Archives for posts with tag: workfare


A letter a day to number 10. No 1,460

Friday 10 June 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am amazed at all the sound and fury that’s kicked off over the EU referendum, admittedly a lot of it is piss and wind, but regardless of that, where’s it all been hiding in six long tooth grinding years of Tory misrule?

Suddenly there are political pundits everywhere, it’s wearing me out. It’s a kind of keyboard Armageddon, a prelude to the forthcoming actual Armageddon when we’re either in or out of the EU. If we leave we are, seemingly, going to lose the skills brought by foreign workers who have been a mainstay of our NHS since its inception, which was 25 years before we joined the European Community. If we stay we’ll be eating straight bananas, forever. Shurely shomething is wrong.

Little chubby cheeked Mikey wants us to break out the bunting and dodgy Dave (cooee) wants to save us from WWIII and let’s not forget (risqué sexist warning for anyone who feels they are missing that little extra something to lose their mind over) priti priti who wants to ensure our penal labour servitude forever.

In or out, it seems that Britain has become a toothless hag which must either be propped up by an EU zimmer frame or gird up its timorous loins and learn to fend for itself for the first time ever, in history, ever, once again. The big money is so terrified of the senile old ding bat, it’s running for the hills. ‘Don’t worry,’ I want to tell these scaredy fat cats, ‘the city of London will still be a fantastically corrupt global tax haven in which to stash your unearned cash. We’ve still got dodgy Dave (cooee2) and gorgeous George at the helm, they will always wuv you.’ (Cue – Whitney)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as they say, the race to the bottom continues for the good folks of Britain, the great unwashed, the ordinary skivers, scroungers, strivers, low paid, no paid, Workfare plagued, Motability denied, pick up your wheelchair and work, halt and lame, pensions robbed, welfare denied, useless eating public. And that’s not to mention the destruction and privatisation of our NHS and George’s wholesale asset stripping of all the good things we’ve built and paid for and maintained so well, that are worth a bob or two, enough to flog off to his city mates on the cheap. Sorry, I’ve been and gone and done mentioned them, haven’t I?

Where are all the Armagedd-heads when you need them? Where is all the spit and rage when you really need it? Can we have an independent inquiry into whether Britain is the most bonkers nation in the world? Is it down to global warming because you know what they say about the midday sun, Englishmen and mad dogs. Anyway, I’m off for a nice cup of tea and to give myself a heave ho in the sock department, ups my daisy and have a bit of there there, dear. Toodle pip for now.

Investors take billions from UK economy amid fears of Brexit and a fall in value of the pound



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


A letter a day to number 10. No 1,436

Tuesday 17 May 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Power speaking to me is not democracy, authority is not democracy and in order to speak to me it must be legitimate. I am democracy, I speak to power as a right, that is democracy. Write that down and remember it well, because no matter what happens, or how this present desecration works out, that is the truth. If people fear to speak to power then something is terribly wrong.

Democracy is something I exercise as a human right and when you told us, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone,” you declared your intention to abuse the exercise of power without being held accountable. Whatever the rules are, whatever the law is, you presumed to declare yourself lawless, and to act against us in whatever way you choose. And you have done just that.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) deprives people of the means of survival on a routine basis. The Human Rights Act 1998 states, ‘Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law’. The DWP is clearly acting outside of the law, imposing sentences that are not handed down by a court of law and in excess of any lawful sentences, through its own arbitrary rules and for the most trivial reasons.

The Workfare programme is a system of forced labour, without pay, under threat of sanctions. Article 4 of the human rights act stipulates, ‘No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour’. Workfare infringes our human rights and any normal civic obligations and is a criminal offense. The courts have already ruled that the Workfare programme is illegal, and yet the DWP persists in its pogrom of forced labour.

In making the statement above to the country, you betrayed whatever legitimacy you might have had and became a self declared rogue government. What matters is that people imprint that in their consciousness and, no matter what you get up to, apply that at all times and under all circumstances. You are right that for too long, we have been a passively tolerant society but only in a historic subservience to power. That is what requires a seismic shift.

No one is above the law and that includes you.–e1q_01xlZZ

19_march_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,376

Saturday 19 March 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

The trouble with maintaining a lie is that it takes so much work. I have to admit, with no pleasure at all, that you’ve had a good run. The great British public have had to go through the process we all face when going through shock or bereavement. The first stage of disbelief or denial is tough. I encountered this first hand at my local police station in one of several attempts to report Iain Duncan Smith for human rights abuses regarding Workfare and forced labour. The Officer’s response was a flat refusal to accept or read the evidence I had gathered, saying, ‘The government wouldn’t do that, they are there to look after people.’ I have to say that the person who had accompanied me and I were stunned, the officers disbelief trounced any attempt to present evidence and facts. That happened on more than one occasion.

There is no rigid order to dealing with shock or grief although disbelief is usually the first reaction. The next feeling can be anger, an impotent fury with no clear avenue of expression and with, perhaps, intense feelings of betrayal, an inchoate rage at life or circumstances. That may be followed by guilt, self blame, bargaining, depression and so on, but in the end comes acceptance at which point it becomes possible to function again and take action for the future.

It’s a process I have had to go though many times now, firstly before I even started writing these letters and many times since in response to policies which beggared belief. Scrapping the Independent Living fund was one such shock and the ongoing brutality of Iain Duncan Smith’s sanctions regime has proved extremely taxing. Overall, though, the toughest part for me in all this has been the constant stream of lies and deceit and the pathetic response from much of the main stream media.

Over the last four years I have hit rock bottom several times. Fortunately I am long enough in the tooth to know that these times pass. There’s no point fighting it, it happens and the best process for me is to just rest and let it work itself out. Our minds are very good at sorting things out, but all too often we try too hard and just make things more messy by trying. Many years of therapy have taught me to trust the process, it’s a kind of relaxing in the face of trauma, and not pushing myself too hard.

Since Smith embarked on his reign of terror something has emerged which I can only describe as ‘brown envelope syndrome’, which many readers of these letters are all too familiar with. Just seeing the damned things kicks off the feelings of dread and we each deal with them as best we can, sometimes just ignoring them for a time, unable to even muster the strength to open them.

It appears, though, that the chickens are finally coming home to roost for you and your government as the public outcry becomes more confident, assertive, vocal and robust. George Osborne seems to have been taken by surprise at being taken to task for his appalling record. It must have been a real shocker when John Humphrys asked him, “What’s a bloke got to do in your job to get the sack?” It was a fair question though and not before time.

Osborne crashes and burns in post-budget interview, live on Radio 4 (AUDIO)$category%20p$1

19_february_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,347

Friday 19 February 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I wonder if you have ever heard of the expression ‘noblesse oblige’? The Merriam Webster online dictionary provides a simple definition – ‘the idea that people who have high social rank or wealth should be helpful and generous to people of lower rank or to people who are poor’. However, it means a great deal more than that, it entails an obligation for those of high rank to behave with honour, compassion, generosity and high moral standards. Put very simply it could also mean, to lead by example.

I also wonder, other than as a self aggrandising myth, whether it has ever existed at any time throughout history?

From the biblical massacre of the innocents by Herod to the 1381 betrayal of the peasants revolt, feudalism, the French revolution, Britain’s work houses, the Norman invasion and the carve up of Britain, and, of course, the Tories, in no particular order, the aristocracy and the wealthy really have a dismal history, as do the poor at their expense.

I can find no citation for the following from Tony Benn, yet it is as poignantly apt now as at any time in history, “I don’t think people realise how the establishment became established. They simply stole land and property from the poor, surrounded themselves with weak minded sycophants for protection, gave themselves titles and have been wielding power ever since.” Certainly, in my own life, I had worked it out long before reading it and if Benn didn’t write it he will definitely have thought it.

I have been studiously ignoring the latest feudal throwback project, ‘Clean up for the Queen’ for her Maj’s 90th birthday, but ignoring it is simply not good enough. I know not who dreamt up this latest fun project for peasants to clean up Britain’s streets, but wherever it came from, it was either someone, somewhere, in the gilded halls of patronising nobility or some simpering sycophant who should have been shot at birth.

Whatever next? Will this become an annual event, ‘National Workfare Day’ or some such nonsense dictated from on high for the masses to obediently deliver, with dim witted celebrities extolling its virtues? Meanwhile there are many things in this country that are in urgent need of cleaning up, not least on the streets. I wonder what the plan is should any inconvenient homeless people be littering the streets in hopeless destitution? I am sure Prince Philip would have an answer involving a twelve bore shotgun and hunting dogs. I cannot be alone in wishing the nobility would just hole up their castles without expecting bunting, sycophantic adoration and blind obedience to their every whim and fancy and, yes, that very much includes you Tories. That would clean up Britain quite nicely.

28_november_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,269

Saturday 28 November 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am sure you know what a Panopticon is – ‘The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly.’ (Wikipedia)

The reason I am sure is because we are living in a Virtual Panopticon of the ever more intrusive state. Since the proliferation of CCTV in Britain, the digital age has enabled ever greater intrusions into our lives from hidden watchers. The entirely specious argument that ‘if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about’ does not answer the effects the insidious invasion of hidden observers has on our lives. It ‘nudges’ us in the direction of accepting such invasions and to cease questioning how we feel about that, lowering our guard through their very omnipresence and being given no choice in the matter.

It becomes ever easier to ramp up hidden surveillance by an ever more intrusive state. The Snoopers Charter has raised barely a flutter of protest across the nation except amongst the few who pay close attention to politics and the behaviour of government and ask the question, does government serve the people or do people serve the government? Clearly we have a difference of opinion on that matter as you erode our rights at work and at home. The Trade Union Bill is a direct attack on workers and workers rights just as your plan to scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA) is an attack on each individual in the UK.

One of the most egregious statements you made just this year was, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’.” If the law is no longer sufficient to protect us from state intrusion in our lives, Britain has become a totalitarian state, ‘a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible’. Iain Duncan Smiths sanctions regime is a direct attack on people’s right to life (just as Workfare is explicitly forced labour) and far too many lives have already been lost, small wonder you want shot of the HRA.

We have laws because we are moral creatures, were we not the law would be meaningless, in fact we’d be unable to make any laws at all. Within the Virtual Panopticon it becomes the moral duty of each one of us to resist conformity to the dictates of a government gone entirely rogue.

23_november_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,264

Monday 23 November 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

It is typical of Jeremy Hunt (rhyming slang) to take to the Sunday Mail to see what moral outrage he can stir up over the junior doctors almost unanimous decision to strike. Judging by the comments the number of morally outraged intellectual zombies, the preferred readership of that neo-Fascist rag, is falling.

Hunt has no moral high ground from which to argue so he chooses fear mongering instead, warning that patients will be put at risk and some might die when junior doctors strike. Hunt is not of a calibre to get away with increasing the precariousness of doctors hours whilst reducing pay or to plausibly deny he is privatising our NHS. He co-wrote the book, ‘Direct Democracy’, which states, ‘Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain’ and ‘We should fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase health care from the provider of their choice’. In other words a privatised NHS funded by USA style insurance schemes. For him to hit back at Dr Anna Warrington, a member of the junior doctors protest organising committee, who accused him of plotting to privatise the NHS, with, ‘What utter nonsense’, is emptier than a zombies thought process and your promise of ‘no top down reorganisation of the NHS’.

It was Andrew Lansley who removed the ‘secretary of state’s core duty to provide or secure a comprehensive health service, a duty repealed by the first clause of the Health and Social Care Act’, thus opening the door to privatisation. If you remove the governments duty or obligation to provide universal health care, where is it going to come from it not the private sector? Charities? Back street doctors? Heggerty Haggerty?

One of the core aims of neoliberalism is to increase precariousness in the work place which you and your government have pursued relentlessly. Those of us old enough to remember can look back to the days when a job might last for life, with the dubious reward of a gold watch on retirement after 30 or 40 years service, and when a single pay packet might keep an entire family. Such days are long gone, today zero hours contracts are proliferating and self employment is at its highest level since records began 40 years ago because of the imposed fragility of the labour market. Iain Duncan Smith has even managed to break the age old contract of work for pay, introducing forced labour (Workfare) for benefits which are far below the minimum wage and woefully inadequate to provide for all the demands placed upon those afflicted by his heinous policies.

Hunt’s attack on junior doctors is just the latest in the undermining of the work force and working conditions. Hunt cares as little for doctors as he cares for patients and even less for universal health care. He must be beaten now because if he is not the next attack will be worse, junior doctors have patient care in front and Hunt’s knife at their back, adding to the already considerable pressures they are under and making their lives ever more precarious. Junior doctors must win this or we all lose which will ultimately mean the NHS as we know it.

26_october_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,241

Monday 26 October 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

One of the major problems we face in Britain today is cognitive dissonance, the difficulty of holding and resolving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. We are all subject to it in a complex world, including the police as I found out on one of my attempts to bring charges against Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud for breaches of the human rights act, for forced labour (Workfare) and the right to life (sanctions). Without looking at my evidence I was told, the government wouldn’t do this, they are there to look after the people, thus touchingly putting a personal belief before evidence. Not a very objective approach to law and order.

I find it astonishing and dismaying how difficult it is for so many to face facts and to even acknowledge being conflicted even when the evidence is overwhelming. Instead of building houses to meet the housing crisis you chose to penalise people for living in their existing homes. You chose penalty over provision in your vicious and unjust bedroom tax which despite your promise to parliament that disabled people would be exempt, disabled people have been disproportionately targeted, not least those with specially adapted homes.

You have cut legal aid which specifically attacks poorer people’s ability to gain access to justice and over which the legal profession has taken to the streets in protest. You have increased court fees allowing judges no discretion and over which 50 magistrates have already resigned. Those who plead guilty at magistrates court must pay £150 but if they are found guilty in the high court the fee is £1,200 raising real concerns that people will plead guilty rather than defend their innocence in the high court. As Alistair MacDonald QC put it, ‘No one should be influenced by the extent of a court charge in making their decision about whether to plead guilty or have a trial’.

The list is endless, ending the Independent Living Fund, cuts to tax credits, forced compliance and forced labour under threat of benefit sanctions, attacking junior doctors, breaking up our NHS, the proposal to charge for NHS treatment and to move to a US style insurance scheme. Thousands of disabled people losing their Motability allowance. The disastrous rise in food bank use. Disabled people being forced off disability benefits now that Iain Duncan Smith has decided that work will make them well. Student debt, the PFI scandal, destabilising the NHS, the DWP mishandling benefit claims and bogus claims for over payments of benefits. Tax breaks for the rich, £93 billion in corporate welfare.

Just how much evidence does it take to pause and think and maybe get the merest glimmer of an idea that you do not mean us well? Working class people voting Tory are walking up to a scaffold and putting their own heads in a noose for you to come along and kick the chair away. And you say Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is ‘now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your (our) family’s security’. Forgive me if I die laughing of grief.

27_august_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,191

Thursday 27 August 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

In his recent speech on work, health and disability Iain Duncan Smith made a great many extravagant claims, not least the following regarding what you supposedly inherited from Labour in 2010:

*    nearly one in five households had no one working;
*    the number of households where no one had ever worked had nearly doubled;
*    1.4 million people had been on benefits for most of the previous decade.
*    And where close to half of all households in the social rented sector had no one in work.

The full transcript of the speech was published by the think tank ‘Reform’ and, as we’ve come to expect from Smith, not a single reference link was provided for what looks, to these tired eyes, like extremely extravagant claims. I shall pursue a Freedom of Information request to his department in due course, which should not prove irksome for Smith. Given how recently he made the speech he should have the information to hand.

What I want to focus on today, however, is his assertion that many people on benefits had ‘fallen into a life of dependency’. In so saying he revealed the true depth of his ignorance of the lives of ordinary people and how little contact he has ever had with them. Were he alive today Robert Tressell, author of ‘The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’, would immediately have taken issue with Smith because the true state of dependency exists in the fragile world of work which fragility you and your government have been at such pains to increase exponentially. You have stripped away basic working rights and protections at work, access to justice through increasing employment tribunal fees and, of course, broken the primal link between work and pay forcing many to work for nothing. I care not what you call it, training, work experience or ‘Workfare’ everyone should have the most basic right to expect  and demand payment for their labour the purpose of which, so conveniently forgotten, is food on the table, at the very least.

For many, the first experience of a stable income has been the very system of social security that Smith is so keen to demolish. That is certainly the case for me as a disabled man, having struggled all my working life balancing work and disability with varying degrees of success, but always fragile, always fraught, always filled with the constant fear of falling off the edge. It was not until I began to receive Disability Living Allowance, an in-work benefit I’d like remind you, that I began to experience for the first time some degree of financial stability in my life and relief from incessant daily worry and fear for my near and distant future. Of such things Smith evidently knows nothing as he pursues his vicious, deceitful and ideological, war on the poor. Far from making people well, work is frequently the very thing that either makes people sick, physically or mentally, or makes their existing condition worse, now with the added risk to life and well being from Iain Duncan Smith himself who clearly has not the faintest idea of the real violence inflicted upon people by poverty. Or perhaps he does, which would make him the vilest man alive in Britain today.

01_august_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,165

Saturday 01 August 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

This is a letter that has come out of an email conversation with a friend who posited, “What if ‘making work pay’ isn’t another lie coming out of Cameron’s, Osborne’s and IDS’s mouths, but might actually be the truth only not in the way it has been interpreted? What if when Cameron, Osborne and IDS spout ‘making work pay’ they don’t mean that work pays for the worker? Everyone assumes that it is the workers who will receive that ‘pay’. What if what they really mean – and what has been shown time and again to be what is really happening – is that ‘work pays the employers’? That is what ‘workfare’ is all about, isn’t it, subsidies for businesses no matter whether workers are paid or not?”

I can’t think why I’ve not written about this before, I thought I had and it has certainly taken up a good deal of my thinking time. I think my friend is exactly right. Just as you can say ‘Britain is for hard working people’ in a country where you want full employment. A country of hard working people for businesses, to drive profits up. A National Health Service ‘free at the point of use’ which you can still say even if it is paid for through private insurance schemes the same as in the USA, which is what you want.

‘Hard working people’ , in various forms, is now something of a mantra for those resenting people on benefits, people adopt it for themselves as you intended, but that isn’t what you Tories mean and I am sure you revel in your clever mouthed deceit.

When Andy Burnham launched his Labour leadership campaign he talked about ‘aspiration’ as about ‘giving every single person the dream of a better life, about helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow’. Every single person can have a dream, but it’s businesses that get help to get on and grow. As the saying goes, ‘If wishes were fishes we’d all be throwing nets’. New Labour giving every single person the dream of a better life is (meaninglessly) clever as far as it goes, but Burnham can’t out-Tory a Tory, who can speak a literal truth which relies on human vanity to adopt and thus people fool themselves.

Robert Tressell’s ‘The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’ is entirely about the philanthropy of working people who vote for their own enslavement to the profit hungry Tories. ‘Don’t vote Labour’, the Tories cry, ‘Those socialists will price you out of your jobs. If they demand higher wages, we’ll all go to the wall. We’re all in this together my lads.’ It’s not an empty threat, you’d sack the entire labour force and shut the business down if you had to (which Thatcher did), then open a new one offering lower wages and it’s all those bloody socialists fault, killing businesses. Oh yes, the Tories are for hard working people alright, making work pay, all the way to the corporate comfort off shore tax havens.