Archives for posts with tag: DWP

brexita

Trying to fathom the Tory strategy over Brexit is not dissimilar to trying to work out where you were and where you were going in one of London’s infamous smogs in years past in which, sometimes, you were unable to see your hand in front of your face. I well remember being completely disoriented, not really knowing where I was, in which direction I needed to be going, and even whether I was on the pavement or road. I recall one occasion in which I had managed to get myself onto a grass covered roundabout near my home, which we frequently crossed, so that I knew exactly where I was, but still had no idea of the direction I needed to head in if I left it’s 360° sanctuary and had to face the fact that I was completely disoriented and utterly lost on what I would normally regard as familiar ground.

That is exactly how I ‘feel’ about Brexit, the difference being that what is creating these feelings of disorientation and confusion is one of intent, even the smogs were ‘man’ made, so too is what I regard as the omnishambles of Brexit, and my argument here is that whereas the smogs were an unintended consequence of human actions, the apparent shambles of Brexit is driven by intent.

Let’s begin with a very eloquent axiomatic description of the Tories by the Guardians Jonathan Freedland, “the Conservative party has a will to power so strong, it will subordinate every other consideration, principle or interest to obtain and keep it. It’s this that has made the Tories arguably the most successful political party in the democratic world over the course of nearly two centuries.”

Nothing could be clearer, since Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party, than her subordination of any and every moral, ethical, social or political principle to her one over riding ambition, which is, to retain power. Seen in that light, everything she has done makes perfect sense even whilst being seemingly incomprehensible to our moral and ethical sensibilities. The error then is ours, not hers, our confusion is in not seeing or understanding where she’s coming from, in which she is entirely consistent. I do think she misjudged and has stumbled over the degree and intensity of the opposition to the travesty of her misrule, an opposition which is confusing and, indeed, incomprehensible to the arrogant self belief, paternalism and self serving greed of conservative ideology.

However, there is a second set of principles which apply at this particular juncture in history, which is the global neoliberal agenda which I will sum up here as, the subordination of every moral, ethical, social or political principle to the unconstrained greed of free market economics and the global transfer of wealth and resources from the vast majority into the hands of a tiny wealthy elite. In the light of that neoliberal world view, a hard Brexit which avoids all the tedious intricacies of negotiation in pursuit of the what is in the best interests of Britain in general is highly desirable, giving the Tories a free hand in their pursuit of power in the UK and the sacrifice of the interests and well being of ordinary people. Their policies have been consistent since 2010 when they launched their economic war against ordinary people, and the poorest and most vulnerable people in particular, and the countless deaths that have been the inevitable result and about which they care nothing, not even acknowledging those deaths as collateral damage.

From this writers point of view the most significant part of the Health and Social Care Act, 2012, ‘marked the end of a National Health Service in England that for more than sixty years served as one of the most successful models in the world, widely praised and copied’. The Act also ‘ended the Secretary of State’s duty to secure or provide health services throughout the country, a duty that had been in force since 1948’. The purpose of the Act was and remains the theft and privatisation of our most revered national treasure, the National Health Service, by stealth, and about which Jeremy Hunt and the Department of Health, with mealy mouthed deceit, assure us that, ‘The NHS will remain a taxpayer-funded system free at the point of use’. We can bet the shirts off our backs that it will remain taxpayer-funded, but that does not mean tax payer owned. The Tories are dedicated to asset stripping the nation and the transfer of public taxation (wealth) into private hands and ‘free at the point of use’ is a meaningless statement which only means that we will not, if we can stretch our credulity to believe even this much of the Tory plan, be expected to pay at the time of use, which would also cover a privatised insurance based system. The danger of the Tory party is in taking anything they say at face value and they get away with telling the most egregious lies because that’s precisely what far too many people do and who, in utterly naive, docile servitude, vote for them.

It is now no secret that our system of social security has been turned into a vicious and brutal clandestine penal system with financial penalties (fines) rivalling those of the entire UK judicial court system. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been corrupted in its entirety by Tory ill will and private financial interests, even allowing a US insurance giant, UNUM (discredited, prosecuted and heavily fined in the US) to play a major part in the planning of the bogus ‘fit for work’ programme, which is now a system of widespread despair and death by intent. The government don’t even bother to collect data on the astronomic rise in food banks and their usage about which I stand with Mike Sivier over at Vox Political in being entirely unsurprised, and, even if they did, I would expect, as a matter of course, for the figures to be highly manipulated and falsified. That is, after all, the Tory way.

Taking what we know of the policies of the Conservative party, which are punitive by design against the lives and well being of ordinary people, then a hard Brexit is all about serving the objectives of punishing and impoverishing ordinary people and giving the Tories a free hand to do just that. The restrictions on the free movement of people will in no way restrict the free movement of the financial markets to abandon Britain for richer pickings elsewhere, or to exploit Britain for profit and as a haven for opportunistic tax avoidance and evasion whether in Britain or via its crown dependencies.

Whatever advantages leaving the EU might have for ordinary people, they will never be realised under the Tories, for them, Brexit is a neoliberal wet dream which will, if the Tories are allowed to have their way, mark the end of human rights in Britain and be an economic disaster for the vast majority of people whilst being an economic boom for free market, private, interests in pursuit of which there will be few, if any, restrictions. Brexit is described by Barnabas Reynolds, a partner at Shearman & Stearling, as a ‘win-win opportunity for the City of London’. You betcha.

And last, but by no means least, in this brief exploration of Tory abuse and deception in this disunited kingdom under the Tories bogus austerity and Brexit, is the myth that the Conservatives are the party of fiscal and socially responsible and Labour as the party of social irresponsibility, profligacy and waste, when the exact opposite is true. Labour have always borrowed less than the Tories and have always paid back more. It was labour who rebuilt Britain after the WWII, which included the founding of the NHS, the welfare state and Britain’s revolutionary social housing programme. The post war consensus which started in 1945 under the leadership of Labour’s Clement Atlee, was an uneasy consensus drawing the reluctant Tories along with it, which Margaret Thatcher finally killed off in 1979. Concern for the cares and well being of ordinary people has never been high on the Tory agenda and without the Labour party we’d all be worse off and nothing more than wage slaves living lives in even greater want and deprivation, which Harry Leslie Smith remembers with such stark clarity and to which the present Tories are at such pains to drive us back to. The Tory myth is a product of its own propaganda and a sympathetic right wing media which beats the propaganda home with relentless force and continues to do so, which is why working class Tory voters are aptly likened to gullible turkeys voting for Christmas.

The Tories have always been the party of self serving greed and their seeming failure over Brexit is, in reality, a treacherous opportunity for the grasping few at the expense of the many, which why Jacob Rees-Mogg, venal champion of privilege, paternalism, anti-abortion and Victorian stiff upper lipped male supremacy, is also such a vocal champion of a hard Brexit and the oppression of ordinary people. His claim that ‘hard Brexit would boost UK by £135bn over five years’ is, in reality a boost, if it is even remotely true, for the free markets and the financial sector, the people of Britain and the real economy would see little or no direct benefit.

The bottom line is – Never trust a Tory. The Tories handling of Brexit is not in any way accidental or unintentional, it is entirely consistent with their historic role in British politics.

KOG. 09 December 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/06/tories-destroying-themselves-hard-brexit

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/tory-austerity-deaths-study-report-people-die-social-care-government-policy-a8057306.html

http://www.nhsforsale.info/database/impact-database/is-the-nhs-less-accountable/Sec-of-State-for-Health.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/08/stephen-hawking-lawsuit-foiling-jeremy-hunt-nhs-shake-up

http://truepublica.org.uk/united-kingdom/fastest-asset-stripping-uk-ever-economic-policies-fail-deliver/

https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/benefit-sanctions-britains-secret-penal-system

https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/first_unum/unum-lawsuit-insurance-disability-claims-17-19749.html

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/09/tories-deliberately-refuse-to-record-the-effects-of-their-cruelty-to-the-poor-it-is-surprising-that-this-still-shocks-people/

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/09/08/brexit-is-a-win-win-opportunity-for-the-city-of-london/

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2016/03/13/the-conservatives-have-been-the-biggest-borrowers-over-the-last-70-years/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/ng-interactive/2015/apr/29/the-austerity-delusion

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/14/jacob-rees-mogg-hard-brexit-would-boost-uk-by-135bn-over-5-years

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bankers

The wealth generated by robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be owned by the companies which exploit it, exactly the same model which has exploited human workers since the Industrial Revolution.

We have been sold a myth that robots will free us from work and provide us with more leisure time. The reality is that robots make human workers redundant who are then excluded from the only, traditional, way we have of generating any income at all. There is no hint coming from government or business that the current polarisation and privatisation of worker generated wealth will be addressed, which robotics will only exacerbate. Talk of a universal guaranteed income is still a fringe issue and so far does not appear to be being considered or discussed by government. Inequality, poverty and social exclusion have rocketed under the Tories, the notion of the poor sharing in a ‘common’ wealth would never occur to them. The very idea that the poor have a right to live is one that is repugnant to the Tories, they are, after all, the party which wants to scrap the human rights act and replace it with a bill that tells us what our duties are, although this has been quietly shelved until after Brexit when they look forward to doing whatever they like.

To be clear, the problem isn’t technology, AI or robotics, the problem is how wealth is, or, more correctly, is not, being shared and the structure and meaning of work itself.

It is a common idea that we, people, work to live but it has never been clearer than under the present regime that the view from the top is that we live to work, which is exactly what is behind the Tories striver/scrounger rhetoric and the demonisation of anyone needing social security in order to live and the present culture of depriving people of the means of survival in order to force them into any bullshit job regardless of whether it actually pays people enough to live on. Once in whatever precarious, insecure, employment people are forced into, if their income is inadequate to live on, the DWP will hound and sanction workers to take on extra work or jobs and force them into attending ritualised bullshit courses in job seeking.

The government knows exactly how the job market operates and is intimately aware that work is becoming ever more precarious because they are instrumental in making it so, whether by commission or omission. Zero hours contracts and the enormous rise in self employment supports the ‘Gig economy’ which Damian Green thinks so much of. Green described escalating job insecurity with no ‘stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay, or pensions’ as ‘exciting’, but the lived reality of which is clearly not something he’ll ever have to bother his little head about.

In the growing world of robotics the reality is that machines are better treated than workers due to ownership. Companies must ensure that the maintenance and care for robotics is adequate for continued trouble free operation, not so workers, who, once they leave their place of work, are left to their own devices regardless that they may not be being paid enough for their own maintenance and care. Technology can be replaced with impunity, it has no rights, scrapped or recycled, it’s just technology. Workers thrown on the human scrap heap are demonised for not trying hard enough to stay in work or finding new work when the entire structure of work is loaded against them by design and policy.

Workers generally are participants in wealth creation and are the engine that drives profits but are excluded from participating in the wealth they create because the fruits of labour and the wealth labour generates is privatised and ‘belongs’ to the company or business employees work for. Whatever rights and protections workers may or may not have at work they have never included a just share in the wealth they generate, whilst there is legislation for the insult that is the minimum wage (which is not even enough to live on), it is being systematically undermined in the Gig economy which is driven by corporate greed.

In the world of work, technology and robotics is a gift to any business which can use it to replace human workers, who they can discard with impunity. The company can continue to generate wealth for itself and even increase it through the exploitation of technology, whilst human kind become redundant as a viable source of labour on which they are forced to depend, with nothing to fill the vacuum left by technology which serves to deprive workers of even the meanest survival.

If ever there was a time to revolutionise the entire meaning of work and humanity, this is it. If work is increasingly becoming redundant for millions of workers the answer is not to punish people and drive them into penury and death through starvation or despair and suicide. The question ceases to be whether there are enough jobs to go round but is there enough wealth? Should we not all become share holders in unearned wealth, a situation currently exclusive to company share holders and stock market casinos? The entire world should be our common home and it’s resources common to all not the exclusive property of corporations. But first we need a revolution in thinking. We have become hide bound in our ideas of the nature of work, and exploitation, accepting it as just the way things are when clearly work is no longer an adequate means of securing our survival.

Profit is such an easy word for the exploitative use and abuse of the labour which creates it, whether human or machine. Britain is lauded as one of the richest nations on earth, but the wealth of the nation is in the hands of a very few people and from which the vast majority are excluded, presently and historically. Profits are and always have been put before people, the very people who create it, and it is completely bass ackwards. It may seem a silly, even, crazy question but it needs to be asked, which is more important, people or money? Life or wealth? If wealth does not support life, what is it good for? Hoarding in tax havens? Polarised and gathered for the benefit of the few whilst the many are simply excluded and abandoned? Because that is the current situation and which the Tory government is dedicated to maintaining in a ‘free market’, which is anything but free for the majority of real, actual, living people.

Sanctioning the poor is simply insane, we should be doing the currently unthinkable, sanctioning wealth. The corruption in government is that it allows the wealth takers to dictate policy in which inequality and poverty are entirely beneficial to the interests of those for whom the accumulation of wealth is their only interest along with the privileged living it enables and the continued exploitation of the poor as servants to power and privilege. Killing us off may be expedient, something the Tories have a very casual attitude towards, but it is bestially immoral in practice. The reality of the accumulation of obscene wealth is that it is a crime against humanity, a crime against life and the lives, past and present, of those who actually slog their guts out to generate it.

Those who exploit the planet and life are complicit in genocide. According to Poverty.com, “It is estimated that a person dies of hunger or hunger-related causes every ten seconds… Sadly, it is children who die most often.” That is 8,640 people a day (minimum) or 3,153,600 a year. Hunger is not an individual or even a community human failing, it is always a sociopolitical failing. People are abandoned to death in a world of plenty from which we, ordinary people, are being increasingly excluded.

The Tories are entwined in unholy matrimony to obscene wealth and are complicit in death though poverty every day. Yes, even globally. They are incapable of reform or thinking any other way and that is why the only solution is to continue to work to expose them and rid ourselves of them. Poverty is good for ‘business’ and the Tories are in the business of creating more poverty and punishing the poor and further depriving us all of the means of survival. Their existence is a stain on humanity and they deserve no better from us than we get from them, a big ‘Fuck off!’

KOG.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/01/may-day-report-by-mps-damns-growing-uk-gig-economy

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-gig-economy-damian-green-speech-holiday-minimum-wage-sick-pay-hours-a7421071.html

http://www.poverty.com/

osborne maya

Rape is infamously and notoriously difficult to prosecute and that’s if it even gets that far. According to the Crime Survey which is conducted for the Office for National Statistics, ‘on average 85,000 women are raped every year and 400,000 are sexually assaulted. But a mere 15,000 rapes are actually reported. Of those, only a fifth come to court. And in just a little over a thousand of them is there a conviction. This is not, contrary to myth, because of time-wasting or false allegations. An investigation two years ago by the CPS and Home Office concluded they were extremely unusual: of every 161 rape prosecutions, there was just one related to a false allegation’.

A Guardian Opinion piece reported, ‘Successful prosecutions for rape and sexual assault are extremely difficult to deliver. For a start, the victim, frightened and diminished by the experience, has to have the confidence to come forward. Then the police have to believe the victim, and there has to be enough evidence for the Crown Prosecution Service to judge there’s a good chance of conviction. And then, when the case finally comes to trial, the jury must be convinced by the prosecution in a case that often comes down to one person’s word against another. No surprises then that more than one case in three (of the small proportion of attacks that actually get to court) fails at the end’.

This is how it is and that does not even begin to describe the intensity of the personal trauma which rape victims suffer for life.

It is in this atmosphere of profound trauma and the intense difficulty and the intimate invasion of even reporting a rape, let alone prosecuting, that the DWP has set about its latest punitive welfare reform, denying child support for a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017, for which one of the exemptions is a child conceived without the mothers consent, including rape. I am not sure why the government are making a distinction between ‘without the mothers consent’ and rape, and wonder under what circumstances, in their putrid minds, a lack of consent could mean anything other than rape, including being in a coercive relationship?

I cannot help be reminded of the following: “The first Poll tax of 1377 was levied at 4 pence on every person in England over 14. The second, levied two years later in 1379, was on a sliding scale between the seven classes in the English social order. But when this failed to raise sufficient funds for the war in France, a third Poll Tax in 1380, payable by everyone over 15, was levied at a flat rate of 1 shilling (12 pence, or 1 twentieth of a pound) per person, an average month’s salary for serf. When this went largely uncollected, with many peasants in the south-east of England refusing to register, the following year commissions of inquiry were dispatched to identify those who hadn’t paid. These inquires were extremely intrusive, and included checking young girl’s vaginas to see if they’d reached puberty and were therefore eligible for taxation. It was this, according to a later, Sixteenth-century account, that caused Wat Tyler to kill an official who tried to conduct such an examination on his daughter.”

This is the great dystopian divide under which we are living. How dare they treat us this way? That which they dish out, under no circumstances would they submit themselves to, yet they enact policy and defend the unconscionable and the obscene in the lives of ordinary people.

Try to imagine the outrage of Theresa May having this demanded of her and the faux outrage of rags like the Mail and the Sun. I don’t have the mind or imagination to make up whatever twisted headlines they’d use to incite the fury of their readers, but the poor are fair game in their evil minds.

This is the twisted world of the privileged and the plebian ‘stock’, or plebs, we are living in and how the imperial mind set works. They have no sense of their own privilege other than as their unassailable, god given, right. This is what is meant when people say they lack empathy. Such policies can only come from people so rooted in their own narcissism they have no idea of the impact they have, and nor do they care.

We have seen this for over seven long years, as people give up in despair and take their own lives, it’s called ‘incentivising people for work’ through state imposed penury and trauma. People too beaten to fight back, who are deprived of any hope of ever getting their heads above water to even get a decent meal a day.

On the face of it, it may seem the government is supporting victims of rape, when the reality is that rape victims are being targeted and treated worse than those simply denied child support for which no amount of money can compensate. It would be naive to think that targeting and re-traumatising rape victims is the lowest the government can go, they have amply demonstrated their capacity to come up with ever more outrageous and extreme cruelty on a regular basis.

The war against poverty is now, globally, the war against the poor. The neoliberal consensus has no place for us in their world. Whatever we may choose to call it, the aim is clear, to eradicate the poor and hound them out of life. We are literally fighting for our lives against an implacable enemy and state terrorism.

KOG. 09 April 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/13/prosecuting-rape-police-cps

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/06/government-under-fire-over-new-child-tax-credit-form-for-victims

http://www.entitledto.co.uk/help/Exemptions_to_2_child_limit

https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/the-peasants-revolt-lessons-from-history/

https://www.change.org/p/iain-duncan-smith-mp-make-a-public-apology-for-your-use-of-the-word-stock-to-describe-disabled-people-share-using-stockgate

homelessb

We have a problem and it’s one we need to fix urgently. Housing… to briefly put aside all the other myriad disastrous problems which lie securely at the door of the Tories and the neoliberal consensus.

I’ll begin with a proposition – no one should be evicted from their home for financial reasons, as a human right.

In May 2015 The Tenants Voice reported that evictions had risen 53% since 2010, with 170 tenants being evicted every day in 2015.

Money is increasingly weaponized on a daily basis targeting the very poorest people, yet Britain is the 5th richest country in the world but also one of the most unequal in which ‘the richest 10% own over half of the UK’s total wealth’ and the government is knowingly and deliberately pauperising increasing numbers of people with the purpose of increasing that inequality and the flow of wealth out of the hands of ordinary people.

The poor are being used and abused as wealth creators and yet are being denied any part of the wealth they are brutally forced to create. The most targeted group, of course, being disabled people about whom Priti Patel said, ‘cutting some disabled people’s benefits by £30 a week is justified as it will help those with a “limited capability” to work find a job’*. And, just for the record, Patel also thinks ‘the British are among the worst idlers in the world’, in a book she co-wrote with fellow fascists Dominic Raab, Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss and Chris Skidmore,  in which they claim ‘that “lazy” Brits prefer a lie-in to hard work‘ and ‘criticises the “baby boomer” generation for seeking to raise taxes for young workers to pay for their lavish pension pots’*. (*my emphases)

This is the religion of the far right, who treat poor bashing as an article of faith, who would have pensioners working for the pensions they have spent their working lives paying for until death.

In a country in which depriving people of the means of survival and their economic rights is now routine, it is inevitable that, as a consequence, with zero income, people are wilfully prevented from paying their rent to which the answer is, eviction.

It is also inevitable that at the mere suggestion of housing as a human right and that no one should be evicted from their home for financial reasons, the intellectually supine and propaganda rags like the Sun, the Mail and Express, and other right wing, rage fuelling, toss rags, will cry, ‘Why should we pay for scroungers?’, to which I riposte, ‘We pay for the wealth snatchers every day, like media corps, but if people think it is the poor who are the problem, they are bigger fools than even the government takes us all for’.

A study by Crisis on the financial cost of single homelessness in Britain reports that the New Economics Foundation estimated, ‘a single homeless person, if they were homeless for one year, would cost the UK public purse between £24,500 and £26,000 more than other citizens’.

It is economically illiterate to evict people and force people into homelessness. How many times must we have these sad and tired conversations whilst the greedy stuff themselves stupid on the backs of our lives?

Full employment is both pointless and unnecessary, the problem isn’t worklessness, the problem isn’t the poor, the problem isn’t a lack of housing, the problem is wealth distribution and a world predicated on exploitation and the privatisation of resources, including people, and profit.

Millions of jobs have been automated out of existence, but what happens to the people who used to do those jobs, are they taken care of out of the profits from the automation of the work they once did? No, they are thrown on the scrap heap whilst all the profits from automation rise beyond the reach of ordinary people into the hands of the grasping few, often to languish in tax havens thus further avoiding any social responsibility for the distribution of their unearned, other than through exploitation of people, resources and technology, wealth.

However, if anyone is struggling, the DWP offered contracts in 2015 to procure ‘Online Supported Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’ (CBT) worth £21 million to promote work as a health outcome. Bullshit!

We are drowning in bullshit, it is a tidal wave that is still mounting and people are dying in despair. The government wants us to rent out our bodies for less than it costs for us to inhabit our own bodies, for life. Our wages are asset stripped (as taxation) to support extreme wealth and corporations who hide their ill gotten gains in tax havens. And if we fail to juggle the impossible we are thrown on the streets to subsist or die.

We know the answers, we know exactly what is wrong and how it could be put right. We know who our enemy is and what they are capable of, and they are not done yet.

This is economic warfare and we are the target. None of this is happening by accident and nor is any of it unintended. We are certainly victims, but let us never make the mistake of in any way sympathising with our oppressors or making any excuses for them. There are no excuses.

Keep fighting and, above all, keep supporting and caring for those on their last legs who this rotten system has broken and if that someone is you, tell someone, as hard as that may feel, reach out.

KOG. 05 April 2017

Samaritans – free any time, from any phone on 116 123.

http://www.thetenantsvoice.co.uk/your_home/evictions-up-53-in-5-years/

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/feb/11/tenant-evictions-highest-level-england-wales-ministry-of-justice

http://www.cityam.com/227917/world-wealth-britain-crowned-fifth-richest-country-in-the-world-behind-us-china-japan-and-germany

http://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/14296603.MP_Priti_Patel_says_cutting_some_disabled_people_s_benefits_by___30_a_week_is_justified/

‘Lazy’ workers: the ignorance and shamelessness of Tory ‘rising stars’

http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/lord-bichard-force-pensioners-work.html

http://www.welfareweekly.com/tens-of-thousands-of-disabled-people-hit-by-cruel-benefit-sanctions-dwp-figures-show/

http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/CostsofHomelessness_Finalweb.pdf

https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/fcdf22ca-cac8-45da-a614-fbc5754de037

https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/hunger-homelessness-and-despair-the-stark-reality-of-the-benefit-cap/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/23/charlotte-sees-desperation-first-hand-job-centre-benefits-system

i-get-by-with-a-little-help-from-my-friends-13b

The Independent reports that five families are being made homeless every hour in the UK. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that ‘almost 13 million people are living in poverty in the UK’, with over half of those in families with at least one adult working. And the BBC, amongst others, reports that, ‘More than 16 million people in the UK have savings of less than £100’.

These are dreadful statistics that highlight the terrible suffering of people in Britain today as a matter of policy. This is not a failure of government, it is deliberate policy, an economic war of attrition being waged against the poorest and most vulnerable people in society who are not just being abandoned, but are being targeted and penalised for absolutely no good reason.

I am sick to death of reading that some of those being attacked are called wasters and losers, alcoholics and drug addicts, fraudsters and cheats. As if such ‘character defects’ are exclusive to the poor. Who in hell created this mess, who bombed the global economy, who has trillions of dollars stashed away in tax havens exploiting all the benefits of society and contributing nothing? The poor?

Anyone who whinges about the poor on benefits needs to take a long hard look at the world and themselves and maybe begin to wonder, who makes these stories up, who is aiming the arrows of their hatred at the most deprived and yet cover up and hide the most depraved, like ex-prime minister David Cameron, George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey, Priti Patel, Philip Green, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and the entire financial ‘free’ markets? This is orchestrated hatred which is morally and socially bankrupt.

Richard Branson lives in a tax haven. Yeah, he really is one of the good guys! He’s one of the people stealing our NHS from us. Richard Branson is a carpet bagger of the worst kind, looting and plundering what we have paid for.

Meanwhile, every single day, there is an unsung army of ordinary people giving of themselves and the little they have to succour and support others. There is a 91 year old man called Morrie Boogart, a cancer sufferer who lives in a hospice, yet who found purpose in knitting over 8,000 hats over the last 15 years for homeless people which are delivered to shelters throughout the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area in the USA.

This Thursday, Charlotte Hughes will be at the Jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyne, as she has been for two and half years supporting those hounded by the DWP in one of Britain’s most deprived areas. Charlotte and friends, whose names I do not even know nor how many, are feeding, supporting, offering advice and a kind word, to those who are victims in one of the DWP’s test areas, where the DWP practice their cruelty first before rolling it out across the country. I name her only because I know her and have the utmost respect for her, yet she is suffering for what she is doing, it is tough and demanding and at times downright dispiriting.

Under the shadow of oppression there are millions helping out, volunteering, giving of their time gladly, against the odds.

People know of the Trussell Trust, but they are only one part of the food banks that now exist across the UK, keeping people alive just because they care.

There are street kitchens, cafes and restaurants across the UK feeding the elderly and homeless, not just at Christmas, but every day.

It is impossible to even begin to name all that goes on every day out of kindness and care by ordinary people giving their time and energy to support others. It is impossible to even guess how many lives are saved daily who are abandoned and ignored by government.

This is barely even news, whatever scarce mention is made in the news of those who care is the merest tip of an enormous tsunami of care happening every day, saving lives, offering support and advice, giving a helping hand, lifting up and sustaining life.

If there is any place for cynicism, it is not here, if there is reason to abandon hope, it is not for want of the efforts of those trying to offer it. Yes, we do lose people and each one hurts and at times the tears and sorrow are overwhelming, but that is not the time to give up, even if we must pause for breath and catch up with our own needs, because we forgot to do that for a time.

But that is not what takes courage. What takes courage in a time of need is asking for help. It says much about us that we manage, and we manage and we manage, until we have nothing left, but that is not the time to die, that is the time to courageously ask for help. Asking for help is not weakness and nor is it failure, that is the time to surrender and say one of the toughest words to say, ‘help’: to a friend or neighbour, a doctor or care worker, someone who can connect us to the care we need. It is not that no one cares, they just might not know we need it, and may be stricken if we die when they might otherwise have offered a helping hand had they but known.

It may feel easier to die and cease to be a burden, but caring does not recognise any of us as a burden. I speak from personal experience, it is ok to need help, but it takes courage to seek it and ask for it. It is ok to be in need.

KOG. 30 January 2017

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/homeless-rough-sleeping-figures-increase-rise-conservatives-housing-shelter-vertical-rush-a7550251.html

https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/report-reveals-new-face-uk-poverty

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37504449

http://www.taxjustice.net/topics/more/size-of-the-problem/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/23/charlotte-sees-desperation-first-hand-job-centre-benefits-system

http://streetskitchen.co.uk/scotland/

http://www.peopleskitchen.co.uk/be-a-volunteer/

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/06/europe/muslim-restaurant-christmas-homeless-elderly-trnd/

homeless

What makes Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ so powerful is where the plot impacts on life. Most films and documentaries take for granted certain elements of life, like eating and shelter. Such things are assumed, a meal – at ‘home’, in a cafe or restaurant, and access to a home, cafe or restaurant which means having the wherewithal to afford and be in those places. These are assumed cultural and societal rights or norms which the ‘plot’ does not need to establish, they are taken for granted.

‘I’ Daniel Blake’ blows that right open (as much as I have as yet seen), these foundational norms can no longer be assumed. They are stripped bare, revealed as fragile and vulnerable.

The means, the wherewithal, is no longer anything that can be taken for granted, the door to that security is slammed in our faces by a DWP ‘Decision Maker’, an ‘other’, and that is terrifying, stupefying, an assault on our lives.

That loss of power over our basic securities has been weaponised against us and we get no say in the matter.

Money is the token of access, our ticket to belonging, our legitimacy, without which the door to life closes and we realise that we have been excluded. There is no handle on our side. The government, the DWP, the Decision Maker, have rendered us persona non grata, a non-person, leaving us staring into the void.

Homeless people gravitate to human habitation where all the social structure exists for modern life and scrabble for scraps from society’s table, but the right of access has been removed. We become unwelcome strangers, unwanted, shamed and humiliated. We may even be fined and criminalised for being there, the exclusion is complete. No money, no membership, no entry.

Exclusion means even scratching through litter bins is shunned, it is a misuse use of society’s system of waste and rubbish facilities, looking for a morsel in the waste of others. It may have been a burger 10 minutes ago, but once discarded it is no longer food, it’s rubbish, and picking it up and eating it is offensive, disgusting and embarrassing to those who ‘belong’. It is not because people are reminded of the fragility of life, it is that they are offended and ‘turn their noses up’ to such aberrant, distasteful, behaviour.

The ‘fragile life’ idea has a romantic appeal which is not borne out in practice, the notion of ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ is clear to some but not most people. But it is not the grace of god which arbitrarily imposes, condones and supports social exclusion, endorsing the righteous, it is a structural exclusion, the will of ‘man’.

Were it the grace of god then activism would be unnecessary, it would be merely precarious divine fate over which we have no control. And who are we to presume otherwise? Under such grace, poverty is fine, homelessness is fine, starvation of children is fine, every social injustice is divine in origin. It isn’t.

If I plead with god for the poor and do no more, then I am essentially giving in to futility, sacrificing my innate power to act to divine caprice. It’s entirely self defeating because I am self evidently equipped to act. I might just as well ask god to look after and brush my teeth for me when I am fully equipped to do it myself.

I may be less clear about what I can do about social injustice, what effective steps I can take, but it behoves me to grapple with the complexities of life, inequality, social justice, social exclusion, not abdicate my will and abilities and choice to an ‘other’.

Rising injustice has seen a rise in the use of the term ‘Karma’. This is a lot more than merely actions having consequences, which is self evidently true. This use of Karma assumes some kind of universal power of justice beyond our control. It’s god thinking in disguise without the religious overtones. But it is essentially disempowering because it is an excuse to do nothing, because something else will sort it out. It is fateful thinking which in human terms is not helpful in the slightest other than in the comfort it gives in invoking it. It’s essentially a cop out at a time of obscene human made attacks on social justice. The war on the poor is flourishing and karmic reprisals (or even just some kind of balance of power) are conspicuous by their absence.

In fact what we are experiencing is the unaccountable power of the few over the many, holding the poor to account by robbing them blind as wealth inequality is driven through the roof. And it’s brutal. As Ken Loach said, “The present system is one of conscious cruelty. It bears down on those least able to bear it. The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist.” More than that, people are being knowingly deprived of the means of survival and, as current head of the DWP, Damian Green, said, “We are building on the record of Iain Duncan Smith, who over six years poured his heart into welfare reform – as did his successor Stephen Crabb… We should be proud of that record.”

The man is a bloody monster! Proud of causing children to starve? Proud of depriving disabled people of the means to even walk let alone live an independent life? Proud of stealing the means of survival from people as a punishment. Proud of the return of Victorian poverty related diseases and others, malnutrition, gout, rickets, tuberculosis, scurvy, mumps, scarlet fever, cholera, diphtheria and typhoid? Proud of tens of thousands of deaths? Proud of the millions of emergency food parcels handed out by an ever increasing number of food banks. Perhaps we should be campaigning for the return of public floggings.

The proud record of Tory brutality since 2010 is an outrage and yet I am utterly convinced of Green’s sincerity as far as this is concerned. He is an abject failure as a human being and certainly unfit to hold office, yet in July this year the Tories had a 16 point lead over Labour. How is this possible or even credible?

The elevation of Donald Trump to president has revived the old ‘dumb Americans’ trope, I’ll just hold their beer as they laugh and point. If life was a car, millions of people in the UK, it seems, are asleep at the wheel because we’ve already driven off the cliff. Of course the Tories will fall eventually, but how many more lives will be ruined and snuffed out before they do?

To every single person speaking out and acting for change in whatever way time and ability allows, my utmost thanks, we are the light in the wilderness, no matter what they do and no matter what they throw at us. The Tories and all neoliberal right wing leaning people and apologists are a terminal wrong and a stain on the world.

Find whatever peace and souls ease that you can to give you strength to carry on fighting. You are not alone even though isolation and division are things that the Tories work hard to force upon us. Life is not a competition, yet cooperation, care and support are now revolutionary acts in Tory Britain.

KOG 10 November 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/23/ken-loach-benefit-sanctions-jeremy-corbyn-food-banks

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/new-tory-welfare-chief-damian-8977533

https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2014/aug/08/return-victorian-diseases-gout-tb-measles-malnutrition

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/25/childhood-rickets-vitamin-d

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/labour-leadership-tories-conservative-party-poll-vote-intention-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-a7156381.html

04_september_2016

A letter a day to number 10. No 1,543

Sunday 04 September 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

Just as Jeremy Hunt is stealing the life blood out of our NHS, so too is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) draining the life and spirit out of the people. None of this is necessary, these are policy decisions driven by ideological choices as was the imposition of austerity.

The DWP’s idea of incentivising people into work is through punitive impoverishment. In late 2015 a coroner sent a regulation 28 report, or a Preventing Future Deaths report, to the DWP when a man committed suicide having been found fit for work following an ESA fitness-for-work test by Atos. In her verdict senior coroner for inner north London, Mary Hassell, said “The anxiety and depression were long term problems, but the intense anxiety that triggered his suicide was caused by his recent assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions (benefits agency) as being fit for work, and his view of the likely consequences of that.”

As recently as last month the DWP said, “decisions were not based on the condition of claimants, but on what they can do.” No matter what the claimants condition or how extensive the evidence they provide, that has no place in making an assessment.

The central issue in the junior doctors dispute with Jeremy Hunt is that patients lives will be put at risk if Hunt imposes his work contract on Junior doctors. Hunt is also imposing hospital closures through his so called ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ again putting lives at risk. Both the Department for Health and the DWP are actively and knowingly putting people in harms way.

Speaking to the Guardian, Nick Clegg had the following to say about George Osborne, “Welfare for Osborne was just a bottomless pit of savings, and it didn’t really matter what the human consequences were, because focus groups had shown that the voters they wanted to appeal to were very anti-welfare, and therefore there was almost no limit to those anti-welfare prejudices.”

I find nothing in what Clegg has said that is inconsistent with what we have witnessed for over six long years of Tory misrule. Yours is a party which is entirely comfortable putting people’s lives at risk and Iain Duncan Smith has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide evidence of benefit related deaths, leading Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, to call for Smith to face criminal charges. To be honest, I think we are spoiled for choice as your entire government should be in the dock.

http://news.sky.com/story/qa-why-are-junior-doctors-going-on-strike-10561087

http://999callfornhs.org.uk/footprints/4592357931

Coroner’s ‘ground-breaking’ verdict: Suicide was ‘triggered’ by ‘fit for work’ test

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/14699246.Cancer_sufferer___39_put_through_hell__39__after_told_he_was_fit_for_work_by_government_assessors/

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/02/nick-clegg-george-osborne-cut-welfare-poorest-boost-tory-popularity?CMP=share_btn_fb

DWP hides seven secret benefit suicide reviews

Shadow chancellor backs calls to prosecute Iain Duncan Smith over WCA deaths

31_august_2016

A letter a day to number 10. No 1,539

Wednesday 31 August 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

Within the DWP, as Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) casually informed us at a parliamentary hearing, people receiving social security payments are known as ‘stock’ and, infamously, David Freud said, “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks” as they have “the least to lose”.

On tackling immigration, Iain Duncan Smith has announced that low skilled migrants should only be allowed to come here if there are no British workers to fill vacancies, emphasising, “You focus more at the lower-skilled areas.” Deal with the least wanted, the least valuable and the most useless first eh?

Isn’t it astonishing that low skilled workers are paid the least? So called low skilled jobs play a vital role in the smooth running of a nation, but they will certainly pay junk pay?

This narrative of low skilled workers and migrants coming over here and taking our jobs comes from government and the right wing press. The reality is very different, but only if you prefer facts over fiction, something which IDS and rags like the Sun, Express and Mail never aspire to. But that isn’t the point I wish to make.

What is important here is what’s missing and is always missing in the right wing world of authoritarian control and the brutal treatment of workers in which ‘other’ hatred plays such a vital role in maintaining people in their unquestioning misery.

Can you see any human beings here or anything that suggests any semblance of respect or dignity for people’s lives? If you can keep people dehumanised, you don’t have to worry about whether they can afford to live.

With some 13 million people in the UK living in poverty, more than half for them are in work, yet who among you cares? Where humanity is out of sight, increasing poverty doesn’t matter. 391 people died of malnutrition last year, but where are the headlines? In order to reach the headlines, people’s lives have to matter and as Freud and Smith have worked to so assiduously at and made so abundantly clear, they don’t! That is a crime against humanity which every sanction and every food parcel from a food bank and every eviction and every hungry child and every poverty related death screams out. That is Tory Britain.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2013/dec/10/treasury-questions-politics-live-blog

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/nov/23/lord-freud-welfare-poor-risk

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-08-28/iain-duncan-smith-says-low-skilled-jobs-should-go-to-britons-first/

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/20/reality-check-are-eu-migrants-really-taking-british-jobs

http://www.jrf.org.uk/data/work-poverty-levels

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/number-brits-dying-malnutrition-hunger-8611991

29_august_2016

A letter a day to number 10. No 1,537

Monday 29 August 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

It is a sad fact that so many are misled by the idea that their disability or sickness has any relevance in the Work Capability Assessments (WCA). As the DWP recently pointed out to The Oxford Times, “decisions were not based on the condition of claimants, but on what they can do.”

People think they are going for a WCA to have their ‘condition(s)’ assessed by medics employed by the DWP at vast public expense. In reality they are being assessed on whether they are capable of doing something, anything, no matter how tenuous that might be. The fact that they might be dying or that every moment of their life is lived in a torment of pain or their every waking thought is suicidal, is irrelevant.

When I was called in for a WCA I was refused a home visit on the grounds that my doctor had informed the test centre that I was able to get to hospital for cancer treatment. As someone who suffers from acute social phobia that was so Orwellian that I felt positively ‘normal’ in having such difficulties in going out. If that is what passes for rationality the human race is clearly doomed. It’s an admission that we are living in the age of stupid and there doesn’t seem to be any hope of recovery.

When Iain Duncan Smith invoked the words written over the gates of Auschwitz, ‘arbeit macht frei’ (work makes you free), he wasn’t kidding around, he even appeared on BBC Breakfast television saying, “Look, work actually helps free people.”  The liberation granted people in the death camps of Germany is not something that any sane person would hold up as a working model for the Department for Work and Pensions.

People need to understand that when they attend a Work Capability Assessment they enter a twisted Tory dystopian environment based on the principles of fascism. It comes as no surprise that a WCA whistle blower said, “Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feelings of suicide to me,” or that the DWP has issued written suicide guidance to frontline staff, apparently printed on laminated pink card.

Ken Loach’s film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, on the failings (or success from a government perspective) of the UK’s benefit system, apparently reduced film critics in Cannes to tears and led friend and fellow activist Charlotte Hughes to write, “Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake needs to inspire us all to act against the political and moral debasement of the Tory government.” Britain’s dirty little secret is that Tory welfare reforms saw the launch of a penal system of brutal cruelty denying people the means of survival.

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/14699246.Cancer_sufferer___39_put_through_hell__39__after_told_he_was_fit_for_work_by_government_assessors/?ref=fbshr

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/jun/16/lawrence-mead-tough-us-welfare-unemployed

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8707652.stm

https://purplepersuasion.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/what-rabbit-hole-have-we-fallen-down-my-experiences-of-atos-work-capability-assessment/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/05/work-programme-adviser-box-ticking-sanctioning-sick-people

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/27/death-britains-benefits-system-fit-for-work-safety-net

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13620988._Suicide_guidance__given_to_benefits_staff_preparing_for_desperate_calls_on_welfare_reform/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/08/starve-benefit-sanctions-unemployed-hungry-government

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/ken-loach-film-i-daniel-blake-wins-cannes-award-director-slams-austerity_uk_57420d66e4b0ffced8625a4f

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e9ce-DWP-inhumanity-needs-to-be-challenged-urgently#.V8KoyTWzzc4

28_august_2016

A letter a day to number 10. No 1,536

Sunday 28 August 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

Salford’s Unemployed & Community Resource Centre reports that David (no surname given) was repeatedly sanctioned, “This resulted in him being unable to control his diabetes because he had no money for food. This caused diabetic ulcers which became infected and he had to have a leg amputated. All his sanctions were eventually overturned, but it was too late.”

Depriving people of the means of survival has serious and deadly consequences. I and others have repeatedly warned that people’s lives are being put at risk, many are already dead, through a draconian punitive policy that no court in the land would consider for a moment. The DWP’s secret penal system is a travesty.

The Guardian reported that the DWP has had to issue a ‘new policy for all DWP businesses to help them manage suicide and self-harm declarations from customers’.

This descent into barbarism has no place in a supposedly civilised nation.

Although we were given no choice in the matter, we, the people, bailed out the banks and since then we’ve been told again and again that we are also responsible for paying down the debt left by the bank bail out. That’s a nice double whammy for the vast majority of people who had no part in the failure and greed of the banks which led to the banking crisis.

When George Osborne proposed cuts to working Tax Credits he said in his Summer Budget 2015 speech, “So those who oppose any savings to Tax Credits will have to explain how on earth they propose to eliminate the deficit, let alone run a surplus and pay down debt.” Attacking low paid workers to pay down the debt is the most obscene travesty of justice, as are the tens of £billions in cuts imposed on the poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain.

David has lost his leg as the price for a tissue of lies that we were in any way responsible for the criminal activities of the banks. What part did ordinary people play in the fall of Lehman Brothers which triggered the banking crisis? The clue is in the description and the answer is – None! The banks aggressively sold junk mortgage securities which were given AAA ratings and which, unsurprisingly, blew up in their faces. Yet the banks have been allowed to carry on with business as usual. Osborne even tried, post crash, to protect bankers bonuses in Europe using public money. You couldn’t make it up!

https://welfaretales.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/benefit-sanctions-are-britains-secret-penal-system/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/27/death-britains-benefits-system-fit-for-work-safety-net

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/may/08/jobcentre-staff-guidelines-suicide-threats

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-summer-budget-2015-speech

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-22/lending-to-poor-people-didn-t-cause-the-financial-crisis

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/06/osborne-20k-banker-bonuscap_n_4735825.html