Tag Archives: regime

Tories’ ‘tails’ are ‘tweaked’ over non-response to benefit sanctions review

Tail in the telling: Speaker John Bercow said Labour's Owen Smith was trying to "tweak the government's tail" over its "shoddy" response to a report on benefit sanctions.

Tail in the telling: Speaker John Bercow said Labour’s Owen Smith was trying to “tweak the government’s tail” over its “shoddy” response to a report on benefit sanctions.

The Conservative Government released its response to a major review of its policy on benefit sanctions today – so quietly it almost qualifies as silence.

Fortunately for those affected, there is a vocal Opposition Party sitting in the House of Commons once more, and even Speaker John Bercow agreed that the way the matter had been handled offered a “prime-time opportunity to tweak the Government’s tail”.

The government was responding to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s report, Benefit sanctions beyond the Oakley Review, which set out more than two dozen recommendations for changes to benefit sanctions and the policies behind them. None have been implemented.

This Writer has joined with campaigner Maggie Zolobajluk and Gill Thompson – whose brother died after his benefits were sanctioned – to petition the government to implement just two of these recommendations – to offer hardship payments from the first day of a benefit sanction, and to launch a broad, independent review of the sanctions regime. You can sign the petition here.

In a written response, DWP minister of state Lord Freud managed to avoid addressing any of the recommendations made in the report.

Instead, he took the opportunity to announce that the government intends to test a system of warning before any sanction is imposed.

“At present people are notified of a sanction and it is imposed immediately afterwards. In some cases, claimants go on to challenge the decision and the sanction may be overturned. We will trial arrangements whereby claimants are given a warning of our intention to sanction and a 14 day period to provide evidence of good reason before the decision to sanction is made. During this time, claimants will have another opportunity to provide further evidence to explain their non-compliance. We will then review this information before deciding whether a sanction remains appropriate,” he stated.

He added that the government would consider – mark that word; only consider – extending the definition of “at risk” groups used for hardship purposes to include those with mental health conditions and those who are homeless. This would mean that they could seek access to hardship from day one of a sanction being applied – but only if the government goes beyond consideration and actually implements the change.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith raised the issue in the House of Commons today (October 22). He said to the Speaker, John Bercow [boldings mine]: “May I ask for your guidance on how we might secure an opportunity for the House to question the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the desperately inadequate response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee report on the extraordinarily important issue of benefit sanctions?

“The response has been snuck out this morning in a written statement; it is four months late; and it does not appear to address any of the principal recommendations.

“In particular, it does not address the recommendation on an independent review into the matter of those people who have died while subject to benefit sanctions. That is an extraordinarily shoddy way for the Government to behave.

“May I also ask for guidance on whether the Select Committee might, under the new Back-Bench business procedures, seek time to debate the issue and question the Secretary of State on why he has snuck out this response and why it is so poor?”

Mr Bercow’s response was that he believed Mr Smith knew exactly how to go about obtaining a debate: “I have a hunch that he simply wanted a prime-time opportunity to tweak the Government’s tail.”

Mission accomplished, then!

One does wonder how much inconvenience the government would suffer by having its tail tweaked. Considering the release, yesterday, of a DWP advert featuring a bizarre horned creature representing the government, talk of it having a tail would suggest that the Conservative Party is trying to depict itself as the devil incarnate – a pointless exercise, as we already know this to be true.

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Lie after lie over sanctions and FoI: Duncan Smith’s head should roll

The inhumanity of Iain Duncan Smith: He is pictured laughing at the plight of a rape victim who, under his 'reforms', has to pay bedroom tax for the panic room she needs in order to be safe from her abusive, rapist ex-partner.

The inhumanity of Iain Duncan Smith: He is pictured laughing at the plight of a rape victim who, under his ‘reforms’, has to pay bedroom tax for the panic room she needs in order to be safe from her abusive, rapist ex-partner.

Iain Duncan Smith must resign after he disgraced himself yet again, with a leaflet containing fabricated comments from non-existent DWP benefit claimants, according to a leading Opposition MP.

Debbie Abrahams, who has been a leading light in the fight to force the Conservative Government to reveal the true number of people who have died following Duncan Smith’s “welfare reforms”, said the Work and Pensions secretary’s behaviour was a “disgrace” and his position was untenable.

But don’t take This Writer’s word for it – here’s Ms Abrahams herself (all boldings mine):

“As a member of the work and pensions select committee, I have called for Iain Duncan Smith to resign following revelations that his department created a leaflet about sanctions containing made-up quotes attributed to non-existent benefit claimants.

“I instigated an inquiry into the use of sanctions by the work and pensions committee, which reported in March this year, and I believe after being caught out so publicly it must be impossible for Iain Duncan Smith to continue as work and pensions secretary and he should do the honourable thing and resign.

“This is yet another example of not only his incompetence, but what can only be described as very shady and unscrupulous behaviour not befitting a Member of Parliament let alone a Secretary of State leading a Government Department.

“Once again, Duncan Smith is caught trying to paint a particular picture of social security claimants. He is a disgrace and should do the honourable thing and resign. When his own department have to resort to this sort of tactic, in a desperate attempt to make it appear as though the system is working, no-one can be left believing that his draconian social security sanctions regime is fit for purpose.

“Only Mr Duncan Smith seems to believe that unfair and inappropriate use of sanctions on vulnerable social security claimants is acceptable. And now he’s shown that he thinks it’s acceptable for his department to produce literature that is fabricated in a desperate attempt to make people believe his sanctions regime is working fairly.

“It beggars belief that David Cameron can, in the light of this embarrassing debacle, continue to back Mr Duncan Smith as a credible work and pensions secretary when he has presided over such a catalogue of errors.

“In the last few weeks alone, the independent Social Security Advisory Committee has produced a report which says that the Government’s sanctions regime should be given ‘an urgent and robust review’.

“And following the Government’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling compelling the Government to publish figures on the number of people on Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance who have died between November 2011 and May 2014, including those found fit for work, a Tribunal has now been set for November 10 to hear why Iain Duncan Smith has refused to publish these data.

“I will never forget the fact that not only did Iain Duncan Smith defy the Information Commissioner’s ruling to provide these data on deaths of people on social security, but that he stated to me, personally, in Parliament, it did not exist. But then, just two days later, the Prime Minister said to me, again in Parliament, the data would be published, only for the DWP’s appeal documents to defy him as well, stating publication was not in the public interest!

“The select committee inquiry which I instigated reported in March and the mountain of evidence that was put before the select committee by religious organisations, academics and charities, not to mention those actually affected by inappropriate sanctions themselves, pointed overwhelmingly to a system that is inhumane and deliberately created to skew unemployment figures.

“The sad truth is that Iain Duncan Smith is doing everything he can to cover up the mess he has created.

“This is a mess that is ruining innocent people’s lives and, as the evidence suggests, even killing some.

“The only credible reason he’s going to such lengths to hang on to his job is because he knows he has so much to hide.”

A petition on the Government website, calling for a vote of “no confidence” in Iain Duncan Smith and his removal from office, may be signed here.

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Rachel Reeves could single-handedly lose the election for Labour

Rachel Reeves: So stupid she'll cost Labour the election.

Rachel Reeves: This photo is a rare occasion in which she doesn’t have her foot in her mouth.

I’ll say it if nobody else will – Rachel Reeves is so stupid she could lose Labour the election.

Work and Pensions is a gaping policy open-goal for the Tories but Ms Reeves can’t see this and wants the world to know she’ll out-cut them on the Benefit Cap.

“Labour supports a cap on benefits. We will ask an independent commission to look at whether the cap should be lower in some areas,” are her actual words.

What stupidity. One can only imagine she is basing these comments on the fact that wages are lower in some areas than others. But prices are just as high!

Sure, it’s an important point that David Cameron’s government “has spent £25bn more than planned on welfare because of his failure to tackle the low pay that leaves millions dependent on benefits to make ends meet”. And her comments about apprenticeships may be accurate as well.

But what about all the deaths caused by Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal benefits regime?

What about the huge numbers of people who have simply disappeared from the benefit system rather than face another round of humiliation and sanction on possibly fraudulent grounds?

What about workfare?

What about zero-hours contracts, part-time and temporary work, and all the dodges employers are using to get out of paying for holidays, sickness and the like?

What about the scandal of our low-wage economy, that keeps people on in-work benefits and denies the Treasury the Income Tax money it needs to pay off the deficit and debt?

What about the many other legitimate grounds for laying into the Coalition government?

This is utterly unacceptable – and in the run-up to an election.

What is Ed Miliband thinking, letting her keep the Work and Pensions brief?

He must get rid of her – not just for our sakes, but for his own party’s electoral chances.

Atos ‘death threats’ claim – ‘outrageous’ insult to those its regime has killed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KrychGaA78&feature=share

“If this isn’t intimidation, I don’t know what is – it’s a very clear message to anyone: How dare you protest against us and, if you do, we’ll find you fit for work!” Anti-Atos protester Joanne Jemmett with the sign left by Atos workers outside the assessment centre in Weston-Super-Mare on Wednesday (“Fit enough to protest – fit enough to work!”) at the start of this short film documenting the demonstration there.

Watching the stories stack up in the wake of the national day of protest against Atos last Wednesday has been very interesting.

The immediate response was that Atos has approached the government, seeking an early end to its contract. This deal, under which Atos administers the hated Work Capability Assessments to people on incapacity or disability benefits, would have been worth more than £1 billion to the company over a 10-year period.

Allegedly, company employees have been receiving death threats, both during and after the protests. We’ll come back to those shortly.

The Conservative-led Coalition took this development in the way we have come to expect – spitefully. A DWP spokesperson said that the company’s service had declined to an unacceptable level, and that the government was already seeking tenders from other firms for the contract.

This is what happens when bullies squabble.

Atos is the big bully that has just had a shock because the other kids in the playground stood up to it and made it clear they weren’t going to stand for its nonsense any more. We’re told that all bullies are cowards and it appears to be true in this case – Atos went running to the bigger bully (the government) and said it was scared. The government then did what bigger bullies do; it said Atos was rubbish anyway and set about finding someone else to do its dirty work.

Here’s the sticking-point, though – as the BBC identified in its article: “The government was furious with Atos for leaking information it believes to be commercially confidential… If Atos wants to pull out early, some other companies may pay less to take those contracts on than they otherwise would.”

I should clarify that companies don’t actually pay for contracts; they offer to carry out the work at the lowest prices they think are viable, in competition with other firms. The government chooses the company it feels is best-suited to the work. In this situation, it seems likely that the possibility of death threats may put some firms off even applying.

So let’s come back to those threats. A spokesperson for the organisers of Wednesday’s demonstration tells us that pickets took place outside 93 Atos centres, across the UK. Most of these were very small – averaging 30 people or less (I can confirm that in Newtown, Powys, a maximum of 15 people attended at any one time). Brighton and London were bigger, but 12 demos had only one person present.

“That is really funny because, as you have seen, Atos are saying they had to close down all their centres for the day – up and down the country – because of huge hoards of scary, threatening disabled people issuing death threats,” the spokesperson said.

“All demos were peaceful and no trouble or arrests were reported.”

In the spokesperson’s opinion: “Atos have been planning to step down for a long time because they weren’t making enough profit and just used our tiny little demos as an excuse.”

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and sister group Black Triangle issued a joint statement: “The bizarre exit strategy Atos have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those who have died and all those who have lost family members through this regime.

“It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to food banks.

“It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.”

The statement also poured water on any government claim that other companies had been put off bidding for the contract:”The alphabet corporations – G4S, A4E, SERCO, CAPITA – are already lining up to take over the multi-million profits and the mantle of the new Grim Reapers. The misery imposed by this Government and the DWP will continue as long as its heinous policies continue.”

I would strongly urge all readers to put their support behind the remainder of the statement, which asserted: “The Work Capability Assessment must also end.

“The reign of terror by this unelected Coalition Government which has awarded itself pay rises and cut taxes for those earning more than £150,000 while piling punishment, poverty, misery and premature death on everyone else in its policies of rich against poor must end.

“Make no mistake – we will continue to demonstrate against ATOS, now delivering the complete failure of PIP in which claims are being delayed by up to a year.

“We will demonstrate against any other company that takes over the WCA contract.

“We will continue to demand the immediate removal of the WCA, and the removal of this Government.”

Hear, hear.

In my article on the Bedroom Tax evictions taking place in my home town (yesterday) I made it clear that too few people are bothering to pay attention to the evils of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government. That article received a huge response, garnering almost four times the readership of other recent posts within just 24 hours.

The situation described in this article is much worse – people aren’t being evicted from their homes; they are being forced off of the benefits that have kept them alive, pushed – by the government! – towards destitution, despair and death through either suicide or a failure of their health that their Atos assessment results deny should ever take place.

Today’s article should have more readers, after the success of yesterday’s – but we’ll have to see, shan’t we? If fewer people read it, we’ll know that they all just looked up for a moment, thought, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and went back to whatever distraction keeps them happy in the face of impending government-sponsored pain.

Any attempt to inform the public will fail if the public stops paying attention.

Let’s keep it focused where it belongs.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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