Recent Fight the cuts Articles
Another sign of the times is the debate about how much people on benefits need to spend on food. The BBC says you can have “a healthy diet on £15 a week”.
Of course, most of us could take a holiday to poverty and get by for a day or two or even a week or two. Polly Toynbee is spot on about this, it’s the grinding effect that makes poverty different – the longer it lasts, the fewer resources you have and the more difficult it is to cope with an emergency or unexpected bill.
Just as important, the longer it lasts, the greyer life becomes, the more depressing. No wonder many people in long-term poverty are desperate to hang on to whatever “luxuries” they still have; lectures about this from the comfortable are beneath contempt.
It was George Orwell who had the clearest insight about the politics of poverty in the 1930s. In The Road to Wigan Pier, he imagined what would happen if the millions on the dole did actually cut their spending in the way the Daily Mail and Conservative MPs would still like.
Orwell had experienced French food culture at first hand and thought that the English could learn lessons about making food go further. But in the end that was irrelevant: people on benefits don’t have a hard time because they lack the skills to make the most of their benefits, their benefits are deliberately set at a level where most people will find it hard to cope.
This isn’t a conscious policy of forcing malnutrition on millions of fellow-citizens, it’s the inevitable result of a political conversation dominated by the obsession that the poor may be putting one over on the rest of us.
As Orwell put it:
If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly.
People aren’t hungry because they’re incompetent, they’re hungry because the rest of us think that the possibility they may be getting away with something is more important than hunger.
A longer version of this post is on the Touchstone blog
by Rick B
The community of sick and disabled people behind the WOW petition have now considered the official response given when you pass 10,000 signatures (we are now a third of the way to 100,000) from the Department of Work and Pensions.
Initially, we were shocked at the cursory nature and limited scope of the response. On reflection, we are disappointed and angry.
Our petition calls for a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of welfare reforms as they affect sick and disabled people. The government says, to paraphrase, that they did not, indeed could not, do a CIA because the changes involved were too numerous and too complex.
The DWP is saying that it embarked upon a programme of changes, which it acknowledges are the biggest changes to welfare in sixty years, without knowing what the effect would be on the most vulnerable people in society.
For a government department the size of the DWP to say that a CIA would have been too difficult is, frankly, risible. It has also been proved to be incorrect by the cross-party think tank Demos, which has carried out its own CIA. Demos has concluded that 3.7million sick and disabled people will be negatively affected by welfare reform, with a total loss of income up to 2018 of £28.3billion.
As Demos is comparatively a small organisation with limited resources, the fact that it was able to do this CIA makes the DWP’s failure to do so remarkable, to say the least.
The issue of a Cumulative Impact Assessment was addressed in the first sentence of the e-petition, but it is the only aspect of the petition that the government has responded to. There is no response to the request for an immediate halt to the Work Capability Assessment, as demanded by the British Medical Association in 2012 because it was harming patients.
Our call for an end to ‘forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits’ and various other measures, all of which are ignored in the government response.
The response makes clear the government’s total and reckless lack of regard for the health, safety, wellbeing, and human rights of sick and disabled people in the UK. Consequently the Human Rights of sick and disabled people in the UK will be on the agenda for discussion at the Annual General Meeting of Amnesty International on 13/14 April 2013.
For more information and to sign the WOW Petition please go to wowpetition.com
The most sweeping changes to our NHS since its inception were put in place on Monday.
But as the new system grinds into gear the fight continues, including an immediate battle over the competition regulations at the heart of the ‘reforms’. There’s a chance to defeat this core element of the Government’s plans in Parliament this month, and we’re asking supporters to contact MPs and members of the House of Lords to ensure that they act.
When the Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act were quietly published in February there was uproar from the public, medical professions and health unions.
They all believed the regulations broke promises Ministers made during the passage of the Act that decisions about whether, when and how to use competition would lie squarely with the new GP commissioners.
Instead they would force services out to competition. The outcry forced the Government to rewrite and a second version was laid in March, coming into effect on 1 April.
So what changed? Some warm words about integration and co-operation were added to the new regulations and some of the most explicit pro-competition wording was removed. But experts agree that the new wording has much the same effect as the previous version.
The key point is the ‘single provider test’ in regulation 5. To award a contract to provide health care services without a competition, commissioners will have to be satisfied that only that provider is capable of delivering that service.
There are lots of sensible reasons why commissioners might not want to put a service out to competition. For instance, they might think the contract is too small to justify the trouble and expense of a competition, or they might want to support a local NHS provider that is already delivering a good service for patients.
But if they can’t be certain there is only one possible provider, they will have to subject the service to competition. As this blog explains, there will often be more than one possible provider, for instance where a town has more than one hospital. Private and voluntary sector providers are likely to claim that they are potential providers too.
The bar is set so high that CCGs will end up feeling that the only way to ‘prove’ there is only one provider is to hold a competition. They are also likely to be nervous that they will face legal challenges from private providers who want to get into the NHS.
Not only will this increase the privatisation of the NHS, it will mean time and money wasted on complicated contracting processes. It will make money for lawyers and management consultants that could be better spent on providing care.
The medical professions are not convinced by the cosmetic changes. The BMA, RCN, RCGP and NHS Clinical Commissioners have all spoken out and 250 doctors have signed an open letter in the British Medical Journal.
Legal advice for 38 degrees by David Lock QC sets the risks out clearly.
A key Lords Committee examined the new regulations and their incisive report (see section C) was critical of the rushed, last-minute policy-making process and the confusion over what the revised regulations mean. The Committee sympathised with the view the regs should be revoked to allow more time for consultation, and have referred them for the ‘special attention’ of the House of Lords.
We’re asking people to contact peers and ask them to give the regulations the scrutiny they deserve by joining the debate on 24 April and supporting the ‘fatal motion’ laid by Labour’s health lead in the Lords, Phil Hunt.
If enough Liberal Democrat and Crossbench peers can be persuaded to support it the motion will scrap the regulations and force the government to think again.
MPs have a part to play too. The equivalent procedure to ‘pray against’ the regs in the Commons is an Early Day Motion signed by the leader of the Opposition. Make sure your MP has signed EDM 1188 to secure a debate there too.
There will be much more to do to protect our NHS from the worst of these reforms over the coming years. But at this point a defeat for these dangerous regulations is vital.
Dear Daily Telegraph,
Yesterday, you published an article by Allison Pearson, (“Mick Philpot, a good reason to cut benefits” 3rd April) based on a press release issued over the Easter weekend by Conservative Central Office. (NB :NOT the DWP who are barred from issuing overtly political and partisan press releases)
Your original story (900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests, 30th March) claimed “828,300 sick or disabled ppl had chosen to drop their claims rather than face new tougher assessments (my italics).
That claim simply isn’t true.
What’s more, it wasn’t true back in April 2011, when the government first made the same false claim.
A little while later, The DWP’s themselves issued figures showing a huge proportion (94%) of claims were dropped because the person got better or went back to work. They dropped their claims because they were honest, not because they were dishonest!!
There is a three month qualifying period for out of work sickness benefits. (ESA/IB)
As you can imagine, most people need a little help to get through a nasty illness or accident at some point in their lives.
Maybe a weekend rugby player who snaps his collar bone resulting in 2 months off work, or the Mum who needs a sudden hysterectomy and time afterwards to heal? This will happen to every last one of us at some point.
But you can’t get help when you really need it any more, in those first terrible weeks of pain and recovery. Now you have to wait 3 months before you can apply. In that time, for all but the most unfortunate, bones and scars will have healed and the person will be back on their feet again.
With no point in continuing the claim, people do the honest thing and let the DWP know they no longer need support.
This information is all in the public domain and all proven by evidence. Yet the government send out a politicised press release over the Easter weekend aimed at mis-leading the public and encouraging an entire nation to mis-trust one of the most vulnerable groups in society.
Worse still, you run the story unquestioningly, repeating claims that had already been proven to be completely untrue.
A longer version of this letter is here.
Iain Duncan’s Smith’s boast today that he could live on £53 a week is perhaps the best example of how removed this cabinet of millionaires is from the experiences of ordinary people.
Go ahead IDS, try it. Try it not just for one week but try it for 52 weeks in a year.
Try living every day and every week just hand-to-mouth. Try living in a state of constant anxiety that a big unexpected bill could completely bankrupt you. Try living in a world where you constantly have to make excuses to friends because you can’t afford going out, and see what state of mind that puts you in. I’ve been there and it was depressing.
The Tories have always believed the vast majority of people people on welfare are lazy and would prefer benefits over work.
Their changes to welfare aren’t driven by compassion (as IDS used to claim), evidence or a genuine attempt to help people.
This is an entirely ideological crusade because none of their policies (from the Bedroom Tax, to Workfare programmes, Universal Credit and disability benefit cuts) are designed to help people.
There are constant setbacks and u-turns because IDS has never cared whether they are driven by evidence or not. Why else would he continue a Workfare programme that wastes money and is less successful than doing nothing? Why else would he penalise disabled people for having a spare room if they’ve got nowhere else to go?
If Iain Duncan Smith was genuinely interested in helping people out of poverty he’d try to understand their concerns, look at how policies affect people and understand the evidence.
There is none of that. There are just attempts to foist ill-thought-out changes on people’s lives in the belief it is best for them. And there is the arrogant belief that it isn’t so difficult being in their shoes.
Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is. If there was any evidence he doesn’t understand reality, this is it.
A little thought, however, reveals that such spending is in fact puny. Let's do the numbers.
The DWP says that, in 2011-12, working age people got £52.7bn in benefits. Of this, £16.6bn was housing benefit and £2.7bn council tax benefit, so benefit recipients saw £33.4bn. This is 2.2% of GDP, and 5.2% of total government spending.
What fraction of this £33.4bn is spent on drink and ciggies? We can use table A6 of the latest Family Spending tables as a guide. These show that the poorest decile spend an average of £148,80 per week on non-housing. Of this, £2.70 per week (1.8%) goes on alcohol and £3.90 (2.6%) on tobacco and narcotics. If we apply these proportions to the £33.4bn of benefit income, then £606m of those benefits are spent on alcohol and £875m on tobacco.
But the government gets a lot of this money back in VAT and excise duties – about £689m on tobacco and £190m on alcohol. This implies that benefit recipients' spending on tobacco and alcohol costs taxpayers a net £602m. In fact, not even this much, to the extent that brewers and tobacco manufacturers pay tax on their incomes.
This is a tiny sum. It's 0.09% of public spending and 0.04% of GDP. In making an issue of this, Ms Price is enlarging things out of their proper proportion.How unlike her.
What's going on here? Usually, I'd quote C.B.Macpherson, to the effect that there's still a puritan strand in politics which regard poverty as a moral failing and the poor as objects of condemnation. However, considering Ms Price's career, puritanism is hard to discern.
Instead, I suspect what we see with her and with Ukip – and, one could argue, with some who support press regulation whilst favouring social liberalism in other contexts – is asymmetric libertarianism.
People want freedom for themselves whilst seeking to deny it to others; this is why some Ukippers can claim to be libertarian whilst opposing immigration and gay marriage. This debased and egocentric form of libertarianism is more popular than the real thing.
by Bethan Jones
Yesterday I was found guilty in the Oxford Magistrates’ Court of causing “harassment, alarm and distress” following a peaceful and legal political protest in Witney in December. The judge said “I can think of nothing more alarming than the statement that ‘Cameron has blood on his hands’.”
I will continue to say that Cameron has blood on his hands, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The words that the government and media are using is the indirect part of their attack on disabled people. Disability hate crime, which ranges from comments in the street through vandalism of motability cars up to imprisonment, torture, rape and murder is growing.
I knew about this through hearing and reading stories about the people who are being affected, I also knew that these stories weren’t being given the front page spreads that ‘scrounger’ stories get.
Here’s what happened. On the 30th November David Cameron was booed as he came on stage to turn on the Witney Christmas Lights. There’s a very funny video of him trying to drown out any criticism by awkwardly getting the crowd to cheer everyone from themselves to the Queen.
I find it very weird watching the video, because while this was going on I was being beaten up by the police on the other side of the stage. I have never been so scared.
I held up a placard that said “Cameron has blood on his hands,” and I shouted that “disabled people are dying because of Cameron’s policies.” I didn’t expect that to be a big deal, I only wanted to do my bit to show that we’re not all taken in by the rhetoric that disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers.’
My face was pushed into the ground, I could feel blood coming from my nose, there was someone putting their whole weight on my back while someone else was stamping on my knees, along with various people grabbing and twisting my limbs. And then the officer on my back moved a knee up onto the back of my neck.
Up until then I’d been shouting “I’m not resisting, I’m cooperating,” trying to ask them to stop, but from the moment I felt someone pressing their body weight into the back of my neck I gave up trying to communicate anything to them, I realised the police officers on top of me either couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me.
Instead I began begging anyone who was nearby to intervene, to tell them to stop. Images flashed into my mind of what could happen. I was in pain, I couldn’t see what was going on, I was crying and bleeding, I couldn’t properly breathe, and I thought that they might leave me seriously injured. I’ve worked supporting people who’ve badly damaged their necks or back, and I can’t believe that any police officer was taught that kneeling on the back of someone’s neck is every an acceptable thing to do.
I didn’t think that it would lead to being beaten up, arrested, held overnight and then taken to court on two ridiculous charges.
The fine and costs come to more than I earn in a month. The judge said that on a whole £700 a month, of course I’d have no trouble paying it back. After rent, travel to work, food and paying off loans I don’t have money left at the end of the month, and my salary is going down soon.
We can listen to the voices of the people who know what’s going on, the people on the front-line of the cuts, and share them with our friends. Calum’s List lists the deaths caused directly by welfare reform.
A longer version of this post is posted to Facebook.
Senior Labour MPs yesterday launched a campaign against the Bedroom Tax, encouraging Labour members to spread the word about its impact.
In an email sent to Labour members yesterday, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne wrote that the campaign would highlight the “incompetent, unfair and out of touch ‘bedroom tax’ David Cameron’s Government will introduce in April.”
The Labour party are framing the debate by contrasting the extra burden on poorer households with Osborne’s tax-cut for millionaires.
An image Labour are using
The email said:
While families of soldiers serving our country will have to find extra money for their son or daughter’s bedroom, 13,000 millionaires will get a tax cut worth £100,000 a year on average.
Two thirds of the households hit are home to someone who is disabled. Foster families will be hit – even if they have foster children in their ‘spare room’. Divorced parents and grandparents will be charged more if they want to keep a spare room for when their children or grandchildren come to stay.
To add to the chaos, the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that there are not enough smaller properties for families to move to, yet the ‘bedroom tax’ will still hit households that don’t have the option to move.
Labour hope the campaign will put enough pressure on Cameron to re-think his plans.
The campaign website is here: http://www.labour.org.uk/bedroomtaxshare
by Tom Gill
Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement is now Italy’s largest party, only overtaken in terms of seats in parliament by the alliances formed by the main, established parties – Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democrats and Silvio Berlusconi’s PDL party.
So how did Grillo, a former comedian and Italy’s number 1 blogger, come from nothing – no power locally nor nationally two years ago – to win in elections 24-25 February over 100 seats in Italy’s lower house?
Here’s the answer in five points
1 He’s built a massive following on the web, with his blog taking the number one spot in the country and about 1 million followers on Facebook and Twitter. This hegemony in social media, one that mirror’s Berlusconi’s rise using TV 20 years ago, has allowed him to send out his message unmediated and without real challenge (the fear of which may be in part behind his shunning of Italy’s traditional mass media). It’s also allowed him to reach younger voters, and the previously politically unengaged (one survey found half of his supporters didn’t identify with any political party).
2 His genius at attracting and entertaining large crowds, with half a million turning up to a rally in Rome days before the vote. This originates from his previous career as a touring stand up act, which he’s successfully applied to his political campaigning. Grillo has also shown himself a spectacular self-publicist, swimming across the Strait of Medina ahead of a stunning victory in Sicily in autumn 2012. In short, applying that mix virtual with real world campaigning that has overturn regimes in the Arab world
3 Grillo has gained popularity by attacking the throughly corrupt political class, now never more sleaze-ridden after 20 years of Berlusconi and the Bribesville scandals that precipitated the media magnate to enter politics. Seen as a complete outsider, Grillo fielded against the usual crop of ageing career politicians an army of complete unknowns – twenty- something housewives, students, graphic designers, IT engineers and jobless factory workers. Furthermore, in a country where political instability means parties habitually resort to backroom coalition deals, jettisoning campaign pledges in the process. Grillo’s refusal to play this game has given him an air of honesty and transparency badly lacking among his rivals.
4 Amid a string of largely forgettable Left leaders that have come and gone, politics has never been more personalised. Many find Grillo’s style aggressive, sometimes offensive, but his darkly comic personalized attacks – the best of which has to be to dismiss the former PM as Rigor Montis – get him headlines.
5. If Grillo owes at least some of his strident rhetorical style to the populist right, he stole much of his political clothes from the Left, just as the latter abandoned them to raid Mario Monti’s neo liberal wardrobe. Centre-left Democrat leader Bersani’s key campaign pledge was to stick to the former ‘technocrat’ premier’s EU-backed austerity and ‘reform’ programme.
Grillo was able to pose as the champion of the little man, and, since the onset of the Eurozone crisis, Italy’s much crushed sense of national pride. Among manifesto pledges were promises to revisit all international treaties including NATO membership and the most notably the Euro, with a referendum; a ‘citizen’s wage’ for the unemployed; support for small and medium sized businesses and a strengthened say for small shareholders; a ban on share options and a cap on executive salaries; and reversing cuts to health and education.
The ‘markets’ are all jittery about renewed political instability in Italy. Bersani’s centre-left coalition, while enjoying a majority in the House, has not won control of the Senate, and cannot do so even with the support of Monti.
So there’s pressure from some quarters internationally for a grand coalition between Bersani and Berlusconi to continue the same policies that since the 2008 crisis have caused a downward spiral of economic decline, rising unemployment and plummeting living standards, even if (under Monti) they tempered the dreaded ‘spreads’ have eased. And it would be an inherently unstable.
Fortunately it seems Bersani is instead looking to some kind of rapprochement with Grillo. There’s more in a deal with Grillo for the Democrats than for the Five Star Movement. Without one elections will likely be coming round again soon and this time it could be the comedian-blogger’s movement that is projected into government.
Tom Gill is a London-based writer who blogs at www.revolting-europe.com on European affairs from a radical left perspective.
This blog yields to no one in its advocacy of an occasional visit to the pub for a jar of decent quality beer. But a new campaign targeting beer duty will not be getting my signature, nor my endorsement.
The reason for this is straightforward: I also cast a sceptical eye over the dubiously crafted output of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), that astroturf lobby group which claims to represent this country’s taxpayers, and is behind the beer duty campaign.
But, as Full Fact has pointed out – and they’ve cast a sceptical eye over a previous Sun beer duty campaign – the evidence behind the claim that taxation levels are at fault for the number of pub closures is not persuasive, and far less conclusive.
If there was a connection, supermarkets would not have shelf upon shelf dedicated to the stuff (which they do).
What is rather more likely is that less folks are drinking beer, and especially the mass-produced brewery conditioned variety (ie canned, keg and nitro-keg). Sales of cask conditioned beer are either holding up or increasing slightly. The cheapest watering holes in Crewe are not necessarily the most popular. They’re not the best places to have a scoop, either.
What is worse, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has
joined endorsed the campaign: perhaps its executive does not know where the TPA is coming from. Here I can be of assistance: they’re into abolishing the minimum wage, lowering the poverty line, abolishing the NHS and the BBC, trashing local bus services, and demonising the disabled, while wanting tax cuts for their rich backers.
Whereas having a pint or two down the pub is something undertaken by ordinary working people, many of whom will be in receipt of the minimum wage and tax credits, both of which the TPA is against. The overwhelming majority will use NHS services. They may watch a variety of broadcast media, but will watch and trust the BBC the most. And they are more likely to use public transport.
So they would be best advised leaving this campaign well alone.
NEWS ARTICLES ARCHIVE