Archives For DWP

1) #FatCatTuesday demonstrates income inequality continues to grow

On Tuesday of last week, most Top CEOs already earned more than the average worker will earn over the whole year in the UK.

Image: High Pay Centre

Image: High Pay Centre

 

The High Pay Centre who coined the phrase #FatCatTuesday, say that figures demonstrate the inadequacy of government to deal with the pay gap and the excesses of the super rich which are ‘unfair, disproportionate’ and don’t make ‘economic sense’:

“FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72 million. The High Pay Centre found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200

“When the High Pay Centre made the same calculation last year, the think-tank estimated that top bosses would have to wait until the first working Wednesday of 2014 to surpass the earnings of the average worker. But while pay realised by FTSE 100 Chief Executives has risen by nearly £500,000 since last year, the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £200, from £27,000 to £27,200.

“The figures will raise doubts about the effectiveness of Government efforts to curb top pay by giving shareholders the power to veto excessive pay packages. The High Pay Centre has argued that further measures are necessary, such as representation for ordinary workers on the company ‘remuneration committees’ that set executive pay and compulsory publication of the pay gap between the highest and lowest earner within a company.”

Read more about this story here.

2) Iain Duncan Smith urged to suspend sanction regime

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been urged to suspend sanctions on benefit claimants until an investigation into their impact has been carried out. Concerns have been raised from many groups, individuals and professionals on their effect, particularly on mental health and the disabled.

“Experts, ranging from academics, food bank administrators, disabled groups and employment service professionals, told MPs on the work and pensions select committee on Wednesday how sanctions were “more likely” to hinder their target’s journey into work, rather than help them.

“A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union told the Huffington Post UK: “There’s no evidence that sanctions spur people into finding sustainable work, All they do is poison the relationship between jobcentre staff and claimants, which makes it much more difficult to build the kind of relationship that is required.

“A jobcentre should be a place that supports people into finding a job, not a place of conflict and suspicion.”

A DWP-commissioned review, carried out by welfare expert Matthew Oakley, who has worked for the Treasury and the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange, revealed that the most vulnerable were often left punished by a system that they barely understand.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Hinchingbrooke hospital declared ‘inadequate’  by Care Quality Commission

Hinchingbrooke hospital has had to be put into special measures following a ‘scathing’ report by the Care Quality Commission which revealed serious failings, putting patients in danger.

Circle, a private health firm which has won £1.36bn of NHS contracts, told the London Stock Exchange that the CQC report was one of the reasons they were pulling out of running the hospital.

RealFare

RealFare

“The report said some children arriving at the A&E department were left “potentially unsafe” at times because of a lack of specially trained paediatric nurses both there and in some operating theatres.

“Patients told inspectors that the response of nurses to them ringing a bell for assistance was poor, especially at night. Drinks were found to have been left out of reach of patients, even after inspectors had pointed that out.”

The report also noted that the hospital was substantially and frequently short staffed.

This is the first time the watchdog has declared a hospital to be ‘inadequate’ in how it cares for patients.

Allowing private firms, who’s top interest is profit, is a danger to the NHS and the patients it serves. It is not done in the interests of the public but the private interests of a few.

Read more about this story here.

4) ‘Liam Fox wants to kick half a million Indians and Pakistanis off the electoral register’

The Times recently reported that the Conservatives wanted an emergency change to a well-established law allowing those in the UK from the Commonwealth and Ireland to vote in elections. Interestingly, The Times referred to the law as ‘obscure’. The piece read:

“Senior Tories called for an emergency change in the law last night as official figures revealed the scale of foreigners who will be free to cast a vote in May.

“This could result in them being able to decide the outcome of what is set to be the closest and most unpredictable election result in decades. Under an obscure law that has never been reformed, people from Ireland and the Commonwealth who live in the UK are given voting rights. Irish, Indian and Pakistani citizens top the list of those allowed to cast a vote…

“Some Conservatives believe that the number of voters from ethnic minorities included in the list will provide a boost to Labour. The previous election showed that Labour was far more successful in winning the votes of those from ethnic minorities…

“Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said: “It is ridiculous that the government of a country like ours could be decided by those who are not British citizens. It is high time we brought this law up to date.”

These are desperate lengths to control election results. It is not ‘obscure’ for people who live here to have the right to vote.

Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat commentator added in his post:

“Who would such a change kick off the electoral register?

  • 345,000 Irish
  • 306,000 Indians
  • 180,000 Pakistani
  • 73,000 Australians
  • 52,000 Zimbabweans
  • Other countries in the top ten are Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Canada and Bangladesh.”

As Mike Sivier of Vox Political commented:

“Let’s hope those of minority ethnic backgrounds, living in the UK, get the message:

“Conservatives don’t want your vote.

“Like UKIP, they want to deport you.

“They’ll say it’s “fair” that you don’t get a say in who governs the country where you live.

“In that case, would you say it’s “fair” that you’ve been paying taxes for the last five years of Conservative-led rule?”

5) Shelter is here to help – Pass It On

January is infamous for being a tough money month, and as housing prices and rents continue to rise, if you are struggling, you can seek help from Shelter, who are offering advice and assistance in the Pass It On initiative.

1 in 5 rent or mortgage payers have borrowed money to cover housing costs and 1 in 4 would feel too ashamed to ask for help if they couldn’t pay the rent or mortgage. If you’re in this situation, make sure you get advice on managing your rent or mortgage worries.

“Getting advice from Shelter could make all the difference.

“Please share our advice and pass it on!”

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Find out more about Shelter here.

 6) Real Media 

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Real Media – a coalition of independent bloggers, journalists and media organisations for independent journalism and against mass media misinformation – now has a temporary site so you can find out more and stay ahead of events and announcements ahead of the launch in March.

We have new organisations joining us all the time and so far include Bristol Cable, Bella Caledonia, Salford Star, Transition Free Press, Counterfire, Media Reform Coalition and more.

We also have a gathering in February in Manchester supported by John Pilger, Red Pepper, Open Democracy and more…

Go to http://www.realmedia.press and show your support by joining the below…

Like Real Media on Facebook here.

Follow Real Media on Twitter here.

Please join our Thunderclap here

And find out more about the gathering in Manchester in `February.

 

The BBC have reported that the Government is considering cutting the rate of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by nearly £30 per week. Those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), who have been found to be not ‘fit for work’ but able to engage with activities to help them move towards work, could receive little more than those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), according to Michael Buchanan at the BBC.

Let’s also not forget that more than a third of those with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s have also been put into this WRAG group, which is a cut to Full Employment Support Allowance already, and being in this group callously suggests these people will be able to work in the future despite the nature of their conditions meaning they worsen over time.

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said:

“If these proposals go ahead it would leave many people with disabilities struggling to make ends meet. People in the WRAG, over 40 per cent of whom have mental health problems, face significant barriers to returning to work and will take much longer to do so than people on JSA. As such, it is right that they receive additional support to allow them to have a reasonable standard of life while preparing for work.

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“Rather than looking to make reckless short-term savings, the Government should be focused on fixing a system that is failing people with mental health problems. The only responsible way to reduce the cost of ESA is to provide personalised and specialist support to people help them move closer to work. Current Government schemes are failing to do this and, in many cases, are causing stress and anxiety to people that is making their health worse and pushing them further from work.”

And on the new provider for Work Capability Assessments (which the BBC have reported as being US firm Maximus):

“We hope that the appointment of a new provider to carry out Work Capability Assessments will be used as an opportunity to make much needed improvements. The assessment process continues to cause a great deal of distress for people with mental health problems and often fails to recognise the impact of people’s conditions on their ability to work. We have long been calling for assessors with expertise in mental health, and greater use of evidence from professionals who knows the applicant best.”

“However, the WCA needs to be understood in the context of a wider benefits system that is failing people with mental health problems. Only a tiny proportion of people with mental health problems are moving into employment through this process, and actually many people find the pressure placed on them is making their health worse and a return to work less likely. We still need to see a complete overhaul of the system and a more personalised approach which helps people with mental health problems move closer to work and continues to provide ongoing support once they’re in 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.

 

1) Bills soar 4 times quicker than wages

The cost of living is rising 4 times faster than wages, according to new figures released last week.
The average income after inflation is down more than £1600 under the coalition according to Labour, and talks of recovery are blighted as incomes continue to fall and struggle against rising outgoings.
Inflation slowed last month, according to the coalition, from 1.9% to 1.6%. But the figures used by the Office for National Statistics, which unlike the coalition index, include housing costs, put inflation at 2.5%.
House prices also rose by 10.2% in the last year.
2) People’s March for the NHS gets underway
A 300 mile march across 23 towns and cites ending up at Parliament, in protest against attacks and privatisation of the NHS, has begun.
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The march was set up by a group of mothers outraged at coalition attacks which have seen the Tory government renege on promises not to privatise the NHS, and not to affect front line services. Instead, contracts have been sold to private companies, some of which have strong ties to the Conservative party and the government have claimed that the NHS requires reform despite it remaining the best health care system in the world according to the Commonwealth Fund.
The march calls on anyone to join in to show their support as the march continues. So get involved. The website reads:

We will serve notice to every politician that voted to destroy our NHS – Join the fight back.

“Support for the NHS is growing day by day. We need our NHS so it’s time to join the thousands already campaigning together to keep it.

3) Government spending watchdog accuses DWP of hiding Universal Credit failings
The public accounts committee has accused the Department for Work and Pensions of deliberately hiding errors and avoiding scrutiny by making up a new category in the rating of the Universal Credit system.
The Major Projects Authority, which oversees all large government projects, put the Universal Credit System at ‘reset’ status in their report in 2013 – a status never used before.
It was not used for any other project either, having been handily crafted only for the Universal Credit system, pulling it out of the usual five-tier rating system used by the MPA, and making the rating obscure as to the scheme’s success, or more likely, failure.
4) Increase in right-to-buy sales sees calls for reform

Right-to-buy sales of council owned properties have increased by a third in the second quarter of the year, with 2,845 properties sold between April and June.

Image: capita Software

Image: capita Software

Some are now calling for drastic reforms and changes to the scheme as housing stock is lost and not replaced at a time when more and more people are needing affordable homes and help with housing.

Schemes offering reductions and discounts on housing deposits and repayments have also been called into question.

“Darren Johnson, Green party member of the London Assembly, said right-to-buy was “a disaster” for London, where 948 council homes were sold to tenants over the quarter.

“He said: “A lot of council homes sold today will be in the hands of private landlords tomorrow. Fewer low-rent homes will drive more low paid people out of inner London. The mayor should lobby for it to be scrapped and for councils to be allowed to borrow to invest in building many more.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Cameron rebuked over comments that ‘migrants take most new jobs’

David Cameron has been rebuked by the statistics watchdog for comments claiming migrants take most new UK jobs.

 

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Cameron made the comments in an article for the Daily Telegraph, but was quickly challenged by Sir Andrew Dilnot – the chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

“Sir Andrew pointed out that figures from the Office for National Statistics show only that native Britons made up 76% of the increase in the number of people in work over the same period. “These official statistics do not show the number of ‘new jobs’,” he wrote.

“The number of people in employment and the number of jobs in the economy are not the same. One person may have more than one job, and some jobs may be shared by more than one person.”

“From the available official statistics, it is therefore not possible to estimate the number of new jobs, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by UK nations, nor the number of new jobs that are filled by non UK nationals.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Property expert says benefit cap will not save money

George Osbourne’s benefit cap of £26,000 in London, and £23,400 outside London and the South East was part of further cuts of £12bn from the welfare budget.

However, Ajay Jagota insists that this will ‘not save a penny’ and just push up prices elsewhere. Jagota claims that the policy fails to tackle the broken housing market in London and does not encourage people to move away from the capital.

“Mr Jagota said: “If this really was a problem, wouldn’t the streets of the North East be awash with southern jobseekers, migrating North for an easier life? It’s certainly not something I’ve seen much evidence of.”

Read more about this story here.

 

1) Judge rules work programme ‘incompatible’ with human rights

Retrospective law changes made by Iain Duncan Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions, following flaws identified by three judges in a case that involved the use of workfare in Poundland, have been deemed in contravention of European Human rights laws. Human rights lawyers say the ruling is a “damning assessment” and if the appeal is upheld, government will owe jobseekers £130m.

Appeal judges agreed that “the 2011 regulations failed to give the unemployed enough detailed information, especially about sanctions, including loss of jobseeker’s allowance, for refusing jobs under the schemes.”

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To avoid re-paying jobseekers for unfair sanctions and withdrawal of benefits, Iain Duncan Smith changed the laws retrospectively – a callous abuse of his position to avoid giving any justice to the unemployed people who had been unfairly treated.

Iain Duncan Smith will, unsurprisingly, appeal against this decision.

Iain Duncan Smith is also appealing a third time against a decision to release a report problems of the Universal Credit scheme – a flagship policy that has seen hundreds of millions of pounds wasted. All of these appeals are paid for by the public purse.

Read more about this story here.

2) Police begin inquiry into treatment of protestors at Westminster Abbey

Last week, we posted an account by Rob Punton, from Disabled People Against Cuts, about his experience at Westminster Abbey when the group attempted to start a protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

300 police kettled 100 protestors

300 police kettled 100 protestors

Rob Punton also posted his experience on his blog, and detailed that police would not allow food, water or medication into the site, where some 300 police surrounded 100 protestors.

Metropolitan Police are now launching an inquiry into the treatment of protestors at the site.

Read more about this story here.

3) Calum’s List an important resource in understanding the effects of welfare reform

Calum’s List, a website dedicated to remembering the people who have committed suicide as a result of welfare reforms or delays and which was shut down last month, is a ‘valuable resource.’

“It includes cases such as that of Martin Rust from Norwich, a schizophrenic who had been found fit to work by a DWP assessment, and committed suicide two months later. The Coroner cited the “distress” caused by the DWP’s decision as a contributory factor in his decision to end his life. And that of Elaine Christian, who was found dead in Holderness Drain after self-harming and taking an overdose. The inquest heard that she had had to stop work because of poor health and was worried about a medical appointment to assess her eligibility for disability benefits she was due to attend the next day. Vicky Harrison, a 21-year-old who took an overdose after being rejected by what her family estimated to be around 200 jobs in two years. Her case is one of the few on the list to have been reported by the national press.”

The list is important as many of these stories may be reported by local press, but are often not picked up by national media, and this sort of body of evidence is vital in ensuring we understand what is taking place.

Read more about this story here.

4) UK needs 4 day week to combat stress, says leading doctor

One of the UK’s top doctors has called for a move to a four day week to reduce stress, allow people to spend more time with family, and to reduce unemployment.

Dr John Ashton added that this would also benefit people’s health.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related]mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.

“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Glenda Jackson makes an excellent speech speaking out against Iain Duncan Smith and DWP

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Britain’s poor now on par with Eastern Bloc

The poorest fifth of UK households are significantly worse off than the poorest fifth in other Western European countries, according to analysis of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data published by the High Pay Centre last week.

High Pay Centre Director Deborah Hargreaves said:

 “These figures suggest we need to be more concerned about inequality and how prosperity is shared, as well as average incomes or aggregate measures like GDP. The fact that the rich are richer in the UK than many other countries hides the fact that the poor are poorer.

“Most people think our living standards in the UK are similar to economies like France and Germany, but being poor in the UK is more like being poor in the former Soviet Bloc than in Western Europe.”

The High Pay Centre analysis also notes that if the UK’s total income of around £1 trillion was divided in the same way as total incomes in Denmark or the Netherlands, 99% of UK households would be better off by around £2,700 per year.

Image: The Huffington Post

Image: The Huffington Post

 

Read more about this story here.

2) Labour announces plans to cut benefits for 18-21 year olds, replacing with means-tested training allowances

Ed Miliband announced Labour’s first plans on cuts to welfare, with a plan that would remove benefits from 100,000 18-21 year olds, replaced instead with a means-tested allowance based on whether the claimant is in training.

The move follows a YouGov poll released last week which found that 78% of the British public felt that the welfare system was unfair and failing to reward those who had contributed to it.

The move is also meant to symbolise Labour’s dedication to welfare reform, apparently tapping in to the need to reward people in a way that is closer to what they pay in. It does however, entirely ignore the fact that opportunities for young people are scarce in a far more insecure and lower-paid environment than the previous generation.

The removal of Jobseeker’s Allowance for those below skills level 3 will affect seven out of 10 young people, and save around £65m.10431489_686788578035740_8042865362329683316_n

Read more about this story here.

3) Royal College of Nurses threaten to unseat MPs who do not support a pay rise for NHS staff

Nursing leaders have pledged that they would work to unseat MPs who do not support a pay rise for NHS staff, at the next election.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has denied frontline health professionals a one percent pay rise across the board, infuriating health unions.

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Some have put forward the idea of strike action, Dr Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing has suggested that rather than risking patient care through strike action, nurses should pursue “alternative forms of industrial action” at the ballot box.

“There are many MPs on all sides of the House of Commons that have small majorities, some just a few hundred, some even as low as 30 or 40” he told RCN members. “There are about 1,000 nurses in each constituency and if we mobilise ourselves I know many of those MPs will be looking over their shoulders and wondering if they’ll be re-elected at the General Election next year.”

Power to them.

4) Don’t let them tell you that our NHS is failing or needs privatisation. It is the best healthcare system in the world.

An international panel of experts declared that the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world, rating it’s care superior to other countries who spend more. The report ranked the USA as the worst in healthcare provision.

“The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” the fund’s researchers conclude in their 30-page report. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less.”

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Read more about this story here.

5) DWP caught out as over half a million sickness benefit appeals were won, but figures were hidden from the public

From ilegal:

“DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions.”

“These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

“These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

Read more about this story here.

6) 50,000+ march in People’s Assembly demo against austerity, and BBC fails to report on it again

Thousands took to the streets in London on Saturday against austerity, with speakers including Russell Brand, Owen Jones and Christine Blower. Solidarity reigned supreme as the demonstration brought together a coalition of unions, political parties, activist groups and community leaders. The march also celebrated one year of the People’s Assembly.

The march comes ahead of a 1 million strong strike planned on 10th July for public sector workers against pay freezes – sending a clear message to government that damaging austerity will not be tolerated. And the People’s Assembly plan to stage the biggest demonstration ever seen later this year.

As with the Manchester march against the privatisation of the NHS, where 50-70,000 took to the streets, the BBC turned a blind eye to the demonstration, slipping out a small report late in the evening on their website.

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) ‘The Sun’s free copy sees backlash and a potential fine, and Ed Miliband apologises for endorsement

‘The Sun’ circulated 22 million free copies of it’s paper last week with the front page headline ‘This Is Our England,’ as a commemorative  World Cup edition.

But it was not a war reception from the public with thousands of people burning the paper, sending it back, or putting up posters to tell Royal Mail not to deliver the tabloid to their address.

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Further, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband posed with the paper as an endorsement, which saw fierce criticism from the public against the tabloid’s history, proprietorship and bias.

Miliband later apologised, though he was the only one. Having said previously, that he would ‘stand up to Murdoch,’ this PR faux pas may have cost him.

Also, the paper forgot to print some legally required details on the paper, which could see them paying up to £50 per copy, or £1.1bn in total for this mistake. It would take 3.5 years for the paper to claw the money back in sales.

Read more about this story here.

 

ATOS fined £30m for Work Capability Assessment errors

In an exclusive report, The Londoner was told that ATOS, the French healthcare company on government contract to supply fit-to-work testing, has been fined £30million for errors in it’s delivery of the assessments.

The company has already announced that they are exiting the contract early, due to huge failures exposed by thousands of people attending theassessments, but details of this pay off were kept secret up until now to avoid further embarrassment for the company.

Read more about this story here.

2) Boris’ water cannons are being phased out in Germany amid safety concerns

The water cannons secured by Boris Johnson, are being phased out in Germany (where Boris is buying them from), amid concerns over their safety.

“The “WaWe 9” vehicle, produced by Ziegler Group and colloquially known as “Mammoth” or “Goliath” among German police, was first, introduced in 1982. It is named after the 9,000 litres it can hold in its tank, which it can spray as far as 65 metres at 18 litres a second – though some reports claim the machines can easily be adjusted to double the water pressure.”

Image: Revolution News

Image: Revolution News

The water cannons are two decades old, and first raised concerns in 1985, when activist Günter Sare died after being stunned and run over by a WaWe 9.

An investigation into Sare’s death revealed several flaws in the design of WaWe 9, which contributed to the death.

Germany is seeking to replace the cannons with newer models, explaining why Boris Johnson was able to bag three of them for around £30,000 each – much cheaper than the £1m it costs for new cannon models.

Kerry-anne Mendoza, author of the brilliant ScriptoniteDaily has begun a crowdfund for a People’s Cannon, which you can donate to here.

Read more about this story here.

3) Focus E15 mothers target abandoned houses in protest for decent homes

The excellent Focus E15 mothers targeted local abandoned housing, covering them in posters and photos which said “This family needs a home, this home needs a family.”

Focus E15 mothers will march on July 5th for decent homes for all.

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All photos from Focus E15 mothers facebook page.

4) Farage could face jail for undeclared donations of £205,000

Action is being considered against UKIP leader Nigel Farage after it was found that donations worth £205,000 were undeclared to the electoral commission, breaking electoral law.

The donations, dating back from 2001, made by party supporter John Longhurst were declared to the European Parliamentary register but Farage failed to tell the British Electoral Commission. Donations should be declared within 30 days.

A UKIP spokesperson said “Mr Farage was surprised to learn that the Electoral Commission thought it should be informed as well, as this did not accord with the professional advice he had received at the time.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Salma Yaqoob confronts Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time

Despite the presence of the Minister for Work and Pensions on BBC Question Time last week, welfare and employment played a small role in the discussion. However, Salma Yaqoob, from Birmingham’s Stop The War campaign, did confront Iain Duncan Smith and the ‘scrounger’ rhetoric he has previously relied on.

1) Inside Whitehall: Iain Duncan Smith must go

The Major Project’s Authority (MPA), designed to oversee implementations of public services and schemes, released it’s second annual report last week. In it, contained the failures and successes of government flagship schemes such as HS2 and Universal Credit.

The schemes are graded on a green, amber, red rating. But Universal Credit, had been given a “meaningless” ‘reset’ rating. A lie.

The Universal Credit scheme had been given a red rating by the MPA but this had been changed due to protestations from Minister for Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and his DWP department.

IDS has shown himself to be incapable of overseeing this scheme time and time again, with losses in the millions written off and damaging staff surveys revealing poor management, high stress and frustration. One member of staff said the work was “soul-destroying.”

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

Iain Duncan Smith Image: The Guardian

The MPA’s red rating deems the scheme “unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action.” IDS’s attempts to manipulate the outcome and public fallout by falsifying the rating portrays the ignorance which Whitehall uses to gloss over huge failures.

Apparently, David Cameron considered replacing IDS at the last re-shuffle of government, and this is more likely now. It cannot come a minute too soon, because for the rest of us, IDS’s record of failures and abuse of power without consequence, has long since moved past disbelief into outright despair.

Read more about this story here.

See a timeline of how the problems emerged here.

2) Racism on the rise in UK, increasing social division and placing more people at risk of poverty, warns JRF

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

Racism has increased since the start of the millennium with 30% of people admitting they at least a little prejudice towards people from other races. No prizes for guessing how this issue has been exacerbated by political discourse recently. But, the JRF warn that this means something far more damaging for our society:

“Over the last two years JRF has funded seven projects that have explored how poverty and ethnicity are linked. They found that racial prejudice can restrict people’s opportunities at work and their earning potential, cut their access to essential services and can affect children’s education, all of which increase the risk of poverty.”

“Racism was not something we asked the researchers to focus on. But it emerged as a key theme from every single study. We found that:

  • “Racism, and the fear of it, restricts access to social networks, preventing people from making links which could lead to jobs, support for small businesses, training and other opportunities.
  • “It can prevent people from being promoted at work, wasting their skills and potential.
  • “In some parts of the UK it leads to people from ethnic minority backgrounds being directed into work for which they are greatly overqualified.
  • “It intimidates people from leaving their own area to look for work or access services.
  • “It underlies some concerns that people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds have about using childcare or formal care for older people.
  • “Children’s education is affected by low expectations among teachers and by racist bullying.
  • “Access to vital services, such as primary healthcare, is affected by experiences of racism, particularly from frontline staff such as receptionists.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Council Tax Arrears now most common debt problem for Citizens Advice

Council tax arrears have become the most common debt problem for families needing help due to welfare reforms and changes in support, Citizens Advice announced on Monday.

The charity have dealt with 27,000 people needing help with council tax in the first three months of this year, up 17% on last year.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

Citizens Advice said that the increase had come since the abolition of help with council tax in April 2013, with new rules introduced relying on councils to offer help. There are varying degrees of support from council to council but 244 out of 325 in England now require all working-age households to make some contribution. Council tax has now overtaken credit cards and loans as the number one debt problem for those seeking advice.

“Of those contacting the charity about council tax arrears, 42% were employed and 28% unemployed. The rest were full-time carers, or similar.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Labour will not undo unpopular coalition cuts

Shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Chris Leslie announced on Friday that Labour ‘could not afford’ to undo unpopular coalition cuts. Sorry to say but you will get more of the same from a Labour government, who undoubtedly released this news to prove they are ‘responsible’ with money. We would prefer if they were just as focused on being responsible with people’s lives too.

‘I’m not heading into this expecting popularity. Quite the opposite. All government departments in the next Labour Government will have to face fundamental questions as never before. We won’t be able to undo the cuts that have been felt in recent years. And I know that this will be disappointing for many people. A more limited pot of money will have to be spent on a smaller number of priorities. Lower priorities will get less.’

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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) Trussell Trust hits back at Tory attacks on food banks

Britain’s largest food bank, the Trussell Trust have hit back at claims from Iain Duncan Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions, that they are “aggressively marketing” and “scaremongering” in order to “advance a political agenda” despite Cameron previously praising the work of the food banks in the UK.

The contrasting arguments from the Conservatives portray a government struggling to tackle the growing problem of food poverty in the UK. The comments come after a recent report from the Trussell Trust which showed that 1 million people have used a food bank in the UK in the last 12 months. Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust said:

“You can’t get free food from the Trussell Trust by walking through the door and asking for it; you must have a voucher. More than 24,000 professionals – half of whom work in the public sector and health service, the police, and in social services – ask us to give this food to clients because they’ve made the decision that this individual or family is in dire straits and needs help. We’re not drumming up demand.”

140419foodbanks

 

Speaking of attacks on the Trussell Trust, the Daily Mail’s attempt at smearing food banks and the people who use them in the Mail On Sunday was met with a backlash on Twitter and lead to donations being made to the ‘Crack UK Hunger’ page in defiance against the tabloid’s coverage.

The Mail attempted to portray that you could walk in and get food from food banks “no questions asked,” yet a couple of sentences later explained that their ‘undercover reporter’ was asked a series of questions about why they needed the food bank vouchers as well as their personal details.

Hmmmm…….

Image: Pride's Purge

Image: Pride’s Purge

 

Read more about this story here.

2) 3.8 millions families are living on a “knife-edge” say homeless charity

3.8 million families are one paycheck away from losing their home, say homeless charity, Shelter. New research reveals that around one-third of all families would be unable to pay rent or mortgage payments if they lost their job or income as they do not have enough savings. This is also backed up by government figures which show 15 million adults in the UK have no savings.

 

“Kate lost her job in October 2013 when the business she worked for went bankrupt. She had already fallen behind on her mortgage because her employer wasn’t paying her properly. Kate later received a letter informing her that the mortgage lender was seeking to repossess her home.

“Kate said: “They hadn’t been paying me properly, so I’d begun to fall behind on my mortgage. Then I got the letter through the door saying they wanted to take my house back. I was petrified. I thought what am I going to do? How am I going to tell my daughter and my mum that we have to move out?”

Read more about this story here.

3) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – This Thursday

Real Talks’ first event, ‘A Job’s Worth’ takes place this Thursday at Hoxton Hall from 7:30pm.

Through original pieces of interviews and writing, we will create a stimulus for debate with an audience and panel on Employment in 2014. You can find out more here, and register your place by emailing admin@innercitytheatre.co.uk

Panellists include:

Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader

Matteo Bergamini – Youth Employment UK

Thomas Barlow – Equalities Officer, Greater Manchester Community Union

Kam Sandhu – RealFare Founder

With performances from playwright Monsay Whitney and poet Jess Green.

Be part of the debate.

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass