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


 

JP Morgan wants Europe to be rid of social rights, democracy, employee rights and the right to protest

 Published: June 25, 2013

By Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research UK.


This article was originally posted in Good Society

JP Morgan

In late May, J P Morgan issued a chilling review of what they saw as the state of progress on tackling the Eurozone crisis. As they put it:

“The narrative of crisis management in the Euro area has two dimensions: first, designing new institutions for the next steady state (EMU-2); and second, dealing with the national legacy problems, some of which were there at EMU’s launch and some of which arose during the first decade of the monetary union’s life.”

Their assessment of progress is:

Sovereign deleveraging—about halfway there.

• Real exchange rate adjustment—almost there for a number of countries.

• Household deleveraging in Spain—about a quarter of the way there in stock terms, but almost there in flow terms.

• Bank deleveraging—hard to say due to heterogeneity across countries and banks, but large banks have made a lot of progress.

• Structural reform—hard to say but progress is being made.

• Political reform—hardly even begun.

I could comment on the first five issues, but it is the last that is most chilling. A view of  ‘the journey of national political reform’ as they see it:

“At the start of the crisis, it was generally assumed that the national legacy problems were economic in nature. But, as the crisis has evolved, it has become apparent that there are deep seated political problems in the periphery, which, in our view, need to change if EMU is going to function properly in the long run. The political systems in the periphery were established in the aftermath of dictatorship, and were defined by that experience. Constitutions tend to show a strong socialist influence, reflecting the political strength that left wing parties gained after the defeat of fascism. Political systems around the periphery typically display several of the following features: weak executives; weak central states relative to regions; constitutional protection of labor rights; consensus building systems which foster political clientalism; and the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo. The shortcomings of this political legacy have been revealed by the crisis. Countries around the periphery have only been partially successful in producing fiscal and economic reform agendas, with governments constrained by constitutions (Portugal), powerful regions (Spain), and the rise of populist parties (Italy and Greece).

There is a growing recognition of the extent of this problem, both in the core and in the periphery. Change is beginning to take place. Spain took steps to address some of the contradictions of the post-Franco settlement with last year’s legislation enabling closer fiscal oversight of the regions. But, outside Spain little has happened thus far. The key test in the coming year will be in Italy, where the new government clearly has an opportunity to engage in meaningful political reform. But, in terms of the idea of a journey, the process of political reform has barely begun.”

What J P Morgan is making clear is that ‘socialist’ inclinations must be removed from political structures; localism must be replaced with strong, central, authority; labour rights must be removed, consensus (call it democracy if you will) must cease to be of concern and the right to protest must be curtailed.

This is an agenda for hard right, corporatist, centrist government. There’s another word for that, and it’s what the bankers seem to want.

You have been warned. Amazingly, they had the nerve to issue the warning.


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Part 2: They mean business – Kitty S Jones

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini.

“The real corruption that has eaten into the heart of British public life is the tightening corporate grip on government and public institutions – not just by lobbyists, but by the politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate advisers who increasingly swap jobs, favours and insider information, and inevitably come to see their interests as mutual and interchangeable… Corporate and financial power have merged into the state.” – Seumus Milne


Some additional information:

Harriet Baldwin:Conservative MP for West Worcestershire is the former managing director of JP Morgan Asset Management. JP Morgan are major players in healthcareAccording to their website they serve: 1,100 hospitals, 8 of the top 10 health insurers, thousands of physicians groups, top five pharmacy benefit managers, six of the top eight pharmacy retailers. JP Morgan are very heavily invested in healthcare.

Corporate power has turned Britain into a corrupt state

And the growing corporatocracy means business…

We are witnessing increasing privatisation of key State functions – particularly in previously “untouchable” areas, such as policing and our legal system. The coercive functions of the State are being subsumed by private corporate entities. These are very frightening developments with horrific implications – for example, many citizens will no longer have a right to justice: an inalienable right to a free and fair trial. This is an established, fundamental human right, and it’s expected that human rights and laws are observed and upheld by a so-called free democratic and liberal State.

Chomsky’s concept of Necessary Illusions in Manufacturing Consent is linked to powerful elites dominating how life happens – shaping our human experiences – and most people, some 90% of the population, are marginalised, diverted from political awareness, participation in self-governing, and reduced to apathy so they don’t vote or take responsibility. Media are a tool of society’s elites and owned and controlled by them and are used to impose those illusions – propaganda tools – that are necessary to keep people diverted from the political process.

Chomsky said that the major form of authority that really needs challenging is the system of private control over public resources. Such privatisation (and economic enclosure) is something our own government is galloping along with at full tilt. It’s a system that entails the dispossession of the majority of citizens (the 99%) by a wealthy and powerful minority (the 1%).

“The real corruption that has eaten into the heart of British public life is the tightening corporate grip on government and public institutions – not just by lobbyists, but by the politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate advisers who increasingly swap jobs, favours and insider information, and inevitably come to see their interests as mutual and interchangeable… Corporate and financial power have merged into the state.” – Seumus Milne.

Hello America.

Chomsky believes (and so do I) that our biggest hope lies with ordinary people and in the understanding that all changes in history have come because people build a foundation for change at a grassroots level. Ordinary people are very capable of understanding the world, yet must work TOGETHER to get beyond the imposed information and strive to act in accordance with their own decent interests, developing independent minds and critical thought.

Chomsky asserts that in order to break free, citizens must take 2 actions:

1. They must seek out information from ALTERNATIVE MEDIA (media outside of the mainstream)

2. They must move toward change by becoming engaged in (cooperative) community action – because people can use their ordinary intelligence to make changes in their lives and communities. Grassroots movements begin there.

So, my friends, we have already begun this journey here, as our own virtual community, and now we must continue to build and grow.

That means we have to learn to be cooperative, mutually supportive, strong and purposeful. We have to stay focussed, refuse to be diverted or divided by superficial difference. We have to be united, because this really is a fight; it’s a battle that we we must win. All that is decent and civilised depends on us winning, because the Tory-led coalition are not going to suddenly see the error of their ways and begin to recognise and realise the equal worth of all human lives, nor are they going to stop prioritising generating profits for their sponsors and donors over and above the fundamental priority of human lives, and as is increasingly the case now – it is often at the expense of those lives that private companies prosper.

The dominant ideology – neoliberalism – is propped up by ideals of competing interests, artificial divisions, divide and rule strategies, and elitist psychological egoism. We need to stand outside of that to breath and to survive, ultimately.

We know that the Coalition have served the needs of private companies very well via “business friendly”policies, and that has been at the expense of recognising the human needs of many. Indeed “costs not needs” ought to be the mantra of the Tories, and reflects very well what we see:  the shifting priority and funding of public services that meet social needs to private companies that exist solely to generate profit, and they do this by cutting cost and providing services as cheaply and as barely as possible.

This is all propped up by an overarching New Right Conservative brand of ideology. We see the once discredited notions of  competitive individualism  and social Darwinism embedded in contemporary media narratives, and at the heart of draconian policies. Those brutal policies threaten the very fabric of our civilised, democratic  society, and undermine the quality and authenticity of our experiences as human beings.

“Competition may be the law of the jungle, but cooperation is the law of civilization.” – Peter Kropotkin

Further Reading:

Dimon’s JPMorgan Chase: Why It’s the Scandal of Our Time

JPMorgan Chase Manipulation Scandal Raises Specter Of Enron

Why JPMorgan Wants to See More Americans on Food Stamps

Benefits payment in U.K. (banking operation)

The company (JP Morgan) is currently providing the banking license and the electronic benefits transfer banking engine for the card accounts of the Post Office for the financial issuances of the DWP, after an application to the High Courts of England and Wales on the 24th of January 2006 for transfer of banking operations from the previous provider Citibank. The deal of exchange of services was valued at $380,000,000. That’s £249,147,760.00.

That’s a lot of private profit to be had from a publicly funded social safety net originally designed to meet basic human needs in times of hardship.

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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DWP refuses to provide information on ESA/IB deaths. What is it hiding?

Posted originally by Mike Sivier on Vox Political here: DWP refuses to provide information on ESA/IB deaths. What is it hiding?.Brian McArdle. On the BBC's Question Time in November last year, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, "57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos."

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time in November last year, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.”

Once bitten, twice shy – the DWP has refused to release an update to its figures on the deaths of people in receipt of incapacity benefits (including Employment and Support Allowance).

Long-term readers may recall there was quite a stir last year when these figures were released, showing that around 73 people were dying every week after having been denied ESA or put in the work-related activity group.

This was more than twice as many as the previously-accepted figure of 32 people every week (which was still scandalous).

I received word of the cover-up last night, from Samuel Miller, the long-time friend of Vox Political who has been liaising with the United Nations about the Coalition government’s record on disability and incapacity benefits and the possibility that the Coalition is committing crimes against humanity.

“Just received word from the DWP that they will NOT release an update to ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’,” he wrote.

“Is this tantamount to a cover-up of thousands of deaths and/or has mortality of the sick and disabled become too politicized for the government?

“Needless to say, I am furious.”

The response from the DWP runs as follows:

“Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

“The publication you refer to was released on Department’s website as an ad-hoc statistical analysis publication. As such there is no intention of releasing an updated version of these statistics.” [Emphasis mine]

The “delay in responding” was a particularly long one. Mr Miller sent, by email, a copy of the original acknowledgement he received from the DWP, dated – if you can believe it – November 16, 2012. Were they hoping he would forget about it?

That letter stated: “I am sorry that the information you require is not readily available. As this would take a considerable length of time to pull together I am unable, at this stage, to tell you when the next report will be available.”

Never, if the department has its way, it seems.

This is not good enough, and we would be letting down everybody who has died if we let it pass.

I have therefore, today, sent a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking almost exactly the same questions as those to which ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients’ responds.

Sent to ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk and under the title ‘Freedom of Information requests’, it runs as follows:

“Please provide the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died in 2012. Please break that figure down into the following categories:

  • Those who are in the assessment phase
  • Those who were found fit for work
  • Those who were placed in the work-related activity group
  • Those who were placed in the support group
  • Those who have an appeal pending

“I am aware that the Department for Work and Pensions came under criticism last year because it did not follow up on the conditions of people who had been found fit for work and signed off the benefit. It is to be hoped that this has been rectified and follow-up checks have been carried out. If this is the case, please provide details of:

  • Former ESA/IB claimants who have died after being put onto Jobseekers’ Allowance
  • Former ISA/IB claimants who were taken off benefit but put onto no other means of support, and the number of these who have died.

“Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.”

I strongly urge you to do the same. There is strength in numbers.

Further reading:

“A Department for Work and Pensions FOI reveals that people having their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) stopped, between October 2010 and November 2011, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit, totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600.”  KittySJones – The ESA ‘Revolving Door’ Process, and its Correlation with a Significant Increase in Deaths amongst the Disabled. 

Clause 99, the Mandatory Review is yet another indication that the Coalition are authoritarian, and aiming to silence the victims of its maladministration – those it has oppressed – and of hiding the evidence of that maladministration – Clause 99, Catch 22: The ESA Mandatory Second Revision and Appeals

Briefing on How Cuts Are Targeted – Dr Simon Duffy

How the cuts target disabled people

The UK government is making big cuts in public expenditure in order to try and solve a financial crisis that was primarily triggered by excessive house price inflation, private borrowing and over-lending by the banks. However, most people think that everything is being cut and that the cuts being made are probably fair. The latest report from The Centre for Welfare Reform – A Fair Society? – shows that this is not true.

Not everything is being cut.

In fact over 50% of cuts fall in just two areas which together make up only 25% of government spending:

  • Benefits (to be cut by 20%) most of which is for disabled people and people in poverty
  • Local government (to be cut by over 40%) most of which (60%) is for social care (which will be cut by 33%)

The cuts are not fair.

They target the very groups that a decent society would protect:

  • People in poverty (1 in 5 of us) bear 39% of all the cuts
  • Disabled people (1 in 13 of us) bear 29% of all the cuts
  • People with severe disabilities (1 in 50 of us) bear 15% of all the cuts

These facts are represented in the following info-graphic:

The unfairness of this policy is seen even more clearly when we look at the difference between the burden of cuts that falls on most citizens and the burdens that fall on minority groups. By 2015 the annual average loss in income or services will be:

  • People who are not in poverty or have no disability will lose £467 per year
  • People who are in poverty will lose £2,195 per year
  • Disabled people will lose £4,410 per year
  • Disabled people needing social care will lose £8,832 per year

These facts are represented in the following info-graphic:

This also means that if we compare the relative targeting of the 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

These facts are represented in the following info-graphic:

If regressive tax increases were also included in this analysis the picture would be even worse.

This is a conservative analysis, based upon facts taken from the government’s own reports and from the reports of reputable national bodies like CIPFA and ADASS.

Cuts to social care are already in underway – over £4 billion has already been cut from the social care budget reducing care and support to disabled children, adults and frail older people.

Cuts to benefits are being disguised within ‘reforms’ that mask reductions in the value, type and scope of benefits.

The UK is the third most unequal developed country in the world and most disabled people live in poverty. The current policy is guaranteed to increase inequality and to make extreme poverty even worse.

All of this may seem surprising given the UK government’s claim that the cuts would be “fair” and that they have even provided “extra money” for social care. However it seems that many of the government’s claims are either very misleading or utterly false.

Many people do not know the real facts about the current welfare system:

  1. Benefit fraud is very low – it is only 6% the level of tax fraud and about 1% the level of tax evasion.
  2. Planned benefit cuts are 22 times the size of benefit fraud
  3. £17 billion benefits go unclaimed each year because the system is unfair, stigmatising and too difficult to understand, this is 17 times more than the level of benefit fraud.
  4. It is the poorest 10% of families who pay the highest percentage of their overall income in taxes – 45%
  5. The real cost of benefits and pensions is very low, 86% is paid straight back to the government in taxes. The net cost of benefits after taxes is really only £25 billion.
  6. Most local government spending is ring-fenced by Whitehall (e.g. education) the 41% cut to local government must fall largely on social care, for social care is 60% of the funding that local government actually controls.
  7. The claim that there is extra social care funding is false and relies upon misleading information and statistical distortions.

The report argues that the main reason for the unfairness of the cuts is that the current democratic and welfare system has a built-in bias towards protecting some services and for cutting others. The public have been persuaded that the NHS, pensions and education are universal services that benefit everybody; but they see benefits and social care as being for  ‘other people’.

This bias is highly dangerous, especially when politicians pander to it, and use the rhetoric of ‘shirkers’, ‘scroungers’ or ‘cheats’ to appeal to the prejudices of swing voters. A new level of honesty and self-discipline is required within our political elites.

Not only is this policy dangerously unfair it will be ineffective. Increased inequality and reduced social care will increase social crises, crime, institutionalisation and will increase the inefficiency of other public services, like the NHS. Benefits and social care are relatively efficient and effective at reducing need and strengthening communities.

The current economic crisis was created by unsustainable house price inflation which was certainly not caused by people in poverty or by disabled people. Nor did they benefit from this inflation in asset values. However they are now being made to foot the bill for the mistakes of others. None of this is necessary. Even if one were to accept the need for public expenditure cuts then effective salary control would have saved jobs and reduced inequality.

The Campaign for a Fair Society demands that MPs of all political parties call for:

  1. A halt to the current programme of cuts
  2. An independent assessment of the cumulative impact of the cuts on disabled people and other vulnerable groups
  3. The development of a fairer and more sustainable welfare system
  4. A welfare system that is built on a recognition of the equal worth of all human beings and the guarantee of human rights for all

Further information:

All the facts, figures and analysis described above can be found in the latest report by The Centre for Welfare Reform titled:

A Fair Society? How the cuts target disabled people

The statistics are taken from government sources. Most refer to the real term impact of funding changes by 2015, primarily as set out in the 2010 CSR. However many later changes and amendments have been included, particularly the increased cut to benefits which has increased from an original cut of £10 billion in 2010, to a planned cut of £22 billion.

The report was produced, pro bono, for the Campaign for a Fair Society, an alliance of over 300 charities who are advocating an end to unfair cuts and the radical reform of the welfare state:

www.campaignforafairsociety.com

The author of the report is Dr Simon Duffy, winner of the RSA Prince Albert Medal and the Social Policy Association award for outstanding contribution to social policy: http://about.me/simonduffy


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Briefing on How Cuts Are Targeted © Simon Duffy 2013.

No value in empty gestures: a retrospective analysis of Labour’s response to the the retrospective Sanctions Bill

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A few months ago, two young workers at Poundland appealed to the courts against being forced to work for no wages, or else forfeit all their benefits. A court ruling deemed the regulations governing Job Seekers Allowance related sanctions imposed on claimants Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson unlawful, and therefore opened up opportunities to claimants having repayment of lost benefits. There were around 230,000 people – other previously sanctioned jobseekers, which means a total of  around £130 million may have reclaimed.

The Tories quickly wrote an Emergency Bill to retrospectively make those same regulations lawful. This was a shocking and tyrannical move that certainly contravenes human rights, and needs to be challenged under EU Human Rights legislation, and hopefully this will come to pass when Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson take their case further, to the Supreme Court.

However many people have criticised the Labour Party for its decision of abstaining from the vote on the Emergency Bill. It’s worth noting here that such a move is not the same thing as “supporting” the Tories regarding the Emergency Bill – as the Guardian misreported. Had the Labour Party supported the move by Ian Duncan Smith, they would have voted for the Bill. However, they did not.

Crucially, this two-clause Bill outlined that the same rules would apply as before, as if the case made by the two Poundland workers had never been brought forward.

This is of course objectionable on several grounds. It was retrospective in application, which as always been a cardinal principle of English law should be avoided. It set an appalling precedent that when the courts had struck down a law or regulation as having failed in due process, it could simply be overturned by Government without any proper regard being given to the court’s reasoning or argument for reform.

However, “A leaked email shows staff being warned by managers that they will be disciplined unless they increase the number of claimants referred to a tougher benefit regime.” The Guardian 

That’s something which has been persistently denied by Tory Ministers – but it is something which the Labour Party’s initiated review of sanctions will now strive to get to the bottom of. Well done Labour.

“This is why we took difficult decisions on the Jobseekers’ Bill to secure an independent review of sanctions. We knew there were sanctions targets and now we’ve secured an independent report to Parliament to put right a regime in Job Centres that’s running out of control.” Liam Byrne. 

Many Labour MPs – including front benchers – were aware of the whistle-blowing case before the vote, which was one of the main factors in the decision to abstain from voting.

Labour’s decision to abstain from voting on the Emergency Bill resulted in an unprecedented rage and knee-jerk responses from so many on the Left, and the situation was not helped by the fact that the media did not publish Labour’s press releases on the matter, the crass misrepresentation of Labour’s position on the Bill was considerable and widespread, with claims made that Labour “supported” the Government’s move.

The Government must have been laughing heartily at that one. Yet the situation was a difficult and complex one for the Labour Party, and I maintain that they made the best possible decision they could from where they were situated: between a rock and a very hard place. Well done Labour.

The Emergency bill reinstated the Department of Work and Pension’s power of sanction. Labour supports fair and proportionate sanctions in the context of a guaranteed six-month minimum-waged job. Labour’s position on sanctions is fundamentally different from the one currently held by the Coalition, and crucially, does not incorporate targets to remove benefits from vulnerable people for no good reason.

It was a no-win choice for Labour, with the Liberal Democrats and Tories combined in their vote, there was no way of making an impact or  stopping the Bill by voting anyway. The abstention came with negotiated and hard won concessions, and that was the best possible outcome that labour could secure. It’s important that we understand the complexities of the situation that arose in order to see this.

Ian Duncan Smith had let it be known that if the £130 million were to be repaid, Job Seekers Allowance would be reduced. The losses of the 230,000 already sanctioned were therefore pitched against potential losses for millions of other jobseekers.

That is an appalling prospect, and it was not a threat from Iain Duncan Smith that was widely publicised. It ought to be. It shows clearly that the Opposition are facing the same oppressive authoritarianism as we are.

The important concessions maintain and uphold the right of appeal for jobseekers, and will ensure an essential review of sanctioning practice happens. The review will serve as a guarantor to the Government having its abuses of the sanction system exposed. It wouldn’t have been highlighted otherwise, since review is the best opportunity for a party in opposition to challenge effectively, and demonstrate gross unfairness, and misapplication and administration regarding policies. Especially when the Government doing the maladministration is an authoritarian one. Well done Labour.

Whether or not this will reduce the angry and hysterical knee-jerk responses that many in the party feel and have articulated towards both Byrne and the Labour leadership remains to be seen, but the importance attached to the review of sanctions, and the other secured concessions certainly makes sense to me.

A vote would have been an empty and meaningless gesture, which, perhaps, may have appeased the Narxists, but with no presented opportunity to improve the lot of jobseekers. For me, looking after the interests of the most vulnerable citizens is paramount. Labour did the right thing here.

At least the review and the maintaining of the right to challenge sanctions have been a significant gain from a very difficult situation. Well done Labour, for prioritising content over style, for ensuring that your response was based on an in-depth analysis, and not on the quick and easy option of a populist, superficial ideal – an empty, meaningless gesture of voting, whilst knowing you would gain nothing. Well done Labour. For prioritising and supporting the rights of vulnerable jobseekers. Quite properly so.

Statement from Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensioners.

“Most people are against the very idea of a retrospective Bill, especially a Bill pushed through Parliament so fast. I agree. It’s a terrible idea to rush ahead on this. Retrospective legislation does happen from time to time. But the government is moving too fast. It’s taken four weeks to bring forward a Bill that the government wants to push through Parliament in days.

So that’s why we are voting for a motion in the Lords deploring the speed with which the government acted – and its why we’ve argued so hard to maximise the time we have to improve the Bill. But we should be clear about something. If the DWP loses its Supreme Court case in a few weeks time, it might find itself liable for £130 million. Where would that money come from? The Employment Minister Mark Hoban told the House yesterday that it could only come from further benefit cuts.

And here’s the choice I faced in the Commons. Do I do everything to foul up the timetable of the bill, safe in the knowledge that because we lack a majority, the Tories and Lib Dems would ultimately win any vote they liked, whenever they liked? At best this might have delayed the Bill a week or two. Or, do I let the Bill go through before Easter in return for two critical concessions which Labour MP’s actually can actually use in practice to help people over the next two years?

I think we made the right call.

To be honest, I was surprised that Iain Duncan Smith accepted the concessions I demanded. Had I wanted to grandstand I could have forced votes that delayed the timetable a bit. This would have been the small “p” politics of parliamentary legislation. It would certainly have been easier for whips to convince colleagues who were concerned. But even now, after all the fury, I think the most honest way was to gain a guaranteed concession and bank it. Labour are in opposition. We don’t normally get any concessions at all. But now we’ve got two vital changes.

First, we had to make sure that people hit by sanctions have an iron-clad right of appeal against a sanction decision. That’s the right we’ve now ensured is written onto the face of the Bill; it’s the right to appeal on ‘good cause’ (for example, refusing to take a pointless course which is inappropriate) within a 13 month timetable.

There’s something else at stake here. I actually think it’s impossible for anyone to stand in Parliament and say that not one single sanction issued by DWP since 2011 is unfair. We’re not psychic. How could we know? The key thing the DWP got wrong was their notification letters which were too short. Instead of saying:

“If you fail to take part in the [name of employment programme] without a good reason under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, your Jobseeker’s Allowance could stop for up to 26 weeks. You could also lose your National Insurance credits.”

They should have said:

“Under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, your Jobseeker’s Allowance could stop for up to 26 weeks if you fail, without good reason, to take part in [name of employment programme]. This would include failing to complete any activity that your Provider has required you to do.

  • Two weeks, for a first failure
  • Four weeks, if you have previously received a two-week sanction, whether in relation to your participation in the Work Programme or any other scheme set up under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, within the last 12 months; or
  • 26 weeks if you have previously received a four-week or 26-week sanction, whether in relation to your participation in the Work Programme or any other scheme set up under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011, within the last 12 months.

This was the lack of detail that provoked the Court of Appeal striking down the government’s sanctioning power. I don’t think we know whether every single sanction decision issued since 2011 is wrong. That’s why we need to ensure people hit by sanctions have the right of appeal – to protect the innocent – and that’s what we got guaranteed on the face of the bill.

Second, there’s something else. I’ve heard too many stories – not least from my own constituents – about people being wrongly sanctioned. And that’s why I insisted – and won – an independent review of the sanctions regime with an urgent report to Parliament. We need to use this to ruthlessly expose bad behaviour. It is actually one of the practical things we can do to make a difference over the next year.

The final argument about Labour’s stance on the Bill, is for many, the most emotive; it’s the wide anger about the very existence of ‘mandatory work activity.’ Labour’s view is that work experience can help get young people into work – but – and this is the crucial ‘but’, we strongly feel that young people should be given a real choice of a real job with a real wage. That means a tax on bankers’ bonuses to create a fund which we would spend offering over 100,000 young people a six month job, with training and job search paid at the national minimum wage. And that’s what we will vote for in the House of Lords over the next few days.

Not one Tory spoke on this Bill in the Commons. We’re different. Labour MP after Labour MP spoke in the Commons. We care about this – and we’re right to debate it with passion and vigour   When we stop being angry about this kind of issue will be the day that we lose our soul. But, let’s be under no illusion. Only by standing shoulder to shoulder will we ultimately push this terrible government into Opposition. We are Labour because we care and debate questions like this so passionately. We reject the politics of divide and rule. And we’ve learned the hard way that unity is strength.”

Liam Byrne.

“The Labour Party used the emergency legislation to ensure that all bad sanctioning decisions can be appealed and even more importantly, that the whole sanctioning regime is reviewed. We forced the Government to implement an independent inquiry into the sanctions regime as part of the Jobseekers Bill and voting against the Bill would have prevented this.

Labour is now gathering evidence to submit to that inquiry. If you have evidence of sanctions being handed out inappropriately I would be grateful to have them, so I can include them in Labour’s submission to the independent review.”

Jon Trickett, MP

Well done Labour.

Further reading:

Leaked jobcentre newsletter urges staff to improve on sanctions targets

Hodge demands explanation for DWP denial of jobcentre sanctions targets

Liam Byrne writes to IDS over sanctions whistleblower

 

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 Many thanks to Robert Livingstone, once again, for his brilliant art work

Anne McGuire: Everyone Counts, Everyone Matters

Anne McGuire MP

Thursday 6th June 2013

By Anne McGuire MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People

Governments love “strategies”. However, they not only have to develop them, but also ensure that they are delivered. In 2005, having established the Disability Rights Commission in 1999, the Labour Government produced “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People”, its groundbreaking disability strategy. It was different in three ways. Firstly, it was developed by disabled people working as full participants with the Strategy Unit in No 10. Secondly, it had a vision with a clearly defined roadmap which everybody bought into. And thirdly, it had clear and measurable milestones with named ministers specifically charged with its implementation and reporting annually to the Prime Minister on progress achieved.
The Coalition Government, after three years in power, has only recently published its “Fulfilling Potential” report, apparently a step on the road to producing its own strategy. The report states that: “A wide range of outcome measures show improvement from their baseline. There have been significant improvements in educational attainment, in the employment rate and a reduction in the employment rate gap. There have also been improvements in other factors contributing to quality of life, for example in access to transport and access to goods and services. Attitudes towards disabled people have also been improving in some cases.”
So why is it that I constantly hear disabled people saying that their world is going backwards; that they feel they are not valued; that they feel demonised in the tabloid media; and that they are now the victims of greater levels of hate crime? Why is it that the Joint Committee on Human Rights stated recently that: “There seems to be a significant risk of retrogression of independent living and a breach of the UK’s obligations [of the UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities].” Why are disabled people increasingly in the courts challenging government policy and not inside No 10 helping develop it?
Where is the disability strategy? What is it? “Fulfilling Potential”, as it stands, is little more than a research paper, often advising the reader of progress since 2005, without recognising that progress was made because the “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People” strategy was not just an analysis of the challenges but a roadmap to breaking down the barriers. Disabled people could plot the progress as it affected their lives. I wonder if the reluctance of the current government to commit to its own disability strategy is that they do not want to be held to account by disabled people?
Is it little wonder that disabled people feel disengaged and resentful at what is happening? I suspect that they have made up their own minds as to what the government’s strategy is. To them, it is one that sees a raft of changes in the benefits system without considering the cumulative impact on their lives – abolition of DLA, reductions in support for families with disabled children, the bedroom tax, cutbacks in social care and support, and a Work Programme that is not delivering for them. What kind of progressive strategy thinks that an equality duty is a burden on business, rather than an encouragement to break down barriers?
The UK used to be seen across the world as a beacon for the progress it had made towards equality for disabled people. Sadly, action speaks louder than words, and as Sir Bert Massie, former chair of the DRC, once said: “Many disabled people have been invited to look up to the stars…only to find the ground opening up beneath them.”
Further Reading:
Labour’s disability and  poverty taskforce set to target ‘fitness for work’ test
The UK Government is on the Wrong Side Of Human Rights
The Coming Tyranny and the Legal Aid Bill
What Labour achieved, lest we forget

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What the Labour Party achieved, lest we forget

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1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
2. Low mortgage rates.
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52 per hour.
4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.
9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
10. 3,700 rebuilt and significantly refurbished schools; including new and improved classrooms, laboratories and kitchens. 
11. 85,000 more nurses.
12. 32,000 more doctors.
13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.
15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.
16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.
17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.
18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
19. Restored city-wide government to London.
20. Record number of students in higher education.
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.
23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to £300 for over-80s.
25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.
28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. The Child Poverty Act – 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997: the shortest waiting times since NHS records began.
35. Banned fox hunting.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.
38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.
40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s and disabled people.
41. New Deal – helped over 1.8 million people into work.
42. Over 3 million child trust funds started.
43. Free eye test for over 60s.
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.
46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.
47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.
48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.
50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school. 
51. Gender Recognition Act 2004/5
52. Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
53. Walk-in Health Centres and GP out of hours Service.
54. Digital hearing aids, through the NHS.
55. Children’s Act 2004, 2008 – Every Child Matters.
56. Introduced Smoke–Free legislation, 2007 – child health improving continually since.
57. Retail Distribution Review – ending commission for financial advisers
58. Introduced legislation to make company ‘blacklisting’ unlawful.
59. The Equality Act.
60. Established the Disability Rights Commission in 1999.
61. The Human Rights Act.
62. Signed the European Social Chapter.
63. Launched £1.5 billion Housing Pledge of new affordable housing.
64. The Autism Act 2009.
65. New Deal for Communities Regeneration Programme.
66. All prescriptions free for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer.
67. Introduced vaccination to be offered to teenage girls to protect against cervical cancer.
68. Rough sleeping dropped by two thirds and homelessness at its lowest level since the early 1980s
69. 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act.
70. Increased Britain’s offshore wind capacity than any country in the world, to provide enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
71. Led the campaign to win the 2012 Olympics for London.
72. Introduced the first ever British Armed Forces and Veterans Day to honour past and present achievements of our armed forces.
73. Created a new right of pedestrian access, so that every family has equal opportunity to access the national coastline.
74. Led the campaign to agree a new international convention banning all cluster munitions.
75. Launched the Swimming Challenge Fund to support free swimming for over 60s and under 16s.
76. Sustainable Communities Actcreated community safety partnerships.
77. Set up a dedicated Department for International Development.
78. Cancelled approximately 100 per cent of debt for the world’s poorest countries.
79. Helped lift 3 million people out of poverty each year, globally.
80. Helped to get 40 million more children into school, globally.
81. Worked to ensure polio is on the verge of being eradicated, globally.
82. Ensured 3 million people are now able to access life-preserving drugs for HIV and AIDS.
83. Improved water/sanitation services for over 1.5 million people.
84. Launched a Governance and Transparency Fund to improve governance and increase accountability in poor countries.
85. The Neighbourhood Renewal programme – introduced funding for neighbourhood improvements.
86. The Extending Schools Program – included Breakfast and Homework clubs to improved levels of educational achievement and the longer term life chances of disadvantaged children.
87. Launched the Connexions  Service – provided valuable careers advice and support to young people seeking employment.
88. Introduced Working Family Tax credits to support low paid parents in work and to pay for childcare.
89. Introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
90. Established The Future Jobs Fund to provide all young people access to a job, training or education.
91. Introduced Warm Front –  helped 2.3 million vulnerable households, those in fuel poverty, with energy efficiency improvements.
92. Guaranteed paid holidays – introduced a law to ensure that everyone who works is entitled to a minimum paid holiday of 5.6 weeks,
93. Introduced the right to request flexible working.
94. Introduced improved work hours – introduced a law so employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours a week.
95. Protection against unfair dismissal – introduced protections for workers and increased the maximum compensation from £12,000 to around £63,000.
96. Introduced Rights for Part-time workers – the right to equal pay rates, pension rights, pro-rata holidays and sick pay.
97. Introduced the Right to breaks at work
98. Introduced the Right to representation  – every worker can be a member of a trade union and be represented in grievance and disciplinary hearings.
99. Rights for parents and carers – introduced the right to time off to deal with unexpected problems for their dependants, such as illness.
100. Introduced literacy and numeracy hours in schools and extended diversity to the curriculum.
101. Reduced class sizes to 30 for 5-7 year old children.
102. Introduced a public interest test, allowing governments to block international business takeovers on three specific grounds: media plurality, national security or financial stability.
103. Introduced the (anti-)Bribery Act 2010
104. Established the Standards Board for England under Labour’s Local Government Act 2000 for promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and code of conduct in local government.

105. Introduced the first ever Climate Change Act 2008.

544807_370332463014480_1710535589_nThanks to Rory Doona for this excellent graphic.


 This list was condensed from: Political Parties – NOT all as bad as each other

Some more sources here

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

See also: Labour’s animal welfare policies

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his valuable additions and for his brilliant pictures.