Tag Archives: year

Did 3,000 people HAVE to die penniless while the Tories fought court case over PIP for the terminally-ill?

Lorraine Cox: she has motor neurone disease, but was denied PIP because she could say she would die within six months. It seems 3,000 others who also couldn’t predict their own deaths have died without receiving PIP in the last year.

It is one year since the Tories pledged to review their rules on which terminally-ill people could claim Personal Independence Payment – and it seems more than 3,000 would-be PIP claimants had to die before they were forced to do it by a court ruling.

They died without receiving PIP, because they could not predict when they were likely to die.

This Site celebrated like many others when Lorraine Cox won her case demanding a judicial review of the rules that said only people with particular terminal illness could claim PIP – and only if they knew they would die within six months.

Now we discover that – if recent trends have continued – then 3,000 people died between the Tories pledging a review that seems not to have happened and the Tory defeat in the Cox case.

I asked what happened to those people while Ms Cox was fighting her case in court.

Well, now we know.

According to The Mirror:

DWP figures show 17,070 people died waiting for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decision in five previous years.

If that pattern repeated, more than 3,000 will have died in similar cases since the review launched last summer.

Charities have demanded change.

The Tories are saying the Covid-19 crisis delayed their review.

Source: DWP: 3,000 people ‘die waiting’ for terminally ill benefit reforms one year on – Mirror Online

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Coronavirus: half a year before normality resumes – because of Tory stupidity

Johnson: This stupid ass caught coronavirus because he failed to follow his own social distancing advice (once he got round to giving it). Now he’s got the nerve to tell us he may tighten restrictions – but he’ll never admit that he has been at fault.

They’ll never admit it but if it does take half a year or more before people in the UK are allowed to resume their normal lives, it’s because of the stupidity of our Conservative government.

And if the lockdown lasts as long – or almost – that will be because of Tory stupidity too.

Boris Johnson’s letter saying the situation will worsen before it gets better is nothing more than we should all expect.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries, said the number of deaths is likely to worsen over the next one or two weeks – because it will take that long before the effects of social distancing begin to be felt.

And Johnson has warned that stricter measures could be put in place if necessary. This makes perfect sense, if deaths continue to rise.

But the reason deaths may continue rising is the government’s failure to impress upon the population the fact that the measures already in place are important.

In his letter, Johnson says, “From the start, we have sought to put in the right measures at the right time.” This is contemptible nonsense.

Before coronavirus arrived in the UK, the Tories had ensured that none of the plans necessary to protect the public against a contagion of this kind were up to date.

And they had dismantled the specialist team in the Department of Health, that would have dealt with the pandemic, nine years ago.

Medical journal The Lancet warned the government to get its act together on January 24.

But Johnson dithered for a further seven weeks, issuing contradictory statements and advice that left members of the public confused.

Is it any wonder, then, that when he ordered us all to stay home and observe social distancing rules, many people have ignored him completely – including himself?

The prime minister himself caught the disease because he failed to follow his own advice.

The news websites are full of reports of street parties being broken up by police, who are empowered to issue fines starting at £60 but rising to £960 for repeat offenders.

This Writer has been told of barbecues in Shrewsbury, and even health professionals have been caught flouting the rules.

This brings us to another point: remember Jenny Harries, who said the number of deaths is likely to worsen? She must take part of the blame for that.

The Lancet (again) has called on her to apologise for claiming that the NHS had “a perfectly adequate supply of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment, worn by medical staff while treating coronavirus patients to prevent them from contracting it or passing on to others]”.

It didn’t – and I note that two doctors are reported to have died in this report alone.

The government failed to join a European Union scheme to provide much-needed ventilators – by misdirecting the email, it seems – and there are concerns over the choices of supplier made by Johnson and his cronies.

Put it all together and you can see that more people will die because of the Tories; there is a lack of equipment to fight the virus because of the Tories; and if it takes longer for life to return to normal – they’ll be responsible for that too.

Source: Coronavirus: Strict measures could last ‘significant period’ – BBC News

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Complained about the DWP? Don’t hold your breath waiting for an investigation

The state of this.

Remember when This Site told you complaints to the DWP about the company the Tory government hired to assess claimants’ eligibility for certain benefits had multiplied nearly 15 times since 2013?

Well, it turns out that if you complain to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) about the DWP or any organisation working for it, you’ll be waiting more than a year.

In response to a parliamentary question last week, the Tory government admitted:

“In the first six months of 2019 (January to June 2019) it took the Independent Case Examiner’s Office an average of: 59 weeks to commence an investigation (from the point at which the complaint was accepted for examination); and 23 weeks to complete an investigation (from the point at which it was allocated to an investigation case manager).”

So you’ll be waiting a year and a half for compensation that totals a maximum of £200.

Did you ever get the impression that somebody wants you to think it isn’t worth bothering?

Source: Claimants wait over a year for ICE to even begin investigations into DWP

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Does accusation=guilt as Patchwork Foundation vetoes Chris Williamson’s nomination as MP of the Year?

Chris Williamson.

A charity that self-describes as “strengthening democracy” has undermined its own work by vetoing the nomination of Chris Williamson as a candidate for its ‘MP of the Year’ award.

The Patchwork Foundation, which claims to encourage the positive integration of disadvantaged and minority communities into British democracy and civil society, pushed Mr Williamson off the list because his membership of the Labour Party has been suspended pending an investigation into claims of anti-Semitism. This is despite the fact that he continues his work as an outstanding constituency MP.

A letter from the organisation states:

“Our MP of the Year Awards seek to celebrate and recognise those MPs that uphold the ethos and values of the Fooundation; to champion underrepresented, minority or disadvantaged communities in the UK.

“MPs under investigation or suspension would not be included. As such, Chris Williamson’s nomination could not be taken forward this year, as he is currently suspended from the Labour Party.”

Here it is:

What message does this send to disadvantaged and minority communities? “Don’t get accused of anything because the establishment – including this organisation – will automatically assume that you are guilty”? “We will pre-judge you on anything that is said about you”? “Don’t dare try to make a difference because you will be punished”?

That’s what it says to me.

By getting on the witch-hunt’s bandwagon, it seems clear that the Patchwork Foundation has abandoned all hope of running a fair contest and whoever wins – no matter how good an MP he or she may be – will have to face the fact that they may have won it unfairly.

Mr Williamson has been gracious about it:

Some of those who nominated him are less pleased:

What do you think?

Is it reasonable that people should be denied an opportunity to show support for others they believe have been falsely accused, simply because they have been accused?

Or is this an example of Establishment figures clustering together to ostracise the innocent?

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Nigel Farage wants to censor satire – or does he simply have no sense of humour?

What a drip: But why is Nigel so glum? The only person harmed by this milkshake attack was his tailor.

Who’d have thought Nigel Farage was such a fragile little snowflake?

First he took offence at Jo Brand’s joke that a milkshake was too mild a liquid to throw over him and that it should have been battery acid.

Now he has attacked Channel 4 for screening a satire in which a character called “Neil Fromage”, who makes an anti-immigrant speech, gets shot in the head.

It’s possible he is still sore at the TV station for its recent docudrama about the 2016 EU referendum, which did not portray the Leave campaign in a flattering light.

I’m reminded of a routine by the late comic Bill Hicks, who said that not only would the United States be run better if the Senate and the House of Representatives were filled by people off the streets rather than politicians, but that the politicians should be marched into a TV studio and shot, live on air, as a lesson to others not to follow their example.

He added that this was just a joke and – as he was saying this in the early 1990s – nobody took offence.

In fact, it occurs to This Writer that the only people who would demand the censorship of such commentary on the behaviour of politicians are people with a vested interest in silencing others.

And, as the current saying goes, the optics on that are terrible.

For clarity: Nobody is suggesting that Mr Farage should actually be shot in the head. The worst one could infer is that anti-immigrant rhetoric is divisive and breeds hatred.

My personal opinion, as someone who has been a comedy consumer for nearly half a century and an observer of politics and human behaviour for a slightly shorter period, is that shows like Year of the Rabbit are more likely to dissuade people from harming others.

Mr Farage – poor little snowflake that he is – should be grateful.

Nigel Farage has spoken out against Channel 4 for a “totally sick” scene in the comedy Year of The Rabbit that shows a right-wing campaigner named Neil Fromage being shot in the head.

The Brexit party leader called the moment in the Matt Berry-starring spoof show, in which the character of Fromage is killed while giving an anti-immigration speech, “totally sick and frankly irresponsible”.

Speaking to the Daily Star on Sunday, Farage went on to attack the network: “With Channel 4, we have reached a point where they are so partisan politically in everything they do that they now consistently go beyond what’s acceptable.”

In the assassination scene, Fromage takes to a soapbox and says: “Immigrants infest this city they do … like a cancer. And if they take over, you can be sure of one thing.” “Far better restaurants?” a character in the crowd interjects. “Blood, blood, blood.”

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “Year of the Rabbit is a purposefully outrageous and heightened comedy set in Victorian-era London featuring exaggerated and ridiculous fictional characters and in this context it is clear to viewers that the actions of these characters – be they grave robbers, murderous historical preservation enthusiasts or serial killer politicians – are preposterous and not to be taken seriously.”

Source: Nigel Farage furious at TV show assassinating ‘Neil Fromage’ – The Guardian

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900 deaths a year due to NHS computer problems – caused by unsuitable software?

My understanding is that the software used by the NHS – like that used by many government departments – is bought from large corporations that work on a “one size fits all” basis.

The problem? One size doesn’t fit all.

The simple fact, as it seems to This Writer, is that government – not just the current government, but any government – seems too willing to pay a fortune to huge corporations for off-the-shelf software that doesn’t work.

I mean, who provided the software under criticism in the article quoted below?

A much better policy would be to seek tenders from multiple software writers – including small firms – for bespoke software that actually does the job required of it.

It would be cheaper, it would be better, and above all… it would be safer.

Problems with computers could be blamed for up to 900 deaths in the NHS every year, two academics have claimed.

Computers are embedded across the NHS but many are “bad” and “low quality”, putting lives at risk they say.

From the PC that stores patient records to systems embedded in devices like MRI scanners and dialysis machines, NHS IT is “unnecessarily buggy” and “susceptible to cyber-attack”, according to Harold Thimbleby, professor of computer science at Swansea University.

Source: NHS computer problems could be to blame for ‘up to 900 deaths a year’ – Mirror Online


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Still wondering why Tony Blair was given a philanthropy award by GQ magazine? – Pride’s Purge

Tony-Blair-006

Some people have been wondering why GQ magazine decided Tony Blair would be a suitable person to receive its annual Philanthropist of the Year award, writes Tom Pride in Pride’s Purge.

Well, GQ’s editor is a right-wing Conservative Party supporter who gave Boris Johnson a job on the magazine and put David Cameron on the cover.

And GQ’s owner is a right-wing Republican Party supporter who, just before the 2008 presidential election, put a cartoon of Obama dressed as a Muslim terrorist burning the US flag on one of his magazine covers – later claiming it was a joke.

So clearly, starting numerous wars, dropping bombs on sovereign nations and being a paid adviser to brutal murderous dictators must be a right-winger’s idea of philanthropy.

For more of Tom’s wisdom, visit Pride’s Purge here.

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Work Programme year two result: FAIL

130627workprogramme

The government’s flagship Work Programme has failed to reach its own minimum standard of results – for the second year running.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 13 per cent of jobseekers had managed to find work lasting at least six months (three months for the hardest to help) – but targets for the second year were higher than the first and the DWP admitted that the Work Programme has failed to meet them.

Of the 1.02 million who have been on the programme long enough to count in today’s figures, 132,000 people found work lasting long enough to be counted a success according to its (low) standards. Six months in work is not a long-term job.

This totals 13.4 per cent. Broken down into particular payment groups, Work Programme providers got 31.9 per cent of JSA claimants aged 18-24 into sustained work against a contracted level of 33 per cent – so that is a fail. For JSA claimants aged 25 or over, they averaged 27.3 per cent against a contracted level of 27.5 per cent – so that is also a fail.

We should concede that this is a big improvement from the first year, when no provider reached their contracted level of 5.5 per cent for either group.

But 31.9 per cent and 27.3 per cent creates a combined average of 29.6 per cent, so you’re probably wondering why the Work Programme’s actual average is 13.4 per cent.

Part of this has to do with the total for people on Employment and Support Allowance. The achievement for ESA new customers was just 5.3 per cent, against a target of 16.5 per cent – and is therefore a bitter fail.

This still does not create a combined figure of 13.4 per cent but I am momentarily at a loss to find any other figures to account for it in the statistical release or the DWP’s press release.

This – the press release – is a piece of comedy rather than information, as we have come to expect from the Department of Wayward Pronoouncements.

It makes no mention of the abject failure to meet ESA targets but states: “Compared to many employment schemes under previous governments, the programme targets the hardest to help into work, such as those claiming Employment and Support Allowance.”

That’s a shot in the foot right there, because it immediately sent me looking for the relevant – and damning – figures.

The omission here, coupled with the recent BBC news report in which WP providers got their begging bowls out and demanded more cash to help ESA claimants into work, creates a bleak picture for sick and disabled people who are being forced to seek employment and reinforces the position set out in a previous Vox Political article that these are people who are too ill to work and should not be forced to seek it.

It’s a lose-lose scenario: The Work Programme providers will fail to hit their targets and the ESA recipients’ health will suffer.

And we all know that the DWP is hiding the figures showing how many ESA recipients are dying every week as a result of participation in its brutal assessment process and silly work placement schemes.

Employment minister Mark Hoban, commenting on the programme’s failure to meet its contracted targets, said: “The Work Programme is helping large numbers of people escape the misery of long-term unemployment and get back into real jobs. The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better.”

So we know that he’s living in a fantasy world.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that 18 out of the 40 Work Programme providers have met or exceeded their targets. Unfortunately we don’t know how they managed this; considering some of the horror stories that have come from the schemes, it seems a miracle that anyone got a job at all.

Oh, and there’s a sideswipe at commenters like Vox Political. The statistical summary states: “Many commentators on the previous statistical release looked to compare total job outcome payments with total referrals in the period covered by that publication (June 2011 to July 2012) and assess this against a minimum benchmark.

“Incorrectly the media calculated 3.5 per cent (using data covered by full release period) and 2.3 per cent (using data from June 2011 to May 2012) as the relevant figure to compare against the 5.5 per cent benchmark. The contractual benchmark is measured each financial year for three specific groups of Participants only.”

The press release states that – for once – the DWP has an endorsement from the UK Statistics Authority: “The UK Statistics Authority has said that it does not regard the calculation by commentators that 3.5% of people got into work in the first year of the scheme is the most relevant figure on which to assess performance.

“It agrees with the DWP that performance is better measured by counting how many people referred to the Work Programme get into sustained employment within a year of being referred to the scheme.”

That’s very nice. It would have been even nicer to have been provided with the correct figure at the time. I remember wondering why vital information had been omitted from the releases provided to us, forcing us to make the best calculations we could with what was available.

If the DWP wants to play silly games with the figures, its people have no right to come crying to the rest of us, just because we have tried to fill the gap.

To summarise: The Work Programme has failed to hit targets in its second year, with the results being particularly disastrous for the sick and disabled.

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DWP brings in ‘hit squad’ as benefit sanctions rocket

Mark Hoban: He talks a lot of nonsense about work schemes.

Mark Hoban: He talks a lot of nonsense about work schemes.

The government has announced that people who come off the Work Programme will be “targeted” by a “hit squad”.

A press release from the Department for Work and Pensions says up to five “specialist advisers” will be based in individual Job Centres, and will be dedicated to “working with” people who haven’t found sustained work after two years on the Work Programme.

In other words, these people will be overworked because the government’s own figures show that the Work Programme achieves worse results than if the DWP had done nothing and let people find jobs on their own!

But don’t worry – in order to remedy the failure of its own system, the government is already punishing far more jobseekers than every before with the most extreme benefit sanctions possible! Yes indeed – in the year to October 2012, the total number of sanctions applied increased by more than 47 per cent, to a record 778,000!

That’s right. The DWP has punished more than three-quarters of a million jobseekers for its own failure to deliver a decent system to get them into work. Does that seem fair to you?

Those are the most recent (official) figures available from the DWP. It seems new figures were due last month but have been delayed indefinitely by the department. One has to wonder whether the total for the year to May 2013 has actually topped the one million mark – that would mean one-sixtieth of the population were deprived of the funds they need to live, and we already know that sanctions do not only harm individual jobseekers but also people who have had nothing to do with the benefits being suspended.

They force people to rely on family and friends for their survival; they damage family relationships and harm the well-being of low-income families who have to stretch their resources to help a sanctioned person, including younger brothers or sisters who have to rely on the money earned by their elders for their own sustainance.

I love the quotes from Mark Hoban on the government press release. Try this one: “The Work Programme is getting some of the hardest to help claimants into work despite a tough economic climate.” A lie. Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee reported less than two weeks ago that “the hardest to help jobseekers remain at risk of being ‘parked’—given little or no support by providers who assess them as being unlikely to find sustained work”.

Or this: “We’ll be stepping up the pressure on claimants, who will be expected to attend the Jobcentre more frequently, with rigorous monitoring to ensure that they are doing everything they can to find work.” In other words, Job Centre staff will do everything they can to get in the way. It’s only a few days since another fellow blogger reported on her own experience of being sanctioned by her local Job Centre, after she found work.

The dialogue in that article is so hilarious it bears repeating here:

“Why did you fail to sign in on Monday?”

“Because I was at training for my job.”

“Well why didn’t you sign in on Tuesday?”

“Because I was at work.”

“Why did you fail to look for jobs in the last two weeks?”

“I didn’t. I applied for around 20 jobs in the last two weeks.”

“But why did you fail to apply for any jobs since last week?”

“Because I got a job.”

Anyone failing to comply with the – I suppose it amounts to – harassment announced in the press release will face sanctions, including a three-year benefit ban for the worst offenders – anybody who repeatedly fails to comply. In practice, this could mean not applying for a particular job, or arriving at the Job Centre a few minutes late.

It’s only towards the end of the government press release that we find the real reason for all this fanfare: “An extra £30m will be available to pay for extra training and specialist help to prepare them for work.”

Riiiiight. It’s another bung for the ministers’ friends in the Work Programme Provider companies.

That explains it.

Waiting for the ‘snail media’ to catch up

'Snail' media: The BBC News website was nearly two months behind the political blogs in its reporting of a major story.

‘Snail’ media: The BBC News website was nearly two months behind the political blogs in its reporting of a major story.

“On Tuesday, this was a serious Conservative Party policy proposal, being reported in national newspapers. Now, it’s ‘never’ going to happen,” trumpeted web campaigners 38 Degrees in an email last night.

They were, of course, referring to the Tory idea that it would be all right to restrict consultations with an NHS doctor to three per year per person – presumably the Rupert who dreamed it up thought everybody who mattered would have private health insurance instead, and this seems to be borne out by the material in the rest of the policy document.

I’m perfectly happy with this result. In fact, I think it is blogs like Vox Political that helped make it happen because – as you’ll know, o loyal reader – Vox reported on this particular scandal on Sunday, two days before.

I’ll admit, the material in the article was sourced from the newspapers, but what’s interesting is that it took a further two days for the mass – or as I intend to call it from now on, the ‘snail’ – media to cotton on that the whole idea is utterly ludicrous and the public won’t fall for it.

During that time, the Vox article went viral, and Vox readers have never really been known for keeping their opinions to themselves.

A ‘snowball’ effect then ensued, leading to reports in the papers of the public reaction and the 38 Degrees petition, which resulted in Jeremy Hunt’s grumpy tweet: “In case being misled by ‘neutral’ 38Degrees e-petition, it IS NOT and WAS NEVER going to be Conservative policy to limit GP appointments.”

He’s only upset because we spoiled his fun, I expect.

Vox Political was not the only blog covering this story, as far as I’m aware, and I certainly don’t want to suggest that it was any more instrumental in this little victory than anyone else. What I’m saying is it demonstrates that bloggers are starting to drive the political agenda.

The problem is the length of time it takes the mass – sorry, ‘snail’ – media to catch up.

Consider this story on the BBC News website (powered by Atos, in case anybody forgets) yesterday:

Under the headline ‘Incapacity benefit test claims ‘conflated figures’ – watchdog’, it states: “Suggestions that 878,300 benefit claimants dropped their claims rather than take a medical test have been challenged by the statistics watchdog.

“Tory chairman Grant Shapps was quoted saying that nearly a million people had “taken themselves off” incapacity benefit instead of sitting the test.”

Again, it’s great that this nonsense has been challenged, and the challenge has been reported. What’s not so great is the timescale.

Because the Skwawkbox blog, run by Steve Walker, challenged this nonsense almost two months ago.

The comment in the BBC story – by Andrew Dilnot, the now famous head of the UK Statistics Authority – was that “research by the Department for Work and Pensions suggested that one important reason for those cases being closed was because the person ‘recovered and either returned to work or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation’ instead.”

That is uncannily close to Steve Walker’s comment that “this represents nothing more than ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn because of perfectly normal things like people getting better, or finding a job they can do even if they’re ill” – published on April 2!

I’ll accept some people may dispute the blogs’ influence on the outcome of the ‘NHS consultation’ issue, but on this one it seems unlikely there can be any doubt. Mr Dilnot’s letter followed an inquiry from Sheila Gilmore MP, who follows Vox Political and is certainly likely to have read my report on this matter. It seems likely that she also follows Skwawkbox. The amount of time between those articles’ appearance and the piece on the BBC website is the time it took for her to receive a response to her inquiry on the matter from Mr Dilnot.

Isn’t it a shame that the BBC didn’t do any fact-checking for itself?

So there you have it: If you want proper political news – and proper analysis of events – forget the ‘snail’ media and go to the blogs. We’re faster and more accurate, and what’s more, we make things change.

For the better (in case Iain ‘We’re changing their lives’ Smith was wondering).