Tag Archives: tool

National newspaper incites hatred against disabled people, low-paid workers and pensioners

Targeted: this poster appeared in 2019 so the number of sick and disabled people who have died is likely to be far higher – especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. Papers like the Telegraph seem to be trying to make that number skyrocket.

What’s going on at the Daily Telegraph? First we find that the paper has been spreading falsehoods that the boss of a supermarket chain that keeps its groceries as cheap as possible and pays its workers more than most has blamed the minimum wage for inflation (he hasn’t); now this:

Prem Sikka has archived the article so you can read it for yourself:

And the website to which Samuel Miller links, here, pulls no punches – claiming the tool to calculate “how much of your salary bankrolls the welfare state” is “straight out of the Nazi handbook”:

The Telegraph article states: “Of the 5.2 million people claiming out-of-work benefits, roughly 3.7 million have been granted indefinite exemptions from finding a job, following a surge in claims of mental health issues and joint pain during the pandemic, it emerged last week.”

The Mary Sue piece responds [boldings mine]: “As a propaganda piece, it’s not subtle. “Roughly 3.7 million have been granted indefinite exemptions from finding a job” is a funny way of saying that 3.7 million disabled people, who cannot work due to their disabilities, have been awarded up to £515.40 a month (maybe going all the way up to £782.35 if they’re severely disabled) in order to keep them from starving to death on the streets.

“Putting this number down to “a surge in claims of mental health issues and joint pain during the pandemic” is derisive and clearly intended to diminish the reader’s perception of what are, in fact, disabling conditions to live with that, yes, actually were caused by the pandemic—either a result of infection with the virus itself or the psychological impacts of lockdown, mass death, and the other sociological effects of a global pandemic.”

The Torygraph continues: “On top of this, the controversial decision to maintain the state pension triple lock is estimated to cost taxpayers £1,000 each over the next four years, according to calculations by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a think tank.

“It raises the question, just how much of our hard-won salaries are spent on the benefits of those who do not work? With the calculator below, Telegraph Money can now reveal how much of your salary goes towards bankrolling the welfare state.”

In fact, none of our salaries are spent on benefits. The system doesn’t work that way. The government of the day sets its spending levels and then taxes us enough to keep that spending from pushing inflation too high (not accounting for interference from external influences like foreign wars and Brexit).

But let’s not allow trifles like the facts to get in the way of the Torygraph‘s argument.

Back to Mary Sue: “Note the emphasis on “do not work” and how it conflates the people who cannot work due to age or disability with the fantasy figure of the refusenik, who lounges around at home, wilfully choosing not to work, all on the government’s tab. It should be clear by now that the purpose of this article is to raise outrage against both the welfare system itself and the most vulnerable people who are dependent on it, but still, there’s more.”

The Torygraph states: “Despite Rishi Sunak’s insistence that he is a “low tax conservative” who wants to “bring people’s taxes down”, his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has implemented a combination of frozen thresholds, removed investment incentives, and increased corporation tax – all while keeping welfare spending close to £300bn a year.

“Economists now predict it will be decades before the tax burden returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“At the same time, welfare spending was the single biggest component of public sector expenditure in the financial year 2021-22, at £298.7bn out of a total of £952.3bn. For the typical taxpayer, this amounts to close to a third of their annual tax bill of £6,500 paid directly towards benefits.

“Using the latest public spending data, our analysis shows someone with the average UK salary of £33,000 sees £2,000 a year spent on welfare.”

Mary Sue responds: “The authors of the piece, Alex Clark and Tom Haynes, go on to object to the marginal and long overdue increase of corporation tax (even though the U.K. still has the joint highest uncapped headline rate of tax relief among G7 countries), the freeze on higher rate tax thresholds (meaning the wealthiest aren’t getting a tax cut), and the fact that this didn’t coincide with a lowering of government welfare spending, as if the former requires the latter as a form of penance.

“They seem outraged that most public sector spending goes toward the welfare state, with around a third of the average individual’s tax bill going toward it—this despite acknowledging that the percentage of public spending that goes toward welfare benefits has actually gone down while overall spending has gone up.”

The Torygraph: “Many high earners are now paying relatively more towards the welfare state because of the lowering of the 45p tax threshold in 2023-24, which now stands at £125,000, down from £150,000 before. Telegraph analysis shows 6pc of the average salary goes towards paying for benefits, compared to 13pc of a high earner’s salary.

“Someone earning £150,000, five times the average salary, contributes close to £19,000 towards the welfare state – more than nine times the contribution of someone on the average salary.”

Mary Sue: “But of course, the greatest outrage in this piece is reserved for the very wealthiest, who, due to earning significantly more than people in lower tax brackets, accordingly pay more tax and therefore contribute more to the welfare system. Leaning heavily on the fact that the highest tax bracket’s threshold was lowered from £150,000 pa to £125,140 this year, requiring the people in that gap to pay a whole 5% more on anything they earn above that limit, Clark and Haynes bemoan that a larger percentage of their tax bill goes towards maintaining the welfare system than lower earners. Someone earning five times the average U.K. salary pays up to nine times the amount towards the welfare system, we are told, as if this isn’t the entire point of staggered tax rates and how the system is supposed to work.”

Mary Sue then makes a hugely important point [boldings mine, again]: “It’s incredibly difficult to successfully apply for disability benefits of any kind in the U.K. According to a recent government study, the release of which is suspiciously close this particular Telegraph article’s publication, “the health assessment system for deciding if someone can claim disability benefits is grueling and often incorrect.” 90% of PIP (the most common benefit) claimants are denied on their first attempt with 89% of them denied again on their second round.

“The difficulty and sheer mental and physical stress involved in first applying and then attempting an appeal has led to a significant number of disabled people giving up, not because they don’t need the help after all but because the process is simply impossible for them to navigate with their disabilities. Reasons for denial are frequently absurd, and many disabled people have been reporting for years now that their assessor wrote down and submitted completely different information than they providedmisinformation that led to their claim being denied.

“While 3.7 million people considered too disabled to work may seem like a lot, when the total number of disabled people across the country is taken into consideration, 12.1 million, it suddenly seems a lot more reasonable. There aren’t too many people in receipt of benefits, or capable of working but given a pass not to—it’s the exact opposite, and the amount of money disabled people are awarded by the government is, in most cases, barely enough to live on.”

Mary Sue then goes on to consider the comparison it has made with Nazism: “This kind of rhetoric is dangerous, and comparing this calculator, and the article that accompanied it, to Nazism is neither figurative nor hyperbole. One of the very first things that the Nazis did, as a deliberate first step on their path to the Holocaust, was stir up hatred and resentment of disabled people based on the idea that their continued existence is a financial burden to the state.

“Labelling them as “useless eaters,” people who required care and support while being unable to contribute to the state, the Nazis distributed a flurry of propaganda focused on presenting disabled people as a financial burden to everyone else—a burden that prevented “good Germans,” who worked and paid taxes, from being able to access the resources they needed. This propaganda was so ubiquitous that it even made its way into children’s maths books.

How many steps is a calculator—designed to let you know exactly how much enabling disabled people’s continued survival costs you personally—removed from this? How far off is an article dedicated to decrying the expense of disabled lives as an undue burden, especially on the upper classes?”

Charitably, the author of the Mary Sue article doesn’t believe those who wrote the Torygraph piece were deliberately trying to stir up hatred: “it seems very likely that the authors have bought into the British right wing cultural obsessions of benefit frauds and disability fakers, a group of people that are vanishingly rare but which conservatives see as boogeymen around every corner. I’m sure they believe all those people now experiencing joint pain and mental health problems, as a result of a mass disabling event which caused those specific medical problems on a large scale, are just lying to get out of having to work.

“It’s a very convenient thing to believe if you want to pay lower taxes and are resentful of having to share even a fraction of your wealth with people less fortunate than yourself. It ties in very nicely with all the other conservative ideals that The Telegraph and its readers stand for, and that’s why it’s so dangerous: That’s exactly how and why it worked so well the last time.

Painting a group of people as too expensive to keep alive is literally the first step to genocide, and given the political environment, in which hate speech against a number of groups as well as legislation targeting them has become normalized, in both the press and parliament, its very concerning that The Telegraph felt comfortable publishing an article that so openly expresses these sentiments.

“I wonder how many people’s disability benefits the coronation could have paid for instead. Funny how papers like The Telegraph didn’t have an issue with taxpayers funding that.”

In fact, some of us would suggest that the genocide has been happening, quietly, for more than a decade – since before the Conservatives came back into office in 2010, in fact.

Back in 2015, after This Writer (that’s me) forced the government to honour a Freedom of Information request I had submitted, we all learned that 2,400 people had died between dates in 2011 and 2014 – within two weeks of being denied the sickness benefit ESA on grounds of being “fit for work”.

Nobody knows how many have died over a longer period after being found “fit for work” because the Department for Work and Pensions has never bothered to check. But the newspapers have been full of stories telling how people have died of starvation, of ill-health due to their disabilities, or simply committed suicide in despair because of the cruelty of the system.

Changes to the way ESA is assessed – removing the admittedly-hated “Work Capability Assessment” in favour of the even-worse Personal Independence Payment assessment – are expected to deprive a million people of the benefits they need to survive.

And benefit sanctions – which have been proved to be useless in getting people with long-term illnesses and disabilities back to work – are to be stepped up, pushing more vulnerable people towards taking their own lives.

As This Writer has stated many times over more than a decade in which I’ve been writing about it, this is genocide by proxy. The government creates conditions that force sick and disabled people to die, and then claims to be totally innocent of causing the deaths.

And it is at a time when these changes are being introduced that bosses of a national, right-wing, newspaper decide to publish an article demonising the sick and disabled (together with other benefit claimants and pensioners).

Going back to Mary Sue‘s “Nazi” motif, everybody know by now (don’t they?) that before World War II the Daily Mail actually supported Hitler’s regime in its articles.

Now it seems to be the Telegraph that has taken up the baton of the fascists.


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The ‘diabetes tax’: Some patients must pay £1,200 a year for tool Theresa May said was freely available on the NHS

Theresa May: She might get her FreeStyleLibre diabetes tool on the NHS, but her government has made sure many members of the public have to pay a fortune for it.

An apparently innocent interlude in Prime Minister’s Questions has opened up a potentially-huge controversy for the Conservative government.

Labour MP Steve McCabe noted that Theresa May uses a FreeStyleLibre diabetes tool, which monitors her condition and warns her when she needs medication. He asked when it would be freely available on the National Health Service. Here’s the dialogue, from the official record of Parliamentary affairs, Hansard:

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)

“Even the Prime Minister’s fiercest critics—I believe she has a few—must be full of admiration for the way in which she manages her diabetic condition and holds down such a tough and demanding job. I understand that she benefits from a FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system. Wouldn’t it be nice if she did something to make that benefit available to the half a million people who are denied it because of NHS rationing? Perhaps we could call it “help for the many, not the few”. [907106]

“I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I do use a FreeStyle Libre, and it is now available on the national health service, but it is not the only means of continuous glucose monitoring that is available on the NHS. Yesterday I saw a letter from a child—a young girl—who had started on the FreeStyle Libre, but, because of the hypos that she had been having, had been moved to a different glucose monitoring system. There is no one system that is right for everyone; what is important is that those systems are now available on the NHS.”

Technically, she was correct and the FreeStyleLibre is available on the NHS.

But, thanks to Tory meddling, its availability to people with diabetes is based on a postcode lottery.

You may remember that Andrew Lansley’s hated Health and Social Care Act of 2012 imposed Clinical Commissioning Groups on the NHS. These are local organisations that decide which services should be available to patients in their areas, based on the amount of money that is made available to them. The creation of CCGs was justified with a claim that GPs would serve on them – but in fact GPs are far too busy and the work seems to have devolved to businesspeople.

Unite the Union surveyed the 3,392 CCG board members in 2015 and reported that 513 were directors of private healthcare companies: 140 owned such businesses and 105 carried out external work for them. More than 400 CCG board members were shareholders in such companies.

As a result, trust in CCGs’ ability, or indeed willingness, to provide the best-quality healthcare their budgets can afford is low. It seems the bias is more likely towards offering private firms the contracts they want, in order to appease shareholders who sit on these groups.

The FreeStyleLibre – together with those who use it – appears to be a victim of this system.

While it is nominally available on the NHS, as Mrs May claimed, it is not available to huge numbers of NHS patients because the CCGs in their area simply haven’t offered to pay for it. Instead, they have to fund it themselves at a cost of £100 per month.

That’s a “Diabetes Tax”, if you like, of £1,200 per year.

This information comes from a segment of the BBC’s Politics Live that I was lucky enough to notice:

Here’s the clip the programme put up on Twitter, in which Type 1 diabetic Tessa Nejranowski destroys Mrs May’s claim:

So there you have it:

Mrs May lied to Parliament. FreeStyleLibre is not available on the NHS – at least, not everywhere in England – and where it is not, people have to pay £1,200 a year to have it privately. That’s a “diabetes tax” imposed on people with the condition by the Conservatives.

And it’s about as strong an argument as any for the dissolution of the CCGs and the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. But you’ll have to wait for a Labour government before that happens.

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Sincerity in the face of adversity (Mr Cameron, take note)

Shiny and insincere: Maybe. But Bob Monkhouse spoke from the heart about the loss of his son, something that seems beyond David Cameron's abilities.

Shiny and insincere: Maybe. But Bob Monkhouse spoke from the heart about the loss of his son, something that seems beyond David Cameron’s abilities.

Do you ever have moments when you think you’ve said something the best way you can, and then someone else comes along and does it better? In this case, the words come from an unexpected source – and from beyond the grave.

Last week this blog ran a couple of articles attacking the way David Cameron, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, used the memory of his late son Ivan to attack the Labour Party’s stance on the National Health Service.

Some readers took exception, and it is to these that the following is addressed.

In a Mail on Sunday interview back in January, Cameron himself expressed his displeasure with people who said he would eventually find a way to take something positive from his loss: “Even though Ivan was very disabled and very ill, it was all just a total shock. We had no idea he was going to suddenly die in the way he did,’ he said.

“But the person who says to you, ‘There’s a silver lining to all this,’ or ‘Some good will come of all this,’ you actually want to thump. It’s the most annoying thing anybody can possibly say.”

It seems Cameron did find a way to make something of his son’s death, though – by attacking Labour. Here’s the Daily Telegraph‘s coverage of this part of his speech last week: “In the most emotional passage of his keynote address, Mr Cameron expressed outrage that Labour was trying to position itself as the party of the NHS and undermine the Conservatives’ record.

“‘They were spreading complete and utter lies – and I just think, how dare you! It was the Labour party that gave us the scandal of Mid-Staffs, elderly people begging for water.’*

“He added: ‘For me this is personal. I know what it’s like to have a sick child in hospital and know that when I get there are people who will care for it like it was their own child.

“’How dare they suggest I would ever put that risk for other people’s children? How dare they frighten those who rely on our National Health Service.'”

In both the remarks quoted above, Mr Cameron’s son hardly gets a mention. He’s there as a device for Cameron to talk about himself or Labour.

This is something that was brought home to Yr Obdt Srvt in the most unexpected place over the weekend, when BBC Four ran a documentary about, of all people, the late Bob Monkhouse.

During his life, Bob gained a reputation for being shiny and insincere – all gloss and no substance. It’s a reputation that may be partly deserved. He also shared two important characteristics with Cameron – he was a Conservative (or at least a Conservative supporter, back in the 1980s), and he had a son with Cerebral Palsy who died young (although considerably older than Cameron’s son).

And there was nothing insincere about Bob when he said this about his son Gary: “I think most parents of a grossly handicapped child will see [it] not as their tragedy, but as their child’s tragedy. And then, as in the case of my son, you begin to learn from the child.

“He was such a – a straight arrow. He was a source of great inspiration to me and, and I think of him every day, and if I grieve – as I do – I grieve not for his death but for his life, which was a very difficult fight for him.”

The difference between Bob’s words and Cameron’s should be clear. If so, then there is nothing to add.

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Have we forgotten how to care – or are we just fed up with a government that won’t listen?

No horses were harmed in the making of this article. But at least one ESA claimant died while it was being prepared. [Picture: Eater.com]

No horses were harmed in the making of this article. But at least one ESA claimant died while it was being prepared. [Picture: Eater.com]

Here we are again.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote what in Vox Political terms was a blistering indictment, in which I tore metaphorical strips off of any reader who had failed to sign the government e-petition then known as Pat’s Petition.

This document, calling on the government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families” had secured around 60,000 signatures but had less than a day left to run when the article was written.

It would be nice to think that the piece acted as a prompt for at least some of the 3,000 people who signed in those last few hours – but this was not enough to save the petition, which failed to reach the 100,000 signatures needed for Parliament’s backbench business committee to consider taking its demands further.

Now we are in a similar position with the successor to Pat’s Petitionthe WoW Petition. It just happens that Yr Obdt Srvt had a hand in writing this one, along with a few others, and a lot of work was done to make it media-attractive and a magnet for signatures.

It was launched by the comedian Francesca Martinez, who is disabled, and the organisers went out of their way to find ways of publicising it throughout the year it was to be available for signing – for example, with ‘mass tweets’ on Twitter to attract tweeple who had not noticed it previously.

The petition calls for “a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions.”

At the time of writing it has two months (and a few hours) left to run, and has just reached approximately the same number of signatures as Pat’s Petition. Unless around 1,000 people start signing every day, this one might fail as well.

Now, I’m not going to shout at you (not this time, anyway). There have been several developments which have affected my own thinking about government e-petitions, meaning my own position towards them has cooled considerably.

For starters, ask yourself: When was the last time the government changed its policy – significantly – in response to a successful e-petition on its website? Has it ever happened? I can’t think of one instance. But that is what this petition demands.

The simple fact seems to be that the e-petition site is a sop for people who want to effect change. They think it is a tool for them to improve the country when in fact it is a tool for keeping them under control; if you are spending a year promoting an e-petition, you won’t be undermining the regime in other ways.

My problem with this – if it is true, and not just a product of my own paranoia – is that, according to government figures that are now long out-of-date, 73 people are dying every week and nothing is being done about it.

Look at the government’s own response, published after the WoW petition received more than 10,000 signatures. It’s on the petition page and concentrates on the call for a cumulative impact assessment, claiming (wrongly) that such an endeavour is practically impossible. It isn’t. There’s no interest in the other demands at all.

Next point: If the 73-a-week figure is accurate – and more so if it is now a grave underestimation (which is my belief) – then the 62,792 signatures achieved at the time of writing is a horrifying indictment of Britain and its citizens. Are we all so apathetic that we are happy to sit around, eating our horseburgers and gossiping about whether the stars of our favourite soap operas are sex fiends (two of the year’s more popular scandals) that we can’t be bothered to spare a thought for people – perhaps people we know – who are suffering for no reason other than that the government we didn’t even elect demands it?

The horsemeat in our beefburgers received far more coverage than the fact that 73 people every week have been dying, even though (as far as I am aware) nobody has suffered fatal injuries from chomping on a bit of thoroughbred. What does that tell you about your fellow Brits? What does it tell you about yourself?

Moving on: Other petitions, on other sites, have attracted more attention (and many more signatories) – especially those with a topical theme that is embarrassing for the government on a personal level. When Iain Duncan Smith said he could live on the amount people receive on Jobseekers’ Allowance, a petition – calling his bluff by demanding that he actually do so – attracted something like half a million signatures within a few days.

On a more serious level, after Smith and Grant Shapps decided it would be fun to distort the truth about the number of people moving into work to avoid the benefit cap, a petition demanding that they make apologies and reparations for their claims also attracted more than 100,000 signatures within a very short period of time – and is to be handed in to Parliament very soon.

These considerations lead us to some uncomfortable conclusions.

First, it is unlikely that a petition focusing only on the plight of those in danger of joining the 73-a-week death toll will ever reach its target – and even if it did, it is unlikely to gain traction among MPs.

Oh, you think I’m wrong? Have you signed the petition? No? Then get across and sign it now – put your name where it will do some good! Yes? Have you told all your friends about it and pestered them until they’ve signed it too? No? Then do that. If you’ve already done both and you still think I’m wrong, go out and accost strangers in the street to do it. That’s how you get it to its target!

Second, any mass media campaign needs a convenient – and probably banal – hook to hang itself on, in order to make the lackadaisical public look up from their fish and chips and take notice.

So any future campaign needs to be timed to correspond with an embarrassing slip-up by a DWP minister. This should not be a problem.

Third, any future campaign should not bother with the government e-petitions website but should take advantage of other petitioning organisations in order to make a more immediate impact.

Got that? Good.

None of these conclusions is an excuse not to sign the petition that is currently running. If you have signed it, make your friends do so. If you’ve made your friends do it, make strangers do it too.

More than 10 people are dying every day, because of this government’s policy – and more will do so, as long as that policy remains in effect. In the time it has taken me to write this, one more will have passed away. Add those numbers up and they are far, far too many.

There has been news this week that the British Army’s final tour of duty in Afghanistan has begun – a country where almost 450 British Armed Forces personnel have died since hostilities began 11 years ago. That’s about as many as are dying here at home, because of government policy, every six weeks.

And the figures we use to calculate the death toll are nearly two years out of date.

Think about it.

Take a hard look at yourself.

And get that petition up to 100,000.