Archives For disability rights

1) Thousands with degenerative conditions marked as fit to work in future by DWP

More than a third of people suffering from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, are being denied full Employment Support Allowance by the DWP. Instead, they are put into the Work Related Activity Group for those deemed likely to be able to work in the future.  People in this group also face threat of sanction for not attending sessions and may have these benefits removed after one year as an additional ‘incentive’ to find work. Steve Ford, Chief Executive of Parkinson’s UK said:

“These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s. To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce. “These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”

This follows news that the UN is looking to investigate the UK for crimes against disability rights, in the first enquiry of it’s kind. Read more about this story here.

2) Britain’s Big Four Banks to announce £9bn profit for just three months


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In direct, stark and disturbing contrast to the previous story, where the treatment of the vulnerable is hardened under the banner of austerity, those who caused the crash and spurred on the government cutbacks are enjoying huge profits.

Britain’s big four banks, Lloyds, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, are set to announce a £9bn profit haul in three months.

While most made between £1.7 – £2bn over the summer, HSBC took the greatest leap with profits estimated at £3.7bn. Meanwhile, wages have dropped for the public for 71 of the last 74 months.

Read more about this story here.

3) People arrested for feeding protestors on Parliament Square

Two people have been arrested for giving water and food to a protestor at the Occupy Democracy camp in Parliament square.

A video emerged of a police officer confirming that anyone aiding a protestor who was sitting on a plinth at the statue of Winston Churchill, would be arrested.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

The Occupy Democracy camp which was set to take place over ten days has seen heavy police force, handling and also severe tactics of harassment in the shape of sleep deprivation both through the removal of sleeping equipment and through constant disturbances by police in a bid to wear protestors out.

Police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest, as was always the aim of the camp. The treatment of protestors here in a relatively small group shows us the kind of democracy we have, or don’t have.

“I attended the TUC (Trades Union Congress) march on Saturday and I took part in UK Uncut’s ‘tax-dodgers bingo’. And I saw how at every Starbucks, Nero’s and Tesco on the march route there were police lining the shop-front. Who were they guarding? Whose freedoms were they protecting?

I saw how some of the protesters had been getting creative, transforming a tarpaulin into a banner that said ‘WE DIDN’T VOTE FOR FRACKING’. And I remembered again the truth: that we didn’t vote for Prime Minister David Cameron’s ever-desperate dash to drag remaining fossil fuels out of the ground in direct contradiction to our emissions reduction targets. That we also didn’t vote for changes to trespass law, or for the criminalization of ‘Occupy-style’ protests. We certainly didn’t vote for TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership set to curtail the rights of individual governments to stand up to transnational corporations). We didn’t vote for student fees, austerity and the cuts either. So, whose rights exactly is this government representing?

Considering all this, occupying a square opposite the seat of power feels entirely appropriate and necessary in response to such an ‘undemocracy’.”

Hannah Martin, New Internationalist

Read the full piece here.

Read more about this story here.

4) George Osbourne didn’t tell Cameron about £1.7bn EU bill

Cameron has been making a show of how shocked and disgusted he is to have been handed a £1.7bn EU bill to pay on December 1st. It made him really very angry.

Interestingly, Cameron found out about this bill on the way to a meeting with EU representatives on Thursday, despite Chancellor George Osbourne knowing about the bill since the beginning of the week.

Despite the PM being unable to contain his anger, he said he didn’t want to focus on the ‘Who Knew What Whens’ – which luckily for the Chancellor means he is entirely off the hook.

Strange, that the PM is so disgusted by a bill which all EU parties had agreed to, and which the Dutch had put money aside for. Stranger still that our PM is disgusted more by this bill than the continued borrowing and failure of the Chancellor to meet any targets in terms of cutting the deficit.

Read more about this story here.

5) Support for staying in the EU surges 

An Ipsos Mori report revealed public support for EU membership has surged to a 23 year high despite the rise in UKIP support.

“New polling from Ipsos MORI shows the majority of Britons would vote to stay in the European Union in a referendum, indicating the highest support for British membership since 1991, before the signing of the Maastricht Treaty which officially renamed the ‘European Community’ the ‘European Union’. Some 56% would vote to stay in the European Union, compared with 36% who would vote to get out; eight percent answer that they do not know how they would vote. This translates to 61% support for Britain’s EU membership and 39% opposing after excluding ‘don’t knows’. This is the highest support since December 1991, when 60% said they would vote to stay in the European Community and 29% wanted to get out.”

Image: Ipsos Mori

Image: Ipsos Mori

Read the full report here.

 

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1) Parliament Square is still Occupied – just…

That’s right, no sleeping equipment is allowed, not even a pizza box, outside the ‘father of parliamentary democracy’.  It is not hyperbole to state that “There is less freedom in Westminster than Hong Kong”.  You can read a report by the former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats here.

http://www.demotix.com/photo/6050598/democracy-protesters-occupy-parliament-square-despite-police-warnings

The protesters have determinedly stuck to their task, and are holding general assemblies and teach ins through out the rest of the week.

Of course you cannot find out about this at any mainstream media outlet who have been ignoring protest and police abuse of power consistently for some time now.  You can follow what is happening on Twitter.

OCCUPY

2) Nearly 100,000 marched on Saturday, to near complete media silence

Despite living in a period which is seeing ever falling real income and more than 5 million in work who cannot earn a living wage, the event was seen as relatively insignificant.

Currently the death of actor Lynda Bellingham tops the news – whereas the march does not make the top ten.

Mirror Tuc

Wages have slumped more than at any other time in 150 years and are continuing to fall.

Len McClusky said of the coalition

“They are seeking to destroy the welfare state – characterising anyone who uses the benefit system in their time of need as a scrounger, and they are devastating local government to a point where care of the elderly is now defined by spreadsheet economics separated into 10-minute blocks, irrespective of the individual’s needs.”

TUC flyer

These and other quotes peppered the Mirror’s coverage, but the march to protest to these truths looks unlikely to affect any of the Parliamentary parties policies, as the peaceful march passed with out comment by anyone but the police.

“Scotland Yard said this evening that the TUC march and rally in London has ended and the participants have dispersed.

They added: “It was very good-natured and well-stewarded. No demonstrators were arrested.”

One wonders if that will continue to be the case if marches keep being ignored by the media and the establishment…

3) We are leading the table of inequality!  At least we are good at something…

It turns out that we are only G7 country where inequality has increased since the turn of the millenium.

The richest 10% now own over 54% of the wealth of the country.  Which is nothing in comparison to the global statistics.

Globally, the report says the richest 1% are getting wealthier and now own more than 48% of the world’s wealth. Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,”

It is sometime hard to put these numbers into context, so it is worth a reread.  1% of the human beings on this planet own nearly half of it. 10% of us own nearly nine tenths of the planet.  Everyone else is scrapping it out for the rest.

These trends are continuing to become more pronounced as we head for another global recession.  In a world of plenty, how long can this go on?

4)  An unbelievable Welfare Minister says something totally typical about the disabled.

If this were a fairer world, Lord Freud would never be facing calls for his resignation as welfare minister. He would not have been forced into a public apology after being caught musing insensitively about whether some disabled people “aren’t worth” the full minimum wage, and could make do with £2 an hour. He wouldn’t have gone to ground yesterday. All this would never have happened, because in an ideal world Freud would never have been a minister in the first place.

Freud

The crime is not that he had said that basically disabled people should not be valued equally as human beings, but that he was ever allowed to be in a position where he would be able to act on this prejudice.  It is is even worse that he continues in the role, especially he has absolutely no qualifications for a position where he is responsible for the welfare of millions.

His qualifications, as a former banker and journalist, for radically reforming the welfare state were admittedly something of a mystery even when Labour first hired him as an adviser to Downing Street back in 2006. But at least they had the sense not to unleash him on a nervous public. It was only when Freud jumped ship to the Tories three years later that he was made a shadow minister; and whatever his technical expertise, that’s when his clodhopping public manner became a problem. This is the man who, when asked how as a millionaire he could ever understand what it’s like to be on benefits, responded that “you don’t have to be a corpse to go to the funeral”.

At least he has been honest, there is no need to paint the Tories as unfeeling wretches, who see us nothing more than economic units – and not very valuable ones at that – they do it for us.

The Tories are not content with forcing disabled people into work. They want to pay them a pittance when they get there. I suppose we can thank Freud. The government has been producing enough measures that infers disabled people are slightly less than human. He’s finally said it out loud.

5) 3.5 Million children are living in poverty in this country.  And schools are having to deliver aid to help them, in an obscene dereliction of duty by those responsible for the welfare of us all (see disabled bashing ex banker above).

child poverty

Here are some facts from the child poverty report – we encourage you to read it all.

  • There are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four.1
  • There are even more serious concentrations of child poverty at a local level: in 100 local wards, for example, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.2
  • Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one member works.3
  • People are poor for many reasons. But explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts.4

The overview is brief and well written, at a time when the media has been consistently blaming poverty on the poor, and the welfare state for our national debt.

The same week we hear inequality is increasing, we also see the disastrous effect that is having on our children.  The criticism is levelled at all three parties in the report – as well as pointing out Labour’s lack of ambition (like we did in our recent podcast)

It will also criticise Labour’s goal of an £8-per-hour national minimum wage by 2020, arguing that it is not as ambitious as it sounds because it implies a slower rate of increase between now and 2020 than there was between 1999 and this year. If that trend continued, the minimum wage would be worth £8.23 an hour in 2020, not £8, it calculates.

6) ALSO

Only 4% of drone strikes actually kill Al Qaeda terrorists.

Blacklisted workers are still fighting to be allowed to work.

1) NHS staff strike today – show your support

Following a block to pay of 1%, NHS staff and union representatives will strike today against pay freezes. The strike is underway.

Find out more about this story here. 

Follow the strike here.

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2) UN to investigate ‘grave concern’ over abuses of disability rights in UK

The United Nations may begin an investigation into ‘grave’ and ‘systemic’ violations of disability rights in the UK. The investigation would make Britain the first to face such a high level of inquiry into this area.

“The UN committee that would investigate Britain would have the power to launch the inquiry if it had sufficient and “reliable” information that such violations had been committed by a country under the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNRPD).”

The government has been repeatedly criticised and questioned over policy and treatment of the disabled by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. The UK Stats Authority has also reprimanded Work and Pensions Minister, Iain Duncan Smith several times for mis-use of statistics to push through and justify cuts in welfare. Disabled people made up two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax, and there has been a rise in disability hate crime as a result of damaging rhetoric.

“Of the £63.4bn of public expenditure cuts by 2015, 29% affect disabled people who make up only 8% of the population”

Ian Mearns MP, WOW debate Feb 27 2014

Yet, this has not deterred IDS from continuing with plan, as he recently announced new plans to tax disability welfare payments.

In June, PAC described the welfare reforms and introductions of new payment schemes ‘a fiasco’

“This resulted in significant delays, a backlog of claims and unnecessary distress for claimants who have been unable to access the support they need to live, and in some cases work, independently,” said PAC chair Margaret Hodge.

“The personal stories we heard were shocking. We heard evidence of a claimant requiring hospital intervention as a result of the stress caused by the delays suffered, and another claimant who was unable to afford the specific diet required for diabetes and gastric problems while waiting for a decision.”

Government has declined to comment on the UN investigation.

Read more about this story here.

3) Sun newspaper applauds the removal of Human Rights laws, only to use them four days later to protect journalists

The Sun newspaper applauded Conservative leader, David Cameron for ‘adopting’ it’s manifesto, which included axing the Human Rights bill. But the Sun was to walk with it’s tail between it’s legs as four days later, the newspaper, owned by News UK, used the bill to defend it’s own journalists.

“Next to the headline, “Here Cams The Sun,” the paper applauded a list of Mr Cameron’s party promises, which included the intention to axe the “hated Human Rights Act,” it said.”

However, the Metropolitan police used new snooping powers under the Regulation for Investigatory Powers Act to investigate who leaked the pleb-gate story, accessing telephone records of journalists at the paper.

Image: The Huffington Post

Image: The Huffington Post

“The Sun has since called for a public hearing at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal into the way the Met accessed its journalists’ records, and has confirmed that it will use the HRA in its case.”

Still, this confused and ridiculous paper insists they remain for the abolishment of the Human Rights Act.

Read more about this story here.

4) Benefit pre-payment card trial cancelled in North Tyneside

An attempt to trial pre-paid benefit cards in North Tyneside has been cancelled after only two people volunteered for the scheme.

A great outcome for a trial of the latest attack on welfare claimants, though North Tyneside council claim that the low sign-up was due to ‘inaccurate accusations’ that the cards would be used to target those with drug and alcohol problems.

Bruce Pickard, Deputy Councillor Bruce Pickard, said the council had used pre-paid cards successfully for some residents, and said the cards could help those who struggle to access better prices online as they do not have a full bank account.

“The council said it had no plans to restrict how the card could be used and would not have shared information with the DWP on individual spending. The council needed 250 volunteers to make the project viable.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Website releases information for claimants to combat harassment from DWP

The Sanctioned Jobseeker has released an excellent article detailing how to legally combat harassment and mistreatment by jobcentre advisers and managers.

The Sanctioned Jobseeker the article featuring helpful tips for those who have felt threatened or distressed by their experiences with the organisations, under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997. According to the government legislation, “A person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another, and which knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other”. If a person is found guilty of such acts, they can be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment, a fine, or both.

“Darren Harper, a writer at the Sanctioned Jobseeker, details examples of such acts including: “Jobcentre Plus advisers behaving in a manner which causes you to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened” whether it is the way you are spoken to, specific actions or threatening to stop benefits without reason; “being forced to attend a Work Programme”; and repeatedly called for interviews or even having false accusations made against you.

“In order to file a complaint under the law, evidence must be presented showing that two incidents occurred by the same individual or group, that the offence was conducted against an individual (i.e. yourself) and that the offences were intended to cause distress, oppression and were unreasonable.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Largest property fair to take place in London this week – Let’s Block Boris

Radical Housing Network are staging some protests and demonstrations against the property fair MIPIM where much needed property and land will be sold off to rich investors as more are forced out of their home or face eviction in the UK.

“The world’s largest property fair, known as MIPIM, is coming to London for the first time in its 25-year history. Hundreds of property developers, financiers and politicians – will be welcomed by the Mayor of London – when they converge on Olympia to do deals that allow them to profit from our land and our neighbourhoods.

Join us in our action to Block Boris and other events.

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Find out more at the event page.

 

From Just Fair:

report published this week by Just Fair finds that the UK government is in breach of its legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of disabled people.

The report is the first comprehensive analysis of the extent to which the UK government is meeting its international obligations to realise the rights of disabled people in the austerity era. It examines the rights to independent living, work, social security, social protection and an adequate standard of living.

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Combining legal analysis with testimony-based evidence, the report concludes that government policies are compromising disabled people’s enjoyment of these fundamental rights, causing significant hardship.

The report – Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era – analyses the impact on disabled people of public austerity and the reform of social security.

Baroness Jane Campbell, crossbench peer and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Disability Group, says:

“It is both extremely worrying and deeply sad that the UK – for so long regarded as an international leader in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights – now risks sleepwalking towards the status of a systematic violator of these same rights … I hope that this excellent report serves as a major wake-up call.”

 

The report highlights the support that is at risk for disabled, support which both threatens disabled people’s abilities to live independent lives and puts the UK government in breach of it’s obligation to protect, respect and fulfil the human rights of the disabled.

Aoife Nolan, Trustee of Just Fair and Professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham, says:

“Following several years of progress in realising disabled people’s rights, through equality legislation and the welfare system, government policies are now compromising disabled people’s enjoyment of their human rights, reducing their autonomy and independence. Not only do these policies cause significant hardship and anxiety, but they also amount to impermissible backward steps in relation to disabled people’s human rights, contrary to the United Nations human rights framework.”

The report will now be submitted to the UN body that monitors implementation of human rights.

You can find out more and download it here. 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Last weekend, Disabled People Against Cuts set about starting a protest in the form of a three week camp at Westminster Abbey, to run till the end of Parliament in action against the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The camp disbanded soon after it began, when the Dean of Westminster Abbey John Hall, called police to the scene to physically remove those chained to the gates. We spoke to Rob Punton from DPAC about what happened at the camp, the Church of England, the ILF and the future of the campaign. Here in his own words, Rob explains what happened and why he is forced to continue with action.

Image: @TheSilentAnon

Image: @TheSilentAnon

The Independent Living Fund…

“I was one of the first people to claim the Independent Living Fund. I’ve been claiming the ILF since 1988. Why it’s important to me is because it allows me to carry on with my independent living, and it allows me to do the social part of living not just the personal care part. It allows me to go out with friends. It allows me to go out and take part in community activities. The money has not been ring-fenced. We’re all scared we’re all going to end up with just home care and being marooned, if you like, in our own homes, not able to get out and take part in community activities and carry on with a fulfilled life.

“It’s like a care package. The local authority pays two thirds of your care package and the ILF gives you a third, but as we know most local authorities are struggling so if we lose the ILF, a third of our money could be lost.

“It was actually Maria Miller who announced it in 2010. She said the ILF was going to close in 2015. We’ve been fighting for this to get it stopped for five years, and when the people took the thing to High Court and won the case we thought we got a victory, but of course, Mike Penning MP decided to ignore what the High Court said, which has forced us really, to take more action.”

The Camp at Westminster Abbey

“I was down at the camp but I was locked out on the main street. I didn’t get inside the camp, I was outside the gate.

“The camp ended because we went to Westminster Abbey because we made the assumption that the Church of England, who had already spoken out about the government and about the austerity cuts, was supportive and would allow us to camp out on their property. But of course, as soon as we got there, John Hall, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, came to say that we weren’t welcome on his property and called the police to come and physically remove us. So that’s why there was 300 policemen for 100 protestors. They kettled everybody in and refused to allow food, water and medication in to the protestors so they were forced to leave early.

“I was actually out on the gate with my PA and a protestor came over and asked us to pass his medication over. We tried to pass it over. I tried to push this bag back over and police actually pushed my PA and pushed this guy needing the medication apart and he was really aggressive towards people, and like I said refused people water, food and medication.

300 police kettled 100 protestors

300 police kettled 100 protestors

 

“Inside the camp there were 100 protestors, and there were 300 police. And that was just normal police. Later in the afternoon they sent ones armed with guns into the camp and they were marching around with guns halfway through the protest.

“The Dean was cowering in his cathedral behind closed doors and wouldn’t even come out and face the media. He just locked the doors to the Abbey and let the police deal with things.

“We’ve been shown that they’re the Church of the Establishment. That’s what CofE stands for now, because they obviously don’t give a monkeys about the people of Britain. They talk about standing up and fighting for normal people, but when it comes to doing things on the ground, they cower away. We’re disgusted and we’re considering writing a letter putting forward a proposal to get the Dean of Westminster removed from his post because we don’t think he’s right. He talks about Christian morality but he hasn’t shown much Christian morality in this situation.

“What’s even more alarming is that this man is supposed to be the chair of a disability organisation but when it came to supporting disabled people in the street, he turned his back on them, so it doesn’t say a lot about the way he looks at disabled people.”

The Media

“Mainstream media belongs to the government anyway. So the BBC and ITV and people like Sky only report what the government want them to report. Obviously, the austerity cuts that everybody is facing are not just being reported to the general public so we have to use social media to get it out there.”

Image: Rob Punton

Image: Rob Punton

What now?

“There’s another demonstration on Friday 4th July outside Parliament and we’ll continue to escalate the situation and take it forward. Luckily we’ve got some good support form Occupy and got some links with community groups to work together to bring down this government and coalition.

“The alternative of losing is dire consequences for everybody because the government have proved they have no regard for anyone at all.”

If the closure of the ILF went ahead…

“There are thousands of disabled people who have got no power. What you’ve got to remember is that while people like myself are going out and protesting, a lot of people are not in the position to do so and they are the ones being socially imprisoned in their own homes and being institutionalised and isolated from society. And we’re worried that because of the growth of urgency, we’ll leave a lot more people vulnerable and open to abuse in their own homes.

“I think we have to stop blaming the most marginalised people in society for society’s problems, because while we’re getting angry about benefit claimants we’re losing the NHS. It’s the banks and businesses that need to take responsibilities and we need to ensure that big companies like Amazon and Boots pay their taxes. If everybody paid their taxes, the money would be there to help people. We need to have proper assessments from people who know about the people who need assessing and we need to start talking to disability organisations and disabled people to include them properly and get social justice for everybody and not just the powerful, rich and the strong.”

Find out more about DPAC here.

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1. Iain Duncan Smith used false statistics to justify benefit cuts

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Following a complaint from the charity Parkinson’s UK, the official statistics watchdog has revealed that the DWP repeatedly used false disability statistics to justify welfare changes and cuts.

The DWP and it’s spokespeople repeatedly claimed that the majority of those on DLA (Disability Living Allowance) were give benefits for life without supporting medical evidence. But the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has revealed that only 10% of those passed for life support had no supporting medical evidence.

“The DWP also claimed that “under the current system of DLA, 71% of claimants get indefinite awards without systematic reassessments. However the UKSA found that in the last two years of the DLA, just 23% and 24% of claimants were given indefinite awards.

…..Last year Duncan Smith claimed that 8000 people who had been affected by the benefits cap had moved back into work. The UKSA found that this figure was “unsupported by the official statistics.”

Politics.co.uk

Parkinson’s UK policy advisor Donna O’Brien said:

“The Department of Work and Pensions has a long track record of misusing statistics when it comes to the benefits system, and it’s clear this was a tactic to vindicate further welfare cuts.”

 Read more about this story here.

2. Farage’s excruciating LBC interview forces him and the public to face his hypocrisy, finally

Farage faced a difficult interview when he agreed to appear on James O’Brien’s LBC radio show which resulted in UKIP’s communications director intervening to stop the interview.

O’Brien questioned Farage on racism and discrimination, highlighting that Farage’s attitude and comments were discriminatory against his own wife and children who are German.

Well done James O’Brien. Just a shame it took so long for this sort of questioning on UKIP policies and rhetoric to happen.

Watch the full interview here.

 

3. Universal Credit could lead to increase in error and fraud, warns Work and Pensions Committee

The government has stated that the IT system IRIS (Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service) will be used to perform safeguards against fraud throughout Universal Credit, as it does with housing benefit now. However, there are now problems with how the system will run, and access the necessary data – which could mean the overhaul of the system and a design of a new one which could put the system back, and increase fraud and error in the meantime.

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, said:

“Through the use of RTI—real-time information on PAYE earnings—Universal Credit has the potential over the longer term to substantially reduce fraud and error in the benefits system. However, this could be seriously undermined because of the uncertainty about how DWP will administer the housing element of Universal Credit without increased risks of fraud and error.”

Read more about this story here.

4. Government quietly announces proposals to privatise child protection services

The Department for Education, under Michael Gove, has a proposal to permit the outsourcing of child protection services to companies like G4S and Serco.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

This has alarmed experts, who say “profit-making companies should not be in charge of such sensitive family matters, and warn that the introduction of the profit motive into child protection may distort the decision-making process.”

Professor Ellen Munro, who was commissioned by Gove in 2011 to carry out a review into child protection services, said:

“……establishing a market in child protection would create perverse incentives for private companies to either take more children into care or leave too many languishing with dangerous families.

“It’s a bad idea,” she told the Guardian. “It’s the state’s responsibility to protect people from maltreatment. It should not be delegated to a profit-making organisation.”

Sign the petition to keep profit out of child protection here. 

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – Employment in 2014 – 24/04/2014

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We announced our first live debate in collaboration with Inner City Theatre last week. On 24th April at Hoxton Hall, we tackle employment in 2014 in an environment of wage pressures, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and continuing unemployment. We aim to start the conversation on the ground with an audience, panel and some UK artists, and without the usual question-avoiding officialese of usual political debates.

We are pleased to announce our panellists as follows:

Natalie Bennett – Leader, Green Party

Thomas Barlow – Equalities Officer, Greater Manchester Union

Kam Sandhu – Founder, RealFare

YEUK representative – Youth Employment UK

If you want to attend, the tickets are free for unwaged and £5 for waged. You must register first by emailing admin@innercitytheatre.co.uk to save your place.

Please see our trailer here:

 

2) ATOS quits fit-to-work tests

French healthcare company ATOS, who were awarded the £500m contract to administer all fit-to-work tests until next August, will end their contract early, the government have announced.

With mounting call and evidence from campaigners and many sick and disabled people up and down the country that ATOS were wrongfully administering the test and results, leading to inhumane and stressful consequences for those facing the tests, the company have decided to exit the contract by early next year. They will receive no compensation for doing so, and have agreed a penalty payment with government.

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However, whilst many charities and campaigners welcome the exit of ATOS, they say the whole system needs overhauling, rather than continuing with the same tests with another company.

Last year, the Work and Pensions Select committee backed this by saying the responsibility for problems with the fit-to-work tests and their administration “lay firmly with the DWP” but that the department was failing to “apply sufficient rigour or challenge to ATOS.”

Read more about this story.

3) Low Income families increase debt by 29% in six months to deal with welfare reforms

Low income families are increasing their debt by £52 a week after being hit by welfare reforms, wage pressures and the rising cost of living, according to research from a poverty project.

“The project found that the average household debt stood at just under £3,000, up by 29% since October, equivalent to £670. Families were typically spending £34 a week repaying debts, from an average income among those surveyed of £176 a week.”

The findings are the third instalment of six, from the Real Life Reform project which examines the financial and social changes and behaviours of up to 100 households.

Andy Williams, chair of the Real Life Reform steer group said:

“In our first report in September, people said they’d resist falling further into debt, yet just six months later this picture has emerged.

“Nearly eight out of 10 people in the study owe money. With an underlying average debt of £2,943, some may never pay this off given that they have, on average, as little as £3 left at the end of each day for food.”

Read more about this story.

4) MPs approve welfare cap

The permanent welfare cap was voted through on Thursday by a vote of 520 to 22. 13 Labour rebels defied Ed Miliband by voting against it. See their names here. It was thought there would have been more rebellions against the cap but the vote fell on the same day as Tony Benn’s funeral and some were absent. It is thought others were convinced to vote for it, as the level of the cap could be adjusted as Labour sees fit should they get in at the next election.

However, Save The Children have warned that the cap will push 345,000 children into poverty. The cap excludes Jobseeker’s Allowance and the state pension, so will pressurise working benefits – affecting families across Britain.

Will Higham, the charity’s director of UK poverty, said: “Parties need to explain how they will work to improve wages and welfare to ensure that work pays. Otherwise, the vote will become a straitjacket, binding future governments from taking action to stem a rising tide of child poverty.”

Image: The Drum

Image: The Drum

Read more about this story here.

1) Rise in number of homeless families with children in B&Bs

The number of homeless families with children in B&Bs is at it’s highest in nearly ten years. There are around 2090 families currently in this sort of temporary/emergency accommodation – an increase of 8% on last year, according to research from the homeless charity – Shelter.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Homlessness legislation asks that B&Bs are avoided when placing families. If they are used, families should be there no longer than six weeks. However, there has been an increase in the number of families being placed in this emergency accommodation since 2009, and 760 of the 2090 families had lived there longer than six weeks at the end of June.

The research also found that there were around 43,000 other families in other forms of temporary accommodation, most often short-term private rent flats which can be extremely expensive.

Shelter interviewed 25 families who had stayed in B&B’s and found that many felt “unsafe” with problems including overcrowding, exposure to drugs, threats of violence and sexual offences, lack of facilities including fridges, cooking equipment and tables for children to eat or do homework.

“I try to cook because it’s cheaper, but I can’t put stuff in the fridge because it’s too small so I can’t use fresh stuff. I’m using stuff in tins all the time,” said one mother.

Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb, said; “Our shocking findings have uncovered the shameful conditions homeless children will be living in this Christmas. Parents and children sharing beds, children forced to eat on the floor and being threatened with violence in the place they live. This shouldn’t be happening in 21st-century Britain.”

Kris Hopkins, the housing minister commented that councils had been given £1bn “to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” and to meet “legal requirements” in helping the homeless. He added that families should not be placed in B&B’s and never for more than six weeks, and with the extra funding provided “there is no excuse for councils to breach this.”

shelter_logo1_555px

Shelter, the homeless charity which carried out the research

However, Shelter also believe that more and more homeless people are at threat of being ignored with the government’s plans of removing the right to judicial review. A judicial review allows people the right to challenge authorities and organisations on decisions, and is being scrapped by the government under the veil of reducing legal aid costs. Shelter say:

“The government points again and again to the need to reduce costs, but in limiting judicial review their own figures show they expect to save £3m at most; a tiny 0.03% of the Ministry of Justice’s total £8.6 billion annual budget. In fact,recent research by Matrix Chambers suggests these cuts could well be a false economy, ending up costing the government far more than they want to save.

“The proposed changes mean that rather than negotiating a settlement with the council, when we can, to get a family housed quickly, we would have to pursue every case to its final conclusion through the courts. This would give greater uncertainty to the family who would have to wait longer for an outcome, clog up the courts time with cases that may otherwise have settled, and increase council’s legal costs.”

Read more about this story here.

Read more about Shelter’s campaign here.

2) Affordable homes risk demolition due to bedroom tax

Despite there being a national affordable property shortage, and despite stories such as the above where families are desperate to find housing, some three bedroom houses and flats are being condemned by housing associations because the bedroom tax has made them too expensive for tenants to live in.

Magenta Living, a housing provider in Liverpool, commented that “with changes to welfare benefits, there is very little prospect of letting upper three-bedroom maisonettes in the current climate”. Several other housing associations, with thousands of homes, have come forward to concur that demolition is becoming feasible as they struggle to fill up their blocks, sell up or maintain costs whilst they are empty.

The news is likely to turn up the pressure on the Commons debate on the bedroom tax on Tuesday, where Labour are expected to support an immediate repeal of the policy. Some Lib Dems have also raised they concerns over the controversial spare room subsidy, which has been in place since April this year, affecting over 600,000 people.

But while the government claim the policy was meant to make the best use of the housing stock in the UK, the idea of demolishing affordable housing, whilst the rate of building is slowing against population growth, is counterproductive. The Joseph Rowntree foundation found that Britain would face a housing shortage of 1 million by 2022 unless building was significantly increased.

Read more about this story here.

3) Ed Miliband says energy price freeze would save services £100m

Ed Miliband has confirmed his party will freeze energy bills until 2017, in order to “reset the broken energy market” if Labour win the election in 2015.

Speaking to a crowd in Crouch End in North London, the Labour leader said:

“Labour’s price freeze will save families an average £120 and an average small business user would benefit by over £5,000. It’s not just Britain’s families and businesses that would benefit from this price freeze, it’s our vital public services too. New figures today show that if David Cameron put in place our freeze today, public services would save £100m.”

Image: Belfast Telegraph

Image: Belfast Telegraph

He said the savings for the NHS were the equivalent of 1300 nurses’ salaries, and for schools it could pay for 700 teachers.

The coalition continued to slam the policy as a “con” calling the price freeze unworkable, and suggesting that companies could raise their prices before and after the freeze.

Read more about this story here.

4) Esther McVey silent on possible resignation over Independent Living Fund win

Esther McVey, the former disability minister, has remained silent over her possible resignation from her new post in the same department, after her decision to close the Independent Living Fund was overturned in the court of appeal.

Campaigners were told that three senior court of appeal judges unanimously upheld an appeal against McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in 2015.

The judges criticised McVey’s decision with one commenting that there was no evidence that McVey “directed her mind to the need to advance equality of opportunity.” Another said that McVey “was sufficiently aware of the very real adverse consequences which closing the fund would have on the lives of many of the more severely disabled.”

Image: Birmingham Mail

Image: Birmingham Mail

The case was brought to the courts by five disabled people, who believed that the removal of the Independent Living Fund could remove independence for thousands of disabled people with the highest support needs.

MIke Penning, the new disability minister, must now decide if he wants to appeal the decision against McVey, announce a fresh closure against the fund or admit defeat and allow it to continue.

Read more about this story here.

5) Worldwide protests ignored by mainstream news

The Bonfire of Austerity and the Million Mask March were largely ignored by the mainstream media, despite numbers reaching the thousands.

As some burnt eviction and debt letters on Westminster Bridge, crowds of people donning the familiar Guy Fawkes masks gathered in Parliament square.

The BBC reported there were several hundred people at the demonstration, and hence this is why it did not make their main broadcasts. However, pictures from the protest show there were significantly more. Additionally, the Million Mask March was successful in creating a global protest, with marches taking place in 477 countries worldwide.

Anonymous members, a group behind the march against austerity, poverty and the wealth gap, and other protesters took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the bypass of their demonstrations.

Twitter comments on the #MillionMaskMarch Twitter comments on the #MillionMaskMarch

 

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Thousands protest at Tory Party Conference  to “Save the NHS”, but BBC Coverage lacking 

NHS logo

NHS logo

On Sunday 29th September around 50,000-70,000 took to the Manchester streets outside the Tory party conference in what was one of the largest protests outside of London for years.

Unions has called for a day of action in the name of saving our NHS, attacking the coalition government for the health contracts being sold off to private companies, as well as plans to turn hospitals into Trusts which take on a more business-like role.

The plans could see up to hospitals using private investment for up of 50% of its funding, pushing NHS patients further down the waiting lists and essentially creating a two-tier health system.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC – one of the unions which called for the day of action, said at the rally that the current government did not like the NHS because it was the biggest “socialist success” of our time, adding:

“Cameron said the NHS is safe in his hands. Is he telling the truth or is he a liar?” (The crowd responded “Liar!”)

Despite the rally being so large, the BBC coverage has been attacked by many for being too minimal and unrepresentative of the scale of the very peaceful protest. Those who would like to contact the BBC can call them on their Complaints Line 03700100222.

2) Ed Miliband’s price freeze promise is met with threats from energy companies

Ed Miliband announced at the Labour Party Conference last week that he would freeze energy prices for 20 month should he come into power in 2015, following rising prices for 6 years.

Energy companies immediately hit back at Miliband, threatening blackouts and shortages if prices were frozen.

This has thrown the energy prices debate into the limelight, at a time when living standards are being stretched. Some talk has arisen over the re-nationalisation of some energy, which despite being attacked by Tories, can be  no worse than being held to ransom by largely foreign-owned companies which have profited hugely despite the austerity we have experienced, and shared none of the periods of cheaper energy with its customers.

“The profits made by the “big six” – British Gas, EDF, E.On, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – over the last few years (figures courtesy of the BBC): In 2009, £2.15 billion. In 2010, £2.22 billion. 2011 – £3.87 billion (a massive hike of £1,870,000,000 in a single year). And in 2012 – £3.74 billion. That’s £11.98 billion in profits over four years – a huge and unwarranted amount in these times of supposed austerity.”

Mike Sivier, Vox Political

3) Westminster Council defeated in landmark ‘bedroom tax’ case

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

The Conservative-run Westminster Council was defeated by a local tenant in the first ruling of it’s kind, against the controversial spare room subsidy.

Surinder Lall, who is also blind, told the tribunal that he was being charged for a second bedroom, when he had never used the room as such, as it had always stored the equipment he needed to help him lead a normal life.

Lall explained that his case was typical of many disabled people who required room for equipment, and called on the Council to stop using the term ‘bedroom’ to take away benefits from those who need it. Westminster Council say they were going on information supplied by Lall’s landlord.

“In his decision notice, the judge wrote: “The term ‘bedroom’ is nowhere defined [in the relevant regulations]. I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so defined.”

4) Labour makes their commitments, whilst Tory Party Conference gets under way

The Labour Party Conference set up Ed Miliband’s aims for the party and was met with some strong support for some policies including a promise to scrap the bedroom tax and to sack ATOS. However, campaigners want an end to the Work Capability Assessment also, which has already been ruled unfair on those suffering from mental health problems, yet the Department for Work and Pensions are looking to appeal this. Campaigners want the policies that have ruled disability assessments to be pulled out, as well as the face of those who have provided them so poorly.

The Tory Party Conference is now underway in Manchester, with George Osborne expected to speak today on taking an ever harder line on benefit claimants, and introducing the ‘work for the dole’ policy! (Surprise, surprise! a policy put forward by the Tax Payers Alliance – read why this was a predictable move). More info to follow this week.

 

Image: the Telegraph

Image: the Telegraph

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

In the second part of our interview with Paula Peters and Sean McGovern from DPAC, we talk about the work they do, what they are fighting, and the effects of the austerity measures. You can hear the audio or read some of the quotes below. 

DPAC Campaigners at a protest. Image: Demotix.com

DPAC Campaigners at a protest. Image: Demotix.com

“Jeremy hunt is trying to do that at the moment with the Lewisham A&E decision. He’s trying to re-write the NHS Act of 2006 so that he can downgrade Lewisham and plunder the trust. And I think what surprised them was the most prolific campaign we’ve seen for quite some time, on our NHS, on anything. And it really got out in the public conscience. It got everywhere.”

Paula Peters

“The other thing with this, it’s very dangerous at the moment, it’s been creeping on us in the last year or two, is the incidents and frequency of bad news stories about the NHS. It’s right that poor practice is exposed. But, this is a pattern building here. And this is exactly what they did with British Rail. They made it into such a crap service by disinvestment, non-investment.”

Sean McGovern

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for the NHS and the life saving surgery. My parents both worked for the NHS, and I think Bevan knew a long time ago when the NHS was founded, when he said that the NHS will exist as long as there are people with the strength and the faith to fight for it. I think right now, he’d be really, really proud of seeing thousands of people come out on the streets in Lewisham, in Stafford and all over the place, and seeing people get out there and fight for their hospital.”

Paula Peters

“Nelson Mandela’s quote is so important to me; ‘Nothing is impossible until it’s done.’ So I think don’t think nothing is impossible until it’s done. And we’ve got work to do, we know that.”

Paula Peters

On The Grey Vote: “He’ll [Cameron] keep them on board for the next election. And then it’ll be the pension. State Pension next.”

Sean McGovern

“One thing they can start in this country would be to build a million or two houses. People say it puts half a million building workers back to work, it goes further than that actually, because once you move in your new place what do you tend to do? You buy furniture. You buy a new fridge, buy a cooker. You might even buy new plates, wallpaper, carpet. It’s across virtually every industry. Insurance. Every industry. They did it in 1945, that’s what they did. Built a million new houses, and started up a welfare state, the NHS, universal education, all round about the same time, [with a deficit].”

Sean McGovern

“One of my highlights this year is going to be the visit to IDS’s [Iain Duncan Smith] house. We took a video of all his grounds and put it on Youtube and he’s really angry with us over that. You know, his flock of sheep, and his three tennis courts and his swimming pool, and we put an eviction notice on his door. And he’s very angry we got in there. He’s very upset about that. But sometimes you need to do these things, and say you’ve got eight bedrooms and you’re giving your friends a tax cut and we’re paying for that.”

Paula Peters

“People underestimate people power very, very much.”

Paula Peters

“If you can help somebody in the positions we’re in keep going another day, it’s one in the eye to this government that they haven’t died, and you’ve kept them going and inspired them to keep going. Because when you show strength to them, with what we all have and we all have impairments, that we’re fighting and we’re fighting for them as well as ourselves, you’re inspiring them to say ‘Yeah I can hold on one more day. I can fight back. I can appeal my assessment. I can fight for my care package. I can fight for my treatment in hospital.’ If we can inspire someone to do that, then I think we are doing something to get our message across. I hope more people do get what we’re trying to say and I hope we do get more people to come out with us.”

Paula Peters

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