Author: Kitty S Jones

I’m a political activist with a strong interest in human rights. I’m also a strongly principled socialist. Much of my campaign work is in support of people with disability. I am also disabled: I have an autoimmune illness called lupus, with a sometimes life-threatening complication – a bleeding disorder called thrombocytopenia. The illness also affects my nervous system, including my optic nerves, (neuritis) leading to periods of severe pain and loss of eyesight. I have neuropathy, widespread tendonitis and quite severe secondary Raynaud’s. All of that means I may be unable to write much sometimes, but I’ll do my best. I find I have less and less time to pursue my other interests. Sometimes I long to go back to being the person I was before 2010. The Coalition claimed that the last government left a “mess”, but I remember being very well-sheltered from the consequences of the global banking crisis by the last government – enough to flourish and be myself. Now many of us are finding that our potential as human beings is being damaged and stultified because we are essentially focused on a struggle to survive, because of the cuts and welfare “reforms”. Maslow was right about basic needs and motivation: it’s impossible to achieve and fulfil our potential if we cannot meet our most fundamental survival needs adequately. And what kind of government inflicts a framework of punishment via its policies on citizens? With the hierarchical ranking in terms of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, the artificial and imposed framework of previously debunked Social Darwinism: a Tory rhetoric of division, where some people’s worth matters more than others, how do we, as conscientious campaigners, help the wider public see that there are no divisions based on some moral measurement, or character- type: there are simply people struggling and suffering in poverty, who are being dehumanised by a callous, vindictive Tory government that believes, and always has, that the only token of our human worth is wealth? Governments and all parties on the right have a terrible tradition of scapegoating those least able to fight back, blaming the powerless for all of the shortcomings of right-wing policies. The media have been complicit in this process, making “others” responsible for the consequences of Tory-led policies, yet these cruelly dehumanised social groups are the targeted casualties of those policies. I set up, and administrate support groups for ill and disabled people, those going through the disability benefits process, and provide support for many people being adversely affected by the terrible, cruel and distressing consequences of the Governments’ draconian “reforms”. In such bleak times, we tend to find that the only thing we really have of value is each other. It’s always worth remembering that none of us are alone. I don’t write because I enjoy it: most of the topics I post are depressing to research, and there’s an element of constantly having to face and reflect the relentless worst of current socio-political events. Nor do I get paid for articles and I’m not remotely famous. I’m an ordinary, struggling disabled person. But I am accurate, insightful and reflective, I can research and I can analyse. I write because I feel I must. To reflect what is happening, and to try and raise public awareness of the impact of Tory policies, especially on the most vulnerable and poorest citizens. Because we need this to change. All of us, regardless of whether or not you are currently affected by cuts, because the persecution and harm currently being inflicted on others taints us all as a society. I feel that the mainstream media has become increasingly unreliable over the past five years, reflecting a triumph for the dominant narrative of ultra social conservatism and neoliberalism. We certainly need to challenge this and re-frame the presented debates, too. The media tend to set the agenda and establish priorities, which often divert us from much more pressing social issues. Independent bloggers have a role as witnesses; recording events and experiences, gathering evidence, insights and truths that are accessible to as many people and organisations as possible. We have an undemocratic media and a government that reflect the interests of a minority – the wealthy and powerful 1%. We must constantly challenge that. Authoritarian Governments arise and flourish when a population disengages from political processes, and becomes passive, conformist and alienated from fundamental decision-making. I’m not a writer that aims for being popular or one that seeks agreement from an audience. But I do hope that my work finds resonance with people reading it. I’ve been labelled “controversial” on more than one occasion, and a “scaremonger.” But regardless of agreement, if any of my work inspires critical thinking, and invites reasoned debate, well, that’s good enough for me. “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all” – Elie Wiesel I write to raise awareness, share information and to inspire and promote positive change where I can. I’ve never been able to be indifferent. Like many others, I do what I can, when I can, and in my own way. This blog is one way of reaching people. Please help me to reach more by sharing posts. Thanks.

A brief and blunt discussion about ‘economic competence’ before the general election

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The question asked shouldn’t ever have been how will Labour fund their costed manifesto. We have permitted this expedient Conservative diversion for long enough. The real question that matters is this: where is the public’s money that citizens, their parents and grandparents have paid into the Treasury all these years? Why is there nothing to show for it over the past seven years? Why are increasing numbers of citizens of every age experiencing hardship and distress

This is a despicable way for a government to treat people who have contributed to this country’s fortune and development.

Why are older people being robbed of their lifelong national insurance contribution and tax investment and now being told they must fund their own care?  Why are older people being forced to work longer before they may retire? New government “calculations” suggest a “hard Brexit” – with migration being dramatically reduced – could push up the age of retirement and force people to work into their mid-70s. It has created further uncertainty regarding the future of state pensions.

At the same time, there has been an unprecedented rise in the mortality rate, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. For the past few decades, there has been a very strong improvement in life expectancy in the UK, both at birth but also for older people 

But that trend has slowed down since 2011, and is now reversing. According to the actuarial company, Mercer, winter deaths of people aged 65 and over has increased by 11 per cent over the last two years. Yet the Conservatives are planning to cut winter fuel payements to “target those most in need”.

There’s that Tory phrase again, which reflects a euphemising tendency of a government that does not care for the welfare of UK citizens, and signals the intent to strip away every single civilised public support mechanism and provision that has grown from the social gains of our post-war settlement. The social gains PAID FOR BY THE PUBLIC FOR THE PUBLIC. 

What kind of government does not care that citizens are dying prematurely because of their policies? Or that cases of malnutrition in the UK are rising?

Why are d
isabled people being left without adequate living standards, dignity, independence and sometimes, being left to die, because we have a government that can’t even observe their basic human rights? The only rights that matter to the Conservatives are the property “rights” of the wealthy and the right of millionaires to accummulate more money by dispossessing everyone else.

The “Economic Enclosure Acts” would be a more fitting name for the Conservative “reforms” and austerity programme.

Where has the money gone that was taken from those people targeted with punitive policies and a deeply patronising “behaviour change” agenda that simply reflects a government’s traditional class prejudices, all in the name of “economic growth” and the ideologically driven Conservative austerity programme, the burden of which fell on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens?

What kind of government financially punishes disabled and elderly people simply for being disabled and old? It’s the Conservatives that need to change their behaviours. Perhaps someone should inform the economic Darwinists in government that we moved on from dehumanising eugenic policies after the terrible consequences of them in Nazi Germany. 

What is the point of a government in an “economically stable”and wealthy first world country that does not ensure a basic standard of living and health for the majority of citizens, and fails to fulfil basic human rights obligations?

This is a government that has failed to protect the human rights of our children.

Why are our children going hungry, fed by food banks and by concerned school teachers when their parents are in work or have worked? Why are young people under 25, disabled people and people in social housing not considered worthy of having a secure home of their own? 

Why are those in low paid or part time, insecure work being punished by the government with in-work sanctions, for the sins of exploitative, increasingly unregulated employers and rubbish government supply-led labour market policies that clearly don’t work?

We have permitted a government to relinquish its responsibilities and obligations towards some members of the public. Why doesn’t the social and economic welfare of these social groups matter to the government? Are we not citizens in a so-called first world democracy?

Where is the investment in our public services? Why are rogue multinationals making billions from the public on the pretext of “saving money”? If that’s “economic competence” then I’m Jerry Cornelius, one of the greatest fictional and darkly hilarious anti-hero nihilists of all time. 

What have the Conservatives done wth OUR money, our NHS and our public services? And why on earth would we continue letting them “disappear” our money, adding to the now massive national deficit? The Conservatives have borrowed more money this past seven years than every single Labour government combined throughout history. There is NOTHING to show for it, except for a few rogue multinationals like Atos, Maximus and G4S making huge and private profit and a few millionaires hoarding our wealth and demanding more.

The UK now has the highest level of  socioeconomic inequality in Europe.

THIS is what Cameron meant when he said he would “tackle” the “culture of entitlement”. He meant that ordinary people would no longer be treated as democratic citizens with rights. He meant that our society should regress to a time when there was no legal aid, social housing, welfare state and no National Health Service. Despicably, the Conservatives have deliberately stigmatised groups of citizens in order to get away with dismantling our social safeguards, caliming that they are a “burden” to “tax payers”. As the older generation about to be hit with pension cuts and the “dementia tax” will tell you, ordinary people are ALL tax payers. 

The authoritarians need to go.

The NHS and welfare state are essential for the lives, health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens as well as ourselves. Without being able to meet basic needs, people are unable to meet higher level psychosocial ones, such education and work. Ancel Keys once said “Starved people cannot be taught democracy.” Abraham Maslow would certainly agree with that. He said  “Man lives by bread alone when there is no bread.” When people are hungry, food becomes their only priority and motivation.

Any effective measure of a government’s economic competence must surely include an evaluation of the proportion of a population that are able to meet their basic living requirements. 

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If you value our public services, including those providing emergency care such as the NHS, the the fire service, police, social care, mental health services, social security and pensions and education, all of which have been savagely cut these past 7 years, then you need to know that they are NOT safe in Conservative hands. Nor are our human rights. A genuinely strong and stable economy ought to include everyone. 

The Labour Party has made a comittment in their manifesto to ensure that our public services are safe, funded and there for everyone who needs them. They will also preserve our human rights act. Human rights are there to ensure the wealthy and powerful are accountable to the rest of us, and to ensure governments don’t abuse and exclude social groups, such as disabled people, elderly people and children. Like access to justice – and legal aid has also almost gone at the hands of the Conservatives – human rights are the bedrock of democratic societies.

If you value the civilised and civilising features of our society, then you must vote on 8 June to preserve them. If you don’t have need of them yourself, consider that your parents, children and friends may do in the future. Let’s halt the socially regressive destruction of our public services.

Let’s make sure that everyone is included in our society, and ensure that we live in a democracy.

Let’s make June the end of May. 

Let’s take our country forward again.

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I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. 

But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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A few personal thoughts following the devastating terrorist attack in Manchester


Like many others, I am shocked and horrified at the events in Manchester last night. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering of those people at the Arena who were witnesses or directly affected by such an unthinkable, utterly senseless and despicable act of terrorism – one that resulted in the terrible and senseless murder of at least 22 people, while injuring at least 120 others, many of whom were children and young people – and my thoughts are very much with the victims and their families at this incredibly painful and difficult time.

I’m suspending my own political campaigning, as a mark of respect for those we have lost, for those still coming to terms with this brutal and tragic event, and because it’s a time of bewilderment, shock and anguish for our nation. Terrorism is calculated to generate a much wider degree of national hurt and international anxiety in the longer term, in addition to the immediate horror of those targeted victims that it so brutally and despicably claims.

It was in the most horrific and atrocious circumstances that the people of Greater Manchester showed the world how much humanity and generosity they have – how much they care for each other. Many were prepared to go out of their way to help those in need. Bless those many who have helped out, offering food and water, warm drinks, offering lifts, putting people up. That reflects the kindness, good will, spirit and solidarity of Manchester. And I’ve heard some tremendously heartening stories of doctors and nurses going into work to support and police officers, ambulance workers giving up their days off, turning up to help those in need. 

Among those rushing to help was a brave homeless man – Chris Parker – who has spoken of the moment when a woman died in his arms after he rushed inside Manchester Arena to help the victims of the terrorist attack. He was in the foyer at the time of the attack and was knocked to the floor with the force of the explosion, despite this, he ran inside the building to help the victims.

As  said of the strong community spirit in Manchester: Together we stand strong in these difficult times.” 

It’s a time of national unity, solidarity, and of hugging your own family a little closer than usual – a time of drawing together in defiance of the hurt and confusion inflicted on us by those who would damage our society.

Burnham, the newly elected mayor of Greater Manchester, spoke very well following the catastrophic event – as did local commentator Mohammed Shafiq, who was very mindful of the need for a Muslim voice of condemnation of terrorism.

Poet Tony Walsh added his voice in tribute to the spirit of Mancunians and the history of the city:

Watch Tony Walsh’s passionate recital of his powerful poem for Manchester – “This is The Place” – at the vigil held in Manchester this evening.

Yet in the face of pleas for unity, there inevitably comes the opportunist politicking, those willing to search for scapegoats, which makes social unity so much harder to achieve. Those toxic voices that are known for their divisive rhetoric have already used these terrible events and the tragedies of others to stir up emotions and extend a socially corrosive brand of nationalism – the public peddling of indecency to their own pecuniary or political advantage. We need to take the media megaphone from those who use it to inflame social tensions, ethnic nationalism and drive rage-led ideologies.

Hugh Muir says in the Guardian: “There is all-pervasive incivility in this angry age of illiberalism and social media – that, as democrats, we have to stomach. There are those who would attack us with bombs and knives. We expect nothing from them but nihilism and brutality. But a society undermined from within at a time of crisis needs champions unequivocally prepared to protect it. We elect and employ such people. It is their job, and they should leave no doubt that they will do it.”

The article – The rule of law applies to everyone. Even hate peddlers like Katie Hopkins  is well worth a read. He’s talking a lot of sense at a time when a senseless and despicable act has led to widespread uncomprehending horror and national uncertainty. 

We mustn’t let this catastrophic event lead to further catastrophic social divisions, by allowing established right wing demagogues to stir up and direct national anger and hatred. We must not permit such people to use other people’s grief as an opportunity to further their own political agenda.

, writing for the Intercept, voices a perspective I also share: “Then there is Tommy Robinson, former leader of the far-right English Defence League (think of a British Richard Spencer but, again, with a lesser intellect and a long history of criminality and violence). Robinson arrived in Manchester on Tuesday to accuse British Muslim residents of that city of being “enemy combatants.” They want to “kill you, maim you and destroy you,” he told his YouTube audience of fellow far-right bigots.

You can almost hear them cheering in Raqqa. ISIS wants to drive a wedge between Muslim communities and wider Western society; it wants to pit Muslims against non-Muslims. Nor is this a secret: The group’s leaders have admitted as much in their own publications. More than two years ago, in February 2015, the ISIS online magazine, Dabiq, made clear that one of the main goals of the group’s brutal attacks in the West was to destroy the gray zone — of peaceful co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims — and provoke a backlash. “The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the [infidel] religion … or they … [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.”

This ISIS grand plan has always required the (perhaps unwitting) support of the group’s useful idiots in the West, the Islamophobes, whose harsh rhetoric and actions help drive marginalized and alienated Muslims into the wide open arms of the jihadists.”

Robinson’s bigotry isn’t confined to Muslims. He also likes to direct abuse at people if they are remotely politically left leaning. Especially women. I’ve had first hand experience of his apparently indefatigable inclination to incite hatred and subsequent schadenfreude, as apparently, I’m a “leftist”.  It’s all our fault, he claims. He also likes to give out people’s personal and social media account details on a very widely shared and malicious meme that invites the far right in its entirety to say what they think of a so-called quote (that wasn’t). Of course these “thoughts” included death threats, rape threats, threats from Combat 18, and threats directed at my children. For someone who objects such a lot about his own “free speech” being “restricted”, he sure puts considerable effort into trying to shut other people up with low-life threats and intimidation. He also likes to get others to do his dirtiest work. 

Mehdi goes on to say: “As my colleague Murtaza Hussain has observed, it is “perverse and counterproductive to lump [the West’s Muslims] together with ISIS and blame them for the group’s actions.” To do so is to “grant the Islamic State a propaganda coup, implicitly endorsing the group’s narrative of Muslims and Westerners collectively at war with one another.”  (See the full article – Reactions to Manchester Bombing Show How Anti-Muslim Bigots Are “Useful Idiots” for ISIS.)

A little of what I know about Manchester

I’m from Greater Manchester, though in the olden days of my childhood, my hometown – Bolton – was situated in Lancashire. Manchester is a city I have spent a lot of time in: it’s a city I love. Manchester is just 10 or 15 minutes away from Bolton on the train.

I used to work in the district of Chorlton. I spent my teen years going to concerts and gigs around the city. I saw many bands and performers in Manchester over the years, from Jon Otway and John Cooper Clarke to Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Hawkwind, PIL, Elvis Costello, A Certain Ratio and so many others. My own band – Oh no, it’s them again – played gigs around the city, once supporting the Salford Jets at the Gallery.

Over recent years, I have taken colleagues down to Manchester just for a night out. We stayed at the local Premier Inn. I was back in Manchester last October, speaking at a psychology conference in Ardwick Green (north). Afterwards I visited and stayed with my son in my home town, Bolton. It’s always been a unique, warm and wonderful city, people are always very friendly and helpful there. 

I’m horrified and shocked at the events of last night, and feel so very sorry for those who were there, the terrible and heartwrenching loss of life, the injured young people and adults. My thoughts are with those families, and my heart goes out to them. 

How you can help 

I used to work for Victim Support in the early 1990s.  This excellent organisation are providing immediate emotional and practical local support to victims and witnesses of the Manchester attack. You can contact Victim Support’s national support line on 0808 168 9111 or, if you live in Greater Manchester, call 0161 200 1950.

Greater Manchester police have issued a new casualty bureau emergency number for people trying to trace loved ones from last night’s attack: 0800 096 0095.

Greater Manchester Police are also appealing for any images or footage from last night that you believe can assist them. Please upload these to ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk or ukpoliceimageappeal.com.

Many people have sent messages of support and comfort; the community spirit in the city region has shone through at this very sad time. If sharing information, please be sure to only share trusted information and follow @gmpolice on Twitter and Facebook for reliable updates and information.

A relief fund has been organised by Manchester City Council and the British Red Cross, you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/manchesteremergencyfund

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Painting showing the Peterloo Massacre – part of the history of Manchester – by Richard Carlile. The politically directed massacre, which happened at a public protest highlighting the poor socioeconomic conditions for many at the time, and was part of the fight for universal suffrage, which led directly to the foundation of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian).

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Peaceful anti-fox hunting protester arrested for ‘breaching the peace’ at Welsh Tory manifesto launch

With thanks to B Heard Media

A protester was arrested for “breaching the peace” and dragged away by the police from a peaceful protest, as the prime minister’s car arrived in Wrexham before the launch of the Welsh Conservative manifesto

Connor was dragged to the ground by police as May’s motorcade swept past. Blowing a horn, he attempted to move towards the car with a banner before he was pounced on, tackled and dragged away, surrounded by hordes of photographers and journalists. A journalist and fellow campaigners asked if he was under arrest, an officer said: “Yes, he’s under arrest.” Pressed on what charge, he replied: “Breach of the peace.”

Connor was dragged along the floor, whilst shouting “This is the fascist state that we are living in under Theresa May’s regime.” 

He told reporters who were present that he was protesting about the “repeal of the foxhunting Act, fracking, austerity, “state therapy”,  – the lot”.

“I’ve not done nothing wrong,” he added.

Another demonstrator told police that Connor, who appeared to have a Merseyside accent, had “done nothing wrong” and described their response as a farce.

Theresa May has said she would give Conservative MPs a free vote on the ban, most likely meaning that in a planned and highly regressive move, the ban will be lifted if the party wins the number of seats it seems to expect to. 

 25-year-old Connor was later released without charge.

Superintendent Nick Evans claims: “Our policing operation today was proportionate and necessary.” 

Article 11 Right to protest and freedom of association

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This is a right closely linked to the right to freedom of expression. The right to peaceful protest in the UK is expressly guaranteed under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

It provides a means for public expression and is one of the key foundations of a democratic society.

The right applies to protest marches and demonstrations, press conferences, public and private meetings, counter-demonstrations, “sit-ins”, motionless protests etc.

The right only applies to peaceful gatherings and does not protect intentionally violent protest.

This was not a violent protest.

There may be interference with the right to protest if the authorities prevent a demonstration from going ahead; halt a demonstration; take steps in advance of a demonstration in order to disrupt it; and store personal information on people because of their involvement in a demonstration.

The right to peaceful assembly cannot be interfered with merely because there is disagreement with the views of the protesters or because it is likely to be inconvenient and cause a nuisance or there might be tension and heated exchange between opposing groups.

There is a positive obligation on the State to take reasonable steps to facilitate the right to freedom of assembly, and to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations from disruption by others.

The rights to free speech and protest, along with the right to form and join associations or groups, are found in Articles 10 and 11 of the UK Human Rights Act 1998.

These rights can be limited by law to protect the interests of others, but only when the limitation is proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.

So, for example:

  • the right to free speech will not protect a person who tries to spread hateful lies against another but it will protect fair comment;
  • the right to protest won’t protect violent gatherings but it will protect peaceful protest.

In recent years we have seen a variety of measures introduced that undermine the right to protest and freedom of speech:

  • Laws that were explicitly intended to combat anti-social behaviour, terrorism and serious crime are routinely used against legitimate protesters;
  • Broadly drafted anti-terrorism offences of ‘encouragement’ and ‘glorification’ of terrorism threaten to make careless talk a crime;
  • Membership of certain organisations can be banned under anti-terror laws even if the organisation is non-violent and political;
  • Hate speech laws have been extended in a piecemeal way to ban ever-expanding categories of speech;
  • Broad anti-terrorism powers of stop and search have been used to harass and stifle peaceful protesters;
  • Protest around Parliament has been severely restricted by laws limiting and overly regulating the right to assemble and protest around Parliament.

Another Conservative government will undermine both the right to protest and disassemble our human rights more generally.

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. 

But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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Noam Chomsky endorses Jeremy Corbyn. Here’s why

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Professor Noam Chomsky has urged the British electorate to vote for Labour. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, earlier this month, Chomsky stated: “If I were a voter in Britain, I would vote for him.”

The linguist, cognitive academic and philosophical anarchist endorsed Jeremy Corbyn, and observes that the Labour Party would be doing far better in opinion polls if it were not for the “bitter” hostility of the mainstream media.

As Chomsky is world renowned for being a major critic of neoliberalism, it comes as no surprise that he supports a candidate who would reverse the radical socioeconomic reforms that Britain has gone through since the Thatcher era.

He said there were a lot of factors involved, but insisted that Labour would not be trailing the Conservatives so heavily in the polls if the media was more open to Corbyn’s agenda.  He said: “If he had a fair treatment from the media – that would make a big difference.” 

Asked what motivation he thought newspapers had to oppose Corbyn, Chomsky said the Labour leader had, like Bernie Sanders in the US, broken out of the “elite, liberal consensus” that he claimed was “pretty conservative”.

It’s potentially a fresh and hopeful view from the Overton window, if only we would open the curtains.

The academic, who was in Britain to deliver a lecture at the University of Reading on what he believes is the deteriorating state of western democracy, says that voters had turned to the Conservatives in recent years because of “an absence of anything else”.

He said: “The shift in the Labour party under [Tony] Blair made it a pale image of the Conservatives which, given the nature of the policies and their very visible results, had very little appeal for good reasons.”

He added that Labour had needed to “reconstruct itself” in the interests of working people, with concerns about human and civil rights at its core, arguing that such a programme could appeal to the majority of people. As a human rights activist, I have to agree.

Chomsky said that the future must lie with the left of the party. “The constituency of the Labour party, the new participants, the Momentum group and so on … if there is to be a serious future for the Labour party that is where it is in my opinion,” he said.

The comments came as Chomsky prepared to deliver a university lecture entitled Racing for the precipice: is the human experiment doomed?

He told the Guardian that he believed people had created a “perfect storm” in which the key defence against the existential threats of climate change and the nuclear age were being radically weakened.

“Each of those is a major threat to survival, a threat that the human species has never faced before, and the third element of this pincer is that the socio-economic programmes, particularly in the last generation, but the political culture generally has undermined the one potential defence against these threats,” he said.

Chomsky described the defence as a “functioning democratic society with engaged, informed citizens deliberating and reaching measures to deal with and overcome the threats”.

It’s certainly true that neoliberalism is incompatible with democracy and human rights frameworks.

He said: “In 2007 right before the great crash, when there was euphoria about what was called the ‘great moderation’, the wonderful economy, at that point the real wages of working people were lower – literally lower – than they had been in 1979 when the neoliberal programmes began. You had a similar phenomenon in England.”

Chomsky said that the disillusionment that followed gave rise to the surge of anti-establishment movements – including Donald Trump and Brexit, but also Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France and the rise of Corbyn and Sanders. 

He said: The Sanders achievement was maybe the most surprising and significant aspect of the November election. Sanders broke from a century of history of pretty much bought elections. That is a reflection of the decline of how political institutions are perceived.”

But he said the positions that the US senator, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, had taken would not have surprised Dwight Eisenhower, who was US president in the 1950s.

“[Eisenhower] said no one belongs in a political system who questions the right of workers to organise freely, to form powerful unions. Sanders called it a political revolution but it was to a large extent an effort to return to the new deal policies that were the basis for the great growth period of the 1950s and 1960s.”

Chomsky believes that Corbyn stands in the same tradition.

The media is the massage

Chomsky has written extensively about the role of the free market media in reinforcing dominant ideology and maintaining the unequal distribution and balance of power. 

In Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky and Herman explore the pro-establishment media’s role in establishing the apparence of a political and economic orthodoxy (neoliberalism) and extending a seemingly normative compliance with state policies, while also marginalising antithetical or alternative perspectives, dismissing them as heresy. In the US and UK, most left wing commentors have a very diminished media platform from which to present their perspectives and policy proposals.

This “free-market” version of censorship is more subtle and difficult to identify, challenge and undermine than the equivalent propaganda system which was present in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. 

As Chomsky argues, the mainstream press is corporate owned and so reflects corporate priorities and interests. While acknowledging that some journalists are dedicated and well-intentioned, he says that the choice of topics and issues featured in the mass media, the unquestioned premises on which that “coverage” rests, and the range of opinions that are expressed are all constrained to reinforce the state’s dominant ideology.

Last year, research by YouGov found that the British media is the most right wing in Europe. Readers also ranked the British press as the most biased in all of the seven countries surveyed.

Noam Chomsky: I would vote for Jeremy Corbyn (extended interview) – BBC Newsnight

Noam Chomsky’s 8-Point Rationale for Voting for the “Lesser Evil” Candidate

Although this was written about the American political system, it applies equally well to the UK one.

Chomsky says: “Critics of “lesser evil voting” (LEV) should consider that their footing on the high ground may not be as secure as they often take for granted. 

Generally associated with the religious left, secular leftists implicitly invoke it when they reject LEV on the grounds that “a lesser of two evils is still evil.” Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that this is exactly the point of lesser evil voting – i.e. to do less evil, what needs to be challenged is the assumption that voting should be seen a form of individual self-expression rather than as an act to be judged on its likely consequences. 

The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.

Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that this is exactly the point of lesser evil voting-i.e. to do less evil, what needs to be challenged is the assumption that voting should be seen a form of individual self-expression rather than as an act to be judged on its likely consequences, specifically those outlined in 4). The basic moral principle at stake is simple: not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.

While some would suggest extending the critique by noting that the politics of moral witness can become indistinguishable from narcissistic self-agrandizement, this is substantially more harsh than what was intended and harsher than what is merited. That said, those reflexively denouncing advocates of LEV on a supposed “moral” basis should consider that their footing on the high ground may not be as secure as they often take for granted to be the case.

A third criticism of LEV equates it with a passive acquiescence to the bipartisan status quo under the guise of pragmatism, usually deriving from those who have lost the appetite for radical change. It is surely the case that some of those endorsing LEV are doing so in bad faith-cynical functionaries whose objective is to promote capitulation to a system which they are invested in protecting. Others supporting LEV, however, can hardly be reasonably accused of having made their peace with the establishment.

Their concern, as alluded to in 6) and 7) inheres in the awareness that frivolous and poorly considered electoral decisions impose a cost, their memories extending to the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow.

The broader lesson to be drawn is not to shy away from confronting the dominance of the political system under the management of the two major parties. Rather, challenges to it need to be issued with a full awareness of their possible consequences.

This includes the recognition that far right victories not only impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society but also function as a powerful weapon in the hands of the establishment center, which, now in opposition can posture as the “reasonable” alternative. A Trump presidency, should it materialize, will undermine the burgeoning movement centered around the Sanders campaign, particularly if it is perceived as having minimized the dangers posed by the far right.

A more general conclusion to be derived from this recognition is that this sort of cost/benefit strategic accounting is fundamental to any politics which is serious about radical change. Those on the left who ignore it, or dismiss it as irrelevant are engaging in political fantasy and are an obstacle to, rather than ally of, the movement which now seems to be materializing.

Finally, it should be understood that the reigning doctrinal system recognizes the role presidential elections perform in diverting the left from actions which have the potential to be effective in advancing its agenda. These include developing organizations committed to extra-political means, most notably street protest, but also competing for office in potentially winnable races. The left should devote the minimum of time necessary to exercise the LEV choice then immediately return to pursuing goals which are not timed to the national electoral cycle.

*****

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning.

3) One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point. Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.” Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.

4) The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.

5) 4) should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.

6) However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.

7) Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it. They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.

8) Conclusion: by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.”

 
 —
 

Noam Chomsky is institute professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent books are Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books, 2016) and Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power (Seven Stories Press, 2017). His website is www.chomsky.info.

Fear of losing disability support led a vulnerable man to a horrific suicide

PAY-Protesters-with-posters-outside-the-Dept-of-Work-Pensions

The government have persistently denied that there is a “causal link” between their welfare “reforms” (a Conservative euphemism for savage cuts) and an increase in suicides, premature deaths, psychological distress and severe hardship. However, a number of researchers and many campaigners have demonstrated a clear correlation that the government have so far refused to investigate further. Correlation quite often implies a causal relationship, and as such, requires further research.

Each case that has been presented to the government as evidence that their policies are causing severe harm has been dismissed as “anecdotal”.

Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform said: “It is not enough to just stop introducing new policies to attack the rights and lives of disabled people and the poorest in society. These policies have been in place for six years and many are designed to increase poverty year on year. The Government should apologise for the harm it has caused since 2010, calculate the full impact of cuts that targeted the most disadvantaged and begin a full programme of reparations.”

This is the third harrowing article I have written this week about the devastating impact of the Conservatives’ punitive welfare policies on some of our most vulnerable citizens. I wish with all my heart that this is the last such article.

However, we have a government that has casually and systematically transgressed the human rights of disabled people, and then casually denied that they have done so. 

There will continue to be a need of witnesses like myself and other campaigners until the political denial stops.

Last month, an inquest in Ipswich heard how Peter, a disabled man, struggling to cope with mental health problems, committed suicide by setting himself on fire because of fear that he would lose his lifeline support, following his compulsory re-assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The government introduced the controversial PIP to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in order to save costs and to “target those most in need” in 2013.  

Peter Sherwood set fire to himself in front of horrified onlookers in Lowestoft town centre on September 4, 2015.  The retired builder died in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, which has a specialist burns unit, on September 8, 2015, following the horrific incident in Lowestoft town centre four days before.

Peter had received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, informing him that his DLA was ending and that he needed to reapply for PIP.

He suffered with a recurrent depressive disorder and psychosis. Peter had attempted to take his own life on a number of occasions previously. He also had a condition called tardive dyskinesia, which caused involuntary movements to his mouth and is a known side-effect of anti-psychotic medications.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Lucinda Stapleton, care coordinator from the Waveney Recovery Team, said this had affected Peter’s self-confidence as he was worried people were laughing and staring at him when he left the house.

In a statement read during the hearing, Mr Sherwood’s niece, Sarah Wilby, said: “I knew he was feeling a bit low the last time I saw him, which was two weeks before he died. He held me close on the sofa and told me he loved me.

“He was a loving person and had a great sense of humour.

He was angry at many things in life, but could put a good front on.

“I loved him very much and miss him dreadfully.”

Ms Wilby said she was shocked at the drastic way her uncle took his own life.

She added: “He seemed to want to make some kind of a statement, but I don’t know what.”

During the inquest Ms Wilby said that Peter was claiming Disability Living Allowance but not long before his death he received a letter informing him he needed to reapply for Personal Independence Payment, which she believes contributed to his low mood at that time.

She said: “I personally think quite an underlying cause of his anger was the change in benefits.

“Knowing Peter as we did that would have had a huge impact on him.”

Paul Anderson, a community support worker for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, said Peter had claimed that the Government was trying to take money off him.

The Coroner, Peter Dean, read statements from witnesses, who described seeing Peter spraying something on the pavement starting with the letter ‘h’ with an aerosol can.

The inquest heard passer-by William Groves asked Peter if he was a street artist, to which he replied “no, I’m a suicide artist”.

Peter then poured liquid over his head and set himself on fire using a lighter.

Members of the public tried to douse the flames by first throwing their jackets onto Peter, and then using a fire extinguisher from a nearby shop.

Police at the scene reported that Peter had muttered the word “humanity” to them a couple of times following the incident.

On September 4, 2015, Peter was visited at home by the community mental health team and he had expressed plans to end his life.

An urgent appointment was made for Peter to see a psychiatrist the following week, but it was tragically too late.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has since updated its criteria of when patients should be referred to the 24-hour crisis team, following its routine investigation into Peter’s death.

The medical cause of death was given as 75% non-survivable full thickness burns, and mental health concerns.

The coroner’s conclusion was suicide.

If you are experiencing distress and feel suicidal, please don’t suffer in silence. The Samaritans have launched a free telephone national helpline number, 116 123. 

People who are going through a difficult time can access the service round the clock, every single day of the year.

This number is free to call from both landlines and mobiles, including pay-as-you-go mobiles. You do not need to have any credit or call allowance on your plan to call 116 123.

 

Related

Government guidelines for PIP assessment: a political redefinition of the word ‘objective’

New discriminatory regulations for PIP come into effect today

Disabled mum took fatal overdose after she was refused PIP

Vote Labour to uphold the rights of disabled people – our letter to the Guardian


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. 

But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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Raincoat. Age. Die. A guest post by Hubert Huzzah

Hubert

In 2008 there were 700,000 people with dementia in the UK. That number is rising rapidly and is projected to be over 1 million by 2025. One in three people over 65 will end their lives with a form of dementia. In 2008 there were 580,000 people with dementia needing Carers in England.

Not all Dementia Sufferers are home owners. For the age group most likely to suffer Dementia 71.6% (45-75+) of the population do own their own home. The average home is worth £215,847 at 2017 prices. So, of the one million people with dementia by 2025, 716,000 will be sitting on assets worth a total of £154Bn.

Imagine being able to take ownership of £154Bn of assets simply by waiting ten years. That is the Dementia Tax. By 2027 those who are currently suffering from even mild dementia symptoms will have to pay for care as the value of the Home will be taken into account when means testing financial support for social care.

Currently, Carers put £132Bn into the Economy purely through Caring Services. This is the amount of money after all benefits – not just Attendance Allowance or Carers Allowance – are paid out. Carers are, in general, the next generation for Dementia sufferers – the children and grandchildren. In total, the Dementia Tax will be taking £286Bn from people who already pay substantial amounts into the economy and have been doing so for two generations.

That means penalising people until 2050 and it does not even make financial sense.

A report from the London School of Economics and King’s College London commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society estimated the financial cost of dementia at over £17 billion for the state and families in 2008. This cost grew significantly as the number of people with dementia rose. A King’s Fund study estimated that the cost of dementia in England would rise from £14.9 billion per year in 2007 to £24 billion (at 2007 prices) by 2026, making up 74% of mental health service costs. Using £154Bn of assets to pay for £24Bn of expenditure is not only poor economics it is an invitation to fraud on an industrial scale.

The less well understood outcome will be a house price collapse leaving first time buyers in negative equity for the first time since the 1980s. In efforts to reduce the amount paid for Care Services, it will become rational for Carers of Dementia Sufferers to undervalue the property to bring the total estate under £100,000 for the purposes of means testing. Undervaluation to receive benefits is, in Social Security Law, fraud. Which will result in a market in avoidance and evasion promoting corruption. The policy, itself, is about effective money laundering which is, always, corrupt.

This undervaluation of properties will, inevitably, signal to the markets that house prices are dropping and so provide pressure to further reduce house prices. This will leave existing first time buyers at risk of negative equity. When Dementia Sufferers within the Dementia Tax Regime begin to die, First Time Buyers will sell to escape negative equity. Resulting in an extreme boom and crash market that will last for decades. The initial boom will be hailed as an economic miracle until the initial crash reveals the depth of the problem. In 2007 the National Audit Office estimated that £102 million could be saved by reducing the time people Dementia Sufferers stay in hospital.

A Lincolnshire case study they found that people with dementia on orthopaedic wards were staying over 24 days on average compared to under 17 days for people without. That increased length of Hospital stay is increasingly expensive as Private Contractors provide the service. At the same time, the Private Contractors, driven by profit, have no incentive to move Dementia sufferers out of Hospitals. The overall outcome is that Hospitals will become bed blocked by Private Contractors and that will feed back to poorer Accident and Emergency Service, longer waiting times and increased ill health in the general population.

The Dementia Tax is a poorly thought out policy that has one objective: releasing £154Bn of assets into financial markets. With the net contribution of £29Bn to the UK economy from the Insurance Sector in 2015, the indication is that the £154Bn will be a five year soft landing for the Insurance Sector on exit from the EU. That soft landing will, inevitably, be a source of capital flight from the UK to other EU capitals such as Dublin, Paris and Berlin. Which leaves the policy cascading out from the Health and Social Care Sector to cascade destabilisation across the Economy.

There are 379 authorised Life Insurance Companies in the UK. 200 are UK authorised and 179 are headquartered in another European country and passport in under the EU Third Life Directive. With the unfolding of Exit from the European Union, the Dementia Tax creates a mechanism for capital flight from the UK via those 179 passported Life Insurance companies. If the UK wishes to retain a working financial services relationship after exit then those 47.2% of Life Insurance Companies passported into the UK market will become the potential source of almost £73Bn of capital flight.

It is a poorly thought out, uncosted, scheme that seeks to buy time for the Tories. Given the public availability of information that can be used to cost the scheme, and the pieces of past research that show how poor equity-release is for solving financial problems, where did the Dementia Tax actually come from?

 

Sources: National Audit Office, Alzheimers Society, Association Of British Insurers. Picture: Madeline Von Foerster. “The Promise II” (Death And The Maiden).

Written by Hubert Huzzah

Woman was too scared to leave job centre during a heart attack as she feared being sanctioned

Salena Hannah (Photo: Adam Sorenson)

A woman who suffered a heart attack during a job centre in-work progression interview has said she was too scared to get up and leave to get medical help as she was afraid of ­losing her benefits. Salena Hannah, who works part-time, says that she had the attack during her appointment, but was ignored by the “callous” job centre interviewer.

She explained: “I had been suffering with chest pains for about two weeks and took a couple of sprays of GTN spray, to help with my angina, before I walked in to meet my interviewer.

“My job is under 16 hours, so I am forced to attend regular meetings, or my benefits might be stopped.

“I was feeling some really bad pains in my chest and I told her at least two or three times that I was in agony, but she was just so callous, she just kept ignoring me.

“I said I needed to go to the NHS walk-in centre immediately, but it fell on deaf ears. I was living in fear of being sanctioned and just felt trapped. I didn’t think I could leave or I would be sanctioned.”

Salena says she was forced to endure a 40-minute interview, while sweating profusely and suffering chest pains.

As soon as she left the interview, she went straight to a nearby NHS walk-in centre, where medics immediately called an ambulance and took her to hospital.

Blood tests revealed she had suffered a heart attack and she had to have surgery to have two stents inserted into her arteries.

Although Salina was discharged after three days in hospital, she suffered serious chest pains an hour after she got home, and had to return to hospital, where doctors inserted three more stents.

Salina is now recovering at home but is struggling for breath and feels constantly weak.

She said: “I was just dreading getting sanctioned. I just would not be able to afford to live if that happened, so pain or no pain, I had to endure that meeting.

“It is unbelievable how cruel the sanction scheme can be to people like me. It is almost like they are trained to be unfeeling.

Is that what Britain is coming to these days under a Tory Government?”

Salena, a mum of four, is bringing up her two grandsons aged 14 and 10 on her own. Had she been sanctioned, she would not have been able to provide for their basic needs.

At the time of her heart attack, she was working in a chip shop and was in receipt of JSA and housing benefit.

Last year, the The National Audit Office launched a scathing attack on the benefit sanctions system, saying that punishing people for “non-compliance” with welfare conditionality does more harm than good and costs more to enforce than it saves. There is no evidence that the pointlessly cruel welfare sanctions work at all. 

The report said that withholding benefits, which is now very commonplace, plunges claimants into hardship, hunger and depression. It also seriously jeopardises their health, since sanctions leave people without the means to meet the costs of food, fuel and often, shelter – and these are fundamental survival needs.

Dr Wanda Wyporska, director of The Equality Trust, said: “It’s disgusting to see how some of the most vulnerable people in society are treated.

“Our social security system is being slowly eroded and further cuts will see the poorest families hit even harder.”

Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB, said: “You have to wonder if all compassion has been completely ripped from our system by continued austerity and cuts to frontline services.”

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson said: “We would always encourage claimants who suddenly fall ill to seek medical attention, or to speak to a member of staff for assistance.”

The Department, however, is not focused not on helping individuals but on cutting welfare expenditure while hitting targets for doing so. 

In February, employer relationship manager at Jobcentre Plus in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, who is based at the branch featured in the film I, Daniel Blake, said: “I, Daniel Blake is a representation … I hope people don’t think the film is a documentary, because it’s a story that doesn’t represent the reality we work in.”

“My team and I try to treat people as individuals, and we care about the work we do,” he told the Guardian. “There will be times when we get it wrong, but I don’t believe we are ever as wrong as how we are portrayed in this film.

“I remember talking about the film in the canteen. We were concerned about how it might affect our relationship with the people we were trying to help find work. How would they react to it?”

Ken Loach, however, defended the authenticity and realism of the film’s content. “I challenge anyone to find a single word in that film that isn’t true,” he said.

I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a joiner who has had a heart attack, and is no longer able to work. However, he becomes caught up in the nightmare bureacracy of the welfare state, is passed as “fit for work” at his work capability assessment, and is told he has to look for work. He suffers a second fatal heart attack just before his tribunal, as a consequence of the sustained psychological distress and strain he experiences because of the punitive Conservative welfare “reforms”. 

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, said the film was “monstrously unfair” – though he added he had not seen it. 

I wonder if Green considers his department’s lies “monstrously unfair”. For example, in August 2015, the DWP admitted to using fictional stories from made-up claimants on leaflets, despicably advertising the “positive impact” of benefit sanctions, following a Freedom of Information request from Welfare Weekly, claiming that they were for “illustrative purposes only” and admitting that it was “quite wrong” to pass these off as genuine quotes.

Later that month figures were released which showed that between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,650 people died shortly after their Work Capability Assessment told them that they should be finding workThe DWP had fought hard for the figures not to be released, with chief minister Iain Duncan Smith at one point telling Parliament that they did not exist.

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by Oxford University and Liverpool University, showed there were an additional 590 suicides between 2010 and 2013 in areas where Work Capability Assessments (WCA) were carried out. The researchers say that the DWP had introduced the policy of moving people off benefits without understanding the consequences. The research showed a correlation between worsening mental health and the assessments. The DWP of course denied the evidenced correlation between suicides and the WCA. 

I, Daniel Blake has been criticised by some media commentators, such as Toby Young (the Daily Mail) and the Sunday Times film critic Camilla Long who said it did not “ring true”. However, Hayley Squires, who plays a single mother in the film, said it showed “the absolute truth of what’s happening to millions of British people in this country” and accused Young and Long of “irresponsible journalism”.

The government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime can cause “damage to the wellbeing of vulnerable claimants and can lead to hunger, debt and destitution”, according to a damning new report, which debunks Tory myths that benefit sanctions – denying people who are already struggling the only means by which to support themselves and their families – “incentivise people into work.”

In a report titled Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – One Year on, it was concluded that, far from than “incentivising” people to move into work, the sanctions regime actually serves as a demotivator and barrier, preventing people from engaging in appropriate training, volunteering and employment-related activities.

Furthermore, the sudden loss of income caused by removing benefits – through the imposition of a punitive sanctions regime – often damages people’s mental health, creates tensions within family relationships and may cause individuals to turn to crime in order to meet their basic survival needs.

Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett said: “People on benefits are already struggling to afford food, heating and essential costs. They can’t save so they have no financial safety net. They live in dread of being sanctioned  which isn’t the right frame of mind for job hunting, volunteering or going back into education.” Or for looking for more hours of work.

The cruel and inhumane way that Salena Hannah was treated by a job centre “advisor”, and the fear and dread that she felt at the prospect of being sanctioned, is real.

Susan Roberts’ despair following her PIP application being refused, which led to her suicide, was real.

David Clapson’s awful death, which was the result of grotesque government policies, is real.

David Sugg, who was so afraid of the catastrophic health impacts that the strain of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) may have had on him, left a letter for the local coroner, to be opened in the event of his sudden death. He feared the assessment would kill him. That is real.

George Vranjkovic’s extreme anxiety, agitation and fear facing the WCA, which he knows is designed to try and cut costs and take lifeline support from sick and disabled people, is real. He lost his lifeline support for six months previously. His panic attack the night before the WCA is real. 

A man who was forced to give up work with heart problems had his benefits stopped for failing to complete a WCA – after suffering a heart attack during the examination. That is real.

Sheila Holt, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was sectioned after being taken off Income Support. Days later she had a heart attack and fell into the coma. Nonetheless, she was sent a letter by Atos to ask why she was not working. That really happened. 

I co-run a support group on Facebook for sick and disabled people claiming disability benefits. I know from the accounts and everyday experience of many others just how stressful the assessment process is. It’s a terrible and shameful state of affairs when people who are already struggling with severe health problems are made even more vulnerable because of callous cost-cutting government policies. That is real.

It needs to change. That is real.

We are all, potentially, Daniel Blakes. That is real.

Dave Johns in I, Daniel Blake. (Mongrel Media)


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. The budget didn’t do me any favours at all.

But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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