Archives for posts with tag: Benefit sanctions


Every time I see a headline like, ‘Government is failing disabled people’ or as in the Guardian, 1 April 2017, ‘This benefit cut will make youngsters homeless. It’s another Tory failure’, I am immediately stuck by an overwhelming sense of disbelief that either the media simply doesn’t get it, which is unlikely, or this is wilful perception management to keep us wrong footed or to deliberately deceive us.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the Tories are entirely comfortable with their policies and the effects they have and, indeed, lie through their teeth and spin endless nonsense despite overwhelming evidence of the harm their policies cause.

Whether it’s making work pay, the bedroom tax, sanctions, multiple attacks on disabled people, racist vans, bullshit jobs for bullshit pay, ending housing benefit for young people, no more top down reorganisation of our NHS, using European workers as bargaining chips, the junior doctors debacle, ending access to legal aid, denying the escalating numbers of suicides, the housing crisis, mass deportations, privatisation of the state, selling off state assets at knock down prices, cuts, caps, raising VAT, abandoning care for the elderly and raising pension age, tax cuts for the rich, austerity for the poor (and that is just the short list), the Tories are entirely comfortable with it all, their policies are working exactly as intended. They are not failing, they are succeeding.

Anyone who says they are failing, especially journalists, is misinformed (as much of the public is), an idiot or fully complicit in this mass deception.

This is not about cognitive dissonance, ‘the mental stress (discomfort) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values’, this is perception management on a grand scale.

How many deaths would it take to give any reasonable organisation cause to examine its policies or even just acknowledge that there might be a problem? Since 2010, tens of thousands of people have died or committed suicide and the government is not only not interested but denies there is even a problem. Damian Green took over from Iain Duncan Smith in July 2016 and has not only continued with the punitive regime put in place by Smith, but has escalated the attacks on poor and vulnerable people and claims the benefits cap, ‘costing almost 90,000 of Britain’s poorest families more than £2,000 a year, is a “real success”.

And he’s right. It is a massive Tory success. Poverty is rising and persistent poverty for children has consistently risen since 2010 and food bank usage under the Tories has gone through the roof, leading Chris Mould to state that the DWP regards people driven to food banks as “collateral damage”. Iain Duncan Smith, far from doing anything about the situation, accused the Trussell Trust of scare mongering and he and Lord Freud have consistently refused to meet with the Trussell Trust.

Why would they meet with the Trussell Trust? The system was designed by Smith and Freud, and it is doing exactly as intended, to penalise and hound people to death. Dr David Webster, writing on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies web site, called Benefit Sanctions, ‘Britain’s secret penal system’, which imposes more and harsher fines than the entire British court system.

What does it take to call a spade a spade?

To even begin to understand the Tories we have to see them as they see themselves and report accordingly, as a towering success. Their policies are not ill informed or hastily come by, they are well planned and enormous amounts of time have been spent formulating them. The Welfare Reform Act 2012, introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud, and the unfolding misery it has given rise to, was not written in a day, or hastily, it was long in the making almost certainly predating the 2010 general election. It’s 350 sections and 187 pages were meticulously written and is a huge success story for the Tories.

Reporting any of this as failing or failure, is to entirely misreport the reality of Tory success. They are not failing disabled people or young people or anyone else, they are successfully implementing policies which they fully intended would cause pain and suffering on the grand scale we see to this day.

Alex Brooker on the Last Leg rightly called Tory disability cuts, “disabled genocide” and if you have a terminal illness but are expected to live longer than six months you do not qualify for extra support. So yes in real terms the government is failing ordinary people, but they are doing so wilfully and knowingly and mocking us in the process and consider their policies entirely successful.

The mainstream media headlines should reflect the reality of the situation, and hit hard and true. That they do not is to entirely fail to understand what is going on or to wilfully mislead.

Given the cost in lives for their failure to present the facts and the reality of the situation, then they are culpable in this unfolding catastrophe in the lives of millions of people in Britain today. Too much of the corporate media is engaged in perception management for self serving reasons and given the proliferation (thankfully) of independent media, bloggers and writers, it falls to us, ordinary people, to hold them to account and to call a spade a spade. The Tories have blood on their hands and it bothers them not one jot.

KOG. 02 April 2017



A letter a day to number 10. No 1,507

Saturday 30 July 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

In the relentless campaign against the lives of ordinary people, welfare reforms, loss of legal aid, punitive benefit sanctions and cuts, loss of employment rights, the privatisation of our NHS, housing insecurity/no more lifelong tenancies, and so on, people are being denied dignity and respect as well as the most basic means of survival.

Why in the world any government would turn on and attack the modest lives of the people is senseless. David Cameron offered himself as the leader of an “aspiration nation”, insisting his goal was to spread privilege. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but the point is the implicit sneer at modestly lived lives by people of modest intent, or low expectations as Cameron described them.

A modest desire is a fair days work for a fair days pay, under Tory misrule that is now an unattainable desire for millions of ordinary people. Regular meals and food on the table is now unattainable for millions of people. Thousands of disabled people have been and continue to be denied even a modest means of transport.

I do not want to live a privileged life, whatever that is supposed to mean, I never have and I never will. It may mean nothing to you, but enough is as good as a banquet. That isn’t a low expectation, it means moderation is more satisfying than excess.

It is true that consumerism has been aggressively promoted as a way of life and sadly many have been snared into such a life. You’ll have to forgive me that I see no appeal in it, it just looks like an endless treadmill of unsatisfied expectation and desire and a one way street into debt to me. I threw my television out nearly fifteen years ago because I got fed up with endless adverts being pumped into my living space. Commercial television is richly rewarded for advertising, yet charge people for the platform which throws adverts at them. That’s a brilliant scam, beam adverts into people’s lives and encourage them to buy, buy, buy, and charge them for the privilege? Wow, good one, that’s having your cake and eating everybody else’s as well. Profit is god!

Living modestly is actually the only sustainable future for everyone. Endless growth is impossible in a closed system, resources can and will run out. The planet cannot cope and even now the damage done may not be reversible. The only possible future is a sustainable one and that future cannot contain the current corporate greed. It isn’t a case of should not, as some kind of moral choice, it is an absolute “cannot”. Attacking the lives of those who live modestly whilst allowing the ‘free markets’ to do as they like is bass ackwards. Living modestly, as much as you may hate the very idea of it, is the only sensible solution if we are to have any future at all. Greater equality means survival where the current extremes of inequality and rampant corporate greed for resources and profits can only lead to an extinction event. Take a long hard look, the world is groaning in agony.

17_february_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,345

Wednesday 17 February 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I’m fascinated by the upcoming referendum on Europe and all the shenanigans that must go on as you negotiate the terms for our continued membership or our exercising the nuclear option to launch the dread Brexit.

In my better moments I wonder if anyone in Britain has any idea what Europe is all about with a kind of vague curiosity of the type that makes me feel slightly guilty because I don’t have any idea.

In my more lackadaisical and whimsical moments I gaze out at the Somerset hills and the capering worms which, unlike in cities, can emerge for air freely without smashing their little heads on concrete and realise that Europe has got nothing to do with me, my hopes, dreams and aspirations.

You’ve promised us an EU referendum as if you’ve given us something really important, something that matters, something terribly vital without a single consultation or any transparent information about what the hell it’s all about. Instead you clear off over there and that’s the last we hear of you or from you, until you emerge and tell us that you’ve swung a better deal for Britain and had little Merkel in a head lock and scrubbed her tousled little head with your knuckles and forced her to compromise for Great Britain’s vital interests.

Meaningful referendums, or referenda perhaps, would be on benefit sanctions, the privatisation of our NHS and health insurance, student grants, the imposition of ideological austerity, ending the Independent Living Fund, depriving disabled people of Motability, welfare reforms and the car crash of Universal Credit which at every stage of its hideous roll out has spread, and will continue to do so as intended, chaos and despair.

Once upon a time the EU was the Common Market and that was much easier, the clue being in the name, a conglomerate of nations trading with one another without those niggling trade tariffs and all that nationalism stuff. Now it’s a faceless entity lacking any identity and subject to tens of thousands of lobbyists looking out for their own self serving interests. Nationalism gives way to corporatism, ultimately leading to TTIP, negotiated behind closed doors, with no public consultation what so ever, and selling out the last vague vestiges of democracy and national sovereignty. Where’s the referendum on that?

Am I really fascinated by the referendum or the EU? No, not really, it’s more like the kind of fascination a rabbit might feel in being caught in the oncoming glare of headlights, waiting for the final car crash of neoliberalism and the inevitable implosion of capitalism. My sympathies are with the rabbit whose last abruptly ended thought might have been, ‘I should have stayed in my burrow and sealed the entrance’.

30_december_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,301

Wednesday 30 December 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Now that you’ve taken advantage of the floods for a photo opportunity and to point at things perhaps you’d like to take the opportunity explain why flood defence spending has been cut year on year since 2010 and why a report by the Committee on Climate Change which recommended you ‘develop a strategy to address the increasing number of homes in areas of high flood risk’ was rejected?

In January 2014 George Monbiot raised the issue of the disastrous consequences of stripping upland areas, saying that this has been known to the British government for decades. A study undertaken in Pontbren found that in reforested uplands rainwater ‘sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass’. He also pointed out that instead of encouraging farmers to protect such areas they are being paid to strip them and farm them, with inevitable consequences downstream.

Back in 2012 in defending cuts in flood defences a spokeswoman for Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, said, ‘Labour left us with a massive debt problem, spending £120m every day (currently in excess of £143m every day) just paying the interest on the debt – very difficult decisions have had to be made regarding where to cut spending’. This is a grand use of spin, Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow environment secretary warned, ‘ flooding is the biggest threat the country faces’. I am not sure I agree with her on that, your government is. However, to spin the banking crisis as Labours fault and therefore to pretty much put the blame for cuts in flood defences on Labour is just playing politics with people’s lives and is utterly despicable and unforgivable.

There is a further matter that needs addressing urgently. Plaid Cymru put in a Freedom Of Information request, ‘whether exemptions would apply to the policy of applying benefit sanctions against unemployed people who fail to attend Jobcentre appointments due to poor weather conditions (such as snow), or other unforeseen circumstances’. In response the ‘DWP confirmed that poor weather was not taken into account when deciding whether a benefit claimant should be sanctioned, but that the final decision is always left to the discretion of individual Jobcentre managers’.

The brutality of the DWP sanctions regime is now infamous and Jobcentre staff are under enormous pressure to sanction people as the Guardian reported, ‘a Jobcentre whistleblower alleged that the entire staff at one Jobcentre were threatened with disciplinary measures if they failed to get enough unemployed people off benefits, or referred sufficient numbers of them for benefit sanctions’. I wonder how long will it be before the reports start coming in that people who have lost their homes through flooding are also being deprived of any means of survival?

21_june_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,124

Sunday 21 June 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

With up to 250,000 marching in London yesterday and some thousands in Glasgow, plus unknown numbers online helping to spread the word, austerity is an ideological choice opposed by many of the worlds leading economists.

With an underwhelming majority of 12 seats elected by less than 25% of the electorate that is hardly a democratic mandate to simply ignore the desperate plight of millions of people across the UK.

Osborne is not paying down the debt, in fact he has borrowed more in four years than Labour borrowed over 13 years. The reality of your austerity is a shock tactic under which you are selling off and privatising the state and destroying the system of social security which is needed all the more, precisely because of your permanent austerity.

NHS regulators are to take control of health services in three entire regions of England, Essex, North Cumbria and Northern, Eastern and Western Devon. This is not because of failures in those who work hard every day to keep the NHS running. The NHS is being starved to death by Jeremy Hunt, who, in the book he co-authored called “Direct Democracy” wrote, “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain.” He also mocked the NHS saying, “The NHS is one among many institutions that make up the quango state.”

This is the man in charge of our NHS, is it any wonder that through stealth, deception and misdirection, he is doing exactly what he set out in the book, under the false ideology of austerity?

And therein lies the fundamental problem with you Tories, you play the nation false. No lie too big and no betrayal too small. You would sell your own mothers if you could turn a profit from it. You have no allegiance to this nation, it’s all just a means to an end, and that end means the fundamental betrayal an entire nation for your own ideological agenda.

That is why so many people were marching yesterday and that is why we must all keep on marching in whatever way we can, in whatever way we are able, to oppose you. Debbie Abrahams MP said, when she interrupted Iain Duncan Smith at a Department of Work and Pensions Select Committee on benefit sanctions, “People are dying because of these sanctions.” That is the price we are paying for austerity.

23_march_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,037

Monday 23 March 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

There are wide spread reports of the indiscriminate use of benefit sanctions and revelations that at the heart of the benefits system is the desire to punish benefit claimants. Despite the constant denials by the DWP the overwhelming evidence is that such denials are wilfully false and that what the DWP call ‘support’ is, in Mark Hoban’s words, “why we’re introducing this intensive and uncompromising regime” and the DWP is “stepping up the pressure on claimants”.

A sanction means that benefits are stopped, thus denying claimants the means of survival, a sentence no court in the land would ever dish out and yet benefit claimants are subject to such sanctions without trial or representation.

Article 3 of the human rights act stipulates – Prohibition of torture. No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Liberty offers the following explanations: “The prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is one of the most important provisions in the Human Rights Act.

It is an absolute right – in no circumstances will it ever be justifiable to torture someone.

Inhuman acts will amount to torture when used to deliberately cause serious and cruel suffering.

Treatment will be considered inhuman when it causes intense physical or mental suffering.

Treatment or punishment will be degrading if it humiliates and debases a person beyond that which is usual from punishment.

The most obvious obligation prevents State officials from torturing a person or subjecting them to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

It should not need pointing out, but clearly does, that torture is not ameliorated by the spurious definitions of the torturer, it is prosecuted via the experience of the victims. The DWP can claim whatever they like; that their ‘support’ through “stepping up the pressure on claimants” is all sweetness and light and is done for the benefit of claimants; what matters is the experience of the victims of the DWP’s “uncompromising regime” and that people are dying as a result.

This is not a matter for debate, Mr Cameron, which you are so anxious to avoid, it’s a matter of ‘Fact’, which is again something that you and your government studiously avoid.

20_february_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,006

Friday 20 February 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I have been wading through the Oral evidence from Esther McVey and Chris Hayes: Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, HC 814 – Wednesday 4 February 2015.

First off let me say that I experienced London pea soupers in the 50’s and 60’s, fogs in which you could not see your hand in front of your face. Reading the transcript was a remarkably similar experience except the fog was a relentless onslaught of verbal diarrhoea from McVey. Chris Hayes isn’t close to being in the same league as McVey, but he didn’t really help the process in any way. To be honest I think Hayes could have safely been substituted with a nodding dog and no one any the wiser but McVey presented a virtuoso performance in wilful deception, filibuster and prevarication.

McVey explicitly acknowledges that many, if not most, of the people sanctioned are the most fragile and the most vulnerable, but refuses to acknowledge that every aspect of the special measures, or extra support, she imposes is punitive. She also wilfully confuses financial support with conditionality support, or contractual obligations to attend supposed training for work. She claims that additional financial support immediately kicks in for the most vulnerable yet admits that this amounts to 60% of benefits and that’s it, no other extra financial support is available. McVey is indifferent to any hardship suffered, regarding hardship as an incentive to meet contractual obligations and to find work.

Chris Hayes does have something to say about the 60% hardship payments, “It is important in a conditionality system to have a credible benefit reduction to ensure that people comply.” In other words, forced labour in taking part in the Jobcentre Plus regime.

Asked whether she had done any impact assessments McVey blustered her way through findings in Europe but it quickly became clear that she had undertaken no such assessments in the UK and refused to address the impact of sanctions in the UK despite repeatedly being asked to address the question.

McVeys entire approach is to strip people of choice and human dignity and to force them into compliance, and, as she admitted, this is for the most vulnerable and fragile people. Of course MvVey is protected by parliamentary privilege and protocols, frankly I think that is all that protected her from Glenda Jackson, if no one else, decking her. Certainly no such protections exist for her victims.