Who Really Benefits from Welfare? – Simon Duffy

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The tax-benefit system is unfair to people who are living in poverty. It appears to be generous, but it is not. Most people do not understand how unfair the current system really is.

  • The system make little difference to the incomes of the poorest
  • People in poverty pay the highest rates of tax
  • It is hardest for the poorest to earn, save and be a family
  • Most money actually goes to the better-off

To make things worse the current UK government is targeting the benefit system for cuts (£18 billion annual cut by 2014-15) – this is shown in Figure 1. It has declared that the benefit system is in need of radical reform and it is in the final stages of passing its Welfare Reform Bill. Under the cover of something that could have been good – a redesigned tax-benefit system – we will have something that is an attack on disabled people and people in poverty.

Figure 1 Planned changes to annual UK central government expenditure by 2015

One of the things that has made this possible is the great confusion that exists in the minds of the media and, hence, the public about the way the benefit system works.

Net benefit

In many respects the current system works by a sleight of hand. It appears to be generous (giving about £180 billion in benefits and pensions) but actually it takes almost all of this money back through the tax system. Only a tiny amount of the benefit system provides a net benefit.

Figure 2 is based on data published by the government on the net effect of benefits and taxes for households. Households vary in size, but on average contain nearly 3 people. As the chart shows, 40% of households see their net incomes increase after benefits and taxes – but only by a very modest amount.

Figure 2 Net impact of tax-benefit system on household income (ONS data, 2009)

The overall positive adjustment for the 40% of households who do see a net improvement is only £25 billion (only 13% of all benefits paid out, about 5% of government spending and about 2.5% of GDP). The reason that this is possible is that benefit recipients are also tax payers – so much so that the benefit system hardly benefits them at all. Almost all benefits are paid back as taxes.

On average the poorest 10% of households are only £1,500 better off after paying their taxes (less than £28 per week). The idea that the benefit system is overly generous and needs to be capped is ludicrous.

Super tax payers

The poor not only pay taxes they also pay the highest taxes. See Figure 3 which shows the rate of tax paid by each group. For instance, the poorest 10% of households pay 47% of their income in tax. This is a higher percentage than any other group. We forget that people in poverty pay taxes because we forget how many different ways we are taxed:

  • VAT
  • Duties
  • Income tax
  • National Insurance
  • Council tax
  • Licences
  • Social care charges, and many others taxes

Figure 3 Average income and tax paid by household for each decile (ONS data, 2009)

Poverty traps

In addition people in poverty also pay extreme rates of what is called marginal tax – the amount paid to government for the next pound earned (although this tax is disguised as a ‘benefit reduction rates’ and is part of the benefit system). Often people are paying taxes at marginal rates of over 100%.

This problem, known as the ‘poverty trap’ is so great that the government has slowly begun to recognise that people often find that working can make them poorer. However the government’s plans for solving this problem are problematic. Their strategy is to:

  • Pay private organisations to ‘get people back to work’ and reward shareholders with savings from reduction in benefits
  • Reduce the value of the minimum benefit level, so that those in poverty are even poorer
  • Change and simplify the system so that the advantages of work appear to be greater
  • Target deeper benefit cuts on those who do not find work for themselves quickly enough

Even if we are optimistic, and hope that the economy will improve and that employment will increase, we will be left with a system that gives the poor next to nothing – while all the time pretending that it is very generous. It is worth bearing in mind that the UK is a very wealthy country – but also the third most unequal developed country. The changes planned will inevitably make us even more unequal.

If we are less optimistic then we can expect to see more people in poverty with an increase in the social problems associated with inequality (crime, mental and physical illness, reduced educational achievement).

A more positive way of resolving this problem would be to move to a system with a universal minimum income for all, and where everybody pays taxes at a fair level above the minimum income. This idea is outlined in A Fair Income.

Who really benefits?

It is natural to ask, if the welfare state doesn’t actually reduce poverty, what does it do with all that money? After all the state is currently spending over £585 billion per year. The answer is interesting. The table below sets out current government spending (from the October Spending Review 2010).

UK government spending 2010-11
  Spend (£ billion) Share (%)
Schools and colleges 60.6 10.4
NHS 101.8 17.4
Transport 13.1 2.2
English local government 38.6 6.6
Business and universities 20 3.4
Police, justice & prisons 22.4 3.8
Defence 35.7 6.1
Foreign Aid 9.6 1.6
Energy, environ. & culture 14.1 2.4
Scotland 28.2 4.8
Wales 14.9 2.5
Northern Ireland 16 2.7
Tax Benefit Admin 10.7 1.8
Treasury, Cabinet, Quangos 1.1 0.2
Financial Crisis 8.2 1.4
Pensions 71.6 12.2
Benefits 118.4 20.2
TOTAL 585  

Most of the money goes on services, government and administration. Of course much of this is needed, and it is used by, and benefits everyone (although not equally, the poorest 10% of households actually use £1,675 less than the average household). However most of it is actually delivered through salaried posts in government and government funded agencies.

In other words less than 5% of government spending (£25 billion) is spent on directly reducing inequality and poverty, most is spent on employing people to provide services that benefit everyone (to different degrees), but which particularly benefit those who are lucky enough to be employed directly, or indirectly, by government.

There is a particular danger that those of us who work for the welfare state become rather complacent about our own role. I recently attended a seminar on welfare reform in London where an eminent speaker summarised the welfare state’s function as ‘being for the benefit of the poor.’ Yet her audience (academics, think-tankers, civil servants) seemed, to me at least, to be the real beneficiaries of the welfare state. They were all on very high salaries, all enjoying very nice lifestyles, and all funded by the tax payer.

It is almost as if, when we work for government we don’t see ourselves as beneficiaries, instead we see ourselves as doing everyone else a favour by offering them our services. We believe we are fully entitled to our own salaries, to our pensions and to our power, whereas ‘the poor’ should think themselves lucky to be getting our services. This is self-deception on a rather grand scale and it encourages a deeply patronising attitude to those who live in poverty.

In addition, the danger for the welfare state, is that it becomes a centralised, cumbersome and disempowering system that doesn’t even tackle the most basic problem – poverty. Most of the money raised in taxes goes, not to the poorest, but to the better off – many of them functionaries of the state. It justifies its existence by the ‘good’ it appears to do – but for those with the least this claim looks very hollow indeed.

Further reading:
Briefing on How Cuts Are Targeted – Dr Simon Duffy 
Quantitative Data on Poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

 

382035_141704259313964_676863845_n Thanks to Robert Livingstone


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.
Who Really Benefits from Welfare? © Simon Duffy 2012.

Republished here with thanks.

Quantitative Data on Poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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The minimum cost of living has soared by a quarter – 25% – since the start of the economic downturn, according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which details the true inflationary pressures facing low income households. The research finds families are facing an “unprecedented erosion of household living standards” thanks to rapid inflation and flat-lining wages.

Cuts to benefits and tax credits have exacerbated the problem over the past 12 months, according to the report. Now we are seeing the hard evidence that the Coalition’s “reforms” are pushing employed people in low paid work and unemployed people into absolute poverty, as our welfare system is no longer meeting basic living needs, and Government policy has distorted the original purpose of our social security, using rhetoric about costs to “the tax payer”, whilst carefully excluding the fact from their monologue that most benefit recipients are also tax payers.

A frightening consideration is that this report doesn’t include the latest round of benefit cuts – the very worst of them to date – that were implemented in April of this year. The report was produced prior to then, covering the period up to April, but doesn’t include it.

A quarter of households in the UK already fell short of the income required to reach an adequate standard of living – for them a 25% increase in costs intensifies the everyday struggle to make ends meet. The price of food and goods we need for an acceptable living standard has risen far faster than average inflation. This has combined with low pay increases to create a widening gap between income and needs.

The freeze in child benefit, the decision to uprate tax credits by just 1% and the increase in the cost of essentials faster than inflation mean that a working couples with children an  working lone parents will lose out, making a mockery of the Coalition’s claim of “making work pay”.

Over the past five years:

• Childcare costs have risen over twice as fast as inflation at 37%.
• Rent in social housing has gone up by 26%.
• Food costs have increased by 24%.
• Energy costs are 39% more.
• Public transport is up by 30%.

Some further shocking Key findings from the Poverty and Social Exclusion Project – The Impoverishment of the UK report reveals that:

• Over 30 million people (almost half the population) are suffering some degree of financial insecurity.
• Almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions.
• Roughly 14 million cannot afford one or more essential household goods.
• Almost 12 million people are too poor to engage in common social activities considered necessary by the majority of the population.
• About 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing.
• Around 4 million children and adults are not properly fed by today’s standards.
• Almost 4 million children go without at least two of the things they need;
• Around 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.
• Around 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home.

Since 2010, wages have been rising more slowly than prices, and over the past 12 months, incomes have been further eroded by cuts to benefits and tax credits. Ministers argue that the raising of the personal tax allowance to £10, 000 for low income households will help, however, the report says its effect is cancelled out by cuts and rising living costs.

I would add that for many who are low paid, and the increasing numbers of part-time workers, this political gesturing is meaningless. The policy only benefits those who earn enough to pay tax. Most of this group are affected by the benefit cuts – many have to claim housing benefit and council tax benefit, and they are therefore likely to be affected by the bedroom tax and the poll tax-styled reductions to benefits under the Localism Bill, to compound matters.

It has to be said that the greatest percentage change in net income from the personal tax free allowance of £10,000 is seen by those on the upper end of the income scale – not, as is often claimed, low earners. This does explain the policy. Increasing the personal allowance serves to increase the gap between the those on the lowest incomes and those on  middle range incomes, resulting in low income households falling further into poverty.

At the low paid end of salaried work there are a cohort of workers trapped in a cycle of very poorly paid, low – skilled work, zero hour contracts, with few, if any, employee rights. They tend to work for a few months here and there, in work that is often seasonal. There is no opportunity for saving money or hope of better employment prospects.

This group of workers tend to live hand to mouth from one pay day to the next, so have no opportunity to build a reserve when the contract ends, there is nothing in reserve.

The net result is that it is increasingly very difficult for low-to-middle income families to balance the weekly budget. There is now a widening gulf between public expectations of a minimum decent living standard and their ability to earn enough to meet it. I would add that the gap between low and middle income families is widening, and will continue to do so because of the impact of policies that have recently been implemented.

Welfare support is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. All developed countries have such support for the vulnerable, and the less developed ones are striving to establish their own. Welfare states depend on a fair collection and redistribution of resources, which in turn rests upon the maintenance of trust between different sections of society and across generations. Most of us have paid for our own welfare.

It’s a common rhetorical trick for politicians is to talk about “looking after the tax payer.” However the reality is that they are often only really concerned with particular tax payers – the electoral groups that determine the outcomes of elections – often people on middle-incomes. They talk as if tax payers are some hard-pressed group who are burdened by the poor and that the rest of us don’t pay taxes.

But the reality is that there are many different taxes (the Institute of Fiscal Studies counted at least 25). Also the poorest people don’t just pay tax, they often pay the most tax. Not just indirect taxes, like VAT, but also income tax and council tax. Many other taxes are hidden from view in duties or other background taxes like Employer’s National Insurance.

Most assume that the rich pay a much higher rate of tax than the poor. After all the income tax system is meant to place progressively higher burdens on people with higher incomes. However, when you look at the rates of tax paid by each household it is very surprising.

The highest rate of tax, that is the share of income lost in tax, is paid by the poorest 10% of households (or families). The poorest 10% of families pay 45% of their income in tax. The other 90% of families pay quite a similar rates of tax, varying between 31% and 35%.

The three things to remember when politicians talk about tax:

1. Tax payers are not a special class of people – we are all tax payers.
2. Tax payers are not burdened by the poor – the poor are actually super tax payers.
3. Tax cuts come in many different shapes and sizes – not everybody benefits equally. The wealthiest profit the most.

(Information taken from here)

Office for National Statistics logo 

Statisticians hold two basic definitions of poverty – relative poverty is a measure which looks at those well below the median average of income (60% of income) – who are excluded from participating in what society generally regards as normal activities. This kind of poverty is relative to the rest of society, and is the type that we have seen and measured since the welfare state came into being.

Absolute poverty refers to a level of poverty beyond the ability to afford the essentials which we need simply to live and survive. People in absolute poverty cannot afford some of the basic requirements that are essential for survival. It is horrifying that this is now the fastest growing type of poverty in Britain, according to research bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  When the IFS produced its report on growing child poverty, David Cameron’s callous, calculated  and unflinching reaction was to question the figures, rather than accept the consequences of his Government policies on citizens.

And it IS calculated and deliberate legislative spite. The Government’s own impact assessment has demonstrated that the 1% uprating in the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Act will have a disproportionate effect on the poorest. Families with children will be particularly hard hit, pushing a further 200,000 children into poverty. In addition, those with low to middle earnings and single-earner households will be caught by the 1% limit on tax credit rates. These new cuts come on top of the cumulative impact of previous tax, benefit and public expenditure cuts which have already meant the equivalent to a loss of around 38% of net income for the poorest tenth of households and only 5% for the richest tenth.

According to a TUC report, average wages have dropped by 7.5 per cent since the Coalition came into office. This has a direct impact on child poverty statistics, which the government has conveniently ignored in its latest, Iain Duncan Smith-endorsed, child poverty figures.

Child poverty is calculated in relation to median incomes – the average income earned by people in the UK.

If incomes drop, so does the number of children deemed to be in poverty, even though – in fact – more families are struggling to make ends meet with less money to do so.

This is why the Department for Work and Pensions has been able to sound an announcement that child poverty in “workless” families (which translates from Tory propaganda-speak to “victims of the Government- induced recession”) has dropped, even though we can all see that this is nonsense.

As average incomes drop, the amount received by  families not in work – taken as an average of what’s left – appears to rise, even though, as we know, the increase is not even keeping up with inflation any more.

Liam Byrne said: “The Institute of Fiscal Studies report shows that the price of ministers’ failure on child poverty isn’t just a million more children growing up poor – it’s a gigantic £35 billion bill for the tax payer. It’s not just a moral failure, but an economic disaster.”

“Ministers should be doing everything they can for struggling families but instead they are slashing working families’ tax credits whilst handing a massive tax cut to the richest people in the country. That tells you all you need to know about this Government’s priorities.”

And – “Not only is there a cost attached to rising levels of child poverty but the trend is illegal. Left unabated child poverty will reach 24% in 2020, compared with the goal of 10% written in law.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the welfare and pensions secretary, has publicly questioned whether poverty targets are useful – arguing that “feckless” parents only spend money on themselves. The spirits of Samuel Smiles, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo, they of the workhouse mentality, speak clearly in booming voices through Iain Duncan Smith from across the centuries.

And of course the Department for Work and Pensions ludicrously continue to blame the previous Administration. We know, however, that the research here shows starkly that poverty has risen under this Government, and we are now seeing cases of childhood malnutrition, such as scurvy.

The breakfast clubs established under the previous Labour Government, as a part of the Extending Schools program and Every Child Matters Bill often provided crucial meals, particularly  for children who relied on school provision  – in fact, for one in four of all UK children, school dinners are their only source of hot food. Malnutrition is rising and schools see children coming in hungry.

The previous Government recognised the importance of adequate nutrition and saw  the link between low educational attainment, behavioural difficulties and hunger in school. The breakfast club provision also helped parents on low incomes in other ways, for example, the free childcare that these wrap-around services provided is essential to support them to keep on working.

There are further issues worth a mention from Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review, that are not in the report. They are worth a mention not least because they tell you all you need to know about the Coalition. They speak volumes about Tory-led intention, malice and despicable aims. They expose the lie once again that the Tories “support” the most vulnerable citizens.

I’m very concerned about Osborne’s plans to set a cap on benefits spending. This cap will include disability benefits, but exclude spending on the state pension. Disabled people have already faced over £9 billion of cuts to benefits they rely on, with at least 600,000 fewer expected to qualify for the new Personal Independence Payment, which is replacing disability living allowance, and over 400,000 facing cuts to their housing benefit through the bedroom tax. Disabled people of working age have borne the brunt of cuts, and the Government is once again targeting those who can least afford to lose out.

By including “Disability Benefits” in the cap, the Government have signalled clearly that they fully intend severing any remaining link between social security and need. We are hurtling toward a system that is about eradicating the cost of any social need. But taxation hasn’t stopped, however, public services and provisions are shrinking.

Barely a month now passes without one of David Cameron’s ministers being rebuked for some act of statistical chicanery (or, indeed, the Prime Minister himself). And it’s not just the number crunchers at the UK Statistics Authority who are concerned. An alliance of 11 churches, including the Methodist Church, the Quakers and the Church of Scotland, has written to Cameron demanding “an apology on behalf of the Government for misrepresenting the poor.”

Many people have ended their lives. Many people have died because of the sustained attack from our Government on them both psychologically and materially, via what ought to be unacceptable, untenable and   socially unconscionable policies. People are going without food. People are becoming homeless. There are people now living in caves around Stockport The UK is the world’s six largest economy, yet 1 in 5 of the UK population live below the official poverty line, this means that they experience life as a daily struggle for survival.

And this is because of the changes this Government is making. And we are allowing them to do so. Unless we can form a coalition with other social groups in our society, we are unlikely to influence or produce enduring, positive political change. But that will only happen once others realise that they are not exempt from the devastating changes, or the long term consequences of them. It’s down to us to ensure that the public are informed, since the maintream media have abdicated that responsibility.

The author of the Joseph Rountree Foundation report, Donald Hirsch, says the cumulative effect is historically significant:

From this April, for the first time since the 1930s, benefits are being cut in real terms by not being linked to inflation. This combined with falling real wages means that the next election is likely to be the first since 1931 when living standards are lower than at the last one.”

Further reading:

Briefing on How Cuts Are Targeted

Who Really Benefits from Welfare?

  • The system make little difference to the incomes of the poorest
  • People in poverty pay the highest rates of tax
  • It is hardest for the poorest to earn, save and be a family
  • Most money actually goes to the better-off.

    (This article was taken from a longer piece of work: Poverty and Patrimony – the Evil Legacy of the Tories.)

1017174_500690710000462_512008904_nThanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant artwork

According to the Tories, economic terrorism is the new humanism.

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The Department of Work and Pensions have said:

“Our welfare “reforms” will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities.”

Anyone with a degree of sociological imagination, an interest in what happens in our society, a conscience, and a mind of their own, will know that this is lie of unprecedented magnitude. One of many Tory lies. We know that “reform” is Tory-speak for CUT.

How can any of these savage CUTS improve the lives of the growing numbers of already poor people in this Country? CUTS that are falsely named “reforms” by our deceitful, shameful, lying Government – CUTS to people’s already subsistence level income.

We must not lose sight of the fact that it is our money, paid via taxes, that funds our social security. And that basic subsistence level income is just enough to ensure we meet basic survival needs. Food, fuel and shelter. Basic Department of Work and Pensions linked benefit rates were originally calculated with the assumption that people will also receive full housing benefit and council tax benefit. The amounts were carefully calculated by officials and specialists to cover those costs of our fundamental survival needs – enshrined in “the amount the law says you need to live on”.

However, the cost of living has risen by 25%, and our benefit rates have not. People are struggling to survive now, and the impact of the cuts in April hasn’t yet become fully apparent. We have lost entitlement to full housing benefit because of the bedroom tax, and the Local Housing Rate policy, and eligibility to council tax benefit is now a postcode lottery, the amount you pay depends on your Local Authority, full exemption for those on other State benefits no longer applies.

The massive welfare cuts, unemployment, insecure work, benefit sanctions, and rising costs of living – all caused by this Government – have had a devastating impact on the most vulnerable citizens. Does anyone actually believe that the only people in this Country that fail to see, and who seem unable to accept that there is a growing social crisis driven by the these brutal cuts under the guise of austerity, and the rapidly rising cost of living, is the Government? The same Government that is responsible for the accelerating, deepening social crisis? I don’t.

Not one bit. Bloody liars.

How can they NOT know that their massive cuts to social safety nets  and lifeline benefits have gone much too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger, and sometimes, death? This IS economic violence. This IS deliberate and calculated, and not “short-sighted”, or down to simple incompetence. This Government knows exactly what they are doing.

Your money and your services ARE being stolen so that a handful of millionaires can have £107, 000 extra each, every year, and so that ruthless self-serving big businesses and greedy, self-serving, irresponsible and anti-socially behaved rich people can carry on avoiding their tax contributions and social responsibility. The same people have taken a lot from our society, and benefited greatly from it. They don’t want to give anything back. Poor people pay the most tax in the UK.

Income tax forms the bulk of revenues collected by the Government. The second largest source of Government revenue is National Insurance Contributions. The third largest source of Government revenues is value added tax (VAT), and the fourth-largest is corporation tax. A good question to ask is how does this Government spend our money on improving the lives of the citizens of this Country? What is this money for – OUR MONEY –  if not to provide services and support those who need it?

US millionaire Stephen King said recently: “The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing Disco Inferno than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar.” Set aside the sexist presumption that all unwilling tax payers are men, stop visualising the unlikely scenario of someone singing Trammps classics with their genitals on fire and realise the truth that tax-gathering institutions are rarely headed by men with pimps’ names.

King has a point: no one wants to pay taxes, least of all the very wealthy. They go to great lengths to avoid their obligation. Worse, some think that what they have been taxed is their money and should be returned to them lickety split or faster. His other point, that stayed in my mind was that the tax system is supposed to stop “rich jerks favouring jerk-off projects” and making our society even more disgustingly inegalitarian than it already is. That’s what democratically elected Governments should do, isn’t it?

Not ours though. Our Tory-led Government with no mandate has truly turned back the tide of social evolution. There are people now living in caves around Stockport, the UK is the world’s six largest economy, yet 1 in 5 of the UK population live below the official poverty line, this means that they experience life as a daily struggle for survival.

This is the reality of the situation: poverty is now more acutely absolute, and becoming more widespread because of an enormous wealth transfer from the taxpayer to private interests, and a bogus ideological austerity programme, sold as a fait accompli. But how do you sell such a thing to civil society?

The battle is being won by propaganda. Disability hate crime is up by 25% after the Government’s attacks on disability benefit claimants, claiming that they are all committing benefit fraud, that these are people pretending to be ill to avoid work. Negative day-to-day reporting, with political endorsement and open support from malevolent individuals such as Mark Hoban and Iain Duncan Smith, constantly portrays people with disability and those facing unemployment as a burden or drain on society.

This method of constructing “Otherness” by the politically powerful colluding in social narrative, commonly via the mainstream media, is a recognised method of social exclusion, minorization and marginalisation. Constructing “Other” social identities involves highlighting difference, rather than acknowledging our common, shared human qualities, characteristics and needs, and typically involves the demonisation and dehumanisation of specific groups, which further justifies political attempts to “civilise” and exploit these “inferior” others. It is a method of propaganda that is commonly employed by authoritarian Governments to justify atrocities such as ethnic cleansing.

A recent TUC study in the UK revealed people’s perceptions about the scale of the welfare bill and welfare fraud were entirely unrelated to the reality. This method of crass negative labelling, demonisation and scapegoating clearly works. Tory – created , “Others”, folk devils and moral panics, to justify the dismantling of our social security and support for the vulnerable. That is an outrage. So where IS the public outrage?

We need to constantly confront the lies with truths and facts, and replace the propaganda with a compelling narrative of our own.

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The Tories use a distinctive propaganda technique – much the same as Orwellian “doublespeak” – for example, calling unemployment “worklessness” to imply individual blame and responsibility for a socio-economic phenomenon caused by Governments, and calling benefit sanctions –  which condemn those desperate enough to need to claim the pittance “benefits” to survive (just) –  “helping people into work”.

What kind of “help” is starvation, destitution and deliberately inflicted pauperisation? I have never come across any theory in psychological research that even suggests that punishment and calculated, callously inflicted impoverishment will motivate anyone at all to get a (none existent) job. In an economic recession.

Actually, it tends not to motivate people on ANY level at all. Maslow points this out, in his well known work on the hierarchy of human needs He says basically that if people are struggling to meet their basic survival needs, such as finding food, fuel and shelter, then they can’t do anything else but try to survive.

The Chicago Mafia used very similar “techniques of neutralisation” – a series of methods by which those who commit illegitimate acts temporarily neutralise certain values within themselves which would normally prohibit them from carrying out such acts, such as morality, obligation to abide by the law, and so on. In simpler terms, it is a psychological method for people to turn off “inner protests” when they do, or are about to do something they themselves perceive as wrong. Some people don’t have such inner protests – psychopaths, for example, but they employ techniques of neutralisation to manipulate, and switch off those conscience protests of others.

Language use can reflect attempts at minimising the impact of such wrongful acts. The Mafia don’t ever commit “murder”, for example, instead they “take someone out”, “whack them” or “give someone their medicine”. But the victim ends up dead, though, no matter what people choose to call it.

In a similar way, the Tories attempt to to distort meanings, to minimise the impact of what they are doing. For example, when they habitually use  the word “reform”, what they are referring to is an act that entails “removal and cut”, and “help and support”: Tory-speak that means to “punish and take from”.Targets for such punishment and cuts translates as Tory “statistical norms” or “not targets but aspirations” and “robust expectations of performance”.

So let’s explore the “help” and “incentivisation” that the Tory-led Coalition have provided for jobseekers in the recession, at a time when jobs are scarce, full-time work is also scarce, and decent jobs that pay enough to get by on are like …well…Tory statistics. Conjured from the aether, a very cheap trick – an illusion. We know that unemployment and underemployment are rising.

The number and length of benefit sanctions has risen hugely under the coalition. This is because the Government have set sanction targets. This means that the sanctions have been decided in advance of any possible reason for them to be applied. As such, they cannot possibly be deemed “fair” or reasonable. When we see they are combined with persecution, media lies and political scapegoating, we see clearly that this is nothing short of economic terrorism.

Two and a quarter million JSA claimants have had their money stopped, and sanctions are for a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of three years. ESA claimants can have 70% of their benefits stopped indefinitely. Imagine being without any income for a month, when your annual income is less than £4,000 a year – no chance of savings to fall back onto. 

Claimants go into debt, go hungry and use foodbanks, go into rent arrears or don’t turn on the heating when it’s cold.

Here are a few cases gathered from a variety of sources online, in newspapers and parliamentary debates. Remember that sanctions are supposedly there to “incentivise” claimants to find work. As we see, the State is imposing a Kafkaesque, existential attack on benefit claimants, as well as committing acts of economic terrorism. (Gathered originally by Birmingham Against Cuts, reproduced here with thanks.)

  • You work for 20 years, then because you haven’t had the process clearly explained to you, you miss an appointment, so you get sanctioned for 3 weeks. (source: Councillor John O’Shea)
  • You’re on a workfare placement, and your jobcentre appointment comes round. The jobcentre tells you to sign on then go to your placement which you do. The workfare placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for 3 months. (Source: DefiniteMaybe post on Mumsnet forums)
  • You’re five minutes late for your appointment, you show the advisor your watch which is running late, but you still get sanctioned for a month (source: Clydebank Post)
  • You apply for more jobs than required by your jobseeker’s agreement, but forgot to put down that you checked the local paper (which you’ve been specifically instructed to do via a jobseeker’s direction) so you get sanctioned (source: Steve Rose on twitter – part 1 . part 2)
  • You’re on contributions based JSA (which is JSA paid on the basis of National Insurance you’ve paid in, not on your level of income) and get your appointment day wrong and turn up on Thursday instead of Tuesday so you get a four week sanction (source: Cheesy Monkey comment )
  • It’s Christmas Day. You don’t do any jobsearch, because it’s Christmas Day. So you get sanctioned. For not looking to see if anyone has advertised a new job on Christmas Day. (source: Poverty Alliance)
  • You get an interview but it’s on the day of your nan’s funeral. You have 3 interviews the day before, and you try to rearrange the interview, but the company reports you to the jobcentre and you get sanctioned for failing to accept a job. (source: @TSAAPG on twitter – part 1 . part 2)
  • You get given the wrong forms, get sanctioned for not doing the right forms. (Source: Adventures in Workfare blog )
  • You’re sick and miss an appointment, but you’ve already missed one so you get sanctioned (Source: @thinktyler on twitter. Rules actually state you can miss a grand total of two appointments for illness each year – particularly harsh if you’re sick and have been wrongly kicked off ESA by ATOS)
  • You don’t apply for an IT job that needs skills you don’t have so you get sanctioned. (Source: Geminisnake on Urban75 forums )
  • You volunteer in a youth club. For some reason the jobcentre thinks this is paid work so they sanction you. (source: @ukeleleKris on twitter )
  • You attend a work programme interview so you miss your jobcentre appointement and get sanctioned (Source: CAB )
  • You’ve got no money to travel to look for work so you get sanctioned (source: CAB)
  • You have an interview which runs long, so you arrive at your jobcentre appointment 9 minutes late and get sanctioned for a month (source: jsdk posting on Consumer Action Group forums)
  • You’ve been unemployed for seven months and are forced onto a workfare scheme but can’t afford to travel to the shop. You offer to work in a different branch you can walk to but are refused and get sanctioned for not attending your workfare placement. (Source: Caroline Lucas MP)
  • You attend a family funeral and miss your jobcentre appointment so you get sanctioned. (Source: Derek Twigg MP)
  • You have a training appointment at the same time as your jobcentre appointment, you tell the jobcentre you won’t be coming but they say you have to, and to get a letter from your new training organisation. Your training organisation says they don’t provide letters. (Source: Russell Brown MP)
  • You are easily confused or have poor English language skills, you will be disproportionately targetted for sanctions (Source: Fiona Taggart MP)
  • You retire on the grounds of ill health and claim ESA. You go to your assessment and during the assessment you have a heart attack, so the nurse says they have to stop the assessment. You get sanctioned for not withdrawing from your assessment (Source: Debbie Abrahams MP)
  • You get a job, isn’t that great? The job doesn’t start for two weeks, so you don’t look for work in those two weeks, and get sanctioned for it. (Souce:The Guardian )

We know that benefits are calculated to meet basic living requirements only such as food, fuel and shelter needs. To take away that basic support is devastating for those people having to then struggle for basic survival. The Labour Party managed to secure concessions recently that ensured that the right of appeal for those sanctioned is maintained. Iain Duncan Smith wanted to remove that right. But appeals take months to happen, and meanwhile people are left suffering as a result of having no money to live on.

Sanctions are not “help” for jobseekers, sanctions are punishment and persecution. It doesn’t matter how hard you look for work when you are one of 2,500,000 unemployed people and there are only 400,000 jobs available. If we want to help people into work we need to create jobs, not punish individuals for being out of work during the worst recession for over 100 years.

Under Universal Credit rules, it won’t be only the unemployed, sick or disabled people facing sanctions, but everyone dependent on some form of support, such as Tax Credits or Housing Benefits.  Part-time workers earning less than the minimum wage for a full week’s work will be placed under the same “conditionality” regime for in-work benefits as those currently claiming Jobseekers Allowance. This is intended to to “incentivise” low paid workers to continuously look for “more or better paid work”.

This conditionality, already experienced by sick and disabled people and those facing unemployment is known as “Work Related Activity”, and will include regular interviews at the Jobcentre, and people will be expected to spend a few hours every day searching for additional work hours. That’s in addition to the hours they already work. How can workers be held accountable and responsible for the work hours that are available to them, when that is a matter decided by employers?

This is not a reasonable policy at all. Sanctioning is senseless, brutal and cruel and serves only to make vulnerable people suffer terribly for the mess that the Tory-led Government are creating by their redistribution of wealth to those who need it the very least.

Not content with “helping” sick and disabled people and the unemployed, the Government is now turning it’s extremely anti-social, baleful Basilisk-styled glance at those in work. They are “making work pay”. That same baleful stare is petrifying society, group by group, starting with the most vulnerable. Martin Niemöller had the measure of this process when he wrote of his pre-Holocaust observations. Group by group. We think we are free, but we are not.

Well I’m getting the hang of this new Tory language, and I can translate, loosely, quite well now: “Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor“.

I believe that when the State initiates, perpetuates and encourages mocking and bullying of the vulnerable, and all in an attempt to justify State economic terrorism and theft, then WE NEED TO OPPOSE AND CHANGE IT.

Further reading:

The BBC is colluding in the government’s attack on benefit claimants

Confirmed: Duncan Smith will be grilled by MPs in September over misuse of benefit statistics

UK inequality rising more quickly than under Thatcher – report

The poverty of responsibility and the politics of blame

Constructing the Other

Holocaust and Genocide Studies: Visualising Otherness

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant graphics

Nothing News under the Sun

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                      A guest post by Samantha Baldwin

I write regarding the Sun newspaper, the Sun or Scum newspaper is not a working-class newspaper, but a far-right, anti-working-class, anti-trade union, phone-hacking, scouser hating and baiting, phone hacking, Levi Bellfield aiding, war-mongering, bigoted, homophobic, racist, xenophobic, lying, unprincipled, two-faced rag. I am not saying those things because I don’t like its political stance, or crap journalism or sensationalism. I can back them up one by one, and unlike the Scum, I will provide serious analysis of why it is all those things.

ANTI-WORKING CLASS
The Scum viciously condemned Labour’s plans to bring in the Minimum Wage and has said it shouldn’t rise. It opposed the Social Chapter and has backed moves to come out of it. This means agency workers, part-time workers, temporary workers will all lose rights, as well many low-paid and minimum wage workers. It condemned the postmen for going on strike in 2009, the train drivers in 1994, attacked the printers at Wapping and printed a false front page about Arthur Scargill in 1984 and backed the pit closures. It backed the poll tax, called protestors scum, and attacked the 50% tax rate on those on £100,000 a year or more, saying it drags us all down to a drab level. How many Scum readers are on that a year? It has backed Royal Mail privatisation, public spending cuts, tax cuts and breaks for the well-off.

ANTI-TRADE UNION
The Scum attacked Labour’s giving GCHQ workers the chance to join a Trade Union in 1997 after a 13-year-ban. They have repeatedly attacked them as reds and said they restrict business, and even have said there is no need for them. They have launched attacks on Trade Union leaders, which have been filthy, vicious, personal and at times, inaccurate.

FAR-RIGHT
The Scum claims to hate the far-right BNP. Yet look at their policies. The BNP is racist. The Scum is racist. The BNP is Xenophobic. The Scum is Xenophobic. The BNP wants hanging back. The Scum wants hanging back. The BNP wants us out of Europe. The Scum wants us out of Europe. The BNP is anti-immigration. The Scum is anti-immigration. The BNP doesn’t like Trade Unions, neither does the Scum, so what are they complaining about?

BIGOTED
The Scum referred to the mentally ill boxer “Frank Bruno” as bonkers in 2003. It has launched attacks on Asylum Seekers that the BNP propangda chief would be delighted with. It has attacked homosexuals, the unemployed, single parents.

HOMOPHOBIC
The Scum opposed Edwina Currie’s bill in 1994 to lower the age of consent for homosexuals from the age of 21 to 18. Then it opposed the equalization bill that Labour brought in during 1999, and backed the homophobic section 28. It has tried to equate homosexuality with paedophilia. It has referred to pulpit poofs in the Church of England, lied saying that Elton John uses rent boys. It opposed civil partnerships and Television personality Piers Morgan, a former Editor of the Daily Mirror and of The Sun’s Bizarre pop column, has said that during the late 1980s, at Kelvin MacKenzie’s behest, he was ordered to speculate on the sexuality of male pop stars for a feature headlined “The Poofs of Pop”. He also recalls MacKenzie headlining a story about the first homosexual kiss on BBC television soap opera EastEnders “EastBenders”. It also said that only homosexual sex could give you AIDS.

RACIST
Readers were encouraged to wear free badges with the slogan ‘Hop off, you frogs’. When in Sept 1985, Hackney Council proposed re-naming a street after Indian nationalist Shahid Bhagat Singh, the Sun headlined: ‘Lefties start a singh and a dance in the street’. When head-teacher Ray Honeyford was forced to quit a Bradford school with many Muslim pupils, a Sun cartoon (17 Oct 85) showed Asian parents in turbans, dhotis and saris perched on the school roof with a steaming pot of curry to pour on an Honeyford approaching the school. The caption read: ‘The Madras curry will finish him off.’

The Scum backed apartheid in South Africa and attacked the ANC and Nelson Mandela as terrorists. It employed columnists such as Garry Bushell who defended the racist Tory MP for Welwyn David Evans who referred to “Black bastards” in 1997 and said he was a racist. It has made subliminal references to black people and racism in the past.

LYING
Where do I start…. The Dunn of the Sun, Elton John uses rent boys, the Hillsborough article, which for me, has been the most evil headline ever on a newspaper, vicious and personal attacks on Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and Gordon Brown which have been dishonest at times. The Sun also did a story extensively quoting a respected American psychiatrist claiming that British left-wing politician Tony Benn was “insane”, with the psychiatrist discussing various aspects of Benn’s supposed pathology.[10] The story was discredited when the psychiatrist in question publicly denounced the article and described the false quotes attributed to him as “absurd”, The Sun having apparently fabricated the entire piece.

TWO-FACED
The Scum attacked Benny Hill for having topless women on his shows whilst having topless 17-year-old page 3 girls. It attacked Labour’s policies up to two weeks before when the 1997 General Election was called, and then said it was backing Labour when it knew the Tories had no chance of winning. It loudly backed far-right policies up to 2001 and 2005, but backed Labour because it knew they had no chance of winning.

It said in 1983 that “Do you want this old fools to run Britain” with reference to Michael Foot’s age. He was nearly 70 then. A year later it enthusiastically backed 73-year-old Ronald Reagan’s bid for re-election as USA President. In January 1994 it attacked Benn, Galloway et al for saying troops should be removed from Bosnia. A month later, it attacked John Smith for saying more should be sent saying he was bland and no radical etc!

In January 1994 it said we were fools for backing John Major, despite vigorously backing him to be PM three years earlier and less than two years earlier at the 1992 General Election. It called Tony Martin a hero and then demanded the reintroduction of hanging.

It attacks benefit fraud and calls for welfare cutbacks, whilst News International hasn’t paid Income Tax into the UK since 1987. It backs whoever it thinks will win an election, hence its vigorous support for Cameron, and imagine its fury when he failed to win outright in 2010.

It demanded the hanging of Levi Bellfield, and supported the Sarah’s Law campaign and put up a financial reward for the capture of Milly Dowler’s killer, whilst News International hacked into her phone, and misled the police and her parents, derailed the murder inquiry and gave her parents false hopes, and helped Bellfield to go free to kill twice more and almost a third time. And hacked into a phone given to Sara Payne’s mother.

PROMOTION OF VIOLENCE
In 2000 the Scum and News of the World launched an hate campaign against paedophiles. This meant many were driven underground and a woman’s house was attacked and vandalised. She was a paediatrician. A man was punched in the face three times who was totally innocent, as he was mistook for a paedophile.

In Feb, 2003, the Sun published the mobile phone number of their favourite bogeyman Abu Hamza (preacher at the Finsbury mosque, North London), effectively inviting readers to make abusive calls to him. This no doubt happened but misdialled phone numbers also received hundreds of death threats. For example, a man from Newport, Wales whose mobile differed from Hamza’s by 1 digit, received 200 death threats on one morning from angry Sun readers.

No doubt there are many more examples, but those are the ones I can think of, and I think they perfectly illustrate my case that the Scum is all of the things I have wrote about it.

—————————————————————————

Further reading:

Four ways the British Public is completely wrong about the British Public  – by Us vs Th3m (to which I’ve added.)

Some brilliant research by the Royal Statistical Society looked at how much the public actually knows about… well, itself. The answer? Not a lot.

They published a list of their top ten biggest misconceptions about key social issues. Here’s the four most jaw-dropping ways the public gets its statistics completely wrong:

1. We have NO IDEA how many young teenage girls get pregnant

2. We think there are WAY MORE old people than there actually are

3. And that’s nothing compared to how wrong we are about Muslims. We think there are SOOOOO MANY Muslims

4. Also we are TOTALLY OUT TO LUNCH when trying to guess how many benefit fraudsters there are

Key takeaway thought from this: excellent job, media and Tories! You have successfully convinced us we live in your completely contrived, pre-fabricated fantasy world

Images courtesy of Robert Livingstone

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The Great Debt Lie and the Myth of the Structural Deficit

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The case for austerity measures rests on the Great Debt Lie and the myth of the structural deficit.

The 2008-9 recession was the worst we have experienced globally, for sixty years, and it was predicted by no-one. The Labour Government responded to the global crisis with fiscal stimulus. From the start of the financial crisis, Labour took decisive and clear action (including temporarily cutting VAT to boost demand), and it has become increasingly clear that it was this decisive action that brought about the green shoots of recovery by the last quarter of 2009. (Radeke, 2009).

This, combined with the usual effects on GDP of a recession, meant that the budget deficit rose. But without such swift action we simply would not have the signs of tentative recovery that we saw as a result. So what went wrong? What happened to the green shoots of recovery that were carefully nurtured by the last Labour Government?

That would be the Tory-led Coaliton. The difference between the recession that happened under Labour, and the one under the Tories, is that the global banking crisis would have caused recession no matter which party was in Office at the time, whereas the current recession is a “homegrown” one that can be directly attributed to Conservative economic policy. Tories always cause recession, Thatcher did, Major did, and now, Cameron has.

This Government is cutting the very measures that would ensure not only growth in the short-term, but economic security in the future, too. They are portraying their cuts as eliminating “waste” and “necessary”, when in fact they are seriously jeopardising our future economic prosperity: cuts in funding for Regional Development Agencies; scrapping the Future Jobs Fund, which was a success and supported at least 200,000 people back into work through the recession; withdrawing industrial support, for example.

That is before we even begin to discuss the damning, detrimental economic and social implications of the welfare “reforms” (CUTS), and the Localism Bill (more CUTS), and Legal Aid Bill (even more coordinated and carefully planned Tory CUTS that will serve to keep quiet and hide away evidence of the rising numbers of impoverished, destitute and starving victims of all of the other CUTS and subsequent human rights abuses).

And there seems to be very little evidence to support their decisions. No facts, no consultation, no listening to expert advice. Just the ideology of the small state, propped up by notions of “self-reliance” –  but only for the poorest of course –  being pursued by the Tory right and the Orange Book Liberals.

The Tory budget is highly regressive, hitting the poorest the hardest whilst asking for very little from those at the top.

Here are some facts which demolish the fallacy that the present economic crisis is the result of excessive spending, leading to unsustainable debt:

  •  Analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has concluded that on the eve of the financial crisis ‘the public finances were in a stronger position than they had been when Labour first came to power in 1997.
  •  Average annual spending and taxation were both lower as a proportion of GDP under the last 3 Labour Governments (38% and 35.4%) than under the 4 Conservative governments which preceded them (40% and 35.5%).
  •  National debt was lower as a proportion of GDP at the start of the financial crisis in 2008 (36%) than in 1997, the last year of John Major’s Conservative government (42%).  The national debt is forecast to hit 74.7% of GDP this year and peak at 79.9 per cent in 2015-16.
  • In 2010, the UK’s national debt as a proportion of GDP (52%) was the second lowest of the G7 countries.

The budget deficit is no more “structural” than an overdraft in your bank account when you spend more than you earn. There is either a real deficit or not, and if there is, then it is due to either excessive spending or an inadequate tax take.

Since it can easily be demonstrated that the problem is not the former, then it must be the latter – caused by the financial crisis and consequent recession and likely to be aggravated when taxes are cut later during this parliament to the benefit of high earners, corporations and banks.

As The Investors Chronicle states (15th February 2010): “The idea of a structural deficit serves a political rather than analytical function. It’s a pseudo-scientific concept which serves to legitimate what is in fact a pure judgement call – that borrowing needs cutting.”  

Osborne began to revive the myth of the structural deficit in June 2010, when it was becoming clear that the deficit would be under £155 billion, well below the Treasury’s £178 billion estimate made six months earlier.

In other words, the deficit was narrowing after Labour increased spending in 2009. The fact that the US, which has made no serious deficit reductions, has suffered almost the smallest recession of any major developed economy, whereas Ireland and Greece have suffered the worst because of drastic spending cuts further undermines the Government’s claim that radical austerity measures are needed – and shows that Osborne’s main aim is not to reduce the deficit but to accelerate the transfer of wealth to the already very rich.

And if anyone still wants to talk about a “structural” deficit, then they should remember that the last 3 Labour Governments managed to earn enough to cover their spending for 4 of their 13 years in office, whereas Thatcher and Major only managed to balance the books for 2 out of 17 years.

The Coalition continue to deny that alternatives to austerity are viable. As a Tory lie repetition strategy, this is based on the idea Goebbels had –  repeated lies will somehow convince people that they are true. Cameron was busted when he repeatedly told the lie “We are paying down the debt.” Despite being rumbled, the Coalition have stuck with this lie doggedly.

The bonus of the lie is that it may undermine the Opposition’s economic credibility, and the Tories particularly delight in the lie that it’s all Labour’s fault because they “overspent” as it further justifies austerity measures and starving public services of Government funding, with our paid taxes, as well as stripping our welfare provision away.

It was the Tories that 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. The Fitch credit rating was also downgraded due to increased borrowing by the Tories, who have borrowed more in 4 years than Labour did in 13.

The Coalition have REALLY messed up the economy. We know it’s a big fat Tory lie that cutting spending at a time of economic recession will re-balance public finances. As many academics and economists have stated, cutting spending when the economy is flat is likely to cause further contraction to the economy, and that will negatively affect public finances, rather than help at all.

The Government will never confess to this because they are so tightly ideologically bound to an übertreiben Neo-Liberalism, no matter what the cost is in human terms, or even in economic terms. What we need is Labour’s expansionary fiscal policies, not contractionary ones.

Real, sensible economists know that the only way to address a recession is to grow the economy, and that means more public spending in the short term, to stimulate economic activity, and cutting if needed when the economy is back on the up (which needn’t mean absolute cuts, but relative cuts because the economy is growing).

Further reading:

The OBR rebukes Cameron for claiming that austerity has not hit growth

The Tories continue to blame the previous Labour Government for its own actions  – The Blame Game

Letter from Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot to Labour’s Rachel Reeves – Public sector net debt and net borrowing

Cameron rebuked by the UK Statistics Agency chief Andrew Dilnot – Dear Prime Minister

Investors around the world are putting their trust in the only Labour government in the UK – Investors give thumbs up to Labour

Tory Coalition set to borrow more in five years than Labour in 13. Conservative Mark Field confirms.

A list of official rebukes for Tory lies .

Labour’s economic record given clean bill of health at home and abroad

Excellent capture and work by Robert Livingstone:

“The economic situation explained in 3 minutes. Tory austerity has given us the slowest recovery since the South Sea Bubble. Professor David Blanchflower absolutely slaughters Cameron over his pre-excuse warning over the world economy, he blames Tory austerity for tanking Britain’s economy and preventing a recovery, and states that any recovery we do have is simply part of the cycle as long as you don’t wreck it with austerity, and confirms that our economy was on the RISE in 2009 / 2010.” From The World At One, Radio 4, 17th November, 2014.

539627_450600381676162_486601053_n (2)     Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent art work

Thanks to Factcheck for the facts and figures.

The Labour Party address welfare wrongs with human rights and strong equality principles.

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The Labour Party have always supported cumulative and equality impact assessments, and embedded this practice in their own legislative process. I know this because it was an issue I raised in discussion with Anne McGuire last year, I was very aware that the welfare reforms had not undergone such essential cumulative impact assessment. And now we are seeing the devastating impacts of those “reforms”.

Impact assessments were enshrined in Labour’s Equality Act, implemented in 2010. This issue is something that I have felt very strongly about, not least because equality and cumulative impact assessments are a positive way of safeguarding our most fundamental human rights. They also assure fairness and  safety, and ensure that people’s circumstances are not made worse by policies.

Impact assessments are intended to ensure that neither discrimination nor adverse treatment to people from different groups occurs based on age, race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, transgender, pregnancy and maternity, socio-economic status, marriage and civil partnership and other groups who may experience disparities in opportunity. Where there is any identified potential for discrimination or adverse treatment, action plans will be created to counter this and demonstrate that the equality impact assessment process is leading to positive change. This is a legal requirement.

Labour have recognised it is disabled people and the most vulnerable who bear a disproportionate share of the austerity cuts, simply because of the inequality they face in employment, which 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 (now somewhat limited) labour market and now targeted by benefit “reform”. (Cuts). This also raises further concern about human rights, since this Coalition action constitutes discrimination on the basis of “characteristics”, in accordance  with Labour’s Equality Act.

The general duty to perform equality impact assessments applies across the full range of our public activities. This means that the duty applies to policy-making, budget setting, developing high level strategies, plans, procedures, reports, business cases, service provision, employment matters, and enforcement or statutory discretion and decision-making. Essentially, it applies to everything we do.  It also applies to our functions in relation to procurement and contracting out services. In addition, the duty applies to private and voluntary bodies carrying out our public functions on our behalf.

However, under the Equality Act, the need for public bodies in England to undertake or publish an equality impact assessment (EIA) of their policies, practices and decisions was removed in April 2011 by the Tory-led Coalition, when the “single equality duty” was introduced. Public bodies must still give “due regard” to the need to avoid discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for all protected groups when making policy decisions. They are also required to publish information showing how they are complying with this duty – but can do that…

“…without having to carry out lengthy and detailed impact assessments.” –  David Cameron

Although the Government have produced some perfunctory impact assessment of each individual policy strand of the welfare “reforms”,  these documents are useless. Worse than useless, in fact, because they give us – the media, policy analysts and anyone else caring to look at them – the impression that we know what the impact of the Government’s welfare reform agenda will be. But we don’t. And the Government doesn’t either. This is due to the fragmented nature of our welfare system –  many people claim more than one benefit and tax credit at a time.

As a result, the impact of the Government’s plan to cut several benefits in several ways will inevitably affect some households repeatedly. The Government’s impact assessments only consider each cut in isolation, and cannot quantify this cumulative effect. And so the government had identified dozens of individual groups who will experience a reduction in income, but gave no indication if they are actually identifying the same group over and over again. We now know that it IS the same group that has been hit by multiple cuts. Thousands of disabled people have been hit by as many as six welfare cuts simultaneously.

We do know from “Briefing on How Cuts Are Targeted” by Dr Simon Duffy that if we compare the relative targeting of the welfare cuts on different groups then:

  • People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most citizens
  • Disabled people are targeted 9 times more than most citizens
  • People needing social care are targeted 19 times more than most citizens

For anyone, this represents the loss of substantial sums of money, essential for meeting fundamental needs. But for disabled people struggling with spiralling costs of living, and the withdrawal of public services  and support also, such multiple financial losses are life-changing and devastating.

Individual impact assessments are utilised when making a single policy change here and there, but when dozens of changes are made simultaneously – 18 impact assessments were issued for the Welfare Reform Bill alone – this piecemeal approach is both inadequate and very misleading.

Each impact assessment identifies a relatively small amount of money shared across a large group. On the face of it, reading them, one might conclude that the cuts are being widely and fairly spread. But the reality is that three, four, or more losses affect a single person. This is the case for hundreds of thousands of people across the country. How can we evaluate the fairness of such a comprehensive package of cuts when its the case that the assessments have provided no real overview of who will be affected, and to what extent? We can not. That was very clearly the aim.

Reading though the Tory-led “equality impact assessment” for universal credit, I can say that the emphasis is strictly on justifying the legislation, and utilises Coalition propaganda, and glib, superficial assurances such as “there will be significant opportunities to promote equality for disabled people through improving work incentives and smoothing the transition into  work”, without any explanation as to how this will be achieved. And of course we know that “work incentives” are actually punitive measures, including the use of sanctions, rather than support offered in any meaningful and real way.

And only the Tories would have the utter mendacity to claim that benefit CUTS will contribute to a reduction in the poverty rate amongst disabled households. We know that this is a very blatant lie. It doesn’t take any degree of genius to work that out, either

I have written to the Labour Party to raise my own concerns about the Coalition’s abandonment of effective impact assessments, as a means of protecting human rights and as a way of ensuring that policies are fair, safe, none discriminatory and democratic. I know many others have also campaigned regarding this important issue.

I have had the following response from Liam Byrne:  

“Dear Susan,

Time to come clean.

After more than three years in power, it’s time for this Government to finally come clean and tell us exactly what impact their changes will have on the lives of disabled people and their carers. So on Wednesday 10 July, Labour will drag Ministers to the House of Commons to debate the changes they have made that affect disabled people, and at about 16:00 we will force a vote to demand a Cumulative Impact Assessment by October 2013 at the latest – and we will be calling on MPs from across the House to support it.

I am asking supporters to help build pressure on the government in three ways:

  • Write to your MP and ask them to back the motion
  • Write to your local paper and explain why we urgently need a cumulative impact assessment
  • Tweet your support using #MakeRightsReality

    Here is the link to the motion – 
    http://liambyrne.co.uk/?p=4534

This government is failing to support our disabled people. It’s time for Ministers to come clean, admit where they are getting things wrong and change course.

It’s time to start making rights a reality for disabled people.

Please forward this email to anyone who might be interested.

This is the motion in full:

That this House believes that the Government should publish a cumulative impact assessment of the changes made by this Government that affect disabled people (to be published by October 2013).

Yours,

Liam Byrne”.

Please support this move, by pressuring your MP, and by publicising the need for a cumulative impact assessment, and emphasising the crucial role it has in democratic process, as a way of ensuring policies are fair and safe, and as a fundamental safeguard of our human rights.

Further reading:

Osborne ‘forgets’ to assess impact of benefits cap on disabled people



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Thank you to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant art work.

Poverty and Patrimony – the Evil Legacy of the Tories.

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If we look back through history, we see that in any period of time when persecution and punishment of the poor, and destruction of the integral bonds of our society reflects the dominant paradigm, that paradigm is scripted by harsh, shrill ideologues and economic liberals. The Poor Law of 1834 is a very good historical example. That also was also about “making work pay”, by ensuring, through the principle of less eligibility, that those without a job were far more miserable and had much less than the lowest paid worker.

Owen Jones recently claimed that: “The political right is the inevitable, rational product of an unequal society”. I disagree. Unequal society is and always has been the rational product of Conservative Governments.

If Toryism is simply about rationalising from the relative isolation of a privileged background, and a belief that “hard work” means prosperity – those old mythological meritocratic principles – then how is it so that unemployment and poverty grows and extends under EVERY Tory Government? And why would such rationalisation include persecution and punishment of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society? And such WILFUL denial of their suffering, and even death, because of Tory policies?

And since when did the aristocracy work hard for their own wealth? Self-reliance, from a Tory perspective is only for those who have no money. Making work payis one of the biggest and most malicious lies the current Tory-led Government have told, to justify raiding our tax-funded welfare provision and using it to provide handouts to the very wealthy – £107, 000 EACH PER YEAR in the form of a tax cut for millionaires. The Conservatives claim that it is “unfair” that people on benefits are “better off” than those in workBut the benefit cuts are having a dire impact on workers as well. Wages have decreased in value and are now at an all time low, while the cost of living has risen steeply. Making work pay for whom?

That calculated lie isn’t a product of “rationalisation” from Tory upbringing and background: we are not simply products of our life experiences, because we have intentionality and a degree of free will to shape those experiences and relate to others. It is therefore wilful greed, theft and deliberately inflicted punishment on the most vulnerable. It is the destruction of a once civilised society that represented ideals which were from the very best of us as a species – altruism, mutual aid, cooperation, compassion and empathy.

Human rights enshrined these ideals and human qualities. Our welfare, social support programs  and National Health Service embedded these ideals. Sixty years of human social evolution and progress is being unraveled wilfuly and deliberately by the Tories. If that isn’t evil, then I don’t know what is.

Poverty is not simply about being on a low income and going without – it is also to do with being denied health, justice, education, adequate housing and social activities, as well as basic autonomy, self-esteem and a sense of identity.

It is about being marginalised and excluded from society. It’s also about stigmatisation and minoritization. This part of the process is blatantly deliberate and wilful. It is undertaken by the wealthy and politically powerful. To justify the calculated impoverishment of others for the gain of a few. It’s what David Harveydescribes  as a process of accumulation by dispossession: predatory policies are used to centralise wealth and power in the hands of a few by dispossessing the public of their wealth and assets.  

I wonder how we should characterise the socioeconomic period we have seen ushered in by the Tory-led Coalition? It’s one that will certainly change the life course and character of more than one generation. It will leave an indelible imprint on so very many. It has already plunged many communities into a despair not seen for many decades, and my fear is that ultimately it is likely to warp our politics, culture and the character of our society for many years to come. It is change propelled by loss for the majority of people. It isn’t simply a material loss, it’s so much worse.

Shocking Key findings from the Poverty and Social Exclusion Project, in The Impoverishment of the UK report, reveals that:

• Over 30 million people (almost half the population) are suffering some degree of financial insecurity.
• Almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions.
• Roughly 14 million cannot afford one or more essential household goods.
• Almost 12 million people are too poor to engage in common social activities considered necessary by the majority of the population.
• About 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing.
• Around 4 million children and adults are not properly fed by today’s standards.
• Almost 4 million children go without at least two of the things they need.
• Around 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.
• Around 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home.

For me, the grim figures and statistics understate the magnitude of the real crisis, though they do provide us with some quantitative proof of the catastrophic loss, and the wilful destruction of our civilised public services and civilising social support mechanisms. But it’s the qualitative changes that I am considering, too. I think that the collective psyche has changed as a result the new political authoritarianism that goes hand in hand with neoliberal policies, incremental impoverishment and micro-management of the population, ethical relativism and moral impoverishment, political scandal and lies, distortions of language and contortions of rationale, and a subversion of democracy that we are going through. Sorry, being subjected to

And we’re different as a result.Yet somehow we have let all of this this happen. The term bystander apathy refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses.

There are two major factors that contribute to the bystander effect. First, the presence of other people creates a diffusion of responsibility. Because there are other observers, individuals do not feel as much pressure to take action, since the responsibility to take action is thought to be shared among all of those present. So who will step forward?

The second reason is we seem to have the need to behave in socially normative, “acceptable” ways. When other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate.

But who defines “socially normative”? The media? Our parents? Social institutions? Isn’t that ultimately down to us?  Don’t we have a capacity for making choices, don’t we have a degree of free will and intentionality, each of us?  So who will take some responsibility?

I don’t believe in the simplistic “economic entropy” model that we have been provided with as a means of explanation for the draconian social policies we are currently witnessing. The Coalition continue to deny that alternatives to austerity are viable. But we know that austerity is damaging our economy, and it is simply a front for an enormous wealth transfer from the taxpayer to private interests, and the very wealthy. The case for austerity is not even convincing: it hasn’t worked. It has not reduced borrowing. The Government borrowing is likely to come out at £120bn this year, exactly where it’s been for the previous two years. The Coalition has borrowed more in three years than the previous Government borrowed in thirteen.

Surveys and lab experiments show that, for better or worse, Schadenfreude is a powerful psychological force: at any fixed level of income, people are somehow happier when the income of others is reduced. However, that Schadenfreude becomes more apparent generally in those with the greatest power and wealth. This is a fundamental quality that the Tory-led Coalition have both fueled and drawn on to justify their crass redistribution of our public wealth to private bank accounts. Whilst they repress our most positive human qualities: caring, cooperation and altruism. Well…they try.

But it’s a terrible fact that whilst those who don’t experience empathy, such as psychopaths, can’t generally learn to, those who can may be switched off. Dehumanising language and dehumanising metaphors, narratives that emphasise prejudice and construct the other and political outgrouping can all serve to de-empathise the general public. As Wittgenstein once said, the limits of my language are the limits of my world. 

Social qualities are so rarely acknowledged by Tories because the implications counter the dominant narrative of meritocracy, competition, free markets, hierarchies, outgroups and legitimated authority figures. The view exemplified by Ayn Rand, that any kind of altruism is actually bad is found at the core of Conservative ideology, and manifests in their social Darwinist policies. She argued that thinking about the needs of others is an enemy of freedom, strength and self-expression. Whose freedom, strength and self-expression does Rands’ recommendations of competitive individualism and individual selfishness suppress? Oh yes, the most vulnerable and poor. Hello America.

The real catastrophe is that we have collectively allowed the associations between people, society and politics to become unravelled. We are truly alienated from decision-making about how our society is, and should be. But we opted out. We let go of our responsibility to each other. Research shows that some 70% of the public supports the welfare cuts. That includes many labour party supporters.

Tory rhetoric has succeeded in creating and justifying monetary apartheid. But this is the reality of the situation: poverty is now more acutely absolute, and becoming more widespread because of an enormous wealth transfer from the taxpayer to private interests, and a bogus ideological austerity programme, presented as a fait accompli. But how do you sell such a thing to civil society? How are the Tory-led Government getting away with such blatant theft and lies?

The battle is being won by the calculated use of techniques of persuasion. Disability hate crime is up by 25% after the Government’s attacks on disabled people needing to claim benefits. The government insinuated that they are all committing benefit fraud, that these are people pretending to be ill to avoid work. Negative day-to-day reporting, with political endorsement and open support from malevolent individuals such as Mark Hoban and Iain Duncan Smith, constantly portrays people with a disability and those facing unemployment as a burden or drain on society.

This method of constructing “Otherness” by the politically powerful colluding in dominant social narrative, commonly via the mainstream media, is a recognised method of social exclusion, minorization and marginalisation. Constructing “Other” social identities involves highlighting difference, rather than acknowledging our common, shared human qualities, characteristics and needs, and typically involves the demonisation and dehumanisation of specific groups, which further justifies political attempts to “civilise” and exploit these “inferior” others. It is a method of propaganda that is commonly employed by authoritarian Governments to justify atrocities such as ethnic cleansing.

A recent TUC study in the UK revealed people’s perceptions about the scale of the welfare bill and welfare fraud were entirely unrelated to the reality. This method of crass negative labelling, demonisation and scapegoating clearly works, as attempts to justify the dismantling of our social security and support for the vulnerable. That is an outrage.

The same type of dehumanising rhetoric that the Nazis used to justify the Holocaust, ultimately. And for those itching to cry 

This deliberately misleading rhetoric concerning those who have to seek support from the welfare state, such as the contrived contrast between “strivers” and “shirkers”, underpinned by the anachronistic, discredited notions of “deserving” and “undeserving” –  and other similar, not so subliminal betrayals spilt into legislative cruelty, of an underlying brand of authoritarian and elitist egoism –  is undermining that trust and, with it, one of the key foundations of our society. We have welfare to protect the poorest; those with least power, to ensure that no-one has to live in absolute poverty. Well, at least we did.

Now we have a Government that regards public funding for our welfare provision as their very own reward pot, disposable income for the already wealthy. Whilst the poorest people in our society have seen their only safety net (self funded via taxes) snatched away by this vicious, misanthropic brood of schadenfreuders. 

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Quantitative Data on Poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The minimum cost of living has soared by a quarter- 25% –  since the start of the economic downturn, according to a report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which details the true inflationary pressures facing low income households. The research finds families are facing an “unprecedented erosion of household living standards” thanks to rapid inflation and flat-lining wages.

Cuts to benefits and tax credits have exacerbated the problem over the past 12 months, according to the report. Now we are seeing the hard evidence that the Coalition’s “reforms” are pushing employed people in low paid work and unemployed people into absolute poverty, as our welfare system is no longer meeting basic living needs, and Government policy has distorted the original purpose of our social security, using rhetoric about costs to “the tax payer”, whilst carefully excluding the fact from their monologue that most benefit recipients are also tax payers.

A terrible and frightening consideration is that this report doesn’t include the latest round of benefit cuts – the very worst of them to date – that were implemented in April of this year. The report was produced prior to then, covering the period up to April, but doesn’t include it.

A quarter of households in the UK already fell short of the income required to reach an adequate standard of living – for them a 25% increase in costs intensifies the everyday struggle to make ends meet. The  price of food and goods we need for an acceptable living standard has risen far faster than average inflation. This has combined with low pay increases to create a widening gap between income and needs.

The freeze in child benefit, the decision to uprate tax credits by just 1% and the increase in the cost of essentials faster than inflation mean that a working couples with children an  working lone parents will lose out, making a mockery of the Coalition’s claim of ” making work pay”.

Over the past five years:

• Childcare costs have risen over twice as fast as inflation at 37%.
• Rent in social housing has gone up by 26%.
• Food costs have increased by 24%.
• Energy costs are 39% more.
• Public transport is up by 30%.

Since 2010, wages have been rising more slowly than prices, and over the past 12 months, incomes have been further eroded by cuts to benefits and tax credits. Ministers argue that the raising of the personal tax allowance to £10, 000 for low income households will help, however, the report says its effect is cancelled out by cuts and rising living costs.

I would add that for many who are low paid, and the increasing numbers of part-time workers, this political gesturing is meaningless. The policy only benefits those who earn enough to pay tax. Most of this group are affected by the benefit cuts – many have to claim housing benefit and council tax benefit, and they are therefore likely to be affected by the bedroom tax and the poll tax-styled reductions to benefits under the Localism Bill, to compound matters.

It has to be said  that the greatest percentage change in net income from the personal tax free allowance of £10,000 is seen by those on the upper end of the income scale – not, as is often claimed, low earners. This does explain the policy. Increasing the personal allowance serves to increase the gap between the those on the lowest incomes and those on  middle range incomes, resulting in low income households falling further into poverty.

At the low paid end of salaried work there are a cohort of workers trapped in a cycle of very poorly paid, low – skilled work, zero hour contracts, with few, if any, employee rights. They tend to work for a few months here and there, in work is often seasonal. There is no opportunity for saving money or hope of better employment prospects. This group of workers tend to live hand to mouth from one pay day to the next, so have no opportunity to build a reserve when the contract ends, there is nothing in reserve.

The net result is that it is increasingly very difficult for low-to-middle income families to balance the weekly budget. There is now a widening gulf between public expectations of a minimum decent living standard and their ability to earn enough to meet it. I would add that the gap between  low and middle income families is widening, and will continue to do so because of the impact of policies that have recently been implemented.

Welfare support is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. All developed countries have such support for the vulnerable, and the less developed ones are striving to establish their own. Welfare states depend on a fair collection and redistribution of resources, which in turn rests upon the maintenance of trust between different sections of society and across generations. In the UK, the poorest people not only pay taxes, they also pay the highest taxes.

Statisticians hold two basic definitions of poverty – relative poverty is a measure which looks at those well below the median average of income (60% of income) – who are excluded from participating in what society generally regards as normal activities. This kind of poverty is relative to the rest of society, and is the type that we have seen and measured since the welfare state came into being.

Absolute poverty refers to a level of poverty beyond the ability to afford the essentials which we need simply to live and survive. People in absolute poverty cannot afford some of the basic requirements that are essential for survival. It is horrifying that this is now the fastest growing type of poverty in Britain, according to research bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  When the IFS produced its report on growing child poverty, David Cameron’s callous, calculated  and unflinching reaction was to question the figures, rather than accept the consequences of his Government policies.

And it IS calculated and deliberate legislative spite. The Government’s own impact assessment has demonstrated that the 1% uprating in the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Act will have a disproportionate effect on the poorest. Families with children will be particularly hard hit, pushing a further 200,000 children into poverty. In addition, those with low to middle earnings and single-earner households will be caught by the 1% limit on tax credit rates. These new cuts come on top of the cumulative impact of previous tax, benefit and public expenditure cuts which have already meant the equivalent to a loss of around 38% of net income for the poorest tenth of households and only 5% for the richest tenth.

According to a TUC report, average wages have dropped by 7.5 per cent since the Coalition came into office. This has a direct impact on child poverty statistics, which the government has conveniently ignored in its latest, Iain Duncan Smith-endorsed, child poverty figures.

Child poverty is calculated in relation to median incomes – the average income earned by people in the UK. If incomes drop, so does the number of children deemed to be in poverty, even though – in fact – more families are struggling to make ends meet with less money to do so.

This is why the Department for Work and Pensions has been able to sound an announcement that child poverty in “workless” families (which translates from Tory propaganda-speak to “victims of the Government- induced recession”) has dropped, even though we can all see that this is nonsense. As average incomes drop, the amount received by  families not in work – taken as an average of what’s left – appears to rise, even though, as we know, the increase is not even keeping up with inflation any more.

Liam Byrne said: “The IFS report shows that the price of ministers’ failure on child poverty isn’t just a million more children growing up poor – it’s a gigantic £35 billion bill for the tax payer. It’s not just a moral failure, but an economic disaster.

“Ministers should be doing everything they can for struggling families but instead they are slashing working families’ tax credits whilst handing a massive tax cut to the richest people in the country. That tells you all you need to know about this Government’s priorities.”

“Not only is there a cost attached to rising levels of child poverty but the trend is illegal. Left unabated child poverty will reach 24% in 2020, compared with the goal of 10% written in law.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the welfare and pensions secretary, has publicly questioned whether poverty targets are useful – arguing that “feckless” parents only spend money on themselves. The spirits of Samuel Smiles, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo, they of the workhouse mentality, speak clearly through Iain Duncan Smith from across the centuries.

And of course the Department for Work and Pensions ludicrously continue to blame the previous Administration. We know, however, that the research here shows starkly that poverty has risen under this Government, and we are now seeing cases of childhood malnutrition, such as scurvy. The breakfast clubs established under the previous Labour Government, as a part of the Extending Schools program and Every Child Matters Bill often provided crucial meals, particularly  for children who relied on school provision  – in fact, for one in four of all UK children, school dinners are their only source of hot food. Malnutrition is rising and schools see children coming in hungry.

The previous Government recognised the importance of adequate nutrition and saw  the link between low educational attainment, behavioural difficulties and hunger in school. The breakfast club provision also helped parents on low incomes in other ways, for example, the free childcare that these wrap-around services provided is essential to support them to keep on working.

There are further issues worth a mention from Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review, that are not in the report. They are worth a mention not least because they tell you all you need to know about the Coalition. They speak volumes about Tory-led intention, malice and despicable aims. They expose the lie once again that the Tories “support” the most vulnerable citizens.

I’m very concerned about Osborne’s plans to set a cap on benefits spending. This cap will include disability benefits, but exclude spending on the state pension. Disabled people have already faced over £9 billion of cuts to benefits they rely on, with at least 600,000 fewer expected to qualify for the new Personal Independence Payment, which is replacing disability living allowance, and over 400,000 facing cuts to their housing benefit through the bedroom tax. Disabled people of working age have borne the brunt of cuts, and the Government is once again targeting those who can least afford to lose out.

By including “Disability Benefits” in the cap, the Government have signalled clearly that they fully intend severing any remaining link between social security and need. We are hurtling toward a system that is about eradicating the cost of any social need. But taxation hasn’t stopped, however, public services and provisions are shrinking.

Barely a month now passes without one of David Cameron’s ministers being rebuked for some act of statistical chicanery (or, indeed, the Prime Minister himself). And it’s not just the number crunchers at the UK Statistics Authority who are concerned. An alliance of 11 churches, including the Methodist Church, the Quakers and the Church of Scotland, has written to Cameron demanding “an apology on behalf of the Government for misrepresenting the poor.”

Many people have ended their lives. Many people have died because of the sustained attack from our Government on them both psychologically and materially, via what ought to be unacceptable, untenable and  socially unconscionable policies. People are going without food. People are becoming homeless. There are people now living in caves around Stockport The UK is the world’s six largest economy, yet 1 in 5 of the UK population live below the official poverty line, this means that they experience life as a daily struggle for survival.

And this is because of the changes this Government is making. And we are allowing them to do so. Unless we can form a coalition with other social groups in our society, we are unlikely to influence or  produce enduring, positive political change.

The author of the Joseph Rountree Doundation report, Donald Hirsch, says the cumulative effect is historically significant:

From this April, for the first time since the 1930s, benefits are being cut in real terms by not being linked to inflation. This combined with falling real wages means that the next election is likely to be the first since 1931 when living standards are lower than at the last one.” 

For most of us. The millionaires, however, are celebrating a rise in their already lofty standard of living. That’s not mentioned in the JRF report, so I thought I would mention it. Just so you know where our money is going, why poverty is rising and where the real ‘culture of entitlement’ label belongs: with the rich.

Further reading: 

Chris Mould, a former NHS chief executive, now the director of food bank charity the Trussell Trust, is scathing about how the state can coldly impose benefit penalties on vulnerable individuals while “knowing that no one will actually die of starvation because someone else – the voluntary sector – is looking after them”. In some ways, Trussell may be regarded as embodying the government’s “big society”, by Cameron, but Mould himself is a member of the Labour party – A question of responsibility 

Food poverty ‘puts UK’s international human rights obligations in danger

“A DWP spokesperson said: “Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the universal credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and making 3 million people better off.”

That comment left me dumbfounded. How can welfare CUTS  (not “reforms”) improve the lives of some of the poorest families?  Once again we see the enormous chasm between Government rhetoric and stark, terrible reality. The conservatives’ idea of “helping” people who are struggling is to take money from them,to  punish and stigmatise and to deny and negate the subsequent devastating experiences of their poor victims. Tory gaslighting.

It is grossly irresponsible and hateful that journalists and politicians collude in this manner to create a climate that engenders hatred, hostility and abuse towards people for whom life is already so difficult. This would be true at any time, but especially at a time of such uncertainty, when people are fearful of the future and looking for others to blame for their misfortune.

Many people have ended their lives. Many people have died because of the deliberate, sustained attack from our Government on them both psychologically and materially, via what ought to be unacceptable, untenable and  socially unconscionable policies. People are going without food. People are becoming homeless.

And this is because of the changes this Government is making. And we are allowing them to do so. Unless we can form a coalition with other social groups in our society, we are unlikely to influence or produce enduring, positive political change.

Iain Duncan Smith’s most shocking statistical lie yet: Child poverty 
The demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times
Constructing the Other
Holocaust and Genocide Studies: Visualising Otherness
Why tackling poverty is crucial in achieving a truly tolerant society
According to the Tories, economic terrorism is the new humanism.The Conservative-led government IS evil, Owen Jones – even if its supporters aren’t
Quantitative Data on Poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant memes