them and even most of those who did are supporters of the NHS.

They want their private system. They want their massive profits. They want to ruin your health forever, because you’ll never be able to afford their prices.

You cannot afford to lose the fight for the National Health Service.

What are you going to do?

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#NHSCrisis: BBC(!) reports what Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are hiding. Now let’s see them resign

He can run, but he can’t hide: Jeremy Hunt tries to escape a news reporter as she demands answers about the deepening crisis in the NHS – a crisis he has caused [Image: Sky News].

The following transcript from BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours is shocking – not only because it shows that Theresa May has been trying to cover up the humanitarian crisis in the English National Health Service, but because it was reported by the diligently pro-Tory BBC:

So, “Theresa May, the Prime Minister, didn’t want any of this to get out”:

  • That the average ambulance wait is currently 40 minutes at a major NHS trust in the north of England;
  • That a man who had a heart attack waited five hours on a trolley for treatment;
  • That patients had been shut out of the hospital;
  • That cancer treatments might have to be cancelled because low staffing made them unsafe;
  • That nursing staff had expressed concern to their unions about unsafe working practices;
  • That calls on the 999 emergency number may be a waste of effort.

The last point is particularly corrosive; the 999 emergency number has been a quality standard that British people have considered almost sacred since it was introduced, and now the Conservatives have rendered it useless.

And people are still being left to die on trolleys in corridors.

No wonder Theresa May – the prime minister of the United Kingdom, don’t forget – wanted to stop the public from finding out about this.

But it seems the BBC is now well and truly on the case. Having failed to kill this story over the weekend, the Corporation seems to have decided it may as well jump in with both feet, so we got the following:

Record numbers of patients are facing long waits in A&Es as documents leaked to the BBC show the full extent of the winter crisis in the NHS in England.

Nearly a quarter of patients waited longer than four hours in A&E last week, with just one hospital hitting its target.

And huge numbers also faced long waits for a bed when A&E staff admitted them into hospital as emergency cases.

There were more than 18,000 “trolley waits” of four hours or more last week.

18 thousand trolley waits of four hours or more. Wasn’t Jeremy Hunt saying there were only a “handful” of these, only yesterday?

And where was Mr Hunt, exactly?

He was filmed running away from a TV news reporter – and embarrassingly having to U-turn after heading off in the wrong direction.

After making a speech to the King’s Fund think tank, in central London, he was chased by Sky News reporter Beth Rigby, who asked him whether he was scrapping four-hour waiting times or just watering them down (to include only patients he describes as being in genuine need of A&E treatment).

He refused to answer her questions, but had to double back, as he searched for his expensive chauffeur-driven ministerial car.

It is clear that the Conservatives have no answer to the facts that are being revealed.

They are also refusing – mark that word: refusing – to do anything at all about the crisis other than to deny its existence, try to redefine national standards so they conform with that denial, and run away from the facts while people continue to suffer.

In the past, health secretaries would have resigned long before any situation reached this point.

In fact, given the magnitude of the disaster, prime ministers would have resigned as well.

Isn’t it time we told Mr Hunt and Mrs May that their services are no longer needed?

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May surfaces to deny existence of NHS crisis. Total winter deaths are up by 50,000

Dr David Wrigley writes: “This is a corridor in an A&E and it could be your grandma there. Gross mishandling & cuts by Tories did this.”

The Conservative Government is denying the existence of any serious problem in the English National Health Service, despite the Red Cross having announced a “humanitarian crisis”.

Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson has made the following appeal to UK prime minister Theresa May.

The British Medical Association has stood by the Red Cross:

Mrs May has told Sky’s Sophy Ridge that her government has put more money into the NHS.

[Image: Paul Mason.]

Oh, so that’s all right then. A paltry sub-inflation increase of 0.8 per cent per year (a real-terms cut, This Writer seems to recall) means the deaths on hospital trolleys are illusory. I DON’T THINK SO.

In any case, what about all the planned cuts? See:

She said the NHS had problems due to an aging population, but “that is why the NHS has developed a plan. It is putting it into practice”.

What plan would this be? The same plan as is in practise at the Department for Work and Pensions? The plan to make people die?

She has gone on to talk about mental health, saying the issue cannot be addressed simply by throwing money at it and a strategy to address stigma is more important. Isn’t that true of any health problem? Yet with the NHS as a whole, no strategies have been launched to tackle the causes of the problems that have mounted up to create the humanitarian crisis described by the Red Cross.

I think Theresa May is lying through her teeth. There is a humanitarian crisis. There’s no extra money. And there is no plan apart from letting it run its course and allowing your relatives to die.

Shall we have a quick reminder of the Conservative Party’s recent record of achievement, with regard to the National Health Service in England? Here it is:

Meanwhile, Justine Greening told Andrew Marr it was “inappropriate” for the Red Cross to describe the situation as a humanitarian crisis, and said the charity’s involvement was “not particularly unusual”.

This of course completely ignores the obvious: If it isn’t unusual for the Red Cross to be involved, then the Red Cross will have a very good reason to describe the situation as a humanitarian crisis. And the Red Cross knows a humanitarian crisis when its members see one.

Dr David Wrigley had this to say about Ms Greening’s performance:

That is Tory health policy for you: Defund, say it isn’t working, privatise; Deny what they’re doing; and Divert attention away.

Jeremy Hunt, who is allegedly the Secretary of State for Health, has been nowhere to be found. Apparently he is hiding in Japan.

And the right-wing media? They have nothing to say:

According to Professor Ray Tallis, co-author of NHS: SOS, the book which predicted the Tory health disaster, the number of preventable winter deaths has increased by 50,000 this year. It was a high number already, last year, if This Writer recalls correctly.

Labour has accused the Conservatives of systematically underfunding the NHS – a claim that won’t be easily dismissed. Isn’t it true that funding cuts are the reason for the controversial Sustainability and Transformation plans (STPs) that have been so roundly rejected by Health and Wellbeing Boards across the UK?

And calls are mounting for direct action.

This Writer is particularly fond of the following comment, as it refers to my own work uncovering the number of preventable deaths caused by the Department for Work and Pensions:

I should point out, though, that the number quoted is likely to be only a fraction of the true figure, as the DWP ignored anybody who died outside a very narrow, two-week time frame.

Opinions are starting to come in from abroad. Here’s an American doctor who experienced NHS treatment, telling the Conservatives to “stop messing it up”.

The Labour Party has spoken up strongly, calling on the Conservative Government to do its job and ensure that NHS doctors and nurses can do theirs.

The response has been predictable: Widespread calls for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation on grounds of ineffectiveness.

Trouble was, Mr Corbyn was everywhere yesterday – and has a proven track record of supporting the NHS. He visited the picket lines to support striking junior doctors last year, for example. And he delivered the following statement on the current crisis:

The response? Here it is:

Apparently, some Corbyn critics were complaining that he had not brought the Tories back to Parliament yesterday (January 7) to account for their actions – until some kind souls explained to them that Parliament is in recess until tomorrow (January 9), and in any case it doesn’t sit on Saturdays.

Other critics who said he hasn’t done anything, and were then told how he has been campaigning strongly, have been characterised as responding that it doesn’t count because “he’s only whinging”. When asked what they think he should do, they tend to go very quiet.

It is good to see both right- and left-wing Labour coming together over this. See Liz Kendall’s comment on Twitter:

I would point out that some of us have been warning about a crisis in the NHS for years – in the case of This Site, since the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was first discussed in Parliament.

This article could run on forever; the amount of information on this crisis is so great – and ongoing, meaning everything I have written here may be out of date very soon.

At this moment in time, then, it is important to remember three things:

  1. There is a humanitarian crisis in the English National Health Service.
  2. It was created deliberately, by the Conservative Government which has starved the NHS of funds in order to give them to private health firms where they have been wasted as profit for shareholders.
  3. People are dying because Conservatives believe healthcare should only be available to people who are able to pay a fortune for it:

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Collapse: Red Cross called into NHS England because #Tories would rather pay private firms – for nothing

The National Health Service in England has suffered the ultimate humiliation as the Red Cross – a charity – has had to be called in to help save lives – because the grossly-underfunded service simply cannot cope any more.

It has been calculated that the NHS needs £22 billion of extra funds in order to provide anything like an adequate service – but those funds are not available.

It is no coincidence that the money handed over to private healthcare – to part-fund their shareholders’ profits – along with the administration costs that go with the part-privatised system add up to around £22 billion.

So the Conservative Government – Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May, the current cabinet, and previous ministers including David Cameron and former health secretary Andrew Lansley – have engineered this crisis and would rather pay public money, your money, into the bank accounts of shareholders in Virgin Health (for example) than use it to save people who are dying on hospital trolleys as you read these words.

The two deaths at Worcestershire Royal Hospital are only the most visible part of the NHS crisis, as members of the public made clear on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/liamyoung/status/817428053580193794

Members of the public were keen to assign blame equally to all those who consigned the NHS in England to this fate – including the Liberal Democrats whose coalition with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015 allowed the Health and Social Care Act, which diverted public funds into the hands of private, profit-making companies, to be passed:

Shadow health secretary Angela Rayner pointed out that the Tories had cut off the most obvious available help for overstretched hospitals:

But where is Jeremy Hunt in all this? The Health Secretary is highly conspicuous by his absence.

Of course, his forerunner in the job, Andrew Lansley, abolished the health secretary’s responsibility for the NHS, so perhaps Mr Hunt feels that it’s none of his business.

https://twitter.com/liamyoung/status/817441724586926080

The Conservative Government is responsible for the deaths that have happened – and for any further deaths. Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt might just as well have killed those people themselves. They should be brought to justice for every preventable fatality.

We, the people, need decisive action. This crisis has to end now. It is time to end the privatisation nightmare and restore responsibility to the funding and structure of our health system – before anybody else dies.

The NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis” as hospitals and ambulance services struggle to keep up with rising demand, the British Red Cross has said, following the deaths of two patients after long waits on trolleys in hospital corridors.

Worcestershire Royal hospital launched an investigation on Friday into the deaths and did not deny reports that they had occurred after long waits on trolleys in corridors over the new year period.

On Friday, doctors’ leaders said more patients could die because of the chaos engulfing the NHS.

Source: NHS faces ‘humanitarian crisis’ as demand rises, British Red Cross warns

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Daily Express censors letter from British Red Cross criticising it – Pride’s Purge

Tom Pride has requested that we all share this as widely as possible. He writes:

The Daily Express – like most of the UK press – doesn’t like to be criticised.

And – like most of the UK press – it doesn’t like to give a right of reply to anyone, not even to respected organisations such as the British Red Cross.

That’s why the newspaper is refusing to publish a joint letter from the British Red Cross, Refugee Action and the Refugee Council which is critical of it.

This is the letter the Daily Express doesn’t want you to see. So please share it as widely as possible.

Dear Sir,

The stream of aggressive stories about asylum seekers appearing in this paper in recent days is of serious concern to all of us who work with and support people fleeing persecution.

Your readers would be forgiven for thinking the UK is being flooded by asylum seekers. This couldn’t be further from the truth, with asylum applications around the 23,000 mark a year the UK is home to less than 1 per cent of the world’s refugees and takes proportionately below the EU average.

To characterise the people housed in Folkestone as having a ‘lovely break’ by the sea that Brits would be envious of is hugely misleading and dangerous.

Asylum seekers are people who have often fled horrifying experiences in their home countries. Some have been raped. Some have been tortured. Many have witnessed the death of a loved one. Be assured, people who have suffered extreme trauma and whose lives are hanging in the balance will not be focusing on the sea view of temporary room.

There are no refugee visas available for people fleeing persecution. The fact that people are forced to travel clandestinely is recognised within the Refugee Convention and British Law. Entering Britain illegally can be a necessity; it is not an indication of the validity of someone’s asylum claim.

Additionally, appealing a refusal does not indicate someone cheating the system. Decisions on asylum claims can be life or death and the appeal overturn rate shows the Government frequently gets it wrong the first time.

Stirring up hostility against asylum seekers is as unwelcome as it is unsavoury in a country with a proud tradition of protecting refugees.

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, Refugee Council

Mike Adamson, Acting Chief Executive, British Red Cross

Dave Garratt, Chief Executive, Refugee Action

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Divisions in Coalition as MPs demand independent inquiry on poverty

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Calls for a ‘commission of inquiry’ into the impact of the government’s changes to social security entitlements on poverty have won overwhelming support from Parliament.

The motion by Labour’s Michael Meacher was passed with a massive majority of 123 votes; only two people – David Nuttall and Jacob Rees-Mogg – voted against it.

The debate enjoyed cross-party support, having been secured by Mr Meacher with Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative) and John Hemming (Liberal Democrat).

Introducing the motion, Mr Meacher said: “It is clear that something terrible is happening across the face of Britain. We are seeing the return of absolute poverty, which has not existed in this country since the Victorian age more than a century ago. Absolute poverty is when people do not have the money to pay for even their most basic needs.”

He said the evidence was all around:

  • There are at least 345 food banks and, according to the Trussell Trust, emergency food aid was given to 350,000 households for at least three days in the last year.
  • The Red Cross is setting up centres to help the destitute, just as it does in developing countries.
  • Even in prosperous areas like London, more than a quarter of the population is living in poverty.
  • According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, for the first time, the number of people in working families who are living in poverty, at 6.7 million, is greater than the number of people in workless and retired families who are living in poverty, at 6.3 million.
  • Child poverty will rise from 2.5 million to 3.2 million during this Parliament, around 24 per cent of children in the UK. By 2020, if the rise is not stopped, it will increase to four million – around 30 per cent of children in the UK.
  • The use of sanctions depriving people of all their benefits for several weeks at a time, had increased by 126 per cent since 2010 and 120 disabled people who had been receiving jobseeker’s allowance had been given a three-year fixed duration sanction in the previous year.
  • There are now more than 2,000 families who have been placed in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation after losing their homes.
  • The per cent rise in the overall homelessness figures last year included nearly 9,000 families with children, which is the equivalent of one family losing their home every 15 minutes.
  • A third of families spent less than £20 a week on food and that the average spend on food per person per day was precisely £2.10. That is a third less than those families were able to afford three months before that.
  • The proportion of households that had to make debt repayments of more than £40 a week had doubled and the average level of debt was £2,250.
  • A third of families had council tax debt.
  • 2.7 million people had lost out through the Government’s changes to council tax benefit – many of them disabled people, veterans and some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Households were having to spend 16 per cent more on gas and electricity.
  • There are 2.5 million people who have been unemployed for the best part of two years, and there were 562,000 vacancies when the debate took place (Monday), so four out of five of those who are unemployed simply cannot get a job whatever they do.
  • Cuts to local authorities mean many home care visits are limited to 15 minutes.
  • The 10 per cent of local authorities that are the most deprived in the country face cuts six times higher than those faced by the 10 per cent that are the most affluent.
  • 60 per cent of benefit cuts fall on those who are in work.

Mr Meacher said the biggest cause of absolute poverty was the huge rise in sanctioning, often for trivial reasons such as turning up five minutes late for a job interview or the Work Programme:

  • A dyslexic person lost his Jobseekers Allowance because his condition meant that in one fortnightly period he applied for nine jobs, not 10. He was trying to pay his way and already had work, but it provided only an extremely low income.
  • The jobcentre didn’t record that a claimant had informed them that he was in hospital when he was due to attend an appointment and he was sanctioned.
  • A claimant went to a job interview instead of signing on at the jobcentre because the appointments clashed – and was sanctioned.
  • A claimant had to look after their mother who was severely disabled and very ill – and was sanctioned.
  • A Job Centre sent the letter informing a claimant of an interview to their previous address, despite having been told about the move. The claimant was sanctioned.
  • A claimant was refused a job because she was in a women’s refuge, fleeing domestic violence and in the process of relocating, but I was still sanctioned.

Mr Meacher also quoted what he called a classic: “I didn’t do enough to find work in between finding work and starting the job.”

The latest DWP figures suggest that more than one million people have been sanctioned in the past 15 months and deprived of all benefit and all income. “Given that the penalties are out of all proportion to the triviality of many of the infringements, and given that, as I have said, four out of five people cannot get a job whatever they do, the use of sanctioning on this scale, with the result of utter destitution, is — one struggles for words — brutalising and profoundly unjust,” said Mr Meacher.

Other reasons for the rise in absolute poverty included:

  • Delays in benefit payments.
  • The fact that it is impossible for many poor and vulnerable people to comply with new rules – for example a jobseeker who asked to downsize to a smaller flat who was told he must pay two weeks’ full rent upfront before getting housing benefit. He does not have the funds to do so and is stuck in a situation where his benefits will not cover his outgoings due to the Bedroom Tax.
  • The Bedroom Tax, which applies to around 667,000 households, and two-thirds of those affected are disabled. More than 90 per cent of those affected do not have smaller social housing to move into.
  • The Benefit Cap, imposed on a further 33,000 households.
  • Mistakes by the authorities; up to 40,000 working-age tenants in social housing may have been improperly subjected to the Bedroom Tax because of DWP error (although Iain Duncan Smith claims a maximum of 5,000).

Mr Meacher said: “The Chancellor’s policy of keeping 2.5 million people unemployed makes it impossible for them to find work, even if there were employers who would be willing to take them, and the 40 per cent success rate of appeals shows how unfair the whole process is.”

Responding to a comment from David TC Davies (Conservative) that those who are not looking for work must realise there will be consequences, particularly when a million people have been able to come to the UK from eastern Europe and find work, Mr Meacher said, “Those who come to this country are more likely to be employed and take out less in benefits than many of the indigenous population.”

He asked: “Is all this brutality towards the poor really necessary? Is there any justification in intensifying the misery, as the Chancellor clearly intends, by winding up the social fund and, particularly, by imposing another £25 billion of cuts in the next Parliament, half of that from working-age benefits?

“After £80 billion of public spending cuts, with about £23 billion of cuts in this Parliament so far, the deficit has been reduced only at a glacial pace, from £118 billion in 2011 to £115 billion in 2012 and £111 billion in 2013. Frankly, the Chancellor is like one of those first world war generals who urged his men forward, over the top, in order to recover 300 yards of bombed-out ground, but lost 20,000 men in the process. How can it be justified to carry on imposing abject and unnecessary destitution on such a huge scale when the benefits in terms of deficit reduction are so small as to be almost derisory?”

Suggested alternatives to the punitive austerity programme of cuts came thick and fast during the debate. Challenged to explain what Labour’s Front Bench meant by saying they would be tougher on welfare than the Tories, Mr Meacher said: “As the shadow Chancellor has made clear on many occasions, is that we need public investment. We need to get jobs and growth. That is the alternative way: public investment in jobs, industry, infrastructure and exports to grow the real economy, not the financial froth, because that would cut the deficit far faster than the Chancellor’s beloved austerity.”

He asked: “How about the ultra-rich — Britain’s 1,000 richest citizens — contributing just a bit? Their current remuneration — I am talking about a fraction of the top 1 per cent — is £86,000 a week, which is 185 times the average wage. They received a windfall of more than £2,000 a week from the five per cent cut in the higher rate of income tax, and their wealth was recently estimated by The Sunday Times at nearly half a trillion pounds. Let us remember that we are talking about 1,000 people. Their asset gains since the 2009 crash have been calculated by the same source at about £190 billion.

“These persons, loaded with the riches of Midas, might perhaps be prevailed upon to contribute a minute fraction of their wealth in an acute national emergency, when one-sixth of the workforce earns less than the living wage and when one million people who cannot get a job are being deprived of all income by sanctioning and thereby being left utterly destitute.

“Charging the ultra-rich’s asset gains since 2009 to capital gains tax would raise more than the £25 billion that the Chancellor purports to need. I submit that it would introduce some semblance of democracy and social justice in this country if the Chancellor paid attention to this debate and thought deeply about what he is doing to our country and its people.”

Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley, Lab) suggested that the Government might save a lot more if its members “showed the same energy and enthusiasm for getting those who evade their taxes and run to tax havens as they do for going after the poor, the sick and people on the dole”.

Against this, David TC Davies offered insults and distortions of the facts, quoting the Daily Mail as though it provided an accurate account of current events: “Members of the shadow Cabinet might need a boxing referee to sort out their disputes at the moment, as we read today in the Daily Mail.”

He said: “We took office with a deficit of £160 billion and a debt that was rising rapidly to £1 trillion. That was after years of overspending in good times, as well as in bad, by Labour, a cheap money supply and lax banking regulation under the former Government.” Labour’s spending, up until the financial crisis, was always less than that of the previous Conservative administration; Gordon Brown and Tony Blair both ran a lower deficit than John Major and Margaret Thatcher, and at one point actually achieved a surplus, which is something that the Conservatives had not managed in the previous 18 years. While Mr Davies here complained about the “lax banking regulation”, Conservatives supported it at the time and in fact demanded more DE-regulation, which would have made the financial crisis worse when it happened.

“We had disastrous economic decisions, such as that to sell gold at a fraction of its real rate,” said Mr Davies. Yes – the UK lost around £9 billion. But compare that with the disastrous economic decision by George Osborne to impose more than £80 billion worth of cuts to achieve a £7 billion cut in the national deficit. The UK has lost £73 billion there, over a three-year period.

And Mr Davies said: “Worst of all and most seriously, we had a welfare system that allowed people to get into a trap of welfare dependency, leaving them on the dole for many years, but at the same time filling the consequent gap in employment by allowing mass and uncontrolled immigration into this country, which completely undercut British workers.” The first assertion is simply untrue; the second is a legacy of previous Conservative administrations that agreed to the free movement of EU member citizens, meaning that, when the eastern European countries joined in 2004, citizens migrated to the UK in the hope of a better life. Labour has admitted it should have negotiated for a delay in free movement until the economies of those countries had improved, making such migration less likely, but the situation was created before Labour took office.

Challenged on the Coalition’s record, Mr Davies fell back on the Tories’ current trick question, which is to counter any criticism by asking: “Is he suggesting that we are not doing enough to pay down the national debt? Is he suggesting that we should cut further and faster? If so, and if we had the support of other Opposition Members, that is exactly what the Government could do and, indeed, possibly should do. I look forward to seeing that support for getting the deficit down.” This disingenuous nonsense was batted away by Labour’s Hugh Bayley, who said “investing in the economy, creating jobs and thereby getting people off welfare and into work” was the way forward.

Mr Davies’ Conservative colleague Jeremy Lefroy took a different view, agreeing that increasing numbers of people are finding it impossible to make ends meet, and that job creation and apprenticeships were a better way out of poverty than changing the social security system alone. He agreed that sanctions were applied to his constituents “in a rather arbitrary manner”. He spoke against George Osborne’s suggested plan to remove housing benefits from people aged under 25, saying this “would have a drastic impact on young people who need to live away from home and who have no support from their families”. He spoke in favour of councils increasing their housing stock. And he admitted that disabled people faced severe problems when unfairly transferred from ESA to JSA: “A lady in my constituency says, ‘I am simply not fit for work, but by signing on for JSA I have to say that I am available and fit for work.’ She does not want to tell a lie.”

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton, Labour) spoke powerfully about the effect of being on benefits: “Lots of people in my city are on benefits for the very first time. Far from being in clover — it beggars belief what we read in the right-wing press — they are struggling to make ends meet, and the problem that thousands of Liverpudlians are facing is new to them. For many, the idea that they might miss a rent payment is totally alien. They have not done that in the past 20 years, but since May 2010, their individual household incomes have been on such a downward trajectory that they now find themselves in rent arrears, seeking advice on debt management and unable to afford the daily cost of travel, food and energy. Figures suggest that 40 per cent of the adult population in Liverpool are struggling with serious debt problems.”

And he said poverty had health implications, too: “David Taylor-Robinson of the University of Liverpool and his fellow academics have highlighted the doubling of malnutrition-related hospital admissions nationally since 2008.”

John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley, LD) raised concerns about “the interrelationship between the welfare cap and victims of domestic violence, and whether there are situations that need more attention. I believe that people can get discretionary housing payment to leave a violent home, but it is important that we ensure that there is a route out of domestic violence for women. I am worried about that issue, just as I am about some wrongful sanctioning that I have seen. That does not help at all, because it undermines the whole process.” He also called for “a substantial increase in the minimum wage, because as the economy is improving the Government should look at that, rather than maintain things as they are”.

The vote gave huge endorsement to the call for an independent inquiry into poverty under the Coalition.

But with an election just 15 months away, how long will we have to wait for it to report?

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