Welfare Wrongs and Human Rights: a dialogue with Anne McGuire

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“It is undeniable that every human being is entitled to living space, daily bread, and the protection of the law as a common birthright; these are fundamentals and should not be handed out as an act of charity” ― Alfred Delp, S.J.

Nor should the meeting of such fundamental human needs ever be regarded as such.

“A decent provision for the poor and vulnerable is the true test of civilization” – Samuel Johnson.

I know that some of you have been waiting for an account of the discussion that took place between Anne McGuire and the small group of us that met with her in November, and quite understandably so. Labour currently present our only viable way of undoing the devastating damage, bleakness and despair that the Tory-led Coalition have created for so many of us, and of halting the shameful suffering and premature deaths being inflicted on some of our most vulnerable citizens. I am sorry this has taken such a while to write up, but I haven’t been very well, and have had to make some difficult choices about priorities over the last few months. I was hospitalised and seriously ill at the start of the year, and that has set me back some. However, Gail produced a report shortly following the meeting, this is the substantial version. It’s a long read, it was a long meeting that covered a lot of ground.

The meeting between Gail Ward, Susan Archibald, Sue Jones (me) and Anne McGuire took place on Friday 16th of November at the Stirling Labour headquarters. The meeting arose as follow on work from Sonia Poulton’s letter to Ed Miliband regarding the serious concerns many of us have about the work capability assessment (WCA). The idea of the letter arose, in part, because of a productive debate between Sonia and myself, following the Dispatches and Panorama documentaries about Atos and the WCA, and the appalling and shameful treatment of sick and disabled people by the Coalition.

The meeting with Anne was not time-limited, and she had to cancel an appointment to extend our time with her. We are enormously grateful for her time and consideration. The meeting also reflects something of Labour’s ongoing dialogue with the disabled community, which is a very positive development, as is the ongoing work of MPs such as John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Dennis Skinner, Anne Begg, Debbie Abrahams, Tom Greatex, Anne McGuire, Liam Byrne and others in championing the human rights of the sick and disabled, and challenging an increasingly authoritarian Government.

Gail Ward and I each compiled an independent list of issues that we felt reflected those concerns we have encountered most commonly amongst our peers. The lists were remarkably similar, and so I consolidated the issues we both observed to inform and formalise an agenda.

Our starting point in the discussion was to state categorically that we believe that welfare provision is NOT a “hand out” or “something for nothing”. It is paid for by us via taxes, and is for us, to support us at times of vulnerability, such as when we are sick, or unemployed due to recession (some are now calling it a depression) that has been created by a totally ideologically-bound and unresponsive Government.

The fact we felt we had to state this at all indicates plainly just how terribly effective the Government’s anti-welfare propaganda has been. The Tories and some of the Sun, Mail and Telegraph-reading public are finger pointing, bullying, mean spirited: the moralsing outraged, and we are victims of the hideous, dehumanising Tory-led ideological rantings, we are the minoritized, marginalised and disabled, and we are shocked, fearful, and cannot believe that this has been allowed to happen. We are justifiably afraid and angry. We know the current benefit system is no longer about welfare, and current policies do not have a core principle – implicitly or explicitly, despite the rhetoric – of ensuring or promoting the well-being of sick and disabled people.

The welfare “reforms” – and the word “reform” implies some positive change that certainly isn’t evident here  –  are entirely about stripping away our publicly paid for welfare provision –  our “social security”. Not a single Tory “reform” is about enhancing lives: they are all about taking money away, leaving us to struggle for survival, and so stifling our potential for positive experiences, personal growth and development.

Through a combination of changes to existing benefits and the new Universal Credit, the UK Government aims to cut £18 billion off the benefits bill. A further £10 billion is to be cut from welfare provision in the near future. The hate-filled propaganda campaign of this Government is all about an attempt at justifying the theft of our support and provision. It is our money that we have PAID into the system via taxes. It was never the Government’s money to take from us. They have stolen it.

When we struggle to meet basic physical needs, we cannot transcend biology to fulfil other higher level, psychosocial  We become bound by the physical, and can’t be motivated beyond struggling to survive. Abraham Maslow told us that.

Benefit rates were originally carefully calculated by a body of professionals and officials to meet basic living requirements, such as food, shelter and fuel costs. Benefit rates have never reflected anything more than a financial amount to meet these fundamental human needs. Our welfare provision has eradicated absolute poverty in Britain, and has been an essential lifeline for many citizens, in times of their need of support. Benefit rates were set at the amount “the law says you need to live on”. If people cannot meet their basic living requirements, they die. It’s a fact. Furthermore, Maslow tells us that if we are struggling to survive, we cannot fulfil other human needs and motivations. The welfare “reforms”, and the subsequent reduction of our benefits indicates that the Government do not care about the wellbeing and survival of those people that depend on this crucial support to meet their basic living requirements.

This is not a Government that recognises the intrinsic value and worth of life. It is not a Government that recognises human potential, or values personal growth and development. It is not a Government that values social evolution and progress. Trying to explain these fundamental concepts to a Tory is like pondering how best to describe a rainbow and shooting stars to a blind man with no imagination. Or soul.

This is not just about an ideologically motivated economic theft from the people with the least, and a redistribution of wealth to those that need it least (the already very wealthy), it’s an existential attack too: a psychic war that is being waged on us every bit as much as a fiscal one, with the media on the enemy frontline, attacking us on a linguistic and psychological level every day. We have been redefined, semantically reduced, dehumanised, and demarcated from the rest of the population and turned into the others, and this divisive strategy has paid off for the Government, because we are now regularly attacked by our own side: by those people who are also with us on this increasingly sparsely resourced, economically excavated side of the growing inequality divide. Tory divide and rule tactics: fostering a politics of hatred.  

Imagine what that does to faith and hope. For those of you that are not sick and/or disabled, I can tell you that it is often a very isolating and lonely experience. That is made so much more unbearable by prejudice and hate from other people. To be excluded further from everyday life and experience, both materially and existentially, brings about a terrible, bleak, desolating sense of social abandonment and a very real imprisonment. We are living in a Government-directed culture of hatred.  It’s no coincidence that hate crime against disabled people has risen quite steeply over this past two years. Most of us have experienced some verbal abuse from members of the wider public, at the very least. It’s become such a common experience that it may be regarded as almost normalised behaviour.

Anne McGuire told us that she and Anne Begg, amongst others, have challenged  the Tory-led stigmatising and dehumanising language, and the shameful invention of statistics in the media. Publicly and privately. Anne expressed her anger and disgust at the “serial offenders” – especially Iain Duncan Smith.

The defamatory Tory-led commentary must surely constitute hate crime and we know that the rising statistics of disability hate crime is certainly linked to this hateful propaganda campaign on the part of the Coalition to justify removing support and benefit from the sick and disabled, and from those in low paid work.

Tory logic – punishing people into non-existent or unsuitable jobs

We raised our grave concerns about the fact that the Government have recently introduced harsh sanctions of up to three years without benefits for all benefit claimants, the only group being exempt from sanctions currently are those in the ESA Support Group. This is only  a proportionally small number of claimants that will remain unaffected. The Conservatives claim that the sanctions will “help people into work”, and are to be applied to those who “fail” to meet certain “conditions” to look for work. We know, however, that sanctions are applied often without any justifiable reasons because the DWP  deliberately set people up to fail, and we also know that the Government sets sanction targets for the DWP. 

Firstly, only a very cruel and injudicious Government would punish people for being out of work during an economic depression in this way. There are no jobs. We know this is true from our everyday experience, despite the Governments continued lies about employment figures. Secondly, removing people’s means of meeting fundamental survival needs by sanctioning them is most certainly not going to motivate them and “help them into work” as the Government are claiming.

“Evidence also suggests that work can have a positive impact on the long term health of people with disabilities and health conditions,” according to the Government, but we have yet to see convincing evidence of this. Those in the ESA Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) are expected, from December 3rd 2012, to undertake unlimited periods of mandatory workfare in order to meet conditions for continued eligibility. This means that they are at an increased risk of being sanctioned, because the condition of qualifying for this benefit in the first place is that a doctor has provided a statement to say that the claimant is unfit for work. There is clearly a monumental problem regarding Government expectations of those in this group. Once again, the sanctions raise some serious concerns regarding the Government’s casual transgression of human rights.

The previous Minister for Employment, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, has made the following  official statement regarding the new sanctions regime and Human Rights: “In my view the provisions of the Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions Amendment Regulations 2012  are compatible with the Convention rights”. We don’t agree.

Anne concurred with our concerns regarding human rights transgressions, and she stated that the benefit system as it currently stands is unfit for purpose more generally, and agreed that the Government need to carry out an impact assessment to consider the cumulative consequences of the welfare reforms on disabled people, including the reform of DLA. We also have the 12 month time limit on contributory ESA, the incapacity benefit reassessment to move people on to ESA, cuts to local authority care budgets and the lowering of disability premiums under universal credit. Some people may be hit by only one or two of the changes, but some might have to deal with them all, as they are implemented over the next two years.

That would be an enormous and very challenging change for them. Despite being urged many times by Anne McGuire and Anne Begg, amongst others, Iain Duncan Smith refused to acknowledge the pressing need for a cumulative impact assessment – part of the crucial equality and human rights safeguarding, as well as the considerable need for Government accountability. Iain Duncan Smith claims there is no need to carry out an assessment regarding the consequences of his “reforms”. I believe that Iain Duncan Smith already knows the devastating impact that his “reforms” have already had on many, and that he is also aware that the real catastrophe is yet to come, when the very worst of the cuts are implemented in April.

The welfare reforms, and the lack of equality impact assessment have massive implications regarding our various human rights. We know that the Legal Aid Bill contravenes Article 6, and with regard to the welfare reforms, we cited further probable contraventions of Article 3, particularly with regard to the sanctions, with further possible breaches to Articles 2, 4, 6, 8, 11 and 14. Anne also agreed that there is a real concern with respect to our human rights,  and she told us she has undertaken some work with Liam Byrne regarding a public consultation to address the issue of human rights for disabled people, and to raise public awareness.

Anne also explained that the Equality and Human Rights Commission have suffered significant cuts to funding from 70 million when Labour were in Government to just 25 million since the Coalition took Office, with fears that this will be further reduced to just 18 million. This has meant severe staffing reductions, and a massive backlog of work, and at a time when many are seeking to bring forward cases regarding the impact of current Government legislation. We all agreed that it is no coincidence that the Legal Aid reform is also due to be implemented at the same time, as well as the Bedroom Tax and the Localism Bill in April 2013.

Anne and others have also expressed concern that Harrington’s recommendations are not being implemented – “The review notes that although all recommendations from two previous annual reviews of the system have been accepted by the government, “not all have been fully acted upon yet”.… progress has been slower that hoped for and the scope and depth of these changes is less than desirable.” –  Michael Harrington

Bearing in mind that there are people dying within days or weeks of being told that they are “fit for work” by Atos and DWP, we all agreed that very clearly, urgent attention  is required from the Government. We note, however, that the Government prefers to ignore the rising number of deaths associated with people being wrongly assessed, and of course, having their benefit payments stopped. It’s a well known medical fact that stressful circumstances exacerbate illness, yet the Government persistently refuse to listen to these very real fears and concerns. One would have expected, at the very least, that an independent enquiry into the deaths would have happened by now. Ask yourselves what kind of Government responds to such grave concerns with shrugging indifference and a loud determination to carry on with a process that is causing, or at the very least correlated with fatalities at a rate currently estimated by some at more than  73 per week, according to the DWP (via an FOI).

Anne confirmed that discussion with the Government regarding the circumstances of ESA related deaths has been problematic, and both Anne and her colleagues have called for the release of pertinent information regarding those circumstances, such as details of which claimants were in the process of Appeal, and which ones had been reassessed.

I also know from discussion I had with Tom Greatex recently that the Government are now claiming that those 10,600 deaths that happened within six weeks of their claim for ESA ending may have happened “either side” of their claim being stopped. In other words, the claim may have ended because of the death, rather than the other way around.

Furthermore, of those deaths amongst those placed in the Support Group, the Government have (conveniently) claimed that “these were very ill individuals, and so we expect that there will be a higher death rate amongst that group”. Claiming that “the deaths MAY have prompted the claim to be closed, in some cases, rather than the converse being true” is NOT an adequate response at all. Anne and other Labour Ministers have demanded accurate, clear and precise data regarding the circumstances of the large number of tragic deaths. None have been presented to date.

However, I analysed the data from DWP, and noted that between October 2010 and November 2011, people with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit, (those that had been migrated to ESA ) totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600.  One would expect that the death rates would be similar to those who have only ever claimed ESA. This is very clearly not the case.

So the Government don’t appear to be keeping very clearly defined data regarding the impact of their “reforms” and the precise circumstances of those deaths, or at least that information isn’t being released. Once again, we have to ask ourselves what kind of Government would be so casual about the large number of deaths of a group of citizens, especially when Government policy has been implicated as the cause of those deaths. Whilst the Coalition continue to play unacceptable, disgusting data interpretation games to support their loud and flat denial of culpability, people continue to die. The Government’s indifference to the deaths of vulnerable citizens is completely unacceptable and inhumane, the lack of willingness to investigate the correlated deaths, the loud and faux indignant framed denials, and the refusal to carry out an impact assessment regarding the broader impact of the welfare reforms  lead me to conclude that the consequences were known in advance of the legislation. We have an authoritarian Government that has a social Darwinist agenda: those deaths are calculated, hence the refusal to engage in open public discussion about the subject, and to investigate the circumstances of those deaths.

For the Record.

We raised the issue of  the right to record Atos assessments, and we informed Anne that whilst some people’s requests were accommodated, many were simply told that the equipment was not available. Some people also reported that they had their appointment cancelled on the last minute due to a lack of available recording machines. The provision is patchy, to say the least, and some people are being denied the right to have their assessment recorded.

 large number of reports by charities and disability groups have highlighted gross inaccuracies in the WCA testing process, which determines eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance. Many claimants are anxious to record their assessments to make sure an account of their health problems is correctly reflected in the Atos report. A wide array of accounts tell us that Atos reports are often full of “inexplicable” errors and not so full of truthful detail. Large numbers of cases are currently going to Tribunal because applicants know that  have been wrongly refused benefits; around 40% of cases are overturned in the claimant’s favour at tribunal. That percentage rises steeply, proportionally, when claimants are represented at Tribunal. This is evidence in itself that the Atos assessment process is deeply flawed, at the very least.

Despite a Government promise that everyone is entitled to record their assessment, many people have been told there are no machines available, because they are being repaired, and that they must go ahead with the test anyway. Individuals have been told they are not able to record assessments with their own devices “in view of security and confidentiality considerations”.

Chris Grayling has said: “Large scale purchase of machines in the absence of an evaluation of the process is not effective use of public money.” Bearing in mind that the right for all to have their assessment recorded was one of Harrington’s key recommendations in his first report, Grayling’s response is deplorable. We need to ask why the Government don’t favour assessments being recorded, for transparency and accountability.

I explained to Anne that those of us having been through assessments, particularly more than once, know that the whole process is heavily weighted towards ensuring that a person is passed as “fit to work”. I informed Anne that we know that even the fact that someone has managed to gather medical evidence is regarded as an indication by Atos that the person is capable of organisation and coherent thought. That’s a tick in the “work capability” box. The fact that the task may have taken a month of intermittent effort, and caused extreme pain and fatigue for the claimant is not recorded by Atos, of course. Nor is whether or not a person can perform any task reliably, consistently, safely and comfortably. (These and related issues was addressed in more detail later in the discussion.)

We pointed out to Anne that the consensus amongst our peers and ourselves is that Atos often lie in their reports to minimise (and trivialise) the impact of our illnesses and disability on our lives, and ability to function. Therefore, many now wish that the assessment is recorded, in order to at least make it more difficult for Atos assessors to write grossly misleading reports. And of course an accurate record is also important for appeal.

The shadow employment minister, Stephen Timms, who has written to Grayling to highlight his concerns about the lack of recording equipment, said: “I find it hard to believe that a company with a multimillion pound government contract is incapable of obtaining and operating sufficient recording devices.”

Anne informed us that despite the fact that Chris Grayling has said that more equipment has been purchased, there is no actual evidence of this being the case. MP’s are not allowed to call each other “liars”. I handed Anne an apt phrase when occasion calls for observation of parliamentary rules and etiquette – being “conservative with the truth”. Anne liked that very much.

Anne also told us that we do have a right to have our assessment recorded. That was recommended and established by Harrington.

We also raised the problem of access to Atos buildings, and explained that we have encountered many accounts of difficulties from disabled people, including appointments taking place that are not on the ground floor, with no lifts in the building. We know of people who have had their benefit stopped because they “failed to turn up for the assessment”. Anne recognises this problem, and how outrageously and unacceptably unfair it is, she told us that this pressing issue is to be raised by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee. (The Chair is Anne Begg)

The Blame Game.

We informed Anne that it is common opinion that the WCA – no matter how much it may be re-designed – is not fit for purpose, and that no-one has any faith in it because of the appalling damage already inflicted on so many members of the disabled community. The overwhelming consensus is that it needs to be scrapped. Atos have no credibilty whatsoever, with most of us regarding them with loathing and fear. Unfortunately, many sick and disabled people also recognise that successive Governments have contracted Atos, trust and faith in Government and Ministers has receded. I explained that some blame the previous Labour Government for current problems, as they originally contracted Atos to undertake the WCA. I don’t agree with this, personally, but I raised the point because it’s one that I’ve encountered frequently, and I recognise that it’s an important issue for some. However, I would like to point out that I don’t hold a previous Government responsible for what a current one does.

Anne explained that the original Labour Party contract with Atos did not happen within a context of welfare cuts, and was very different to the one that the current Government have with Atos.  Labour support some kind of assessment, and the old system typically involved a decision that was made entirely by the DWP, and the decision was regarded as final. Labour had felt at the time that this needed addressing with some form of independent decision-making mechanism.

We stated that the WCA has had such devastating consequences for so many sick and disabled people that it would never be trusted again, no matter how much it was redesigned and “improved” by ANY Government. However, the context of the Labour version of WCA, when it was piloted, was a completely different one to present day. There were many more jobs available, we were not in a recession, and there was support available (and well funded) for disabled people who wanted to work. Anne pointed out again that it is in the context of the welfare reforms, which are about taking away essential support, rather than providing it, that the aims of assessment have become grossly distorted. The original aims were intended to support sick and disabled people. That is clearly not the Coalitions’ aim at all.

Disability living allowance supports many in work, and despite Labours’ pleas for common sense safeguards, according to the Hardest Hit survey, three in ten disabled people stated that without DLA their carer would not be able to work. Carers UK estimates that 10,000 people could lose carer’s allowance as a result of cuts to DLA. Without this vital care, disabled people could be forced to turn to overstretched social care services. Liam Byrne  stated that here must now be an assessment, in the round, of all the changes hitting disabled people: a cumulative impact assessment. Esther McVey weakly said to the Commons that she wouldn’t order one because “Labour never did one.” Labour did complete a review, and informed this Government of the findings, and raised their concerns regarding the piloted WCA. They were completely ignored. Furthermore, Labour never inflicted the concerted attack we’re now seeing on disabled citizens. It was the Coalition that harshly “reformed” and reduced our welfare provision, and not Labour.

The Access to Work fund was re-established by the last Labour Government to ease the transition to work for disabled people, by paying grants to businesses for vital equipment. It was put in place to support people with disabilities, it aimed to reduce inequalities between disabled people and non-disabled people in the workplace by removing practical barriers to work. This fund has seen severe cuts since 2010, which flies in the face of this Government’s claim to “make work pay” for all. By reducing this essential funding, the Coalition have effectively excluded many from work.

Additionally, disabled people with the highest support needs have been left in fear and distress following a Government announcement that it is to callously abolish a key source of independent living support. The Government decision to close the Independent Living Fund and devolve responsibility to local authorities follows a consultation that disabled people claim is unlawful and on which an urgent hearing has been scheduled by the High Court to go ahead on 13/14 March 2013. Labour have also challenged the decision to close this crucial source of support. Opportunity for new applications for this funding was closed in June 2010 by the Coalition. Once again this plainly indicates that the Coalition do not consider the needs of disabled people as important, and clearly demonstrates the extent of their eager ideological drive to strip away essential provision and support for the vulnerable.

It’s important to acknowledge that there are those of us who simply cannot not work. Anne told us that the Labour Party agree that regardless of the national employment situation and support for those who could and wish to work, we must, as a civilised Society, make provision and support those who cannot work, too. I’m pleased that this important issue was recognised, because as we know, doctors are providing written evidence to the DWP and Atos that verifies people are not fit for work, and that professional and expert opinion and evidence is being ignored by people who are NOT qualified to decide otherwise. DWP “decision-makers” and Atos assessors have no expertise on medical conditions and how those impact on a persons’ capabilities for work. We know that the majority of Atos assessors are nurses or occupational therapists, and that Atos don’t take into account any medical facts at all: the assessment is entirely about “work capability”.

We informed Anne that we are acutely aware that every single part of the assessment process is designed to interpret any capability a person has to complete a task at all, no matter how small, as an indication that they can work. For example, if a person says that they watch TV, that translates as “can sit unaided for at least half an hour”, even if that half an hours viewing is done laid up in bed, propped up by pillows. Huge inferences are drawn from anything that a person can do, and translated into “work capability,” regardless of whether or not person can fulfil tasks without pain, fatigue and discomfort, and it always assumed that people can complete a task reliably, consistently and safely, unless it is explicitly stated that this isn’t the case. Even when it is expressed clearly, it is often ignored and omitted from the Atos reports. Anne acknowledged that there is a significant problem with the WCA descriptors, not least because of the many cases that have been brought to her attention regarding this issue.

Anne recognised that the WCA makes it very difficult for health professionals to exercise their professional judgement. It’s computer-based and has little or no regard to the complexity of the needs of severely disabled or sick persons. This is why the British Medical Association has condemned the WCA as unfit for purpose. Those who have been assessed often feel the opinion of their own health professionals have been overridden or ignored. As Iain McKenzie, Labour MP for Inverclyde, put it: “It is ridiculous to have people making an assessment based on a tick-list that looks like it should be used for an MOT on a car.” Anne has observed and acknowledged that people are having their lives ruined by a system that was designed to support them. It is outrageous; it is inhumane, it is shameful.

Labour conducted a review of the ESA pilot, and by the time they lost Office, they were aware of the fact that there were problems with the Work Capability Assessment: the main ones being that it did not acceptably accommodate fluctuating conditions, or mental health problems. Labour raised their concerns about this with Iain Duncan Smith, but he refused, as previously stated, to undertake an impact assessment, and he pushed the reforms through and made them law, regardless. Furthermore, the WCA was amended by the Coalition to be even less sensitive to how conditions impact on work capability. We know that when Atos were re-contracted by the Coalition, it was in the context of the “reforms”, and Atos are therefore contracted to remove support from the vulnerable. Dr Steven Bick revealed that there are targets imposed on staff at Atos, and  that only one in eight ESA claimants are passed as eligible for ESA (as “unfit for work”) regardless of their actual state of health and their capabilities.

This exposes what a sham the entire assessment process is, because it has been decided in advance that 7 out of 8 will lose their eligibility for ESA, no matter how much a person needs that support, or  how much of a negative impact this will have on the lives of those stripped of their ESA award. It’s therefore not terribly surprising that Atos reports contain so many widely reported “errors”, “inaccuracies” and “mistakes”. These are actually calculated and deliberate lies, which are also attempts at justifying taking away a persons’ benefit, regardless of the impact this will have on their well being and health. This is what Atos are contracted to do by the Coalition. This has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine assessment. It has everything to do with denying people what they are entitled to, and what they have already paid for. It has everything to do with an ideological drive to strip our welfare provision to the bone.

We know that PIP has targets because Esther McVey has indicated this by stating in advance that “More than 300,000 disabled people to have benefits cut”. It is concerning that in making her statement to Parliament, Disabilities Minister Esther McVey set out very clearly the numbers of people who she believed will qualify for the new benefit. But not surprising in light of how the whole legislative process has been conducted by Esther McVey. Conservatives are not known for following established procedure and protocol, nor do they value transparency and accountability.

Labour recognise it is people that are the most vulnerable who will bear a disproportionate share of the  cuts, simply because of the inequality they face in employment means they are more likely to rely on benefits. In other words they are facing a double penalty simply because of their characteristics – disadvantaged in the (somewhat limited) labor market and now targeted by benefit reform. This also raises concern about human rights, since this constitutes discrimination on the basis of “characteristics”, in accord with Labour’s Equality Act.

Anne has voiced major concerns about the mandatory workfare introduced to the ESA Work Related Activity Group, and the sanctions attached to this. She commented: “How can people be punished into work, especially during a recession?” We all agreed that there is a likely contravention of human rights, and we cited Article 3 of the ECHR, which we believe has clearly been breached.

Again, I pointed out that the issue isn’t so much one concerning the availability of jobs, but rather, it is one concerning the fact that people who have been deemed unfit for work by a doctor are being bullied into unlimited workfare and finding jobs, when they cannot, and ought not be expected to undertake these tasks. Anne agreed again that those who cannot work ought to be fully supported, and should not be not coerced into any kind of work if professional opinion is that they are unfit for work.

Again, the issue of human rights contraventions was raised, and Anne told us that there is a substantial backlog of work, concerning human rights cases, and this is because the  Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – established by Labour – has had its funding severely reduced  this past two years, as stated previously.

One cannot help but wonder just how calculated the cuts are in light of the extremely punitive nature of the reforms, and the continued blatant disregard of basic human rights, which is very evident in Tory-led policies. Such a well-coordinated attack on our rights seems unlikely to have happened by coincidence.

Since the meeting with Anne took place, I have remained in regular contact with her, and Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Tom Greatex, Dennis Skinner and my own MP, Kevan Jones. I send out information and articles on a regular basis, to ensure that the continued impact and the consequences of current policies are known to the Labour Party, as well as the United Nations and parliamentary select Committees when appropriate. By raising awareness, we can prompt the Opposition to challenge effectively. That is needed, because we have a Government that doesn’t follow procedure and protocol, and does not like to share information regarding its own policies, even to the relevant Parliamentary Committees, let alone with the Opposition.

We know from history that under Conservative Governments, poverty, unemployment, inequality and civil unrest increase, whilst the wealthy accumulate even more wealth, whilst the recognition and accommodation of human rights, our social secuirty, and all of our public support provisions and programs decrease.

“Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it” –  Boris Pasternak

We need to learn how to be responsible citizens and participate in how our Country is governed. And we must. We do have a choice: we can each contribute something, when we are able, and in our own way, to raise public awareness and demand positive change. Governments must reflect and serve the needs and interests of the whole population, and not just an elite. It’s our duty and responsibility to make sure that they do.

It’s our responsibility to keep the Labour Party informed, and to push for effective challenges to be made against the Coalition, and to promote, prioritise and value social progress, the recognition of human potential, fairness and equality. We set the policy agenda, as voters, if only we will take that responsibility. The Coalition are dismantling democratic process. David Cameron has already stated that he wants to “reduce” consultations, judicial review, and equality impact assessments, amongst other processes that are essential to human rights safeguarding, accountability and transparency. “It’s not how you get things done” he said of these essential processes of inclusion and democracy. Ask yourself what it is that he wants to “get done”, which requires bypassing democratic process and human rights safeguarding. Clearly, this is a Government that certainly intends to continue to inflict harm.

We must collectively fight the Coalition’s steady attack on our support programs, welfare provision, human rights, and their determined intentions of undoing all that is civilised and decent about our society. We must maintain those (Labour) principles that make society welcoming, supportive and inclusive to all.  It is our own responsibility to recognise the equal worth and potential of every person, and the intrinsic value of each life. It’s an established, historically verified fact that Conservatives never have, and they never will.

Labour are currently consulting with the public on a National level, regarding the policy content of their Manifesto. That’s democracy in action. Make sure you have your say. It matters.

You can also get involved in Labour policy ideas here and here , or you can contact your nearest Labour MP here .

Further reading:-

This is what happens when we do collectively push for positive change and participate: we arm the Opposition with crucial information, detail and cases studies so that they can challenge effectively (from column 1050 onwards.)


The Shadow State: The “dehumanising, degrading” treatment of disabled people

New Statesman

ESA SOS 

Sue Marsh

The ESA Revolving Door Process 

Kitty Jones

Clause 99, Catch 22

Kitty Jones

Back to the Dark Ages as the Tories plan to scrap your Human Rights

Mike Sivier, Vox Political

 
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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant art work 

Every child used to matter: a summary of “Remembering when Every Child Mattered”


The Coalition: from all that mattered to the secretive dismantling of State support

Michael Gove certainly put the “Tory” in “peremptory”. When he took office in Sanctuary Buildings, it was as the secretary of state for education, not children. He gave Every Child Matters (ECM) a swift name change, and a radical shift in focus, the very day after the Coalition came into office. Authoritarians plan well in advance, it seems, and set their designs in motion very swiftly. The new Government placed a ban on the phrase “Every Child Matters” as part of a widespread change in terminology within Whitehall departments. Effectively, the ECM policy was scrapped.

Details of the changes are revealed in an internal Department for Education (DfE) memo, split into two columns for words used before 11th May and those which should be replaced. The phrase “Every Child Matters” was immediately replaced with the phrase “helping children achieve more”. Achievement was only one of the original five ECM outcomes, and the other four have now been dropped. Family intervention projects – another ECM policy development, have been disbanded, and that phrase is also banned from use within Gove’s despotic and linguistically pauperised Department.

One of the first things Gove did was to rename the original and expansive Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) as a considerably reduced Department for Education (DfE). The Every Child Matters webpages are still linked to this site, but with the warning (a Tory- led Government health warning…) that:

“A new UK Government took office on 11 May. As a result, the content on this site may not reflect current Government policy.

All statutory guidance and legislation published on this site continues to reflect the current legal position unless otherwise indicated.”

Gove also recommended that Contactpoint is scrapped, with a focus on a “signposting system” (usually a direct referral) focusing on “genuinely vulnerable children”. This ridiculous statement implies that some children have been somehow fraudulently obtaining child protection and welfare services and support. And that professionals are not capable of recognising “genuinely vulnerable” from not vulnerable. What this attempted “targeting services” rhetoric translates as is “we are going to cut funding”.

The original Department’s rainbow motif, complete with brightly coloured cartoon children – derisively referred to as “munchkins” by Conservative advisers – was ditched in favour of stark, austere, dark Conservative blue lettering. The Coalition have quietly pushed a shift from the Labour recognition of children’s potential, promoting their well-being and safety to a flat uni-dimensional standards linked achievement.

Schools no longer have a statutory right to promote children’s spiritual, social and emotional well-being, and the Labour idea of a self- aware and responsible Citizenship based element to education was also removed from the curriculum. (Though the Conservatives have changed the definition and terms of “responsible citizenship” since, it’s now used as a form of state coercion to justify withdrawal of tax funded support provision). Ofsted no longer grade schools on this: Tory ministers seem to regard the ECM initiative’s goals as distractions from schools’ core purpose. No longer do children need to “enjoy and achieve” – just achieve. Local cutbacks are making it harder for schools to bring in specialised support. Once again. Same old Tories. Same old essential support provision being stripped away.

What was a “Children’s Plan” under the Labour Government is now a “free market education plan” marking Goves shift from free schools to “for profit” schools. This, of course, is certain to cause institutional confusion, with each school having individual freedom, self publicity and marketing responsibility and with no universal statutory protection policy in place. The whole-child approach has been abandoned in favour of a narrow focus on educational standards.

Michael Gove described the “Every Child Matters agenda” as “meddlesome”, but what he really meant is that this Government are not prepared to fund the health, safety, protection and well-being of every child that needs support. Labour ministers wanted to do more than just protect children, they wanted to “ensure that every child has the chance to fulfil their potential”. This Government are not interested in the welfare or the potential of our children.

It’s common sense that if you are really focused on improving attainment and helping children to achieve educationally, as Gove is claiming, that attainment is inextricably linked to their overall well-being. The dismantling of ECM has some very far reaching and negative consequences, for child protection and welfare, equal opportunities, acknowledging diversity, family support, respite care, education provision (especially for those pupils that don’t have mainstream needs) are but a few that come to mind.

Every Child Matters was a Labour policy, which was joined up thinking at its very best. The policy is the best in terms of child protection and welfare that we have ever seen. In addition to a robust and crucially effective and preventative approach to child protection (overdue since the beginning of social care, as previously the emphasis had simply been on “crisis intervention”), Labour’s ambition is to improve these outcomes for all children and to narrow the gap in outcomes between those who do well and those who do not.

In January 2001, the health secretary, Alan Milburn, ordered a statutory public inquiry into Victoria Climbie’s horrific death, which was headed by former chief inspector of social services, Lord Herbert Laming. The Labour Government drove a moral impetus, in addition to implementing Lord Laming’s recommendations within a coherent and comprehensive policy framework, legislating to address the significant gaps in child welfare provision, more broadly.

Child protection became EVERYONE’S responsibility and concern. Compassion, equality, holism, and the cooperative principle lay behind   the far-reaching Labour reforms that followed. Every Child Matters is the overarching title for the significant, positive, comprehensive flagship policy, which required all public sector organisations working with children to come together to prevent any more tragedies.

Enshrined at the heart of Every Child Matters was the Paramountcy Principle: this states that the welfare of children is at all times paramount and overrides all other considerations. This reflects a “whole child” approach to welfare and protection, as well as a holistic inter-agency approach to achieving that.

Using the Common Assessment Framework (CAF),  professionals could identify the additional, complex and unique individual needs of the child. CAFs  facilitated the identifying of needs, and the allocation of a lead professional to co-ordinate the provision that was developed quite often by co-opting appropriate agencies and professionals, and by drawing together those professionals already involved in provision for the child/young person, who then worked together co-operatively, as a specialist “team around the child”.

The CAF also facilitated goal-orientated practice and positive outcome-based, tailored provision. The work was planned monitored and evaluated throughout the process. Indeed monitoring and evaluation were built into the process, and CAF paperwork and the database prompted continual scrutiny and accountability throughout.

This was an outstanding comprehensive, coherent, robust child protection and welfare policy, formulated to prevent any more tragedies like the horrific abuse, torture and death of Victoria Climbie. Clearly, Gove doesn’t have the same priorities as the rest of us. The progress that ECM reflects in social work theory and practice, and other professions that involve work with children, was phenomenal. Now that progress has been undone by a Tory-led Government, whose primary concerns include how to make money from selling off our childrens’ school playing fields, and “for profit” schools, with the dismantling of Childrens’ Services, it is very clear that the current Government have no intention whatsoever of protecting our children and ensuring their well-being.

With the very challenging cuts that local authorities face, many have had to severely reduce their children’s social care budget by up to a fifth – forcing them to focus purely on their statutory responsibilities, and barely, at times. Labour’s development of the effective, comprehensive and crucial preventative support services has been totally demolished by the Coalition. Apparently, Gove thinks that children and young people’s safety and well-being is optional.

68 per cent of our front line children’s services have had cuts to their budgets in 2011 alone. Bearing in mind these are also providing statutory services and also considering that many local authorities are pessimistic about the future of these services, and with most charities previously funded to undertake ECM outcome based work –  work with families in which children are struggling at school because of problems at home including poverty, adult mental health problems, domestic violence, substance abuse truancy  and poor housing – being also fearful for the future of the most vulnerable members of society. In some areas, support for vulnerable children of school age has just been cut from the budget completely. And as we know, the worst of the cuts is yet to come.

When the full extent of the welfare reforms is realised next year – the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, and the poll tax style council tax via the Localism Bill, which are still yet to come, the numbers of children and young people facing substantially increased deprivation and poverty will rise steeply, with problems such as increased risk of neglect, risk of emotional and physical abuse – the resilience of parents is more likely to be affected by poverty, (the NSPPC (2008) Inform study recognises this link) mental health problems, lack of educational attainment and fewer life chances (further compounded by other punitive Coalition policies, that have significantly reduced equal opportunities) amongst other significant complex, interconnected problems becoming much more commonplace.

Poor and vulnerable children will need extensive support from both statutory frontline services and range of other support services that are no longer in place. The impact of Coalition cuts on the lives of so many vulnerable children and adults, together with the dismantling of essential welfare, support and protection services, will be catastrophic, and very likely, an irreversible horror that we – as a so called civilised society – will have to face.

“Each child’s story is worthy of telling. There should not be a sliding scale of death. The weight of it is crushing.” – Anderson Cooper

The original full length article is here

Remembering When Every Child Mattered.

                                                                    

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1. The historical context of Labour’s Every Child Matters reforms

It is important that we never forget the appalling details of Victoria Climbie’s tragic suffering and horrific murder, in February 2000, not least because it exposed serious failings by the child protection services and staff responsible for her welfare at the time. The Labour Government acknowledged this tragedy with compassion, frank accountability, and a thorough, holistic, comprehensive legislative response that demonstrated some of the best joined-up thinking witnessed in any Government policy formulation.

Victoria was an eight year old girl, who came to Europe from West Africa, in the hope of a better life. She died of hypothermia, she had also suffered a heart attack, along with kidney and respiratory failure, after months of torture and neglect, inflicted by her brutal, sadistic great aunt, Marie Therese Kouao, and her boyfriend, Carl Manning. Kouao savagely beat Victoria on a daily basis with items like a shoe, a coat hanger and a wooden spoon and she also hit Victoria’s toes with a hammer. Manning beat Victoria with a bicycle chain. She spent her last days in an unheated bathroom, tied up in a bin bag, lying in her own urine and excrement. She was forced to eat the cold food she was infrequently given by pushing her face into the piles of food left for her, as her hands were bound.

Victoria’s abusers were jailed for life in November 2000. During the trial, police, health and social services involved in the case were described as “blindingly incompetent”. These agencies had failed a child suffering the most terrible torture and abuse, despite the fact that there was visible evidence of the abuse, professionals had failed to intervene on no less that 12 occasions. One of the key criticisms levelled at those professionals involved is that they failed to share information and pass on concerns to other professionals. There was no effective mechanism in place for confidential information sharing that crossed each agency’s professional remit boundary.

In January 2001, the health secretary, Alan Milburn, ordered a statutory public inquiry into her death, which was headed by former chief inspector of social services, Lord Herbert Laming. The Labour Government drove a moral impetus, in addition to implementing Lord Laming’s recommendations within a coherent and comprehensive policy framework, legislating to address the significant gaps in child welfare provision more broadly.

Child protection became EVERYONE’S responsibility and concern. Compassion, equality, holism, and the cooperative principle lay behind the far-reaching Labour reforms that followed. Every Child Matters is the overarching title for the significant, positive and comprehensive flagship policy, which required all public sector organisations working with children to come together to prevent any more tragedies.

2. The Common Assessment Framework: agencies and professionals singing from the same hymn sheet

Enshrined at the heart of Every Child Matters is the Paramountcy Principle: this states that the welfare of children is at all times paramount and overrides all other considerations. This reflects a “whole child” approach to welfare, wellbeing and protection, as well as a holistic inter-agency approach to achieving that. Using the Common Assessment Framework (CAF), professionals could identify the additional, complex and unique individual needs of the child.

CAFs facilitated the identifying of needs, and the allocation of a lead professional to co-ordinate the provision that was developed quite often by co-opting appropriate agencies and professionals, and by drawing together those professionals already involved in service delivery for the child/young person, who then worked together co-operatively, as a specialist “team around the child”. The CAF also facilitated goal-orientated practice and positive outcome based, tailored provision. The work was planned monitored and evaluated throughout the process. Indeed monitoring and evaluation were built into the process, CAF paperwork and the database prompted continual scrutiny and accountability throughout.

One of the best advantages for the child/young person concerned was that they participated in this process, by a degree of input regarding their own perception of their needs, in decision-making, and often, by allocating their own favoured professionals. These were usually the ones that had worked closely with the child, established rapport and trust, and who had often initiated the CAF in the first place. CAFs could only be undertaken with the child/young person’s consent. In fact, the scope for young people participating and potential inclusion possibilities were amongst the best advantages of the CAF.

Lead Professionals were often chosen to undertake multiple CAF casework, because of their professional relationship with the child/young person, which of course applied to their other clients as well. The disadvantage, of course, is that these professionals, because of the very nature of their face to face work, and ongoing professional contact, were often in danger of being particularly overburdened with CAF-related work and “team around the child meetings”. It wasn’t untypical to have very heavy caseloads if you worked at a face to face level with young people.

The policy did encourage innovative cross boundary inter-agency working, skill sharing, pooling of resources and the development and sharing of good practices. Social care organisations also adapted to accommodate the new CAF work, and lead professional work became something of a specialism, with many of us also advising and training other practitioners in the field.

Each Local Authority also had a central CAF co-ordinator, whose role was to developed training, deliver policy briefings and updates, and to monitor each CAF that was open and ongoing. CAFs were used to identify and address all welfare needs of vulnerable children and young people, where appropriate. But CAFs also helped professionals identify a need for more rigorous child protection procedures, as well as the needs related to more general wellbeing and the other of the five ECM outcomes (see above). Quite often CAFs triggered child protection procedure, and then were used in tandem with specialised, ongoing child protection assessments.

3. The reality check: how the ECM reforms translated in the field, and promoted good professional practice

One of Labour’s visions behind ECM was that of professionals from a broad range of disciplines working together to address all of the needs of the child, regardless of the child’s background. There is a clear recognition that many circumstances may impact negatively upon the wellbeing of the child. For example, most experienced social workers will tell you that mental health problems in children are strongly correlated with levels of parental income, which is in turn linked with socioeconomic and political contexts. Poverty is linked to a higher likelihood of a child having identified or “additional needs”.

Lack of wellbeing and additional needs are linked with pupil distress, manifested as “behavioural difficulties” in schools, which tend to lead to high levels of exclusion. That exclusion is in turn linked with a higher risk of offending. Much of the caseload on the Youth Offending Team database comprised of young people with additional learning needs, young people with identified dyspraxia, autism, OCD, ADHD, and children who had suffered bereavement were also over-represented.

The previous Conservative Government had reduced special needs education and provision by cutting funding, this had resulted in units and special needs school closures and meant that many mainstream schools were very overstretched in providing specialist provision. Although mainstreaming specialist provision may have encouraged inclusion, lack of adequate funding tended to mean that it didn’t.

The result was more exclusions for the groups of young people with (usually unidentified) special educational needs (SENS), and any other issue or condition that had an impact on their behaviour, typically, because of the lack of specialist resources, specialist knowledge of staff, and a certain view and management of “challenging behaviours”, because of an emphasis in mainstream schools on the common needs of all pupils, rather than the additional needs of individuals. CAFs shifted the focus and ensured that each individual child’s needs were identified and provision was developed to ensure they were met.

Labour recognised all of the issues and interconnected circumstances that may have an impact on the wellbeing of children and young people, and this knowledge was used to ensure that the needs of our children were met on every level, from addressing child poverty, to basic nutrition in school, confidence and esteem building youth work activities, (informal educational opportunities became part of a youth work curriculum which included  sexual health, substance misuse awareness, where needs to address these issues had been identified, and social education, participation and citizenship were central to the curriculum).

There was a shift of emphasis from simple crisis management provision to the development of preventative, comprehensive social work, and youth offending work. The ECM Bill translated into a needs-led, flexible and multi-layered response, with participation and inclusion of children and young people in the decision-making processes becoming central to professional practice. As well as extending participation and inclusion, ECM was an exceptional equal opportunities policy that also recognised and accommodated diversity very well.

Labour’s extending schools agenda was also all about providing services for meeting multi- faceted needs of pupils, families and communities. Provision such as breakfast clubs and after school activities also benefited working parents because there was a childcare element built into the provision. Healthy eating became important, because of the recognition that diet may have an impact on both behaviour and achievement, as well as on wellbeing and health. This linked in well with the broader aims of ECM. Inclusion and participation became integrated in practice, and also, together with Citizenship, they became part of both the formal and informal education curriculum. This had a positive impact on youth work, providing direction and an outcome-based focus for youth work practice.

Youth workers were often to be found delivering informal education programs in schools, and delivering the alternative curriculum courses, which focussed on personal development, such as Asdan. Typically, youth workers also engaged the “hard to reach” pupils. Usually the same group that most often would face exclusions. There was something reassuring, in a way, in the discovery that professionals across the board of child welfare agencies had so many of the same young people in common on their caseloads – it meant we were most likely working with the young people and children that really did need the support and additional provision. It also meant we could now tailor support provision more effectively by joint assessment, planning and delivery.

Needs-led practice had a positive knock on effect. It worked on may levels, too. For example, one observation about the high number of vulnerable pupil exclusions was that teachers often lacked capacity in handing and diffusing conflict. This is not a criticism of teaching staff – most  were under too much pressure to manage full to capacity classrooms to find time enough to pause and reflect on this issue, and the outcome was to the detriment of vulnerable young people – the ones I worked with, in particular.

Exclusions for “challenging behaviours” happened quite often to the young people with unidentified SENs, and other complex needs. The exclusions had a broader negative impact on outcomes, as stated earlier, school exclusions increased the likelihood of young people offending. There is also the likely negative impact on the child’s self-perception and esteem, the issues of stigmatising and negative labelling to consider, amongst other things.

School exclusion was an issue that concerned me, so I designed a course on “conflict management”, which addressed issues such as the impact of negative labeling on young people’s self esteem and wellbeing, as well as strategies for coping effectively and positively with conflict, based on an overall assessment of needs of the groups of young people that I worked with, and crucially, this incorporated training on the development of needs-led strategies, for staff. Part of this included planning responsive provision for young people with “challenging behaviours”.

I delivered the training to staff in five schools. I also worked with the groups of young people on esteem building and developing conflict management skills. The number of exclusions dropped quite dramatically, following the delivery of the training. Even more positive was the news six months later that exclusions were still much less frequent than previously. And both staff and young people reported much less conflict. Young people told me they felt they were “better understood” in school, and felt teachers were being “kinder” as a result. 

The course became a useful practice tool kit for youth workers and other professionals, and the Youth Service also utilised the training. This meant that the resource could be used and re-used without me needing to deliver it again. That was essential, as the work was in addition to my statutory professional commitments of day to day case work and management. It became common to see professionals extend their practice and fully utilise all of their skills, and some of the needs-led work undertaken by my colleagues this way, was truly innovative, brilliant and beneficial to other professionals, in terms of professional and personal development, as well as to children and young people with need of support and protection.

4. How we let them know what we knew: information sharing and safeguarding

One way of linking professionals and information sharing was via the introduction of a database called Contactpoint. This was an effective way of professionals sharing concerns and information about their clients. It also introduced a significant level of professional accountability because every appointment, phone call, activity, and importantly, every action that was considered and taken had to be justified and recorded. Obviously, access to the database was restricted to relevant professionals only, and there were strict protocols and policies in place regarding data protection and access.

Contactpoint was a very good way of ensuring that provision wasn’t duplicated, (and so it helped prevent resources being wasted), and it offered an excellent opportunity for professionals to build on the work of other practitioners, share good practice, and it further encouraged cooperation, and joint work between different agencies. High professional standards were encouraged, good ideas shared. Professionals also learned new skills via the partnership work. Social workers could learn from educational psychologists, teachers, family intervention workers, health workers, youth workers and so on, and of course, the converse was true.

One other advantage of the Contactpoint database, besides casework based information sharing and accountability, was that it enhanced the safety and wellbeing of professionals. Contactpoint encouraged information sharing about crucial practice and safety issues, too. It also helped to encourage joint visits. For example, it wasn’t unusual for me to attend a home visit with an educational welfare officer, or a child psychologist and deliver provision in tandem, or build on their work.

Three of my colleagues were killed previously in Newcastle. Social workers are often lone workers, making home visits after school hours. Information sharing regarding the safety of home visiting is crucial, but had been critically neglected prior to Contactpoint. One of my colleagues was a social work student on placement. She made a lone home visit with a young man who had schizophrenia, and was tragically stabbed to death. That is one side of social work – the risks it entails – that seldom gets reasonable and adequate media coverage or acknowledgement.

One example of good partnership work was a family therapy project set up by two clinical psychologists, a paediatrician and two social workers, which I contributed to. I had always worked closely with CAMHS, and developed positive co-working relationships with the organisation, so felt this was a valuable opportunity for joint delivery of an excellent project. Parenting related issues were recognised as quite often having a negative impact on children/young people’s well-being. Of course, socioeconomic context matters, and we felt that this is too often overlooked in delivery of family services.

My colleagues and I were concerned that a “blaming the parent” and stigmatising culture may evolve because of some of the professional emphasis on this one issue. We worked with parents and their children using group work and one to one sessions. The emphasis was on providing support and dialogue rather than being based on the notion of addressing a “parenting skills deficit”. Pooling of professional resources, skills and perspectives meant that this was an effective and successful project, measured in terms of ongoing monitoring and evaluation, feedback from parents and children, and successful outcomes for the child/young person.

We developed an innovative multidisciplinary, dynamic, flexible, responsive approach to therapy, that replaced the woefully inadequate and widespread dominant model – cognitive behavioural therapy, used by so many trained and disillusioned practitioners at the time. It became normal to attend service briefings that were pertinent to one’s own working practice outside of one’s own service, and to comfortably speak and share professional experiences to a broad range of professionals from mental health services, educational welfare, police, schools, for example, on a daily basis.

5. The Coalition: from all that mattered to the secretive dismantling of State support

Michael Gove certainly put the “Tory” in “peremptory”. When he took office in Sanctuary Buildings, it was as the secretary of state for education, not children. He gave Every Child Matters a swift name change, and a radical shift in focus, the very day after the Coalition came into office. Authoritarians plan well in advance, it seems, and set their designs in motion very swiftly. The new Government placed a ban on the phrase “Every Child Matters” as part of a widespread change in terminology within Whitehall departments. Details of the changes are revealed in an internal Department for Education (DfE) memo, split into two columns for words used before 11th May and those which should be replaced.

The phrase “Every Child Matters” was immediately replaced with the pseudo-meritocratic phrase “helping children achieve more”. Achievement was only one of the original five ECM outcomes, and the other four have now been dropped. Family intervention projects – another ECM policy development – have been disbanded, and that phrase is also banned from use within Gove’s despotic and linguistically pauperised Department.

One of the first things Gove did was to rename the original and expansive Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) as a considerably reduced Department for Education (DfE). The Every Child Matters webpages are still linked to this site, but with the warning that: “A new UK Government took office on 11 May. As a result, the content on this site may not reflect current Government policy.

All statutory guidance and legislation published on this site continues to reflect the current legal position unless otherwise indicated.”

Gove also recommended that Contactpoint is scrapped, with a focus on a “signposting system” (usually a direct referral)  focusing on “genuinely vulnerable children”. This ridiculous statement implies that some children have been somehow fraudulently obtaining child protection and welfare services and support. And that professionals are not capable of recognising “genuinely vulnerable” from not vulnerable. What this attempted “targeting services” rhetoric translates as is “we are going to cut funding”.

The original Department’s rainbow motif, complete with brightly coloured cartoon children – derisively referred to as “munchkins” by Conservative advisers – was ditched in favour of stark, austere, dark Conservative blue lettering. The Coalition have quietly pushed a shift from the Labour recognition of children’s potential, promoting their wellbeing and safety to a flat unidimensional standards-linked achievement.

Schools no longer have a statutory right to promote children’s spiritual, social and emotional wellbeing, and the Labour idea of self-aware and responsible Citizenship based element to education was also removed from the curriculum. (Though the Conservatives have changed the definition and terms of “responsible citizenship” subsequently, it’s now used as a form of state coercion to justify withdrawal of tax funded support provision). Ofsted no longer grade schools on this: Tory ministers seem to regard the ECM initiative’s goals as distractions from schools’ core purpose. No longer do children need to “enjoy and achieve” – just achieve. Local cutbacks are making it harder for schools to bring in specialised support. Once again. Same old Tories. Same old essential support provision being stripped away.

What was a “Children’s Plan” under the Labour Government is now a “free market education plan”, marking Gove’s shift from free schools to “for profit” schools. This, of course, is certain to cause institutional confusion, with each school having individual freedom, self publicity and marketing responsibility and with no universal statutory protection policy in place. The whole-child approach has been abandoned in favour of a narrow focus on “educational standards.”

Michael Gove described the Every Child Matters agenda as “meddlesome”, but what he really means is that this Government are not prepared to fund the health, safety, protection and wellbeing of every child that needs support. Labour ministers wanted to do more than just protect children, they wanted to “ensure that every child has the chance to fulfil their potential”. This Government are not interested in the welfare or the potential of our children.

It’s common sense that if you are really focused on improving attainment and helping children to achieve educationally, as Gove is claiming, that attainment is inextricably linked to their overall wellbeing. The dismantling of ECM has some very far reaching and negative consequences, for child protection and welfare, equal opportunities, acknowledging diversity, inclusion, family support, respite care, education provision (especially for those pupils that don’t have mainstream needs) are but a few that come to mind.

With the very challenging cuts that local authorities face, many have had to severely reduce their children’s social care budget by up to a fifth – forcing them to focus purely on their statutory responsibilities, and barely, at times. Labour’s development of the effective, comprehensive and crucial preventative support services has been totally demolished by the Coalition. Apparently, Gove thinks that children and young people’s safety and wellbeing is optional.

68 per cent of our front line children’s services have had cuts to their budgets in 2011 alone. Bearing in mind these are also providing statutory services and also considering that many local authorities are pessimistic about the future of these services, and with most charities previously funded to undertake ECM outcome based work – work with families in which children are struggling at school because of problems at home including poverty, adult mental health problems, domestic violence, substance abuse, truancy and poor housing – being also fearful for the future of the most vulnerable members of society. In some areas, support for vulnerable children of school age has just been cut from the budget completely. And as we know, the worst of the cuts are yet to come.

When the full extent of the welfare reforms is realised next year – the bedroom tax, benefit cap, the poll tax styled council tax via the Localism Bill, which are still yet to come, the numbers of children and young people facing substantially increased deprivation and poverty will rise steeply, with problems such as increased risk of neglect, risk of emotional and physical abuse – the resilience of parents is more likely to be affected by poverty (NSPPC 2008 Inform study recognises this link ) – mental health problems, lack of educational attainment and fewer life chances (further compounded by other punitive Coalition policies, that have significantly reduced equal opportunities) amongst other significant complex, interconnected problems becoming much more commonplace.

These poor and vulnerable children will need extensive support from both statutory frontline services and range of other support services that are no longer in place. The impact of Coalition cuts on the lives of so many vulnerable children and adults, together with the dismantling of essential welfare, support and protection services, will be catastrophic, and very likely, an irreversible horror that we – as a so called civilised society –  will have to face.

“Each child’s story is worthy of telling. There shouldn’t be a sliding scale of death. The weight of it is crushing.” – Anderson Cooper

Further Reading:

The shape of things to come? Privatisation for children’s services, education and support for those with additional needs in the classroom – http://eoin-clarke.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/5000-education-jobs-including-provision.html 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/may/13/dcsf-new-name-department-education 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8679749.stm 

Listen and learn Mr Gove. Posted on June 14, 2012: ttp://www.labourteachers.org.uk/blog/2012/06/14/time-to-listen-and-learn-mr-gove/ – Baroness Maggie Jones

How poverty and deprivation impact on child protection needs – http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/briefings/povertypdf_wdf56896.pdf
Parenting and poverty – http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/parenting-poverty.pdf

 

Political parties – there are very BIG differences in their policies.

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What LABOUR Achieved whilst in Government:

1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
2. Low mortgage rates.
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52 per hour.
4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.
9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
10. 3,700 rebuilt and significantly refurbished schools; including new and improved classrooms, laboratories and kitchens.
11. 85,000 more nurses.
12. 32,000 more doctors.
13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.
15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.
16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.
17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.
18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
19. Restored city-wide government to London.
20. Record number of students in higher education.
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.
23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
24.  £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to  £300 for over-80s.
25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.
28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997: the shortest waiting times since NHS records began.
35. Banned fox hunting.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.
38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.
40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s.
41. New Deal – helped over 1.8 million people into work.
42. Over 3 million child trust funds have been started.
43. Free eye test for over 60s.
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.
46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.
47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.
48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.
50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school.
51. Gender Recognition Act 2004/5
52. Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. That ended 30 years of the troubles in which 3000 people were killed.
53. Flagship walk- in Health Centres and GP out of hours Service.
54. Campaigned tirelessly for, and then brought about  the universal provision of digital hearing aids, through the NHS.
55. Children’s Act 2004, 2008 – Every Child Matters. Flagship policy aimed at effectively safeguarding all children and young people, and meeting their needs, regardless of background.
56. Introduced Smoke – Free legislation, 2007, which led to a significant decrease in hospital admissions for children with asthma. The decrease in childhood asthma symptoms happened immediately that the smoking ban was introduced, and have continued to decrease since.
57. Introduced the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) which is aimed at improving the quality of advice provided to customers and the transparency around the charges for that advice. Ended commission for advisers to address the imbalance of interest between customers and companies selling financial products.
58. Introduced legislation to make blacklisting unlawful in 2009 – 2010.
59. The Equality Act.
60. Established the Disability Rights Commission.
61. The Human Rights Act.
62  Signed the European Social Chapter, introduced measures including: a right to parental leave; extended maternity leave; a new right to request flexible working; and the same protection for part-time workers as full time workers.
63. Launched £1.5 billion Housing Pledge of new affordable housing, largest program of council house building for twenty years.
64. The Autism Act 2009, which was the first ever disability-specific law in England.
65. New Deal for Communities regeneration programme, which successfully addressed deprivation and social exclusion.
66. All prescriptions  free for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer.
67. Introduced vaccination to be offered to teenage girls to protect  against cervical cancer.
68. Rough sleeping dropped by two thirds
69. Homelessness at its lowest level since the early 1980s.
70. Increased Britain’s offshore wind capacity than any country in the world, to provide enough electricity to power 2 million homes .
71. Led the campaign to win the 2012 Olympics for London.
72. Introduced the first ever British Armed Forces and Veterans Day to honour past and present achievements of our armed forces.
73. Created a new right of pedestrian access, so that every family has equal opportunity to access  the national coastline.
74. Led the campaign to agree a new international convention banning all cluster munitions.
75.  Launched the Swimming Challenge Fund to support free swimming for over 60s and under 16s.
76. Created community safety partnerships.
77. Set up a dedicated Department for International Development.
78. Cancelled approximately 100 per cent of debt for the world’s poorest countries.
79. Helped lift 3 million people out of poverty each year, globally.
80. Helped to get some 40 million more children into school, through  Labour’s campaign for international development.
81. Polio is on the verge of being eradicated globally.
82. 3 million people are now able to access life-preserving drugs for HIV and AIDS.
83. Improved water or sanitation services for over 1.5 million people.
84. Launched a Governance and Transparency Fund, providing resources to local civil society groups to improve governance and increase accountability in poor countries – for example, by helping citizens, media and parliaments hold governments to account.
85. The Neighbourhood Renewal programme – introduced funding for neighbourhood improvements.
86. The Extending Schools Program – included Breakfast & Homework clubs to improved levels of educational achievement and the longer term life chances of disadvantaged children.
87. Launched the Connexions Service – provided valuable careers advice and support to young people seeking employment.
88. Working Family Tax credits to support low paid parents in work and to pay for childcare.
89. The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
90. Established The Future Jobs Fund to provide all young people access to a job, training or education.
91. Introduced Warm Front – helped 2.3 million vulnerable households, those in fuel poverty with energy efficiency improvements.
92. Guaranteed paid holidays – introduced a law to ensure that everyone who works is entitled to a minimum paid holiday of 5.6 weeks,
93. The right to request flexible working.
94. Improved work hours – introduced a law so employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours a week.
95. Protection against unfair dismissal – introduced protections for workers and increased the maximum compensation from £12,000 to around £63,000.
96. Introduced Rights for Part-time workers – the right to equal pay rates, pension rights, pro-rata holidays and sick pay.
97. Introduced the Right to breaks at work
98. Introduced the Right to representation – every worker can be a member of a trade union and be represented in grievance and disciplinary hearings.
99. Rights for parents and carers – introduced the right to time off to deal with unexpected problems for their dependants, such as illness.
100. Introduced literacy and numeracy hours in schools and extended diversity to the curriculum.
101. Reduced class sizes to 30 for 5-7 year old children.
102. Introduced a public interest test, allowing governments to block international business takeovers on three specific grounds: media plurality, national security or financial stability.
103. Introduced the Bribery criminal Act
104. Established the Standards Board for England under Labour’s Local Government Act 2000 for promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and code of conduct in local government.
105. Climate Change Act 2008.

1-50 taken from here.

Some more sources here

Where Labour policies are cited, I have researched and verified them, to ensure that the list is accurate.

Labour’s animal welfare policies

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What the TORIES/LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have “Achieved” whilst in Government:

1. Introduced unpaid, unlimited workfare for those deemed too sick or disabled to work by their doctor.
2. Scrapped crisis loans and community care grants for the most vulnerable.
3. Severely reduced Legal Aid so that equal, fair access to justice is no longer preserved.
4. Increased VAT ensuring the poorest pay proportionately more in tax. Cut top tax rate to 45% giving millionaires a £40000 pa tax windfall.
5. Legalised state surveillance of all personal internet traffic.
6. Planning to curtail human rights, guaranteed by membership of the EU. That is written in their Program for Government, and has been planned from the very start.
7. Introduced charges for Child Support Agency, so that vulnerable single parents have to pay to get maintanance from absent fathers, for their children.
8. Introduced the Council Tax Bill, with the same unfair principles as the Poll tax Bill, sneaked in via the Localism Bill. The poorest will pay the most.
9. Sold off the publicly owned and publicly funded NHS to their sponsors and donors, and to Companies that many of them have financial interests in. Despite promises not to.
10. Sold off most of the Council housing stock. The numbers of homes built under the Tories are at levels lower than any time since the Second World War.
11. Rationed access to Health Services, to the detriment of patients, Closed A and E’s and the out of hours and walk in surgeries set up by Labour.
12. Halved Support for disabled children
Scrapped the “Youth Premium” for the most profoundly disabled children
13. Closed 250 Sure start centres, 124 of those closed in the first year of the Coalition.
14. Cut housing support for disabled people
15. Reduced contributions based ESA eligibility to just one year. This means many people living in households with other income lose their benefit
16. Cut Council budgets so they can no longer provide social care for some of the most vulnerable people
17. Introduced PIP to replace DLA, with the aim of cutting 500,000 vulnerable people from the figures before any assessments have happened.
18. Removed basic rate ESA for sick and disabled people for those wishing to appeal their ESA decisions from October 2013, whilst they await a mandatory review. From April 2013 for JSA.
19. Persistently lied to the public about Work Capability Assessments and failed to address the fact they are unfit for purpose while disabled people suffer and die.
20. Introduced targets – 7 out of 8 ESA claimants to lose their ESA, regardless of their significant illness and disabilities, which has meant even cancer patients have had to go to the job centre to look for work
21. Encouraged hate crime by using the “scrounger” and Nazi “burden on the State” style propaganda in speeches and in the media about the sick and disabled, and the unemployed, fed politicised press releases to the Media. Yet £66 billion goes unclaimed every Parliament in benefits.
22. Introduced authoritarian “monitoring” of the BBC, and other media , for “left wing bias”
23. Lied about benefit fraud rates, and failed to apologise when they were rumbled.
24. Closing Remploy factories, throwing over 1500 working disabled people on the scrapheap
25. Fostering a divisive nation by using ideology of hate – low paid workers are set against benefit claimants, for example, in the speech about “making work pay”, which was simply a front for cutting welfare provision.
26. Cut respite care.
27. Suggesting in the PIP regulations that a sick or disabled person can “bathe” if they can wash above the waist only.
28. Re-classified paraplegics as “fully mobile” if they use their wheelchairs too well.
29. Lying about Workfare repeatedly to the press. The Tory Work Programme has delivered less than a 2% success rate, after they ignored NAO warnings it was a waste of money.
30. Falsifying internet documents and issuing press releases to make workfare look successful when it’s a corrupt sham.
31. Reduced employment, workers pay, and workers rights.
32. Fostered a Nation that prioritises profits over basic human needs
33. Generated more wealth for the very wealthy, and forced many others into destitution, bleak poverty and 60% of those using food banks are in work.
34. Given away a billion pounds of our assets in the form of schools, gifted to private corporations, in the name of academies, with the associated half a billion in legal costs paid out of our taxes. Sold off school playing fields.
35. Deliberately sabotaged the economy to profit a few, whilst inflicting austerity, misery and poverty on many, many others, because of a Tory ideological drive to dismantle welfare, and any other form of State support. And to support only the wealthy
36. Gap between wealthy and poor has widened, and many now living in absolute poverty as a result of policies that cut social security to below subsistence levels (JRF)
37. Are responsible for an average of  73 deaths per week  of sick and disabled people as a consequence of “reform”, despite denial that is so, the Government have nonetheless refused to monitor and account for the deaths of those Atos has declared for to work, and those awaiting appeal.
38. Introduced the grossly unfair Bedroom Tax.
39. Made squatting illegal, and at a time when their own policies have led to a rise in homelessness.
40. Significantly reduced access to the provision of digital hearing aids through the NHS (again, the same  rationing happened under the Thatcher Government).
41. Local Authority budgets reduced, and Every Child Matters  – Labour’s comprehensive child protection and welfare policy  – demolished the day after the Coalition got in office. Preventative social work is no longer  funded effectively, only “crisis management” possible, and even that provision is now being rationed.
42. Introduced targets and financial incentives for euthanasia in hospitals, to “save health care costs”. This involves withdrawing food and fluids from “frail” patients, including sick babies.
43. Quietly removed key sections of the Equality Bill (Labour flagship policy) , rendering it much less protective of basic human rights.
44. Capped housing benefit, whilst private landlords are recouping a record amount of over £42 billion a year from tenants, rather than capping private rents.
45. Lost the Moody’s Investors Service triple A grade, despite pledges to keep it secure. Moody’s credit ratings represent a rank-ordering of creditworthiness, or expected loss.
46. Fitch credit rating downgraded due to increased borrowing.
47. Rail fare increased 20%
48. Public sector pensions decreased but contributions increased.
49. Reduced the consultation period for redundancies from 90 to 45 days
50. Removed the Severe Disability Premium from Income Support
51.  Scrapped  the Agricultural Wages Board. It was set up in 1948 to provide a fair wage and skills structure for agricultural workers
52. Tripled student fees, making higher education inaccessible to many
53. Set DWP targets to sanction benefit claimants unfairly, depriving them of a means of meeting their basic living needs.
54. Scrapped the Independent Living Fund.
55. Introduced Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance, with the aim of cutting benefit for more than 300,000 disabled people. Although Esther Mcvey said the Government has built 
‘robust expectations of performance’ into PIP contracts with Atos Origin and Capita’, we know from that comment that this means inbuilt targets to reduce eligibility, since the anticipated saving was announced by Government PRIOR to any assessment.
56.There are now 600,000 less public sector workers than there were when the Tories came to Office.
57. The Universal Benefit Payment has forced families to move into squalid housing, typically defined as the lowest 33% of houses by rental value in an area. Given that 46% of private rental homes are deemed sub-standard, (ONS).
58. The UK Statistics Authority has rebuked David Cameron, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith for their consistent misuse of government statistics. More than once
59. Failed to make permanent the Bankers’ Bonus Tax and profiteers in the City of London are still being rewarded, disproportionately, for taking unnecessary risks and they have also refused to cap bankers bonuses.
60. Refused to regulate the Fast Food industry. Instead, they asked their nudge unit to consider “fat taxes” on the poor. They even stopped obese people having access to some NHS operations. Unashamed of their deeds, one Tory MP said NHS Patients should pay for their medicines if they contract illnesses through “Lifestyle Choice”.
61. Guilty of blatantly sexist policies, the Tories have Tax Credits which impacts on women with children in particular that want to work,  and accused  feminists of holding back men.
62. The Tories have wasted more than £90 billion of taxpayers’ cash, on policy schemes that are doomed to failure.
63. The Tories have increasingly refused Freedom of Information Requests, and have changed the rules to make it easier for an FOI request to be refused.
64. The Tories have axed 5,000 Fire men & Fire women.
65. The Tories have axed 28,000 staff in Police Forces throughout the country.
66. The Tories have accepted £20 million of donations from people who have directly benefitted from their policies. The blame lies not with the donors, but the Tories for creating unnecessary conflicts of interest by accepting the cash.
67. The Tories scrapped the 50p rate of Tax, and in doing so have given a tax cut to millionaires.
68. Increased borrowing – admit they will now have to borrow well over a £150 billion extra this parliament because of their failed growth.
69. The numbers of workers  paid  LESS than the National Minimum Wage has grown under this government, with women being the worst affected.
70. The number of working households now relying on Housing Benefit to make their rent payments has doubled.
71. Deliberately underfunding and sabotaging the NHS, at the expense of patient welfare to justify full privatisation. Lying about funding.
71. Suicide rates have risen substantially, with links to austerity measures and government policy between 2010 and 2012 (Samaritans)
72. Cost of living has risen by 25% (a quarter) but benefits and wages have been frozen
73.  When Labour left office NHS Patient Satisfaction was the highest it had ever been (73%). It has since taken a record slump to (58%). Just over half of people are now happy with what the NHS has to offer.
74. Post code health care lottery – children’s access to expensive cancer drugs now vary from trust to trust.
75. NHS Treatments such as for cataracts, hip replacements, and physiotherapy are no longer available free of charge on the NHS in some parts of England for some patients. In total, 22 treatments are now restricted.
76. 8,000 Nurses have been axed under the Tories and thousands more have received redundancy notices.
77. Michael Gove scrapped EMA that the Institute of Fiscal Studies called Value for Money. His decision was not based upon the deficit since he first sought to scrap it in 2004.
78. Michael Gove has closed more than 200 schools at a time when class sizes are rising.
79. Michael Gove halved the funding on school meals  decreasing the quality & nutrition and affecting childrens’ health. Increase in scurvy in children
80.  Cancelled Labour’s plan to roll out free school meals for middle-class families at a time when evidence shows more families are in desperate need of the meals.
81. Infant mortality rates have started to rise again after a long period of them failing.
82. Ian Duncan Smith is forcing public sector workers to accept a 3% tax hike in their pension contributions against their will or any consultation.
83. Half of England’s Ambulance Stations are being shut down and sold off. In total, 591 hectares of NHS land is up for sale.
84. Gove refused to discuss Ofqual’s letter of concerns about the E-Bacc in front of the Select Committee. The one-off 3 hour replacement of GCSE English has been labelled dangerous, unequal, unaccountable and unprecedented.
85. George Osborne signed a record number of PFI deals in his first year in power that will cost the Tax Payer £33bn.
86. George Osborne raised an extra £41bn in taxes in 2011 at a time when the economy was struggling but cut taxes for the rich.
87. Gas Prices are up 31% under the Tories & 40% of families are on the brink of fuel poverty.
88. Food Banks have grown every yearof this government and child poverty has also increased. The Tories have responded in various ways from trying to claim this as a success of the Big Society, saying that food bans provide “freebies” to denying poverty even exists in the UK
89.Female rates of redundancy are climbing at a faster rate than men. More than 80%+ of workers losing their job in the NHS are women. Huge wage differentials  exist between men and women.
90. Despite violence against women climbing, and domestic abuse jumping 20%, one Tory MP drew parallels between the allegations of sex crimes, and smoking a joint.
91.  Halved redunsancy notice from 90 to 45 days, the Tories persisted with blaming workers for their declining rights. One Tory MP cruelly judged that British Workers were among the ‘Worst idlers’ in the World.
92. David Cameron has now abolished Equality Impact Assessments meaning that we now have less equal services for disabled, elderly, LGBT citizens.
93. Michael Gove cancelled a plan to rebuild 715 crumbling schools thereby ensuring that all Labour’s great advancements in updating our school infrastructure were put on hold.
94. At least 570,000 more households (1.2 million people) were forced into fuel poverty in one single day when energy companies announced a massive price hike in the winter of 2012.
95. Andrew Lansley & David Cameron ignored a Tribunal Ruling to publish Risk Register.This Risk Register if published could have saved lives as it would have led to an improved mitigation response to the Tories new NHS impositions. It has yet to be published
96. The security arrangements for the Olympics, arranged by the Tories wasted taxpayers’ money, and payed a company £80 million+ for failure, a Tory MP had the audacity to mock the Olympic Ceremony as “Leftie Multi-Cultural Crap”. It has also come to light that the same security company G4 has been robbing the tax payer blind in what is now a police investigation.
97. 74% of GPs say that there has been a reduced entitlement on the NHS this year.
98. 600,000 people will go bankrupt under this government.
99. 2012 saw record high Clinical Negligence payouts totalling more than £1.2 billion. This is a £500 million increase than payouts under Labour. Each claim takes on average 1.3 years, so the 2012 payouts were for errors in 2010-11.
100. 25,000 businesses have already gone bust under this government.
101. 11,000 Hospital Beds have been axed in 2 years. We now have the lowest number of hospital beds in our NHS in living memory.
102. 10,000 students GCSE English Results were debated in a High Court as Michael Gove oversaw a belated altering of the grade boundaries that unduly punished some students by as much as 2 grades.
103. A benefit cap was brought in that will save just a 110 million a year while the Tory party still ignore the loss of 25 billion in tax avoidance.
104. Iain Duncan Smiths universal credit scheme has turned into a multi billion pound disaster with the software unable to cope on a national roll out.
105. The bedroom tax has not saved a penny and is now costing much more money, as those who are affected are now claiming for private rents, that is, if they are not homeless or living in caves around Stockport.
106. Introduced the Gagging Bill
107. Their policies have made the UK the first country to be investigated by the UN for serious breaches to the human rights of disabled people
108. The Coalition have breached the human rights of women and children.
109. Have borrowed more money in just 3 years than Labour, who were faced with the global banker’s crisis, did in 13.
110. Scrapped the Standards Board for England for promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and code of conduct in local government.
111. Have raised concerns regarding government corruption and lack of accountability at an international level (see the Transparency International report)
112. Have been officially rebuked on numerous occasions by the ONS and OBR for persistent lying and false presentation of statistics.

 

Further reading:

Tom Pride – 14 quotes that prove the nasty party is still just as nasty as ever

Guardian (Polly Toynbee) – Labour’s spending worked

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his valuable additions to the Labour list of achievements and for his outstanding art work.

The Tories are not simply “out of touch”, their policies are deliberate and malevolent

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It’s a common belief that Tory policies, which are inhumane to the core, and directed at taking money and support from the most vulnerable, have happened because of a kind of naivety, lack of experience, or a simple egocentricity of the privileged. Or general incompetence.

These certainly may well contribute to the obvious lack of joined-up thinking, apparent when we step back to consider that the most vulnerable in our so-called civilised society are suffering and dying as a direct consequence of recent legislations and “reforms,” but it certainly doesn’t explain why the Tories persistently and historically CHOOSE to continue to ignore any other account of social reality but their own. That implies some intentionality, to me. Selective perception involves a certain degree of free will.

So we are now almost through the doorway to the “mad or bad” debate.

Tories also reduce every single human deed to an underlying motivation of greed for financial gain, no matter what the circumstances. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Some would argue that this is classic Freudian projection. But that doesn’t account for the fact that the Tories normalise and make a virtue of the financial gain principle, for the wealthy, big business and of course, the Tories themselves.

These motivations are held to be universal, and are translated into a vice when it comes to ordinary, everyday people, or in particular, poor and vulnerable people. That doesn’t hang together coherently at all, nor does it corroborate the view that the Tories are simply out of touch with everyday experience, since there is a deep and fundamental – and very apparent – contradiction here. It is a very significant flaw in their ideological grammar.

Human beings are not static, when it comes to ideas and beliefs: we are capable of learning, and in a variety of ways: though experience, through the experience of others, through historical accounts, evidence and so on. The Tories simply choose to overlook the need. They prefer, instead, to stay put, or regress, and simply insist that they know best. Challenge a Tory, and they often believe that simply talking louder, and over the top of you will somehow make what they are saying “right.” They are not called “Conservative” for nothing – they do like to maintain a status quo and resist change.

Well … notions of change apply only to their idea of how a society ought to be, hence the proliferation of legislation these past couple of years. The Conservatives are unravelling the progress we have made as a society, because they prefer the simplicity of basic feudal relationships. I’m not really joking here, unfortunately.

It’s as if the clocks stopped the moment the Tory-led Coalition took Office, and now we are losing a decade a day.

The truth is that austerity is NOT about deficit-cutting. It’s just the cover for Tory ideology. It is actually about shrinking the State and squeezing the public sector until it becomes marginal, then non-existent, in an entirely market-driven society. The banking crisis-generated deficit has been a gift to the Tories in enabling them to launch the narrative that public expenditure has to be massively cut back, which they would never have been able to get away with without the deficit-reduction excuse in the first place.

Austerity won’t benefit the economy: it will damage it further, since the cuts will reduce the income of those that spend proportionally the most money and add to the economy – the poorest. Taking more money out of an already struggling economy and impacting local economies will simply exacerbate the problem.

“We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had too much” – John Kenneth Galbraith

Nope, that hasn’t happened, the Tories are still taking money from the poor and handing it to the wealthy. Why? Is it because the Tories are phenomenologically impoverished and incapable of learning, ever? No, I don’t think so.

I think it’s worse than that. I think that the Tories DO understand the consequences of their ideologically-driven policies, but they don’t care. Money for the wealthy has to come from somewhere, after all. The whole “out of touch/lack of experience” proposition overlooks the fact that the Tories refuse to listen, quite deliberately, they exercise authoritarian tactics to shut people up – such as excluding those people from debate who oppose their views – witnessed during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, for example. Then there is the monitoring” of the media for alternative political “biases.”

That is a quite deliberate narrowing down of experience, not naivety, based on a lack of understanding. That’s deliberate, calculated and certainly bears all of the hallmarks of authoritarianism. That’s the wilful imposition of a pre-moulded, dystopic Tory version of reality onto a largely unwilling population.

The propaganda regarding unemployed, sick and disabled people is not based on naivety either: it is deliberate, and calculated, a horrible and wicked attempt to justify their small state ideology and punitive approach to stripping welfare provision from the poorest, and from vulnerable citizens to redistribute funds from the public purse to the already wealthy.

David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling have all contributed a selection of propagandic pieces of work to the press – largely the Sun and the Daily Mail. The language they use – words like “scrounger” “fraud” and “workshy” and the implied “burden on the state,” together with their knowledge that so-called benefit fraud was a mere 0.7% (and that includes DWP’s own errors, too) indicates clearly that the policies aimed at removing welfare provision, and the propaganda campaign that has led to an increase in hate crimes directed at sick and disabled people, are intentional.

10,600 sick and disabled people died last year between January and November, many within six weeks of their ESA claim closing. It’s very telling that the Department for Work and Pensions do not monitor or account for just how many of those were passed as “fit for work” by Atos, or awaiting Appeal.

Furthermore, this Government introduced targets which were written into the Atos contract when they renewed it in 2010: 7 out of 8 sick and disabled people to lose their benefits.

Bearing in mind that those targets exist BEFORE those sick and disabled people are assessed (and the Government have also redesigned the work capability assessment to make sure that there is a heavy bias towards withdrawing people’s support) then we can reasonably infer that the Government see those deaths – that have happened as a result of absolute poverty and extreme distress, some of our most vulnerable citizens have had their means of meeting their basic survival needs removed – as an intended outcome.

That the Government have not acted upon the high number of deaths associated with their welfare “reforms” is truly outrageous, and also indicates quite plainly, to me, that this “outcome” is not simply a by-product of their legislation, or incompetence, or lack of experience: it is calculated and intentional.

This is much, much worse than a little “Tory egocentricity,” incompetence, phenomenological ineptitude, or naivety: this is the deliberate, calculated and wholesale destruction of every State mechanism of support for the most vulnerable citizens as well as for the “ordinary” person. If people cannot meet their basic needs – food, shelter and so on, they die. That is common sense, everyone knows that.

Yet this Government are taking away people’s only means of support. Welfare, the safety net paid for by the tax paying public to ensure no-one dies of starvation or exposure. This Government have stolen our collective funds for social security, and blamed those they have stolen it from for their deed.

They blame the poor for poverty. They blame the unemployed for unemployment. But we know that the Government are to blame. Have you ever noticed that, historically, whenever poverty grows and inequalities become wider and deeper, look to the helm and lo and behold, we have a Tory-led Government steering the way. We need to put this Government out of our misery.

Every single “reform” has been about taking money away from the poorest and some of the most vulnerable people. The fact that the Legal Aid Bill has been timed for implementation next year, when the horrific consequences of the welfare cuts, the bedroom tax and the new council tax will become very apparent, as well as the Health and Social Care reforms, indicates quite plainly that these policies have been planned and coordinated for a long time.

The Legal Aid Bill means that challenging the Government regarding the reforms will be very difficult. Indeed, the Coalition have been steadily removing the essential democratic processes that safeguard our human rights and enable us to challenge effectively.

This is certainly an authoritarian Government.

We should hang their heads in shame.

How truly despicable. How utterly horrifying that they are getting away with it. There is an increasingly discernible taint of eugenics embedded in Tory ideology. This, and the propaganda, smoke and mirrors, media scapegoating diversions and theft from the poorest to handout to the wealthiest –  these actions are intentional, calculated and are being increasingly inflicted and administered, whilst the general population waits passively in the wings, shrugging off the blow by hammer blow accounts: more bad news of further Tory cuts, more devastating consequences.

Too many are finding temporary distractions, watching the idiot box, hoping quietly that those things they can see from the corner of their eye are not real.

Oh, but they are.

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Hanlon’s razor is an eponymous adage that allows the elimination of unlikely explanations for a phenomenon. It reads: “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

However, I always considered malice and stupidity to be strongly correlated characteristics.