Tag Archives: weekend

DWP abandons legal battle over ‘perverse’ Universal Credit fault

This is a surprise – the Department for Work and Pensions has actually seen the light and done the right thing!

The decision paves the way for 85,000 benefit claimants to demand reimbursement as the fault in Universal Credit means they may have been left £500 per year worse off.

If you’re one of those affected, get your demand in now.

The Department for Work and Pensions has abandoned its lengthy legal battle to avoid fixing a “perverse” design feature in universal credit that has left thousands of working claimants hundreds of pounds a year out of pocket.

The minister for welfare delivery, Will Quince, told MPs he accepted that the DWP must correct the feature, which has resulted in serious budgeting problems for some claimants who are paid at the end of the month.

The issue currently affects claimants whose wages are paid two days earlier than usual when the month ends on a weekend or bank holiday. The system assumes they have been paid twice in a single universal credit assessment period, and none in the next, meaning their benefit payments fluctuate wildly.

Source: DWP abandons legal battle against universal credit claimants | Society | The Guardian

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How many people does the government owe because of Universal Credit payday prejudice?

Let’s answer the question in the headline straight away: it seems 85,000 people may be able to claim compensation because the government deliberately failed to stop people getting less Universal Credit if their payday comes early because of a weekend or bank holiday.

Judges at the Court of Appeal have ruled that it was “irrational” for the Department for Work and Pensions – and the Secretary of State in particular – to ignore the fact that computer systems would assume that claimant had received double the money expected and cancel their payments.

The Conservative government has spent two years fighting this court case – indicating that, despite being well aware of the issue, Tories were determined to continue depriving some of the poorest workers in the UK of vital benefits.

Are they sadists? Or perverts?

Certainly perverts, it seems. In her judgment, Lady Justice Rose described the situation as “perverse”.

But decide for yourself.

The three judges at the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the Work and Pensions Secretary acted irrationally and unlawfully by making Universal Credit regulations which fail to take into account that the date monthly salaries are paid can vary because of weekends and bank holidays.

The Government had taken the case to the Court of Appeal after single mother Danielle Johnson, along with three other mothers supported by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), won a High Court legal challenge.

They said the Government’s interpretation of regulation 54 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 meant some months she would receive much less in universal credit than in others.

Ms Johnson is paid on the last working day of each month and her benefit assessment period runs from the last day of the month to the penultimate day of the following month. When a weekend is at the end of a month, this means her wages go into her bank account earlier than in other months.

The Universal Credit computer system interpreted this as Ms Johnson having earned twice as much in one month and none in others, so her payment would be calculated accordingly.

It resulted in extreme fluctuations in her income and – in several months – she lost the work allowance part of the UC payment, meaning she was around £500 per year worse off.

If 85,000 people lost the same amount, that means the government was stopping them from receiving £42.5 million a year – not a lot in terms of a national government’s budget.

So why did the Tories create a system that forced this hardship on vulnerable women (among others)?

Why spend more money defending this irrational persecution of vulnerable women?

We can only conclude that this is yet more evidence that the Tories simply enjoy making poor people suffer.

And it worked: Ms Johnson suffered severe cash flow problems and between them, the four mothers fell into rent arrears, defaulted on council tax, incurred bank overdraft charges, borrowed money and even become reliant on food banks to make ends meet.

Lady Justice Rose commented that Ms Johnson “expresses her doubts whether she will ever be able to get back on top of her finances and worries that cash flow problems will mean she is unable to pay her rent, jeopardising her tenancy”.

We should also discuss the Tory government’s defence, which seems to be that changing the system would cost too much. It’s always about money with this mob, isn’t it?

So the court was told that any change to the computer system would cost at least £7.35 million – a fraction of what the government has saved each year by withholding money from 85,000 claimants.

And the Tories said there would need to be a wholesale move away from automation back to manual calculation in order to accommodate the changes demanded by the judges.

This would be an admission that the whole Universal Credit project – that was intended to be “digital by default” – is a failure.

And it’s doubtful that there’s any truth in the claim. Computer programs can be quite adaptable – or at least, they can in the hands of people who don’t have an agenda that involves the persecution of the vulnerable.

Of course the question arising from this is: what happens next?

Will the government automatically calculate the back payments owed to many tens of thousands of UC claimants and pay them?

I think we all know the answer to that!

Will the Tories change the law to ensure that this situation is not allowed to arise in the future?

Or will they try to find another way to contest the ruling? Delay any payments resulting from it? Otherwise try to ignore the decision of the court?

What do you think?

Source: Four Single Mums Win Court Of Appeal Universal Credit Case | Leigh Day

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Jeremy Hunt has talked himself into a hole – and is digging for all he’s worth

Here’s what “most doctors” think of Jeremy Hunt, I reckon [Image: Sean Hansford/MEN].

Everybody reading this will be familiar with the expression, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” If only Jeremy Hunt would take that advice!

In the latest round of his ongoing dispute with Professor Stephen Hawking, Mr Hunt has tried to defend his claims about NHS spending – and failed.

He has also tried to defend his claims about falling numbers of people taking out private medical insurance – and failed.

Worst of all, he has tried to say he has not cherry-picked evidence in order to make a false claim about weekend deaths – by devising a new definition of cherry-picking.

Take a look at his words, taken from his own latest Guardian article:

He does not deny that it has record funding or record numbers of doctors and nurses, but describes these as a “distraction”. Such figures surely are crucial evidence if he is arguing, as he did last weekend in a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine, that the direction of the NHS is heading towards a US-style insurance system. Such systems – which he seems to now concede are not government policy – rely on individuals, and not the state, paying for their healthcare. If that was the direction of travel, the state would be spending less, not more, on the NHS.

But Professor Hawking has already stated that “record funding is not the same thing as adequate funding”.

We are all aware of Noam Chomsky’s description of the standard technique of privatisation, aren’t we? “Defund” – meaning, fail to provide enough funding – “make sure things don’t work” – and Mr Hunt has admitted he does not “think everything is working well in the NHS” – “people get angry” – like Professor Hawking – “you hand it over to private capital”.

How much of that “record” funding is going towards private companies? Some of that money will be handed out to shareholders as profit, meaning it serves no useful purpose in the provision of care. But it all counts as privatisation of health care.

So: Mr Hunt’s “record” funding isn’t enough, especially as a large proportion of it is funding the profits of private health – and the service is suffering, which means it is well on the way to privatisation according to Mr Chomsky’s pattern.

Likewise, more individuals would be taking out private medical insurance – again, the opposite is the case. Although there was indeed a small rise last year, overall there has been a dramatic drop in private medical insurance since 2009.

If there was a rise in the number of individuals taking out private medical insurance last year, then Professor Hawking is right to say that more individuals are taking out private medical insurance. Anybody can make figures say what they want by choosing an arbitrary starting date. Why not say, “There has been a rise in private health insurance since 2015”?

I do not accept his comments about the misuse of statistics, although inevitably in the heat of an industrial relations dispute there will be many such accusations hurled from both sides. To decide that one piece of research is the most credible is not “cherrypicking”, as Hawking suggested – it is doing what you have to do when researchers disagree.

If researchers disagree, then the evidence is not conclusive and no decision can be made. “To decide that one piece of research is the most credible” is exactly “cherrypicking” – it is citing one study but suppressing others in order to support a political policy, as Professor Hawking stated in his original Guardian article.

Finally, we have this:

But regardless of which research you back, none of us can bury our heads in the sand on the issues surrounding weekend care in hospitals. Most doctors in their hearts would rather a loved one was admitted mid-week than at the weekend.

And who said Jeremy Hunt could speak for “most doctors”?

The last time This Writer checked, “most doctors” had spent most of a year holding industrial action against Mr Hunt because of his attempts to speak for them on the subject of their pay and conditions of work.

And what research has Mr Hunt carried out? Since we’re discussing scientific evidence, with how many doctors did he discuss this matter?

Or, returning to the fact that he has dug himself into a hole, is Mr Hunt pulling his claim from another hole that he happens to have on his person?


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After Hunt attacked over NHS privatisation, we all knew Hawking wouldn’t let it lie

[Image: @Rachael_Swindon on Twitter.]

Picture the scene if you can: Professor Stephen Hawking reading Jeremy Hunt’s smear piece against his concerns about the NHS and then, in calm, voice-synthesized tones, uttering: “So he wants to play hardball, does he? Fine.”

Professor Hawking has written a response in The Guardian, expanding on his original points:

That Mr Hunt misrepresented scientific research in order to claim that poorer hospital care and staffing at weekends cause excess deaths.

That Mr Hunt’s claim of record NHS funding is a distraction as it does not show that funding is adequate.

And that all the evidence shows a move towards a US-style, privatised, health insurance system, whether the minority Conservative government wants it or not.

It seems unlikely that Mr Hunt will back down. It also seems likely that he will face renewed calls to defend his claims, in person, on the floor of the House of Commons.

That will be comedy gold – although, considering the state of disrepair into which he has allowed the NHS to fall, it will be gallows humour.

Hunt doesn’t deny that he dismissed research contradicting his claim of excess deaths due to poorer hospital care and staffing at the weekend. He admits he relied on one paper by Professor Nick Freemantle and colleagues. But even if one accepts its disputed findings, the authors explicitly warn that “to assume these excess deaths are avoidable would be rash and misleading”. The editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, wrote to Hunt to reprimand him for publicly misrepresenting the Freemantle et al paper. As a patient who has spent a lot of time in hospital, I would welcome improved services at the weekend. For this, we need a scientific assessment of the benefits of a seven-day service and of the resources required, not misrepresentation of research.

Hunt’s statement that funding and the number of doctors and nurses are at an all-time high is a distraction. Record funding is not the same thing as adequate funding. There is overwhelming evidence that NHS funding and the numbers of doctors and nurses are inadequate, and it is getting worse.

Hunt misquoted me, saying that I claimed the government wants a US-style insurance system. What I said was that the direction is towards a US-style insurance system, run by private companies. The increasing involvement of private health companies in the NHS is evidence for this. Hunt chose to highlight – dare I say, cherry-pick – the fact that private companies’ share of NHS contracts rose 0.1% over the last year. This is an anomaly among the data since 2006. The NHS private providers’ share was 2.8% in 2006-7 and rose steadily to 7.6% in 2015/16. The amount of private health insurance has fallen since 2009 as Hunt said, but that is because of the financial crash. We can conclude nothing about health policy from this and in any case, it is now increasing again. As waiting times increase, private companies report an increase in self-pay where patients pay directly for care such as hip and knee replacements.

Further evidence that the direction is towards a US-style system is that the NHS in England is undergoing a complete reorganisation into 44 regions with the aim of each being run as an “accountable care organisation” (Aco). An Aco is a variant of a type of US system called a health maintenance organisation in which all services are provided in a network of hospitals and clinics all run by the HMO company. It is reasonable to expect the powerful US HMO companies such as Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth will be bidding for the huge contracts to run these ACOs when they go out to international tender. Hunt referenced Kaiser Permanente as a model for the future budgetary arrangements in the NHS at the Commons health select committee in May 2016.

Source: Jeremy Hunt can attack me all he wants – but he is wrong to say the NHS is working | Stephen Hawking | Opinion | The Guardian


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Jeremy Hunt challenged to take part in TV debate with Stephen Hawking over the NHS

Will Jeremy Hunt go into hiding to avoid appearing in a TV debate with Professor Hawking – as he once hid behind a tree to avoid being seen going to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been challenged to appear in a televised debate on NHS statistics and the future of the service.

He would be opposed by Professor Stephen Hawking, whose claims about the Conservative minority government’s plans for the NHS were attacked by Mr Hunt on Twitter over the weekend.

Here’s the challenge:

This Writer is particularly pleased that doctors are taking this step. As I stated in my article on the subject, on Saturday (August 19):

“Let’s see the Health Secretary prove his claims against the kind of forensic examination that the world’s greatest living physicist can provide.

“And let’s have it televised. How about it, BBC?”

Well? How about it, Mr Hunt?

Of course we don’t believe him! Jeremy Hunt is a liar – and a fool, if he thinks anybody else is stupid enough to be persuaded by his lies.

His “weekend effect” argument is particularly weak because – as has already been proved, he really did cherry-pick his evidence, as Stephen Hawking stated in his Guardian article.

Professor Hawking, who has Motor Neurone Disease and has, therefore, enjoyed considerable experience of the NHS since 1962, makes the point that it is unscientific to base an argument for anything on only part of the evidence that is available; science demands a solution that encompasses all the evidence.

Mr Hunt’s response was to make an evidenceless claim about the 2015 Fremantle study.

Source: Hunt v Hawking on the future of the NHS: Who do you believe? | Vox Political


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Hunt v Hawking on the future of the NHS: Who do you believe?

You’ve got to believe Jeremy Hunt, right?

He is the Health Secretary, after all. He’s the man responsible for planning the future of the National Health Service. He should know whether the NHS is being run down to make way for a US-style health insurance system.

And we all know he takes his responsibility as a Conservative cabinet minister extremely seriously and would never lie to the public – right?

So when he says more money is being spent on the NHS than ever before, we believe him – right?

When he says he was right about the number of deaths increasing because of a so-called “weekend effect”, we believe him – right?

And when he says there are no plans to replace the NHS with a privately-run health system in which the public relies on private health insurance to pay for their treatment, we believe him on that as well – right?

NO!

Of course we don’t believe him! Jeremy Hunt is a liar – and a fool, if he thinks anybody else is stupid enough to be persuaded by his lies.

His “weekend effect” argument is particularly weak because – as has already been proved, he really did cherry-pick his evidence, as Stephen Hawking stated in his Guardian article.

Professor Hawking, who has Motor Neurone Disease and has, therefore, enjoyed considerable experience of the NHS since 1962, makes the point that it is unscientific to base an argument for anything on only part of the evidence that is available; science demands a solution that encompasses all the evidence.

Mr Hunt’s response was to make an evidenceless claim about the 2015 Fremantle study. This will be the report rubbished in an article referenced above.

Professor Hawking added: “This problem goes beyond the weekend effect. The NHS is in a crisis, and one that has been created by political decisions. These political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on junior doctors, and removal of the student nurses’ bursary. Political decisions such as these cause reductions in care quality, longer waiting lists, anxiety for patients and staff, and dangerous staff shortages. Failures in the system of privatised social care for disabled and elderly people have placed an additional burden on the NHS.”

Mr Hunt, who co-authored a book demanding that the NHS must be privatised, provided this response:

Guess what? Nobody believed him.

Peter Stefanovic, author of the put-down above, sums it up very well in this video:

But let’s hammer the point home with a few more comments:

This Writer hopes someone on the Opposition benches has the presence of mind to call Mr Hunt to account for his lies in the Commons chamber.

Let’s see the Health Secretary prove his claims against the kind of forensic examination that the world’s greatest living physicist can provide.

And let’s have it televised. How about it, BBC?

Jeremy Hunt has accused Stephen Hawking of a “pernicious” lie after the physicist said it seemed the Tories were steering the UK towards a US-style health insurance system.

Hours after the health secretary was criticised for claiming Hawking was wrong in the row about the government’s seven-day NHS plan, he leapt back into the fray with two tweets defending the Conservative party’s record on the health service.

Hunt was responding to criticism from the renowned 75-year-old physicist and author of A Brief History of Time ahead of a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine on Saturday.

In the speech, Hawking will accuse the health secretary of “cherrypicking” favourable evidence while suppressing contradictory research to suit his argument.

In a Guardian opinion piece published on Friday, Hawking also criticised the power of profit-seeking multinationals, which he said had contributed to the inequalities rife in the US healthcare system.

“We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a US-style insurance system,” he wrote.

Source: Jeremy Hunt accuses Stephen Hawking of ‘pernicious falsehood’ in NHS row | Politics | The Guardian


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Latest attack on NHS weekend care is shot down by British Medical Journal

Were you worried by the revelations in the mainstream media that babies born on weekends are more likely to die? Don’t be. It’s another dumb trick.

The Daily Mail published the revelations about weekend care in the NHS – in an article that seems to have gone missing from the World Wide Web. How curious!

Anyway, here’s the British Medical Journal on the many ways the article was wrong:

151127weekendbabymortalitydebunked

Notice the first point about causation. This Writer saw that and thought, “Sauce for the goose.” It’s exactly what the Conservative Government said about claims that the work capability assessment is causing deaths among benefit claimants, and now it’s being used to disprove a claim that supports the Conservative Government’s position on NHS contracts.

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National Park pay cut highlights the need to strengthen trade unions

141130kittysjonesunions

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of work for 19 of its staff, removing enhanced rates of pay for weekend work.

The organisation’s bosses reckon they do not have the cash to continue with a pay condition that used to be mandatory across the United Kingdom; if you worked Saturdays, you got time-and-a-half, and on Sundays, double-time.

What was their pay cut, then?

The article in this week’s Brecon and Radnor Express doesn’t mention one. It states: “Following a consultation with staff, the authority amended its proposals and agreed to continue paying the enhanced time-and-a-half rate for working bank holidays [bank holiday work used to be paid on the double-time rate, This Writer believes]… [Staff] have been given until this week to accept the new terms and conditions.”

This is the kind of unacceptable behaviour that working people have been forced to endure for too long, under successive right-wing governments that have legislated against trade unions and industrial action.

The current Conservative Party manifesto gives a prime example of ‘boss’ thinking: “We will protect you from disruptive and undemocratic strike action. Strikes should only ever be the result of a clear, positive decision based on a ballot in which at least half the workforce has voted. This turnout threshold will be an important and fair step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.

“We will, in addition, tackle the disproportionate impact of strikes in essential public services by introducing a tougher threshold in health, education, fire and transport. Industrial action in these essential services would require the support of at least 40 per cent of all those entitled to take part in strike ballots – as well as a majority of those who actually turn out to vote.”

A “fair step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions”? Really?

Apply the same rules to political elections and none of the Conservative Party would be elected at all. None of that party’s expensive and pointless ‘Police and Crime Commissioners’ would have been elected, either.

There is nothing “fair” about this Conservative proposal – and I expect the workers at the Brecon Beacons National Park to agree.

Picket line: FBU members on strike in June 2014. The government was imposing new conditions of employment that would have ensured far fewer firefighters would qualify for their pensions in the future.

Picket line: FBU members on strike in June 2014. The government was imposing new conditions of employment that would have ensured far fewer firefighters would qualify for their pensions in the future.

Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, states a very good case for trade unions, as follows: “Unions are essential for three reasons. The first is to ensure fair pay and conditions. Many of the things that people take for granted now, from sick pay to holiday pay to employment rights only happened because of trade unions.

“Secondly, collective bargaining is essential if working people are to stand up to employers who can otherwise use their relative power to suppress wages on an individual basis. Unions are, therefore, essential for the improvement of the incomes of wage earners and one reason why we have growing inequality in the UK is the loss of union representation.”

[Going back to the national park, the newspaper article quoted the authority as saying its change would bring it into line with “much of the public sector across Wales”. Clearly, the public sector in Wales needed collective bargaining; they have been picked off, one organisation at a time, by cynical bosses.]

“Third, unions are economically efficient. They reduce employer negotiating time. They reduce the number of disputes by resolving vast numbers of them by their interventions. And they reduce the inefficiency that results from the uncertainty of individual negotiations and resulting grievances.”

Mr Murphy continues: “This is class warfare and it will harm the UK by reducing wages, increasing inequality, denying representation to people who need it and reducing efficiency in the workplace.

“No logic can support this policy. Dogma based on class hatred can.”

Agreed.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Day of action planned against UKIP hate-mongering

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A weekend of action against alleged UKIP hate-mongering is to take place later this month.

In the immediate aftermath of the appalling terrorist attacks in Paris, UKIP leader Nigel Farage took to the airwaves to blame immigration and multiculturalism and claimed that there was a “fifth column” operating in this country, according to Hope Not Hate.

“We’ve got people living in these countries, holding our passports, who hate us,” the organisation quoted him as saying.

He went on to claim that most French cities had “no-go” areas for non-Muslims.

“Sadly, he is at it again,” wrote Nick Lowles for Hope Not Hate. “Last week, in a speech to a hard-right conference in the US, he repeated his claims.

“Farage’s incendiary language is dangerous and will only whip up fear, suspicion and hatred. He is clearly moving to the right, so we need to redouble our efforts to stop him and his party.

“Hope not hate is calling a national weekend of action for 21/22 March.

“With just 65 days to go until the General Election, we need to step up our campaign. UKIP boast that it will win several seats and, more worryingly, could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. UKIP also poses a real threat in 410 council wards.

“If you are appalled by Farage whipping up hatred and are worried about UKIP holding the balance of power, then please sign up to get involved.”

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