Archives for posts with tag: benefits


A letter a day to number 10. No 1,535

Saturday 27 August 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

Since 2010 we have seen the rise and rise of state cruelty. This isn’t about injustice, that’s normal, built into the system and has been from time immemorial.

In days of yore, brutal men would just grab any land they fancied, whether it was occupied or not, declare ownership of everything they’d possessed by force or were granted by yet other brutes, call themselves lords and barons, charge the people on the land for the privilege of being owned and expect their fealty and deferential servitude. Chivalry did not extend to ordinary people. So much, so history.

This modern cruelty started with Thatcher, she was bold, brutally breaking the miners and industry and setting the stage for neoliberalism and the cult of competitive individualism. She broke the workers but she dared not touch our NHS and the welfare state remained a safety net for those in need of a helping hand, although she presided over the end of the post war consensus of the universal provision of care.

The coalition under Cameron with the imposition of austerity saw the beginning of the end of the state as any sort of benign force for the good of the people and the speed of the implementation of the wanton destruction of the state spoke of plans long in the making and now the gloves were off.

The re-writing of social security as ‘benefits’ and the escalation of punitive policies and benefits denial against the most vulnerable, the development of Universal Credit as a system of scarcity and punishment, the rebranding of sickness and disability as ‘malingering’ and wholesale attacks on disabled people and the introduction of forced labour were driven by vindictive cruelty and contempt for the lives of ordinary people.

This is where we stand today and stand we must. There is no possible excuse for this cruelty in one of the worlds richest nations. The Telegraph reports that in 2014 ‘Blue chip bosses in the UK earnt an average of £4.96m’: obscene inequality is no accident of nature it is callously wilful. In your ‘coronation’ speech you said, “The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.” The time to prove that is passing swiftly and there is no evidence that any such change is likely or ever will be as Liz Truss announces that she will be scrapping the Human Rights Act.

We’re still scrapping the Human Rights Act, says Liz Truss



A letter a day to number 10. No 1,439

Friday 20 May 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I was very impressed at this little nugget that you threw into the Queen’s speech for the State Opening of Parliament, “… and to move to a higher wage and lower welfare economy where work is rewarded.”

It’s amazing, in all the commentary that has followed the Queen’s speech, not a word has been mentioned about pay being redefined by your government as a reward for labour, yet it is possibly the most egregious patronising insult contained in the speech.

Pay was once an entitlement in exchange for labour, but, of course, that’s something you have worked assiduously to bring to an end. The fundamental right to expect a decent rate of pay in exchange for the expenditure of our labour no longer applies in Tory Britain, that is what Workfare has stolen from workers. You have rewritten work as a state duty under threat of punitive sanctions, in which pay has been eradicated and is now merely a reward, if we’re lucky.

I don’t care how many times I have to say it, forced labour is a crime under the Human Rights Act! Yet under the DWP’s brutal and punitive regime this is now routine. The reward being that if you meekly obey you will get to keep the pittance reward of so called ‘benefits’. Even our pensions are called benefits, disregarding that they are an entitlement we have contributed towards all our working lives.

How you’ve stealthily slid us back into feudalism!

Priti Patel is promoting Brexit on the basis of halving the ‘burdens’ of the EU social and employment legislation, which exist to protect workers rights. Such inconveniences you refer to as ‘red tape’, which prevents businesses from being even more profitable at the expense of workers.

Your government is behaving like feudal overlords, patronising us as vassals of the state and rewarding us with a token keepsake if we’ve performed well whilst stealing all that we have so arduously laboured for. Small wonder the Trussell Trust reports that the number of working people needing emergency food parcels from food banks is increasing, citing  low wages, insecure work, high living costs and problems accessing working benefits. Weaponising money to use as a bargaining chip over people’s lives and calling it a reward is a crime against life.

Who let the cats out? Priti Patel suggests we could lose half our EU work rights after #Brexit

Foodbank use remains at record high

25_august_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,189

Tuesday 25 August 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

It seems that the DWP has issued Jobcentre staff with pink suicide cards to be waved above their heads when anyone threatens suicide. I have to commend Iain Duncan Smith on this initiative, it is an excellent idea whose time has come under his brutal benefits denial and sanctions regime.

I have taken the trouble of producing a pink notice that all people on benefits, for whatever reason, can print out and laminate, if they so wish, and carry with them at all times, but especially when they visit a Jobcentre where the very real risk of losing their only means of survival is a constant threat.

However, not content with finally acknowledging that the DWP represents a real threat to well being and life, Smith has decided that mental illness will no longer be considered a barrier to work, touchingly declaring, ‘Work is actually a health treatment in a sense. Those who are in work tend to be better and those who are out of work, on sickness benefit, tend to get their conditions worse’. If that is the case, how, then, do we explain Iain Duncan Smith, who is clearly someone who is chronically and pathologically mentally ill?

If work cured mental illness then perhaps Smith can explain why Winston Churchill said, ‘I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation is all that it takes’.

Perhaps Smith can explain why I had three nervous breakdowns whilst at work, even doing a job I cared passionately about and why I ended up in a Mental Health Hospital for three months. Everyone who knows me personally also knows that I have to constantly monitor my condition and take appropriate and assertive action to protect myself, because, of course, it’s a hidden condition, one that is not apparent just by looking at me. I will not be dictated to by a man whose ignorance is only matched by his arrogance and nor will I sit back and passively accept, in whatever time is left to me, that Iain Duncan Smith is intent on putting me and others like me in harms way.

11_july_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,144

Saturday 11 July 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

As I have daily observed and written about your unravelling of this country since March 2012 certain things stick in my mind. They go on what I call my back burner, the place where I put things that aren’t clear but seem important.

You Tories are fond of accusing people of the politics of envy. It’s an excellent get out of gaol free card to play whenever inequality or injustice come up absent of sense or sensibility, as Tory MP George Freeman demonstrated when he accused those who want to punish companies who aren’t paying the minimum wage as engaging in the ‘politics of envy’. The minor matter of breaking the law is something that you Tories do not consider a handicap. I wonder how much Iain Duncan Smith continues to cost the nation as he appeals against the high court ruling on his lawlessness in retrospective law making, which Mrs Justice Lang said “interfered with the right to a fair trial” of all the 228,000 people affected. Part of his dismal, whining, defence was that, repayments to benefits claimants would be “an undeserved windfall”.

George Osborne’s colourful and hateful turn of phrase in his 2012 conference speech about people “sleeping off a life on benefits” and David Freud with his even more hateful, “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks” as they have “the least to lose” demonstrate something rather odd. They reveal a searing envy, resentment and hatred of the poor for any and every comfort, relief or succour, even down to the food they undeservingly eat. People on benefits and in particular the most vulnerable are referred to by the DWP as ‘Stock’ as Smith announced to the House of Commons without a hint of shame. “Well, that is the term used – those are people who are on the benefit at present,” he said.

Osborne has scrapped University maintenance grants for lower income students in England and Wales from September 2016 claiming there was a ‘basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them’. This from a man who has never experienced a days want in his grasping, over privileged, life and who bought a paddock on expenses with taxpayer’s money. Unfair to help the poor? This is the politics of envy writ large and it’s as ugly as sin. Someone once said to me that they envied me receiving Disability Living Allowance and wished they could have my ‘benefits’, I said they were welcome to them, but they’d have to take the whole fucking deal which includes why I receive DLA at all. They didn’t sound quite so keen then.

Calling poor, sick and disabled people ‘Stock’ and treating them as such and jealously attacking them for any comfort or aid they may receive is what’s really sick, especially when it comes from people for whom privilege defines their every living moment! That’s the politics of envy, invented by the rich to justify oppressing the poor and forcibly keeping them in their place. It’s pure filth!


A letter a day to number 10. No 1,127

Wednesday 24 June 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Dear old Pob (you probably know him as Gove), he’s a little gem, isn’t he? To save him having to cut yet more from legal aid he’s decided that wealthy and successful law firms who’ve been creaming the legal system for years should be compelled to give up some of their rich rewards to provide us poor people with legal support. Thus he will end the “two-nation justice system where the wealthy access a ‘gold standard’ service others cannot afford.

The man is a bloody genius, those who cream the most from society should be made to pay the most back to society so that we can bring about social justice for all. Why oh why has no one ever thought of this before?

I can’t believe it, such a simple idea from, let’s face it, a simple man (be honest now, he’s not the brightest sparkler in the box) could solve all the social problems bedevilling society today.

I can see it all now, the future is bright, the future is Pob, or Saint Pob as the Pope will likely make him.

Iain Duncan Smith could introduce a workfair (because it’s only fair) programme for the banks for all those billions in benefits they’ve taken from hard working tax payers which would enable support for unemployed, sick and disabled people who have suffered from the austerity they are ultimately responsible for causing.

Businesses who’ve exploited workers for profit, paying the minimum wage, could be forced to pay a living wage and bring about the end of in-work benefits, which is exactly what you are trying to do but making such a complete pigs breakfast of.

You could apply this across all sorts of social problems and issues, George, instead of protecting tax dodgers, could make them pay their fair share of taxes, that sort of thing. It could become a whole new movement, but it’d need a name and Pobism doesn’t really cut it, so how about ‘Socialism’?

06_june_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,108

Saturday 06 June 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

George Osborne’s long term economic plan is to asset strip the nation, selling off our national shares and assets leaving us with nothing for the future.

Let’s just check the national debt that the £1.5 billion that Royal Mail is worth, and “the right thing to do” to sell, will help pay off. The national debt is approximately £1.36 trillion and the interest on that debt is, according to the Telegraph, £1 billion a week. If those figures are inaccurate it’ll be because they are too low because Osborne is a bit of a lad for borrowing and not telling us. He’s a smooth talker though, coming up with this, “For as everyone knows, when it comes to living within your means, the sooner you start the smoother the ride.” Easier said than done for George who is demonstrably incapable of any such thing and our shares of Royal Mail are worth one and a half weeks of interest on the national debt assuming this won’t be another discount sale for the city.

I am not quite sure how selling off our last remaining stake in Royal Mail or the £12 billion in welfare cuts is going to pay off the national debt or even the interest on the debt, perhaps George will write to the nation and let us know.

Selling off the family jewels is a time honoured tradition for families that fall on hard times, but, as every family knows, what’s required for proper recovery is income. In national terms income to the treasury is dependent on production (GDP), wages and spending power. Production is flat lining and wages are tumbling and whilst January saw a rise in tax revenues, Osborne’s return to brutal austerity will soon see that off. Britain needs growth but that’s the last thing on Osborne’s mind.

The Council of Europe warned in January 2014 that Britain’s benefits were inadequate and that we need to raise them to meet legal requirements that Britain is signed up to in Europe, which Iain Duncan Smith predictably dismissed as “lunacy”. However, given that benefits are recycled into the economy almost in their entirety, other than what is lost to tax havens through unscrupulous landlords, then they are a rich form of revenue return, where, say, PFI, privatisation and madcap borrowing to fund privatisation are total losses.

If Osborne had a long term economic plan then the last thing he’d be doing is selling the last of our stake in Royal Mail, our housing association properties at knock down prices and certainly not selling RBS by knocking £13 billion off the asking price, thus robbing tax payers. Asset stripping is not part of any long term plan for recovery, it’s the exact opposite, it’s a scorched earth policy with the poorest and most vulnerable people the first to go.

01_june_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,103

Monday 01 June 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service reveal that disability hate crime has risen 213% since 2007/08 and that’s just what gets reported, the reality will be much higher. It’s hardly surprising given the relentless assaults on poor and vulnerable people from government and the media since 2010.

It’s not just programmes like Benefits Street, though Iain Duncan Smith used what is now called Poverty Porn to justify his welfare reforms and his attacks on all those on benefits, including his sanctions regime, claiming, “Many people are shocked by what they see. The reality is that is why the public backs our welfare reform package, to get more people back to work, to end these abuses.”

Whilst benefit fraud is just a tiny 0.7% the propaganda and rhetoric being used against those on benefits is out of all proportion to the facts, fuelling and stoking hatred. George Osborne even used the murder of six children by Mick Philpott to suggest that benefits influenced such behaviour.

There is also an insidious hatred contained in your endlessly regurgitated message that Britain is for “hard working people” and that you are building an economy for “people who want to work hard and get on in life”. It’s the language of exclusion of anyone and everyone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t fit what are vacuous phrases, empty of definition or any real worth or meaning. It’s the language of a propagandist and, of course, it works as you well know.

The rise of vicious hate speech in the media and social media, epitomised by Katy Hopkins, is terrifying, not least that it is done with impunity; streams of hate like projectile vomiting.

As someone who is deeply involved in challenging this growing extremism it’s shocking that care, kindness and consideration are now revolutionary in thought, word and deed but its right that they should be. Injustice must be fought with justice, love for others must counter the hatred, helping hands must challenge the clenched fists, care and consideration must thwart the viciousness, and the rising tide of endlessly expressed ‘opinion’ must be challenged through thoughtful consideration and concern for fact, not fiction, especially the political fictions and propaganda that drive Tory policies of destruction. Hate will only tear this country apart. The future of this country will be decided by love not hate.

22_may_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,093

Friday 22 May 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

People still ask, ‘How could what happened in Nazi Germany have come about?’ Today, Britain is an object lesson in exactly how it came about.

The DWP has created our own ‘Untermensch’, a class of people treated as sub-human, people who are seen and treated as lesser creatures even than the worst criminals (who are at least housed and fed), vilified on national television and who can be attacked with impunity, without protection in law, without rights and who are being mercilessly persecuted.

I mean, of course, people on benefits, people who are sick, the terminally ill and people who are disabled who are being socially abandoned and deprived of the means of survival.

I was up all night watching as the votes were counted after the general election and I don’t think I have ever felt so desolate as it became clear that you were going to get a majority of seats. After a lifetimes battle with mental ill health, a personal war I fought every day working as a Community and Youth Worker and now, at 64, sickness retired, facing the very real possibility that I might not be permitted to survive another 5 years almost broke me.

Evidence from the PCS Union reveals that (some) Jobcentres are expected to reach targets of 80% sanctions and to get as many people off benefits as possible using provocation, intimidation and harassment with staff encouraged to use the “hassle factor” to “frustrate claimants off benefits”.

The worst cuts are yet to come with welfare as one of the primary targets and disability benefits firmly in the firing line.

Millions sacrificed their lives to prevent this country being invaded by Nazi Germany and yet this country has voted to allow George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith to vilify and target the most vulnerable people in society, to roll out their pogroms of cuts and sanctions that will deprive people of life. May they hang their heads in shame for such a callous disregard for life.

20_may_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,091

Wednesday 20 May 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

As a child of the post war era I recall it as a time of hope, of visits to the local newsagents to buy sweets, I don’t remember at what age, but certainly under 10 and free to roam over quite a large area on my own as long as I told my Mum where I was going. I remember paper rounds and Saturday jobs which were considered routine then, of spending tips on cigarettes after I started smoking at 10. As a young teen, having learnt to build bikes from scratch, skilfully cobbled together from whatever we could scavenge around the area, principally the local brook, I’d ride miles with my older brother to a nearby abandoned pit to enjoy the exhilaration and scares of the various tracks. Back then it was unthinkable to be escorted to school by a parent and such an affront to our child dignity would have been a source of unendurable shame.

I can recall when it all changed for me and one day in particular outside the pit in Cleadon, County Durham on a community and youth work placement. The lines were drawn, the militant forces of miners and police facing each other, the picket line and the forces sent to crush the strikers and the strike. A coach was approaching the picket line right in front of me, it’s windows covered with galvanised fencing (what I thought of, ironically, as pig wire) and striking miners hanging on striving to tear the fencing off to stop the strike breaking scabs and the Police striving to tear the strikers off.

I remember also the apocalyptic world as mines closed and entire towns and villages lost their way of life, stolen by Thatcher. I didn’t know it then, but we lost a whole lot more than the mines, the life of the nation was set on a path of change that has ultimately led to the present and the invasion that you Tories represent into every facet of our lives.

I could never have imagined that government would come to dominate the lives of the working class to absolutely and so disastrously, nor the lies and spin that would become a national narrative of hate and oppression for anyone on benefits and of care and support turned to malice against the poor and especially sick and disabled people.

It’s been a process of what is called mission creep, in which the invasion of Iraq played a huge part. Who could have imagined that the very actions that spawned the Nuremberg trials, leading to the international prohibition of wars of aggression and the subsequent hanging of the perpetrators, would ever be undertaken by one of Hitler’s foremost enemies, Britain, or that Blair and the rest of you would get away with it?

As you prepare to flush our human rights act down the toilet of history, where is the outcry? Is Britain finally broken apart from those who you regard as extremists?

21_april_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,065

Tuesday 21 April 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Margaret Thatcher called workers ‘the enemy within’ and went on to destroy industry in the UK as an act of class vengeance. The nation that birthed the Industrial Revolution was crushed by Thatcher and we have since turned into a consumer, service based nation and our manufacturing and industrial base is now mainly a thing of the past.

Class warfare has, under your government, come crashing centre stage again. When Andrew Marr questioned you about the impact of your policies and the hardship and deaths that have occurred because of them, you expressed no concern other than to justify your policies. The tens of thousands of deaths and suicides related to benefits seem to be regarded as acceptable collateral damage and unworthy of even mentioning, indeed the DWP made it very clear in 2013 that “there is no intention of releasing an updated version of these statistics” related to ‘Death of Recipients’.

When Marr asked you about foodbanks you said, ” One of the things we did was that Labour, because they didn’t like the PR of this, they didn’t advertise or promote the existence of food banks through job centres. We changed that because we thought that was, that was basically sort of selfish and shortminded…” You have no more promoted the existence of food banks than Labour did and yet under your government food bank usage has risen over 2000% and your selfish and shortminded answer was typical of the lies and spin you employ to evade any responsibility for the widespread social catastrophe in Britain today caused by your policies.

David Freud succinctly expressed your parties attitude to the poor when he said, “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks as they have the least to lose”. How cheaply he values our lives and so avidly prepared to throw them away. ‘Making work pay’, as your mantra goes, means reducing benefits to a level that denies people even the barest minimum to sustain life, as the Guardian put it, “Suicides highlight the grim toll of benefits sanctions in austerity Britain “. Evidence of the suffering poor was met with mockery and jeering by Tory MPs even in the House of Commons.

You may choose not answer questions and meet them with evasion, lies and spin, but you have a very, very great deal to answer for.