Tag Archives: striver

Evictions begin as government starts grabbing your homes

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It is easy to get caught up in headlines and forget that the Coalition’s benefit reforms mean people you know will lose their homes.

You know what happens then? PEOPLE YOU KNOW START LOSING THEIR HOMES.

Vox Political was warning the world about this back in 2012 – nearly two years ago – saying the bedroom tax would put people on the streets while homes go empty and warning about the ‘Poll Tax revival plan to take away your home’. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that I was right.

This week I heard about two cases in my Mid Wales town. You may think that isn’t many, but this is a town with a population of less than 5,000 – and I haven’t heard about every case.

The first involves a family that has been living in the same council house for more than 30 years. Sadly the head of the household recently had a stroke and has been forced to move into a care home. In the past, the tenancy would have been handed down to the next generation of the family – two sons, one of whom has a family of his own. The other is a friend of mine, of excellent character. By day he works very hard at his job; after hours, he is a member of a popular local band (along with his brother, as it happens). They are what this government would call “strivers”.

But they are being penalised because they have been told to vacate the only home they have had. Not only that, they are being asked to stump up a small fortune in backdated rent (as their father has been paying for his care, not the house) and another small fortune to dispose of carpets they cannot take with them, which the council does not want.

When I spoke to my friend yesterday, he told me that the council simply does not want him or his brother as tenants because “it is easier to process a large family who are on benefits”. I queried this, and it seems likely that this is to do with the forthcoming Universal Credit system, and with the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (also known as the Pickles Poll Tax); it is easier to handle Universal Credit and council tax claims if the authorities have foreknowledge of a household’s income.

We both agreed that there is a serious drawback to this thinking.

Large families do not want to move into vacant social accommodation because they fear what the government – national and local – will do to them if their circumstances change. Children grow up; adults move out – and that will make them vulnerable to the Bedroom Tax. Suddenly their benefits won’t be enough to pay the rent and they, in turn, will be turfed out onto the streets. They know it is a trap; they will try to avoid it.

My friend agreed. “That house is going to stay empty for a very long time,” he said.

This is madness. Here are two people who are perfectly willing and able to pay the council’s rent, on time, for as long as they need the property but, because of the Welfare Reform Act and the Localism Act, the council is treating them abominably and the house will end up providing no income at all.

If you think that’s bad, though, just wait until you learn about my other friend!

He is an older gentleman who has been disabled for many years. He had been living in a small, two-bedroomed house that had been adapted to accommodate his needs. We know precisely how much these adaptations cost to install at current rates: £5,000.

I believe he needed the extra bedroom to accommodate carer needs but I could be mistaken.

Along came the Bedroom Tax and suddenly he did not have enough income to cover the cost of living there. The council (or social landlord, I have to admit I’m not sure) sent him an eviction notice. He appealed.

Guess what? His appeal was set to be decided after the date he was ordered to be out of his home.

So he had to go. He was lucky enough to find another place to live, and all the equipment he needs to accommodate his disability moved along with him – at a cost of £5,000.

Then he received the judgement on his appeal: He was exempt from paying the Bedroom Tax; he should never have been forced to move.

Is this British justice?

This country was once the envy of the world because we were far more enlightened than any other nation in our policies of social justice and inclusion. Not any more! Now we are regressing into a new dark age in which the squalid Shylocks infesting Westminster manipulate local authorities into performing grubby property grabs for them.

Is the ‘Bulldog Spirit’ that made us famous for standing our ground during the Blitz now being turned to hounding the poor out of their homes?

Are you willing to put up with this?

In Iceland, they marched to their Parliament and set up camp outside until the government gave up and agreed to the demands of the people. Here, an unmandated government rides roughshod over democracy while you sit at home watching The X Factor, Coronation Street and the Winter Olympics.

Nothing will change until you change it – but you know this already. The simple fact is that, if you are reading this article, you probably sympathise with the sentiments it is expressing and are already active in opposing the heinous crimes being committed against our people.

There are not enough of you. People who need to read these words are being allowed to live in ignorance, lulled into inactivity by the right-wing mass media.

It’s time to put an end to that. There can be no excuse for ignorance and inaction while people are being made homeless. Think of someone you know who needs to be shown the truth and make them read this article. Ask them what they think of it and explain the facts of what is happening around them.

Then tell them to pass it on to someone they know.

Spread the word – don’t keep it to yourself. And don’t sit on your thumbs and expect somebody else to do your bit for you. If you don’t act, why should anybody else? What’s the point of me writing these articles if you can’t be bothered to do anything about it? Are you going to wait until someone tells you they want your home?

Then it will be too late.

I’ll know if you succeed because it will be reflected in the number of times this article is viewed. I’ll report the results of this experiment next week.

Don’t let yourself down.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Betrayal/Collusion

despairToday’s article is for the doubters; the deniers. You know who I mean – people who have been brainwashed by the government’s rhetoric about its benefit cuts; who actually believe that they aren’t doing any harm to people who don’t deserve it.

That view is, of course, nonsense.

Government policy, as spearheaded by Vox Political’s ‘Monster of the Year, 2012’, Iain Duncan Smith, is to clear as many people off the books as possible, whether they deserve state support or not. The weasel words it uses to justify the policy would be risible if they were not so harmful.

The sick and disabled have come under especially intense attack from the Conservative-led government, not only with its divisive “strivers v skivers” rhetoric but also with a contradictory system that seems intended to provoke depression and despair in all those who are put into it – especially the mentally ill.

I think they want these people to kill themselves. It takes them off the benefit books.

It’s as simple, and ugly, as that. If you support a Conservative government; if you support a Liberal Democrat MP, then there’s blood on your hands as well.

I mention this now because I have been in the unenviable position of being able to watch a disabled person coming apart at the seams, as the welfare state into which she has paid is taken away by the ConDem nation.

My significant other – Mrs Mike – has been at the mercy of the ESA assessment system since early 2012. First there was the notification letter that she would have to undergo an Atos assessment at some point in the future. No date, just the warning. She was kept in suspense for months.

The assessment took place in June or July last year and was deeply distressing on both a physical and mental level. First we were told we were not allowed to record the interview. That was not only incorrect but illegal. Secondly, although the assessor was polite, he did put Mrs Mike through physical tests that left her in tears, and asked questions that deeply disturbed her state of mind. She remained deeply upset and uncomfortable for several days after the interview.

I would contend that it was contrived that way, in order to discourage people from continuing with their claim.

After several more weeks, we received notice that she would receive ESA, but would be in the work-related activity group, starting in August. This meant, apparently, that her benefit would last for one year only, starting on a date in August. By the end of that year, she would be expected to have recovered her health enough to have found a job that she could do.

Bear in mind, please, that the job market is deeply depressed. The government has not created a million new jobs, as David Cameron keeps trying to tell us. It has cooked the books and is lying to us about the result. Only last week, we heard that work programme providers – and I’ll get back to them in a moment – have been encouraging people to defraud the system by saying they are self-employed when they have no paying work to do, in order to allow those firms to claim the massive bonuses they are contracted to receive if they remove someone from the benefit books. Tax credits are to end when Universal Credit comes in, so this little wheeze is doubly vindictive.

Bear in mind also that, at the time, Mrs Mike had been ill for 11 years. Her condition is one that may continue indefinitely, or may dissipate at any time. One thing we do know about it is that stress makes it worse. She physically clenches up and that aggravates her symptoms.

The letter said she would soon be contacted by Job Centre Plus, who would arrange activities to get her into work. There then commenced a lengthy period in which she was left waiting by the authorities, all of whom seem to have decided they had better things to do.

She was finally contacted in December – five months after she received her notification letter, and four months into the period of her ESA benefit. Interview at the Job Centre. We attended. A very nice person, who is a personal acquaintance of Mrs Mike anyway, took us through the options and it was decided that someone from one of the associated firms – I’ve been calling them work programme providers because that’s all I can imagine them to be – would contact her to take matters further.

There then followed another month-long wait – partly caused because the person who was to deal with Mrs Mike became ill and had to postpone the interview. In January – now five months into the ESA period – she had a telephone call and after a brief conversation, handed the phone to me. I was told: “We cannot help her.” The advice was to seek reassessment as she should be in the support group.

This means the previous six months in the system had been nothing but a pointless waste of our time. We are now going through the process of arranging a reassessment – to get it done before April, when people asking for this or appealing against decisions are likely to be put on Jobseekers’ Allowance – with all the responsibilities that go with it – while their cases are considered.

Let me pause and go back to the title of this article. I’ve covered “betrayal” – that’s the government’s betrayal of people on benefits, who have paid into a system only to find their money has disappeared into a government black hole and they’ll be pushed away just as soon as possible, whether they are capable or not.

What about “collusion”?

Readers of this blog will know that we have been having problems with our landlord, a social housing provider. This organisation caused flooding in our home by failing to respond appropriately to a callout after we discovered a leak in a water pipe connected to our heating system. The problem had been caused by workmen putting in new bathroom fittings and decoration back in October/November on behalf of the housing association – they put a screw through the pipe, which worked its way loose in the cold weather. The company’s 24-hour emergency callout service proved to be nothing of the kind. When someone eventually came out to fix the boiler, he said we should leave the water on, because the housing association had told him the repair people from the company responsible would be out that evening. The housing association had lied to him; when the cupboard under the stairs and part of the kitchen flooded as a result of his advice, he was the one who was told to fix the problem, even though he didn’t have the right equipment. He went through a gas pipe while he was trying to go through the floorboards, too.

Mrs Mike had been in hospital that day, having an operation on her wrist. She needed peace, quiet, and rest. She got stress, aggravation and the extreme upset of seeing her possessions wrecked by entirely-avoidable water damage.

The housing association has phoned us irregularly ever since, either asking for information or promising us that people would come out to fix the collateral damage caused by the repair – and always providing the wrong information. A man came out on Monday, from yet another contracted-out firm, to fix the upstairs flooring. Mrs Mike wasn’t entirely happy with the job so someone else will have to come and finish it but never mind that, because yesterday (Wednesday) the housing association phoned to say the company that caused the problem in the first place would be coming out to do the same job! We told that person that we were sick of talking to employees; let him put the company director on the phone to us. We’ll sort it out with that person instead. Whoever they are, perhaps they’ll be fascinated by the abuses wreaked on tenants by their firm. Did I write “fascinated”? I meant “horrified”.

Practical upshot of all this was that Mrs Mike collapsed in floods of tears yesterday lunchtime. She’d had too many people messing her around and couldn’t take any more – physically or mentally. On the same day, a letter arrived from the DWP about the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment. It actually stated that she would be receiving more money in her DLA (around £1.40 per week; a ridiculous amount) but she was utterly unable to absorb that information or accept that it wasn’t bad news.

We had to contact the local mental health services and Citizens’ Advice, to get treatment for her mental state and help to combat what Mrs Mike now sees as an attack on two fronts.

The housing association is fully aware of its tenant’s health condition – or would be, if its employees could be bothered to read their notes before calling us. By its very nature, it provides accommodation to people who are on benefits or low pay. Therefore it follows that, if it causes undue aggravation to those tenants, it is helping the government’s scheme to do away with them.

Collusion.

And then we have the bedroom tax, coming into effect in April. I was pleased to see Cameron take a pasting over the issue in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday – but disappointed to see that some members of the public have been supporting his line that it is a reasonable thing to do, and that it is not a tax.

The latter issue is a matter of semantics; they’re splitting hairs. If the government is taking away money that you would otherwise receive, and keeping it for itself, then you will see it as a tax. I think the people who are saying it isn’t a tax must be people who won’t be affected by it. People who, incidentally, will themselves be no better off as a result.

But again, this is collusion. The government has found another way to divide the nation, trying to garner popular support for its policy against a minority group.

Looking at the question of whether this is a reasonable thing to do, it occurs to me that, even by the government’s own standards, it isn’t. This is a complication of the housing benefit system. Now, the amount a claimant receives will be dependent on the number of bedrooms in use in their home. Doesn’t that go against the grain of the government’s policies – for a simplified benefit system (Universal Credit), for a simplified pension system (flat-rate pensions were recently announced)?

This government will simplify as much as it can – but only when that suits its purpose. And its purpose is to hammer the poor. The simplified schemes I’ve mentioned will take money away from people, not give them more. The complicated change to housing benefit will do the same thing.

With public collusion.

So, to all those people who support the government’s disastrous changes, I must say: This government doesn’t care about you. It’s not doing these things to help you. It wants your money too.

What are you going to do when the government turns on you, and there’s nobody to help you because you sold them down the river over disability benefits and housing benefit?

Will the changes be reasonable when they put you into poverty?

I thought not.

But by then, it will be too late.

Coalition caught out over ‘strivers v skivers’

Iain Duncan Smith may need to rethink his definition of 'scrounger' after it was revealed that work programme 'provider' companies have been cooking the books to make it seem that more people have moved into work than is the case - thereby pocketing large fees for services they haven't rendered!

Iain Duncan Smith may need to rethink his definition of ‘scrounger’ after it was revealed that work programme ‘provider’ companies have been cooking the books to make it seem that more people have moved into work than is the case – thereby pocketing large fees for services they haven’t rendered!

Well done to the BBC for showing up the Coalition government, whose work programme providers have been cooking the books.

The evidence was revealed in a 5 Live investigation, that discovered job seekers on the work programme are being encouraged to declare that they are self-employed – when they aren’t – in order to get more money in tax credits than they would on Jobseekers’ Allowance.

In fact, that isn’t even true in all cases, so these claimants are being led right down the garden path!

The Employment Related Services Association, the organisation that represents work programme provider companies – and, by the way, why is it that these business-representing organisations are getting such an easy time of it when worker-representatives like trade unions are still considered to be scum? – says its members haven’t been doing anything wrong. It would, wouldn’t it?

But people interviewed by 5 Live freely admitted they had been told to claim tax credits as self-employed people, even when they had no feasible job ideas or could not possibly turn a profit. They said they thought it was fraud.

And that’s what it seems to me – that they’re cooking the books.

Let’s remember that these work programme providers get their money from the government – the same Coalition government that has made great play of “strivers v skivers” rhetoric (claiming to be on the side of the strivers – working people trying to pay their own way in the world, against the skivers – layabouts hiding behind closed curtains where they waste their days watching the Jeremy Kyle show and claiming benefits that they don’t deserve from the state).

Not only are they actively encouraging people – who want to work and pay their own way in the world – to become, in the language of the government, skivers; these companies are actually, themselves, skiving.

They receive small attachment fees for every job seeker assigned to them, right? But they also get far higher fees when they manage to get someone signed off JSA altogether and into work. Self-employment is work. By lying that these people are now in work, they are taking money from the government under false pretences.

And they are also skewing the government’s employment figures. How can David Cameron stand in front of every MP in the House of Commons and have the bare-faced cheek to say a million new jobs have been created, when any number of those jobs could be fake?

Once again, we see that this government and its structures are all about presenting only an appearance of propriety, while secretly getting a hand into the till and removing as much cash as possible.

I wonder how many MPs currently at the Department of Work and Pensions will be getting jobs with these work provider companies after they leave Parliament?

It all amounts to another reason people should sign my e-petition to end corruption in Parliament by stopping MPs from receiving any financial benefit as a result of the decisions they take (other than their MPs’ salaries, of course). If you haven’t signed it yet, please, do it now! If you have, check that your friends have, too – and ask them to get their friends to sign it, in turn. Spread the word!

One last thought: I heard on the radio today that the proportion of pensioners in poverty since 1997 has halved, to 16 per cent. That’s an impressive achievement for the Labour government that was in power from that date until 2010. Its members clearly wanted to reward people who have worked all their lives, paid their taxes and supported British society.

What are those pensioners – who are being courted by the Conservatives, because senior citizens are more likely to vote than any other part of the population – to make of a government that is actively trying to hoodwink the current working-age generation out of the prosperity provided by a proper, working life?

Are today’s pensioners totally selfish, “I’m all right, Jack” types who think that this is nothing to do with them, and there will be no need to rock the boat as long as they’ve got their money?

Or do they understand that, as far as the UK’s prosperity is concerned, we really are all in it together, and the working-age population need the support of their elders – otherwise there will be too few people in work to pay the cost of their pensions!

It will be interesting to find out.