Thursday, 30 December 2010

An admission

It's been a few weeks since I've written and many of you may be wondering what happened. I went from posting several times a day to nothing for weeks.
Well, quite simply, I am tired. The constant onslaught of articles, the nasty comments, the blinkered views, have all combined to make me feel worn out.
The right wing press and believers have been doing their work on me and making me feel like I have to constantly justify myself, why I'm not working, why I'm claiming benefits.

I'm ashamed to admit it in the face of all the admirable and ongoing action from others but that's what it is. I have been sleeping a lot and my MS symptoms have been flaring again because I have caught a cold. Yep, a normal, everyday cold.
For most people a cold is nothing but an irritant that makes them feel a bit icky. For me, it makes me so tired I could cry and makes my head hurt enough to stop me sleeping properly.
I don't have the energy or the mental faculty to write with my previous zeal. And that in itself makes me feel bad. Because I want to be fighting, I want to feel useful and do something against these cuts that will make the lives of so many people miserable.
There is so much out there that makes me angry and I need to do something about it. But my body won't let me.

And that is part of the issue. If I have an illness that affects me to the point where I can't fight for myself, then why should I feel bad about that? Why should my own Government make me feel bad? And why would they be trying to implement plans that will make my life harder?
People like me aren't starting from the same level playing field. But the government refuses to see that.
And that in itself makes me feel even worse.

I don't have the strength or the energy to fight right now. I need others to fight for me. I hate that. And I hate that I don't see it happening. There is solidarity for the students, solidarity for the tax avoidance protests, solidarity for the public sector job cuts. As there should be. But if I can support them in the small way that I am able then why aren't they standing in solidarity with me?

Is the right wing press doing it's work on them too?

Cross posted at Where's the Benefit

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Some ideas

From Deb W in the comments section of this Guardian article:

Is it really beyond the wit of the coalition to bring back fair rent reviews?

The slavish adherance to free market principles has led to a lot of landlords getting very rich whilst their tenants live in substandard housing for which the benefits system is paying through the nose!

Don't cut housing benefits by a tenner a month, cut rents by a tenner a month instead. And inspect all properties upon which rent is paid and not only set a fair rent for each but make the landlords bring them up to code.

This will create jobs ( because someone has to do the inspecting) and the costs will be offset by the savings in housing benefit which will now be paid on a fair rent basis.

Meanwhile get the economy moving by taking the money which we give to A4E and Serco for " welfare to work" schemes and putting it directly into contracts for construction and maintenance firms. Employ an army of builders, electricians, painters and decorators and plumbers and get the housing stock up to a decent standard. If a private landlord won't pay then invoke compulsory purchase orders... the legislation is already there and social housing firms could take over such properties.

Oh and build more homes! A variety of social housing but with emphasis on decent, affordable shared accomodation for young people and good quality sheltered accomodation for the elderly as this will reduce overcrowding and free up larger homes for families.

It isn't rocket science and will save a fortune in the long run on support services.

I could not agree more!

I would also add in the further taxation of second homes which take so many houses away from those who need them. Or go even further and use compulsory purchase orders to bring them under council control.

Homes are not just 'property', they should not be a commodity. They are homes, plain and simple. Places for people to live, to raise their families, to spend their lives in. Not just bricks and mortar to make money from those who can't afford them.

Boycotting Kraft/Cadbury's

It's not often I like something from the Daily Mail but I like what they're doing with this article

Last year US owned Kraft foods took over Cadbury's in an £11billion hostile takeover. Opponents at the time argued that it would not be in Britain's interest to let the company out of British hands. Now they are being proved right.

Kraft have announced that it will be moving Cadbury's HQ to Switzerland, thus avoiding paying millions in tax.
This is outrageous. Companies like this should not be allowed to get away with. We are their costumers, their workers, their lifeblood. Taking their money to Switzerland and away from British coffers hurts the very people they depend on. Of course they don't see this. But they will if we stop buying their products.

From this moment on I am boycotting Cadbury. I'm boycotting Kraft. I will no longer buy any of their products, no matter how much I might like them.
I urge everyone to do the same. We need to let the tax dodgers know we aren't prepared to put up with this any longer. UKuncut successfully closed down several London shops on Saturday in protest against tax dodger Sir Philip Green.
Let's send the same message to Kraft

Email the mail on Sunday to support the campaign to make Cadbury/Kraft rethink the move at and click on the link for a list of products to boycott.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A letter to Ed Miliband

This is a letter I wrote to Ed Miliband yesterday. I don't pretend to be the worlds best writer or the most knowledgeable in these matters. I believe the majority will agree with me.

Dear Mr Miliband,

My name is Helen and I have Multiple Sclerosis. Because of this I claim ESA. I am writing to you because I am deeply worried about the cuts that have been announced by the ‘coalition’. They claim that they will support the most vulnerable yet the reforms they have announced will have an appalling effect on people like me.

The vast majority of ESA/IB claimants are not scroungers. We are honest, ordinary people with horrible, debilitating illnesses that force us to have to claim benefits. We know that there are people out there who claim the benefits they are not entitled to but they are a minority. We dislike the frauds as much, if not more, than everyone else since they give us all a bad name.
But labelling us all as scroungers is not only wrong, it’s unjust and it is making us very uneasy. Living life in fear is not the way anyone should have to live but thanks to the coalition and the right wing press this is how it is for us.

None of us asked to be ill, to have conditions that affect our lives and we would happily give up all of our benefits if you would take our illnesses with them.
Illness does not care what class you are, it doesn’t care how much your income is, what job you do, how many hours you work. It’s doesn’t care if you are male or female, young or cold, well educated or illiterate. It can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time. I never imagined for a moment it would happen to me.

Health related benefits should not be linked to out of work benefits. The help that an able bodied person requires to find work is not on the same level as the needs of the disabled. To try and force a disabled person into work that is wrong for them is criminal. Because their health will be affected.

The Tories and their rightwing supporters are selfish. They care only about themselves and money. And they assume that everyone else is like that, which is why they cannot believe that so many of us are genuine claimants. But being a socialist means you care about others, not just yourself. It means you look out for those less fortunate than yourself, even if their issues do not relate to you. You may not be disabled but you need to look after the interests and welfare of those who are.

Iain Duncan-Smith has told the world that unless you earn a wage you are contributing nothing to society. He has effectively told us we are worthless. We cannot depend on someone like that to look out for our welfare.

The previous Labour Government did nothing to help us. The coalition government is determined to punish us. Our hopes rest with you. I beg you to remember that while I may be disabled, I am still a human being. I don’t deserve to be punished for the crimes of a few. Being disabled is hard enough.
Please help to show the world that we are not all the same, that we don’t deserve to be branded scroungers and we shouldn’t be punished as such. I would ask you to meet with some of us. See our faces. Hear our stories. Gain an understanding of who we are and what we need.

Stand up for the sick and disabled and you will have our vote.

Thank you for your time,

Helen Thomas

Cross posted at Where's the Benefit

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Disability hate crime

Disability hate crime figures for 2009 - 1,402.

That's 1,402 separate occasions where people have suffered simply because they are disabled.
Call me whatever you want but I believe this figure will rise in the next dew years. The ConDem government and the right wing press label us as scroungers. No matter what the condition is, we have been targeted.
Inflammatory headlines in the Sun and the Daily Mail scream at people that we are undeserving, feckless and work shy.
So I don't feel very confident that those already predisposed to look down their noses at us will see through the propaganda.

After all, the headlines have been screaming about immigrants and the level of race crime has risen.

So I fully expect the number of disability hate crime to rise too. I only hope that I am wrong.


Crossposted at Where's the Benefit?

Rousing speech from a student

Speaking at the Coalition of Resistance conference on 27 Nov 2010, this 15 year old is a proud example of our children.
I hope the ConDems realise what they have unleashed

Cameron's 'Brown' jibe

Daivd Cameron took a pop at Ed Miliband in the House of Commons after Mr M said it was no wonder he was proud of being a child of Thatcher.
Cameron retorted 'I'd rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown'.

Really DC? Because the country suffered under Thatcher. A lot. Gordon Brown may have had his faults but at least he tried. I'd rather be a child of Brown than a daughter of Thatcher anyday.


IDS is at it again

After his embarrassing mistake with the source of his statistics, you'd have thought IDS would have learned his lesson. Alas no. In his interview with the Sun, he is caught playing fast and loose with the truth once again as he claims that the huge deficit is made up largely from welfare payments.

Anyone with half a brain and the wherewithal to look things up knows this is not true. The Treasury knows this is not true. The deficit is made up largely from the bailouts made to the banks. Why on earth will he not admit this?
Oh I forgot, because that would mean he had no cause for dismantling the welfare state.

Thankfully we have Left Foot Forward to put the record straight
the increase – due primarily to increasing unemployment – is equivalent to £24.1bn in today’s prices or just 1.64% of GDP – a small proportion of 10.1% deficit.

The figures are there Mr Duncan-Smith. Read them. Stop lying to the public for your own ideological purposes.

The number of people on out-of-work-benefits increased since the start of the recession after falling for a number of years. The rise was due to an increase in unemployment. The total figure of 5.34m in 2009 is lower than the 5.95m who were on out-of-work benefits in 1997 when the Tories were last in power.


IDS devalues our lives

Just when I thought it was impossible to dislike him even more comes his most offensive comment yet, in an interview given to the Sun newspaper:
We have managed to create a block of people in Britain who do not add anything to the greatness of this country. They have become conditioned to be users of services, not providers of money

In fact, IDS has just told a few million people, me included, that they are worthless. Unless you earn money, the country has no use for you.
If you are sick or disabled, you are worthless.
If you are unemployed, you are worthless.

It doesn't matter what you might do to help your community, whether it be caring for a relative or volunteering for a charity, you are not earning money therefore you are worthless. You aren't contributing.

This is the man who stands in government and is in charge of our welfare system. The man who holds our wellbeing in his hands. His attitude is deeply scary.
He makes no distinction between those who can and those who can't work. In fact, he appears to be of the opinion that most people, whatever their medical condition, can work. If you are claiming benefits you are a scrounger.

Many disabled people are terrified by the cuts that have been announced. With this one statement, IDS has shown they are right to be scared.
He has just devalued the lives of the most vulnerable people in Britain. The Sun might be an appalling rag but it has a large readership, most of whom already hold a low opinion of us. Mr Duncan-Smith has just made it worse.

Shame on him.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

In black and white, Part 2

Barack Obama says: "Economists on both the left and right agree that the last thing a government should do in the middle of a recession is to cut back on spending. You see, when this recession began, many families sat around their kitchen table and tried to figure out where they could cut back. That is a completely responsible and understandable reaction. But if every family in America cuts back, then no one is spending any money, which means there are more layoffs, and the economy gets even worse. That's why the government has to step in and temporarily boost spending in order to stimulate demand." You keep stimulating until we are back on our feet – and then you pay back the debt in the good times.

But the Irish government has continued to cleave to Tory solutions. After the crash, its government rejected the case for a stimulus package, and insisted its "number one priority" was to "cut the deficit and get the public finances back in order". It sawed deep into spending on teachers, pupils, the disabled, and childcare. Out of total annual spending of €60bn, they are en route to ditching €15bn. The government is paying off its debt as its first, second and third priority, just as Cameron demands.

So what happened? The economy has collapsed. As the economist Rob Brown writes in the latest issue of the New Statesman, the country is now embarked on "an astonishing 15 per cent shrinkage in the Irish economy overall – the sharpest contraction experienced by any advanced industrial nation in peacetime". Unemployment has soared to 12.5 per cent: it would be even higher if so many young people hadn't left the country. Only 14 per cent of Irish citizens are happy with the government's performance.

By contrast, the countries that have most strongly defied Cameronomics are pulling out of the recession first and fastest. China has ramped up state spending to 88 percent of GDP growth, paid for by increased government debt. This is Brown to the power of a hundred. If Cameron was right, this would be economic suicide, and they would be plummeting down. In fact, the recession there is now over. That's why even right-wing leaders that initially shared Cameron's instincts, like Angela Merkel, are reversing course.


In black and white


tax evasion costing the public purse over £15 billion per year and benefit fraud just over £1 billion.

Tax evasion is around 3% of total tax liabilities, while benefit fraud accounts for 0.8% of total benefit expenditure.

In the private sector, the report shows the financial services industry recorded the highest loss to fraudsters, estimated to be £3.8 billion, with £1 billion in mortgage fraud and over £2 billion lost in insurance fraud.

The consumer goods and manufacturing industry are estimated to have lost £1.3 billion and £1 billion respectively.

The figures are there. George Osborne and his ilk cost the economy more than the welfare recipients. Why aren't they being targeted?

Spelling it out.

From Liberal Conspiracy:

The Department of Work and Pensions have just published their impact assessment of the housing benefit cuts. It is an assessment by civil servants of the possible consequences of introducing these policies. Here’s their summary:

“The impact assessment recognises that there are a number or risks as follows:

increases in the number of households with rent arrears, eviction and households presenting themselves as homeless;
• disruption to children’s education and reduced attainment;
• disruption to support services for people with disabilities and other households with care and support needs;
• an increase in the number of households living in overcrowded conditions; and
• a decrease in the number of and quality of private rented sector properties available to Housing Benefit tenants.”

So, even the DWP realises that the 'reforms' will have a much bigger, and harder, impact than the government keeps trying to tell us.
It's not as if we don't know this already but how can they ignore this report from their own department?

They want a 'Big Society' but will wreck communities.
They want a 'Big Society' but will disrupt children's education.
They want a 'Big Society' but will increase homelessness.
They want a 'Big Society' but will isolate the disabled further and risk their health.

Is this really a society we want? It's getting even more apparent that 'Big Society' should have the addendum 'unless you're poor or sick'.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cameron contradicts himself

David Cameron wants to measure how happy we are. He says that GDP is not the best way to measure a country's progress. I agree, it doesn't.

He also said
"most urgent priority is to get the economy moving, to create jobs, to spread opportunity for everyone".

"Without a job that pays a decent wage it is hard for people to look after their families in the way that they want, whether that's taking the children on holiday or making your home a more comfortable place.

"Without money in your pocket it is difficult to do so many of the things that we enjoy."

So the Government's priority is to create jobs. Then why he cutting so many?

He acknowledges that it's hard for those who are low paid. Then why is he cutting so many of their benefits?

He talks about people wanting to make their homes a more comfortable place. Then why is he introducing measure that will force people out of their homes if they start earning more? Why is is he ensuring that those in council houses can no longer feel secure in their homes?

I'm amazed at his lack of awareness. He seems to want one thing but introduce policies that will achieve the opposite. Is this really the man our country, our 'wellbeing' is entrusted to?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

GP's required to cut number of patients referred to hospital

In this post from the ABC of ESA site, we are made aware of something that is even more threatening to the wellbeing of the people than the ConDem cuts put together.

GPs are to be told they must reduce unscheduled hospital admissions by a fifth by the end of 2013 as one of a series of brutal Government targets to keep hundreds of thousands of patients out of hospital each year.

Ministers have drawn up a drastic efficiency programme that requires GPs to deliver a 10% cut in A&E attendance and the flagship 20% reduction in unscheduled admissions, while working with hospitals to cut length of stay by 25%.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, Sir John Oldham, a GP and the Department of Health’s national clinical lead for quality and productivity, said the dramatic reductions had to be achieved and that there was ‘no plan B’.

This news quite frankly scares the living daylights out of me. There are already hundreds of cases of people fighting to see specialists, of waiting for years in pain because they haven't been diagnosed properly and worst case scenarios of people dying because they haven't been referred for treatment.

If GP's are now under pressure to not refer people these cases will only get worse.

I could write more but I don't have the spoons today.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Disability and employment

According to this post from the Employer's forum on Disability, the Work Capability Test will be a "disadvantage for disabled people because of a lack of employer readiness and the recession"

We all know this is true. The ConDem's keep insisting they will protect the most vulnerable but the fact is they don't see the majority of us as vulnerable.
If you can do a little then you can work. Never mind that you don't know when you can do that little bit, or that doing it might mean you have to then rest for the next few hours, or the fact the the little bit you can do may be of no use to an employer.

The article is completely right when they say that employers lack the willingness to employ us. And I don't just mean that in financial terms. They may have to pay out nothing for adjustments but the mere fact that someone has a disability often means that they will be less 'reliable, for want of a better word, than an 'abled' person. Hospital appointments, sickness, reduced hours and many, many other things have to be taken into consideration.

At a time when each job vacancy is being chased by hundreds of people, employers can take their pick. And most of them will choose a worker that doesn't have health problems.

This is the reality that we face every day. And it's a reality the ConDems refuse to acknowledge.

Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Improve your lot and lose your home

I thought the ConDem government was about removing the disincentives to work?
This is clearly not the case with this little piece of legislature:

Council tenants will have to give their landlords their bank details after a minimum of two years in the property. If their financial situation improves they will be evicted.

How much does Grant Shapps expect these tenants to try to improve their lives if they will be faced with the loss of their home?

Aside from the appalling Big Brother aspect of this, this is all part of the coalition drive to end the 'home for life'. Why? Many people who live on a council estate will never be in a position to buy their own home. If their financial position changes enough for them to be evicted they will end up in private rented accommodation where they will then be left to the mercy of a private landlord.
Anyone who lives in this sort of home will tell you that it isn't so much a home as just somewhere to live. You can't decorate, own a pet, smoke or make any improvements without permission. This isn't a home. Would Mr Shapps be prepared to live like that?

I don't agree with the current situation that tenancies can be passed on to children. But I see nothing wrong with having a home for life.

This smacks very much of the old Victorian tenet of keeping people in their place.

Watch this video to get more of an idea of how unworkable it is to expect people to buy their own home.


David Cameron's hypocrisy

He is sticking to a policy commitment he made before the economic crash when growth figures were still rosy. He said: "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing."

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist Europe conference, he added: "Wellbeing can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. Improving our society's sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times."

He's kidding right? He wants to focus on wellbeing while slashing services and benefits that people rely on, forcing millions into poverty and misery. He and his enforcer Mr Osborne spend every day telling us the deficit is everything, that people should be in paid work, that earning is key, while then saying that there's more to life than money?

So Mr Prime minister, is you really believe this will you giving away your millions to ensure that the poor can stop focusing on money and just be happy? Somehow I suspect not.


IDS 'clarifies' his mistake

From the BBC:

While rents overall were falling in recent years, some landlords were charging top rates to tenants on housing benefit and pushing those rates up, they say.

If this is true then surely it's the landlords they should be demonising, not the claimants?
If this is true, wouldn't it be better, for the public, the renters and the taxpayers, to limit rents, rather than housing benefit?

People complain that claimants are living in hugely expensive properties that no non-claimant could afford to live in - that to me suggests that there is a problem with the rent, not the housing benefit. Kick the housing benefit claimant out and the rent is still too high for those 'hard working' families to afford.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Osborne plans to cut bank levy

People across the country were outraged when Mr Osborne announced a paltry £2.5bn levy on the banks.
The banks led us into the recession in the first place through their greed and irresponsibility. Then the they had to be bailed out with billions of pounds of public money.
People, myself included, rightly feel that the banks should be made to pay for the crisis they have caused that is causing so hardship across the country. And is set to make much, much more under the ConDem cuts.

Now it seems that Mr Osborne isn't finished. Having been made aware that the levy may reach an unexpected £3.9bn, he is set to cut it. To ensure that his £2.5bn target isn't exceeded.

Because we couldn't have that now could we?

It looks like the banks really are the ones who run the country doesn't it.



Viva la revolution!

Legal aid 'reforms'

Yesterday, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced a series of reforms to legal aid that will effectively cut off millions of people access to the courts.

From the BBC:
Legal aid will be cut for a wide range of civil cases, including:

Divorce, welfare benefits and school exclusion appeals
Immigration where the person is not detained
Clinical negligence and personal injury

So if you're poor you will not be able to afford to get divorced, you won't be able to sue if your hospital or doctor messes up a medical procedure, you won't be able to appeal if the DWP decides you're not disabled enough and you have no recourse if your employer decides to sack you unfairly.

How is this fair? How is this democracy?

The government hopes its proposals will significantly change the public's attitude to dispute resolution and encourage more people to solve their legal disagreements without recourse to either a lawyer or the courts.

Yes, because this is likely to happen. Their idea of what is necessary or not is beyond skewed. How are the warring couple going to solve their 'disagreements' without a court?
How is the person left in chronic pain because of clinical negligence supposed to resolve things with the hospital without a solicitor?
How is the disabled person supposed to appeal against a wrong ATOS assessment if they have no way to pay for it?

This is one of the most insidious cuts yet. The ConDems really do seem determined to take us back to the 1800's.

Justice and rights? Of course - but only if you afford them.


Monday, 15 November 2010

Work for free at the Home Office

This piece of news from PCS has me absolutely spluttering with rage.

The Home Office, while preparing to make 7,000 people redundant, are advertising for volunteers in the Work Experience Programme.
Posts are for non-graduates aged between 18 and 24 who have been claiming jobseekers allowance for 13 weeks or more. The scheme’s website says 7,500 placements are available in a range of industries across the UK.

So you get rid of a bunch of employees and then give their jobs to JSA claimants to work for nothing. Absolutely disgusting.

The Work Experience Programme is designed to give people experience in the workplace so they can find a job. None of these 'volunteers' will get a job out of this. They will be back on JSA and the Home Office will start recruiting for the next set of slaves. Sorry, volunteers.

The law says that an employee is dismissed by reason of redundancy if the dismissal is attributable wholly or mainly to:-
The fact that the requirements of the business (i) for employees to carry out work of a particular kind, or (ii) for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where the employee was employed by the employer have ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish"

Now, I am not an expert but this seems to me to say that you can only make someone redundant if the works ceases or diminishes. If the Home Office is taking people on to do those jobs for free then clearly the work has not. So how can they justifiably make workers redundant?

And this is supposed to be a civilised democratic society?



Duncan Smith's welfare reform white paper, unveiled last week, proposes that the "earnings disregard" for a lone parent should increase to £5,000 and to £7,500 for a disabled household once the universal credit system is introduced. Different rules will have to be drawn up for workers using the slivers of time system because the figures in the white paper are for annual earnings.

Doesn't this completely negate the idea of a 'one size fits all' benefit?

If different rules have to be drawn up for certain people or certain schemes, how is that simplifying?

I agree with the idea that the system needs simplifying but the Universal Credit already appears to be less than simple.

Another punishment?

As if cuts to IB, ESA and DLA weren't weren't enough, Mr Duncan-Smith is at it again. He plans to introduce an initiative called 'slivers of time', an ultra flexible way of working, aimed at disabled people and lone parents.

From the Guardian:
Slivers of time, a social enterprise founded by the former BBC producer Wingham Rowan, is designed to tap into the pool of people who cannot work the usual hours expected even of the average part-time employee. It is aimed at parents with young children, disabled people who may not be available for work for most of the week, people who care for a dependent adult or the long-term unemployed who want to ease slowly back into work.
Its proponents claim the reform would mean that a disabled or lone parent would be able to book a few hours of work a week on their terms.

Sounds good right? I mean, I'm sure that I would be capable of doing a few hours each week - so where's the problem?

The problem is that I don't know which hours I would be able to work. The hours would still have to be arranged - say, 2 hours on a Monday, 2 hours on a Wednesday. But what if I'm just not feeling up to it when those days arrive? Would I be able to change those hours? How am I supposed to know when to change them to? Would the employer let me do this all the time? I can't see any employer putting up with that. They need to know they have enough staff and when those staff are working, employing someone who won't know if they'll be able to work or not isn't likely to be high on their list.

Unless an employer is happy for their worker to turn up as and when they are able, I can't see how this will work at all.

And I know that many disabled people will worry that if they don't comply they will be sanctioned. After all, the ConDems seem determined to push people into work whether it is right for them or not, whether they have tried or not, so will we be punished if we can't do this?

And as for people who care for a dependent, are they supposed to know when said adult will be well enough to not need them for a few hours? Or perhaps the Government is expecting them to book a carer for a few set hours so they can work? This would seem a little, no, a lot, ridiculous.

Funnily enough none of these points have been addressed. I wonder if Ms Miller will question them on our behalf. Time will tell. But I'm not holding my breath

Cross posted here


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Constitutional reform?

This article in the Guardian has me worried for the future of our Government.

David 'millionaire' Cameron is preparing to install at least 50 new peers in the House of Lords. At the same time cutting the number of MP's, the large majority of which will be largely Labour.

The government's plans, however, have critics in all the main parties. Their discontent has been intensified by the knowledge that Cameron's cull of MPs is being pushed through as he prepares to install at least 50 new peers in the unelected House of Lords to increase the balance in favour of the Tories.

The Lords have always been predominantly Tory and DC plans to make it even more so. How is this democracy? Smacks more of dictatorship to me. And this is the man who has this week been urging China to embrace democracy. Hypocrisy Mr Cameron.

One senior MP said: "They talk about increasing democracy. But this is not about democracy. It is political skulduggery to keep them in power and ensure they get their legislation through."

I agree. The sooner we get this Government out the better.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Public meeting

Last night I went to a public meeting held by the trade unions. There were a few people there, of all ages and thankfully no rabble rousers.

There were three speakers, from Unison, Unite and PCS and all three of them spoke passionately about the difficulties facing, not just their own members, but the country as a whole.

They spoke of facts that the rest of us can see - that a huge increase in unemployment will lead to economic downturn, not growth. That the cuts are in fact not necessary, but stem from a Tory ideology that everyone should just work harder, with no appreciation of the fact that there are no jobs. Facts like there being less than half a million jobs while there are over 2.5 million people out of work. And that is before the job losses begin.

It was a good night and hopefully just the start of a bigger campaign. They were under no illusions that there could be a quick solution but are prepared to fight for however long it takes. They were all agreed that everyone opposed, everyone affected, should stand together and fight these cuts that will damage not just our economy but our lives.

And I will be fighting with them.

Monday, 8 November 2010

From Labour MP's...

The Labour has just published a new post on their website with quotes from two of it's MP's

Douglas Alexander MP, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said ahead of the debate on Housing Benefit in Parliament tomorrow:

"We are in favour of housing benefit reform but against rushing through changes in a way which risks increased costs and higher homelessness

Caroline Flint MP, Labour's Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said:

"Labour is in favour of reforming Housing Benefit. But it must be the right sort of reform. We’ll work with the government, but not on the basis of rushed changes and easy headlines.

When will they realise that the problem isn't housing benefit but the extortionate rents charged by landlords?

Cap the rents and the HB bill goes down. Simple as that.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Some campaign ideas

In a brilliant post on the Mother of Shrek blog, the writer gives us a few good campaign ideas:

Good campaigns run by local people can make make a difference.

You need to ensure your aims and objectives are clear and concise.
SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound

Gather accurate information and evidence to support your case.
Examples include personal stories, questionnaires and surveys, good practice examples and relevant local or national statistics.

Timing is important, find out when to start influencing the decision makers.

Lobbying your local council. You can influence your council in a number of ways:
Contact your local Councillor. Use the Opposition. Use the Local Paper. Submit a Petition: Lobby the Leader, Executive and Cabinet, and use your local MP Locally and Nationally.

Use local media. When it works well, local media can be extremely useful in advertising your campaign to a wider audience. It can influence key decisions made by a range of people including, local councillors, MPs, business people and even help change public opinion.
It’s all in the first sentence – you need to sum up as much of your story in one sentence as possible and answer the questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. This is a great way to check if your story is news. If you can't sum it up concisely in a few lines of text, then perhaps it's not a news story.

Have a good sound bite. You can either put this in a quote in a press release. It can capture the imagination and get you more coverage and impact.

Letters to the editor. The letters to the editor pages are some of the best read pages in local papers. If you do send a letter, brief friends and colleagues so that when your letter is printed, they can respond and keep the story going. If the newspaper receives a number of letters on one issue, then it might prompt them to do a news item or a feature.
Phone-ins.These are the radio equivalent of letters to the editor.

Some great ideas here. If you are chomping at the bit to be doing something about the cuts, then there is plenty here for you to choose from!

Campaign stunts are effective way of getting media and public attention.

The Working class?

In an article posted today by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian, Douglas Alexander outlines Labours stance on welfare.

We already know that Labour will not stand up for the disabled. Shame on them. That's millions of votes they won't be getting.

But I also take extreme umbrage at this:

Labour has been criticised, including by its former party general secretary Peter Watt, for appearing to be siding with the feckless poor against the hard-working squeezed middle, so appearing less credible on how to tackle the deficit.

Is he trying to tell us that only the middle classes work hard? Has he completely lost touch with Labours roots? Where do they think the term 'working class' came from?

I'm fed up with all these comments making out as if the middle classes are the only ones who work hard.
The working class works just as hard, they just work in jobs that are low paid and often menial. Jobs that the middle class, and certainly not the upper class, look down their noses at. Can you see any of them working for minimum wage in a factory? Or standing behind a supermarket checkout?
No, I can't either.

Stop assuming that the poor working class are idle please, they work harder than you can imagine

The work scheme - questions

A couple of comments in the BBC 'Have Your Say' section, really got me thinking

Not only that but if you can create these so called jobs for so called community service, then you can ruddy well create these jobs for a wage and an employment contract, with paid holidays as with everybody elses jobs. I cannot wait to get this government out, you have ruined our lives, you are ruining our kids lives. For gods sake help us please, not punish us!!!

This is already happening in the NE. My friend who is a highly skilled CAD operator was put on one of these schemes working for his JSA which is £65 per week.A4E sent him to Tesco's to work for a month training as a cleaner. ASDA and Morrisons are also supposed to be in on the act. No job at the end. I can see how Tesco's can publish profits of 1.6 billion pounds in the first six months of the year. This is unadulterated EXPLOITATION OF THE UNEMPLOYED!

These are very good points. What companies will be able to participate? What jobs will people have to do? Why aren't people already doing them?

I don't believe that commercial companies should be allowed to participate in the scheme IDS is proposing. If there is enough work in Tesco's for a 40 hour week then they shouldn't be allowed to get someone to do it for £40. This is nothing short of slave labour.
Unscrupulous employers will take advantage of this scheme, no doubt about it. Take on a worker for a month, make them work 40 hours, pay them £40, then let them go at the end. Repeat cycle.

This is immoral. And if commercial companies are allowed to take part it will happen.

There are plenty of organisations out there that are crying out for volunteers because they cannot afford to pay someone. These are the places that should be approached to take part in the scheme.

And people should still be paid their regular benefit. According to the Financial Times, the scheme if aimed at those claimants who are suspected of working on the side or who are not fulfilling their jobseeking activities and so are suspected to be the 'work shy'.
Fair enough that these are the ones that are being targeted. But it will be an arbitrary process. Mistakes are bound to be made. Those who are mistakenly targeted should not be punished by having their money reduced. For that matter, £65 is the amount the law says someone needs to be able to live. Cutting this to just £40 is therefore breaking the law surely?

And one thing no one has mentioned - many of the long term claimants are drug addicts. I know a few myself. Are they to be targeted? How are they to be forced into it? And is anyone really expecting them to be finding a job because of it? Somehow I think not. I don't see any employer wanting to employ a drug addict just because they've had 4 weeks 'work experience'.

This is just Tory ideology. Nothing realistic about it. If they want to get realistic, why don't they start listening to people who have been in the system? Or better still, employ some of them? On a full wage of course.

Comments from BBC

A few comments from the 'Have your Say' ection on BBC News:

28. At 02:39am on 07 Nov 2010, dadenuk wrote:
In principle, I'm in favour... I can see this working quite well in towns and cities but not necessarily in the countryside to the benefit of many communities.

That said where I live, without a car, it is nigh impossible to get anywhere for 9a.m. let alone the nearest 'large' (all things are relative) town, where there would likely be sufficient work to keep a 'volunteer' active from 9-5 (or are we expecting such volunteers to go from village to villate?)

Considering only the financial matters, I am not convinced any potential savings from catching the odd benefit cheat would mitigate the extra funding required for providing childcare & transportation (surely IDS does not expect these additional costs to be met from the sum the 'law says the claimant requires to live on').

Further, in some circumstances, I can see such a scheme falling foul of the CRB system both financially and as a result of delays inherent in running checks. IF a placement falls under the auspices of tbe scheme the 'volunteer' could be prevented from taking part temporarily or permanently.

While CRB checks are free for volunteers, a person is only deemed a volunteer if they are acting for no personal benefit (exluding transportation costs) for the wider good. IF a 'volunteer' is volunteering in order to continue receiving benefits would this count as directly attributable personal gain resulting in fees being due in any case where a CRB is required?

29. At 02:52am on 07 Nov 2010, Alan Robinson-Orr wrote:
No, forcing people into community work will only mean that they will have less time to concentrate on doing what they're supposed to do, and that is to look for work. If someone is busy looking for work they don't need to do this. It may not be their fault that the can't actually find work, and there (at least) were schemes to help people who needed help with looking for work.

I have a moral objection in that if you expect people to work for 30 hours a week, you also need to pay them a decent wage to do so, in other words at least the national minimum wage. If they don't, people claiming benefits are clearly being exploited, and that is not something a government should do. This would be scandalous if 'community projects' are being run by the private sector.

33. At 03:02am on 07 Nov 2010, Tiahahnya wrote:
I'm sorry but I think this is totally and utterly outrageous and disgusting. These people who have been unemployed for so long are not there to be your slaves. In my opinion that is the type of thing that should only be reserved for criminals, the true lowlifes of society. My partner has to attend a pathetic training group designed to get help him get into work, they do nothing for him. He sits there all day, going trawling through the same websites, the same newspapers and they leave him to it. No going through interview skills or helping him fill in application forms. My partner is a fully qualified carpenter, he can't even get work in that line. Not only that but in my area unless your a nurse or have office administration skills there is simply no work. What jobs he has applied for there is at least 500 other people going for the same position. We didn't ask to lose our jobs and yet we are being punished for something that is not of our doing and by god we are doing our best. Its not punishment these people need, its real help. Help in the form of being able to do NVQ's so they have at least a chance to reskill in another area. If only my partner could retrain to do office work, then I truly believe we would stand more of a chance. But as it is, if your above 25 then NVQ's are no longer free. I truly am appalled and agree with other comments about this being akin to WW2 behaviour. Shame on you for punishing us and shame on you for not helping us.

34. At 03:06am on 07 Nov 2010, Tiahahnya wrote:
Not only that but if you can create these so called jobs for so called community service, then you can ruddy well create these jobs for a wage and an employment contract, with paid holidays as with everybody elses jobs. I cannot wait to get this government out, you have ruined our lives, you are ruining our kids lives. For gods sake help us please, not punish us!!!

37. At 03:11am on 07 Nov 2010, Lazarus wrote:
This is already happening in the NE. My friend who is a highly skilled CAD operator was put on one of these schemes working for his JSA which is £65 per week.A4E sent him to Tesco's to work for a month training as a cleaner. ASDA and Morrisons are also supposed to be in on the act. No job at the end. I can see how Tesco's can publish profits of 1.6 billion pounds in the first six months of the year. This is unadulterated EXPLOITATION OF THE UNEMPLOYED!

39. At 03:21am on 07 Nov 2010, Tiahahnya wrote:
37. At 03:11am on 07 Nov 2010, Lazarus wrote:

"This is already happening in the NE. My friend who is a highly skilled CAD operator was put on one of these schemes working for his JSA which is £65 per week.A4E sent him to Tesco's to work for a month training as a cleaner."

Thats because A4E gets paid £2k for every person they find a job for, irrespective of how long it is. So even if said work is only for a month, A4E gets paid £2k.

42. At 03:30am on 07 Nov 2010, ayseturkey wrote:
As an ex Jobcentre employee (15 years), I worked with those out of work for considerable periods of time. I suggest that 90-95% of those were "actively seeking work" but many did not have the qualifications and work experience to fill current vacancies. Many of the programmes provided did not give the qualifications needed to return many of these folk to the job market.

If unemployed, I would be very happy to work for one of the many voluntary organisations rather than be left at home loosing my self esteem and hopefully it could help me to find another job. I believe that being isolated from everyday routines allows unemployed people to slip into a different way of life and this pattern is doubly difficult to shift.

4 weeks compulsory work - or loose your money! How is this going to prevent those self-employed black market workers from going back to their previous activities?

Some of your other correspondents are right. Where are the jobs? Where is adequate and certified training? Where is there encouragement and real help to get back into the job market when public bodies are disappearing, jobs are being cut and private employers are not taking on? Private employers rarly wish to take on people who ahve been unemployed for any length of time and need a great deal of persuading.

This is not the solution to long term uneployment!!

50. At 04:03am on 07 Nov 2010, Ebon_bear wrote:
The Tories must be ecstatic, they're finally about to accomplish their dearest, most long-held dream: Bringing back the workhouse

51. At 04:06am on 07 Nov 2010, Ebon_bear wrote:
Oh, and if you think this will be confined to the "work-shy scroungers" (a miniscule percentage, even by the Tories own figures), you're dreaming. As far as the Tories are concerned, there is no such thing as someone unable to work and the "work-sy scroungers" are absolutely EVERYONE claiming benefits.

Some very good points here. I hope IDS will take note of the concerns. But I fear not. To him, it seems that everyone who is unemployed is feckless.

See the full page here

IDS's latest outrage

This article has me shaking with anger.

The feckless unemployed will be forced to take part in a punishing U.S.-style ‘workfare’ scheme involving gardening, clearing litter and other menial tasks for just £1 an hour in a new crackdown on scroungers.
And if they fail to turn up on time or work hard they will be stripped of their dole for three months.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will tomorrow unveil ‘compulsory community placements’ in an attempt to stop people living on benefits for years without bothering to look for work.

How dare they brand everyone who is unemployed as feckless. They have absolutely no idea of what it's like to be unemployed. Or to have to sign on.
There are work shy out there yes. We all know a few. But the majority of claimants are honest people who try as much as they can and still can't find a job.

There a very few jobs out there. And there will soon be even less, with a huge increase in the amount of people chasing them.
Why can't the DM and the ConDems see this? Why are they being so blind?

Instead of receiving their usual £65-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance for sitting at home doing nothing, they will get substantially less – and will have to clock on and off on time and work flat out.
The Government has not decided how much people on ‘community placements’ will be paid but it is understood the figure will be between £30 and £40 a week – the equivalent to £1 an hour, one sixth of the minimum wage.

So if you can't find a job you get your money cut. Yes, this is fair.

Now, I have no problem with unemployed people being asked to do voluntary work. But it should be true voluntary work, not jobs that would usually be paid for like the ConDems proposal of litter picking and gardening. Places like the National trust and various charities are crying out for volunteers. Bet they won't be in IDS's scheme. And they should be allowed to pick what they do.
And it shouldn't be a 40 hour week. How are they supposed to look for work or attend interviews/ training courses if they are forced into doing this? Would any Tory supporter be happy to work a 40 hour week for £40 a week?
And they should certainly not be made to do it for less than their benefit or be forced into it.

It makes me sick that the privileged few who have never been in this position are standing in judgement. They should walk a few miles in the shoes of the unemployed before they dare to make a ruling like this.

As one Labour MP said this is nothing short of slave labour.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Cameron's stylist now on public payroll

Isabel Spearman is the Cameron's stylist. Part of her job description is helping Samantha Cameron pick out her outfits. And funded by the tax payer.

If we're all in this together can I have a stylist too?

Read the article here

Housing Benefit - a few facts

Touchstone blog has recently published a few posts in response to the ConDem claims that Housing Benefit allows unemployed families to live in better areas than those in work.

Research conducted by the DWP:

the research concluded that HB arrangements do not unduly favour LHA recipients compared to most low-income working families, with the exception of a small group of households with children aged under 16 who are worse off than other household groups in terms of the property size that they occupy and the rates they would be entitled to if they were eligible for HB. Essentially a small number of large families in expensive rental areas are accommodated in better accommodation when out of work than they could afford in-work on a low income, but this specific issue is not representative of the HB system overall. Unfortunately enormous and badly thought through reform of the HB system is being justified on the premise that it is.

Despite this George Osborne has claimed that

Today there are some families receiving £104,000 a year in housing benefit. The cost of that single award is equivalent to the total income tax and national insurance paid by 16 working people on median incomes. It is clear that the system of housing benefit is in dire need for reform

The Daily Telegraph decided to investigate this and despite being decidedly pro cuts, they came up with this. The number of families claiming this enormous figure is exactly three. Yes, you read it right, three.

As Touchstone points out
2 billion a year seems like quite a lot to save by cutting the HB of three households. In fact, even if each of these households had their entire HB benefit entitlement stopped (a move that would be counterproductive, as it would leave them homeless creating many additional funding costs) only 0.015 per cent of the savings the Government is seeking would be achieved.

How could this be? The reality that the Government refuse to acknowledge is that the vast majority of losers from these changes are not large families in central London mansions, but low income households up and down the country.

The facts and figures are there. But somehow I doubt IDS and Osborne will use them. They don't fit in with their ideology. Just more proof that they are determined to abolish the welfare state at all costs.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Dear Mr Miliband

We watched in disbelief as the Tories won the election. We held our breath as they formed a 'coalition' with the LibDems. Then we gasped in shock and outrage as they announced their Comprehensive Spending Review.
The 'reforms' that are nothing more than an attack on the Welfare State will hurt the most vulnerable of us. The poor, the disabled, the small businesses, the low paid will all suffer.
They claim we are all in this together but I don't see George Osborne stumping up tax for his millions in the offshore accounts. Nor has he announced any such plan to do so despite the promises of Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander.

The electorate have been disillusioned with Labour. But with you as leader the party has a fresh chance. Now is your time to take back the votes you have lost. Now is the time for you to stand up for original claims, to be a party for the working class.
To remember the ideals and the dreams of your historic predecessors.

Promise reform and not punishment for the benefit system. Shrink the divide between rich and poor. Stand up for the workers, the poor, the disabled and make us proud to be British again.

Here's a few ideas to help you along:

Scrap ATOS and WCA. Put money into more staff, train them properly and work closer with clients consultants, doctors etc. This saves the £509million spent on Atos and will help reduce the £1.3billion wasted through error. Working closely with NHS will help tackle fraud as well.

Raise taxes but make prescriptions, eye tests etc free. Removes the disincentive for benefit claimants to work.

We are not America, we do not want privatised healthcare. We care about our fellow citizens and we want everyone to have the same access to healthcare no matter how much money they have.

Tax and regulate the financial sector. They put us in this position. Not only should they be made to pay for their mistakes but we should make sure it can never happen again.

Tax second homes. In a time when so many people are homeless or living in overcrowded homes, it is obscene that thousands of homes sit empty for most of the year.

Cap rents on private homes. Landlords shouldn't be getting rich on the taxpayers expense. Capping rents means housing benefit bill will fall. House prices will also fall meaning more people will be able to afford to buy.

Close the loophole that allows tax avoidance. No more non dom. When they start paying taxes, the general tax level will be able to drop. They got rich off the backs of the working class, they should pay in with everyone else.

Make it easier for people to work from home. Remove the requirement for tenants to need permission to run home businesses. More disabled people could work if they an do it from home. And parents will not have the burden of childcare.

Keep kids in school till they're 18. Give them more opportunities for work experience so they get to try out different career paths.

JSA claimants to participate in voluntary work, to be counted on a CV.

Just a few things that will make all the difference to a society that is begging for change. This way we really will be in it together.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Banks to be let off

I've just read an article at Left Foot Forward that has me outraged. Again.

Despite the fact that the banks greed and irresponsible lending is what cause the recession and left us with such a huge deficit, it seems they are not to be held accountable.

It’s hardly a surprise, but the coalition has decided that it has done as much as it intends to tackle excessive bankers’ bonuses, even at a time when small businesses continue to suffer as banks refuse to lend. Most banks will not pay out their bonuses for 2010 until February 2011 but the Treasury minister Lord Sassoon’s declaration in the House of Lords this week indicates the government is satisfied that its ‘work’ on City bonuses is complete.

Lest we forget, back in May a key Coalition promise was to “bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services financial sector”.

Such lofty language will not be matched by actions. The Centre for Economics and Business Research think-tank has estimated that 2010 bonus payouts will amount to around £7 billion.

This is sickening. They cause a global recession and yet carry on as usual. It's not just unfair, it's unjust. The bankers must be laughing into their champagne glasses right now.

We get stuck with austerity cuts, which means the rest of us have to suffer, the poor are set to lose their benefits and possibly their homes, uni students are facing tuition fees of £9k and VAT is rising, hurting small businesses.

But the bankers are ok, they don't have to suffer. They don't get punished for their crimes. Yes, crimes. Because that is what it equates to. Their recklessness, their greed and their irresponsibility is what cause this.

If a speeding driver accidentally causes an accident they are held accountable.
If a teenager throws a stone over a bridge causing an accident they are held accountable.
But if a bank behaves recklessly and cause a global crisis they are let off scot free.

Can I have a new world please, I don't much like this one.

Read the rest here

Spot the link

These two pictures may look completely different but they have one thing in common. What's that you ask?

A. They're both fake.

This is the infamous Saatchi & Saatchi dole photo, used in the 1979 Tory election campaign. They tried to tell the world that unemployment was Labours fault to shock people into voting Tory. It worked.
Unfortunately unemployment rose even higher under a Tory regime and it was later revealed that the people in the so called 'dole queue' were members of the Tory Party.

This is a photo from a recent issue of the Daily Mail. We all know the DM is a right wing paper and that they are big supporters of the ConDem cuts. But they went below the belt with this shot in trying to depict disability benefit claimants as lazy good for nothings who spend all day with their feet up watching TV.

The caption for this?
Feet up: Claimants will lose their disability benefits as the public spending cuts bite (Posed by model)

Yes, it's posed by a model. They really have no shame.

Tory regime photo then: FAKE
Tory regime photo now: FAKE

Says a lot don't you think?

CIPD estimates 1.6million jobs to go

The government's spending cuts and the rise in VAT to 20% in January will result in more than 1.6 million job losses across the public and private sectors by 2016, research suggests.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said the impact of the Spending Review had been "understated".

It predicts 725,000 public sector jobs will go - more than 100,000 higher than a government-appointed body.

It also estimates 900,000 private sector jobs will go.

Isn't this marvellous. The treasury has rebuffed it of course but people aren't believing them. I'm not believing them anyway. It seems impossible that they can't realise how much of an effect the job losses and VAT rise will have.

But of course if they recognised that, they'd have to do something about it and we all know that's not the Tory way.

See the rest of the article here

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Video project is go!

People have been really interested in the idea of the video project so it's time to get the ball rolling.

The idea is to take a photograph of yourself holding a card with the words 'You Cut, We Bleed'.

If you prefer to keep your anonymity but still want to take part, you can use a body shot so your face isn't in the photo.

All photos will be collated into a video to show the world, and the ConDems, that we have a voice, we won't be ignored and we oppose their cuts.

We want this video to make a big impact so we need as many people as possible to participate!

Please send your pictures to

Sunday, 31 October 2010

More on housing benefit

From this BBC article

On Sunday, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, defended planned cuts to housing benefit, saying it was not fair that people who went out to work got less help with accommodation than those who did not.

Mr Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show the government's plans would create more social housing and were "fair" on housing benefit claimants.

I'm so sick of hearing the word 'fair' coming from him. Or from any of them. They appear to have forgotten the meaning of the word.

Do they realise that people who work get housing benefit too? If your income isn't enough to cover your rent you get HB.

We all know property is expensive, and even more so in London. But the way they are making out you'd think that the city was full of unemployed people living in penthouses lording it over those in work. And we know that just isn't true. Putting a cap on HB will force everyone, whether they are unemployed or not, out of the city.
How many of those will lose their jobs because of this?

Why can't the Government see that it's not housing benefit that is the problem, it's the sky high rents? And when will they realise that housing benefit isn't an out of work benefit?

Hypocrisy? has posted a new article on the impact the housing benefit cuts will have in London.

We've all seen the reports that Boris Johnson likened them to 'Kosovo style cleansing' which had the ConDems fuming.
They refuse to see what damage the cuts will have, instead coming out with their now standard platitudes about how the cuts are fair and it's not right that people on benefits should be able to live in areas 'hard working' people can't.

The best, or most ridiculous anyway, line to come out of all this is Iain Duncan-Smith's line that 'Labour figures were guilty of "scaremongering"'.

Is he kidding me? For months now we have had to put up with his, and the rest of the party's, calling us 'scroungers'. Listening to George Osborne telling us that these cuts are necessary because Britain is 'on the brink of bankruptcy'.
What is this if not scaremongering?
All of them, aided by the Daily Mail, have made thousands of people think that the cuts, which amount to nothing less than an attempt to abolish the welfare state, are necessary. Not only necessary, but deserved, because everyone on welfare is a scrounger. We are undeserving, work shy and it is our fault that the country is in this state.

If that's not scaremongering I don't know what is.

Remember that line about glass houses and throwing stones? Perhaps someone should remind Mr Duncan-Smith.

A question

I would like someone to answer this question because I cannot for the life of me make it make sense.

1/2 million people - at least - are going to lose their jobs. A high proportion of these will end up on JSA. Which means less money to spend.

Housing benefit is to be cut. This means, at best, more of a householders wages will go towards rent, at worst, they lose their home. This means less money to spend.

ESA and DLA to be cut, leaving those in receipt with less income. This means less money to spend.

VAT to rise. For large corporations, they can afford to swallow the rise and not pass it on to the customer. This is not the case for smaller businesses. They will have to pass the rise on. This at best means fewer customers, at worst, they go out of business. Which means they have less money to spend.

And yet the 'Coalition' expects the economy to grow. Now I'm not an expert by any means but I'm certainly not stupid. Less money = less demand. Prices drop. Retailers compete. Prices drop more. They cut jobs because there is less demand. Less people spending = even less demand.
So how exactly is the economy going to grow? And how is the private sector going to to generate enough jobs to cover those lost in the public sector? Not to mention those on ESA who will be moved onto JSA?

If anyone can explain this to me I'd love to hear from you

Housing Benefit cuts

Polly Toynbee has written an excellent article highlighting the many things that are wrong with the ConDem's Housing Benefit cuts.

Do they know what they are doing? Are they incompetent bunglers or do they mean to clear low earners out of the country's prosperous districts? As some residents since time immemorial are driven away – with maybe a few picturesque pearly kings and queens among them – this will become a cut that brands this government. Perhaps they think nobody will notice the new ranks of rough sleepers. Or that housing benefit is too fiendishly complicated to understand. Few Conservative voters claim it, and the removals will be an invisible migration, not a mass exodus in special coaches. However, these cuts are so extreme and random as to who will be evicted that the political noise will rise to ear-splitting decibels.

Follow these numbers carefully and see how they multiply upon one another. This month people who lost their job have had their help with mortgage interest payments cut in half. Expect more arrears and repossessions. Next year housing association and council rents will rise from their present heavily subsidised rents to 80% of the market rent for new tenants – about £100 more a week. New social housing will no longer be available to the poorest, but only to those who can pay high rents.

It's a bleak picture but she is not exaggerating. If you cut HB, people will not be able to afford their rent. Landlords are not the most understanding or tolerant of people, they just want their rent. They are not likely to wait for a few months until you can sort something out. So people will lose their homes. Whole families will have to move, children will have to leave their schools and jobs will be lost.
Why is it only us who can see this?

See the rest of the article here

Liberal Conspiracy 'Social Cleansing' here

Hopi Sen, Cameron's second home expenses here

Independent fair Housing cap here

A few figures

ATOS contract £500m for 7 years from 2005

300,000 appeals at around £300 per year = £9m

£1bn due to fraud
£1.1 bn due to official error.
£1.3 bn DWP underpayments

So despite all this money spent to try and combat fraud, it is not succeeding. All it does it make it harder for those in need to claim it.
And more is wasted on error than it is on fraud.

Wouldn't it be better then to scrap the ATOS contract and instead use the money to employ more staff, train them properly and work with the NHS, consultants and doctors?

Or is that too much like common sense?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

'Those' headlines - A refutation

Another great video by BendyGirl. She is working tirelessly for our rights as disabled people, and to refute the many falsehoods bandied about by the rightwing press. This is her response to the false and outrageous headlines in this morning's Daily Mail

75% of Incapacity Benefit Claimants are NOT being found fit for work

Mehdi Hasan on the 'scrounger' headlines

In his latest blog post for the New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan attacks the false, derogatory and stigmatising headlines of the right wing newspapers, and the false statements of members of the ConDems..

Can ministers or newspapers get their facts straight on benefit fraud, unemployment and the "workshy"?

In my column in the magazine last week, I wrote:

Is this a cabinet guided by the national interest, or vested interests? Not since the days of Harold Macmillan in the late 1950s has Britain been governed by politicians representing such a narrow social base. And Supermac and his millionaire colleagues at least believed in the universal welfare state. Cameron and his rich chums, in contrast, are engaged in a war on welfare.

In June, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith (net worth: £1m), used an interview with the Sunday Telegraph to urge jobless people to move in order to find work ("Coalition to tell unemployed to 'get on your bike' ", was the headline). In September, Osborne (£4.6m) castigated benefit claimants for making a "lifestyle choice". Earlier this month, the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (£4.5m), told poor families to have fewer children.

Since then, we've had Iain Duncan Smith with his "get on the bus to get a job" jibe. Yes, in the current economic climate, IDS seems to think that jobs can be found for the most if not all the unemployed. But how do you squeeze 2.4 million people into 459,000 vacancies? Maths doesn't seem to be the coalition's strong point.

Interesting figures there. Especially the net worth ones. How are people who have never had to suffer from being poor or unemployed fit to judge a system they have never had to use?

Read the rest of the post here

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Put your money where your mouth is!

George Osborne, he who thinks he knows what's best for the country and her people, keeps telling us 'we're all in this together'.

Except we're not. Mr Osborne is a multi millionaire. By inheritance. And where does he keep his money? Why, in an off shore account where it doesn't have to pay tax of course.

From Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the treasury:

“Tax avoidance and evasion are unacceptable in the best of times but in today’s circumstances it is morally indefensible.
“the Chancellor and I have agreed a package of new measures to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion.
“We will be ruthless with those often wealthy people and businesses who think they can treat paying tax as an optional extra. This will mean: A crackdown on those hiding money offshore. And that includes not only those who illegally evade tax but those who use entirely legal means to avoid paying their fair share to the taxman.

From Nick Clegg:

“People who avoid and evade paying their taxes will no longer get away with it either. We all read the headlines about benefit fraud…..but when the richest people in the country dodge their tax bills that is just as bad.”

“Unlike Labour, we’ll be tough on tax cheats too. We will crack down on the super rich who hide away money overseas… avoiders and evaders must have nowhere to hide.”

These are the politicians' own words. By keeping his money offshore Mr Osborne is sneering at his own Government and sending a message to the rest of us that he is above us. We have to toe the line, put up the cuts but he can do what he likes. How is this, to use a word so bandied around by the ConDems, 'fair'?

Put your money where your mouth is Mr Osborne. If we have to pay, you do too.

Sign this petition and let the Chancellor know we won't put up with this.

Cameron cuts back on truth

Left Foot Forward published this article on 6th October, highlighting how many 'truths' Mr Cameron has cut back on.

Some salient points:

“At its best this party always puts country first. We’ll leave the vested interests to others. And no, we’re not about self-interest either. This is the party of the national interest and with this coalition that’s what we’re showing today.”

LLF challenge:

Why then did Nick Clegg say that the Conservatives, “are the party of choice for rich bankers, and no wonder when their major tax policy is to give tax breaks to double millionaires. They even have plans to cut taxes for the banks and raise them for solid British manufacturing companies. They will never change Britain for the better because they are only interested in helping people at the top.”

50,000 apprenticeships.”


But this only tells part of the picture: £320million has been cut from support for unemployed young people, and £50milion has been cut from training for employees and greater cuts made to higher education.


But do we have to cut now, and by this much? Isn’t there another way?” I wish there was another way. I wish there was an easier way. But I tell you: there is no other responsible way.”


This is a political judgement. Alistair Darling’s halving of the deficit in four years is one alternative approach while Left Foot Forward has set out its own responsible deficit reduction plan which follows Darling’s timetable but focuses more on taxation than spending cuts.

How are we supposed to believe politicians when they lie, omit, evade and make fake promises?

There is much more of this article that drives the point home even further. Read it here

Big Brother is here

The Government is introducing a new plan - The Intercept Modernisation Programme - to store a record of everything we do down a cable or telephone line. A record will be made of every email sent, every phone call made and every site we click on the internet. And kept for a year.

From the Telegraph:

All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications, showing who they are contacting, when, where and which websites they are visiting.
Despite widespread opposition over Britain's growing surveillance society, 653 public bodies will be given access to the confidential information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the Ambulance Service, fire authorities and even prison governors.

They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to access the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority.

Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately-held "Big Brother" databases which opposition leaders said amount to "state-spying" and a form of "covert surveillance" on the public.
It is doing so despite its own consultation showing there is little public support for the plans.

This is absolutely appalling. I have nothing to hide but I certainly don't want the authorities to know everything I do and ever person I speak to. It means the end of privacy.
And the fact that they are going ahead with it despite knowing they have little support speaks volumes about their arrogance.
It would appear that they are no longer public servants but powerhungry dictators who
will do as they please.

The Open Rights Group has organised a petition to stop this outrage. If you don't want Big Brother click here to sign it.

Click here for the full Telegraph article

Monday, 25 October 2010


1.3 million people will be in danger from losing their homes under the Government's plans to cut Housing Benefit. Thousands of people in London will have to leave because they will no longer be able to afford to live there.

The rents in social housing are to rise to be more in line with market rents and tenancies are to be fixed.

The social housing budget has been slashed meaning less homes to be built, which will force people to rent privately, which will drive rents up.

Can someone please answer this question - how does this make sense?

Letter to an MP

Posted at Mental Health Mission, this is a letter submitted by a reader to her MP

I am writing to protest about the unfair cuts in the welfare benefits system that seem to be aimed at the genuine sick and disabled.

Okay – there are plenty of “scroungers” out there, that abuse the welfare benefits – those that are capable of working, but have never had any intention of doing so – then, yes, they are the ones that should be targeted for draining the benefits systems for years and years. The government should have acted years ago on these scroungers instead of now making the genuine claimants suffer the stress and humiliation, making their illnesses and disabilities far worse.

We have a son aged 34 who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and a severe mood disorder. He worked from the age of 16 until he was 22 when he became so ill that he had to give up work. Through trying to continue working for so long, his health has suffered drastically. Under your new welfare cuts, my son is going to have to suffer severe stress with medicals etc under the new ESA rules. If he is forced to try and find work, who is going to have to care for him, accompany him to medicals, interviews etc and watch him become psychotically ill again, probably self-harming himself? ME – NOT YOU, or any government parliamentarian. Is this mental discrimination part of the government’s animosity towards people who are mentally ill through no fault of their own? How would you feel if, in the future, your son and daughter were treated with the same lack of thought and discrimination?

If people are FIT to work then, yes, I am in full agreement, but when work would seriously affect someone genuinely ill with severe mental health problems then the government should make allowances in the ESA for them to be placed automatically in the support group instead of forcing them through stressful interviews and medicals.

That’s what a caring government would do – obviously the powers that be have no thought or consideration for the genuinely severely mentally ill. Maybe the government would like to see all the mentally ill commit suicide, then they would have even less money to pay out on welfare benefits.

Yours sincerely

[Name withheld at the request of the writer]

See here for the original post and help with writing your own letter. We need to put as much pressure on all MP's as possible, even if they are ConDems/. They have a duty to listen to you and address your concerns.

Benefit change for single parents

I can honestly say I don't have any idea of what is going through the collective mind of this Government.

Their cuts will make nearly a million people unemployed, people who will then struggle to find work.
At the same time they are forcing single parents from Income Support onto Jobseekers Allowance. They talk lots of fluff about flexible working and support, but the reality is that the jobs just aren't there. Those jobs that are being advertised are chased by a disproportionate amount of people.

Last summer I went for a job interview with the local council for a part time library assistant. I had been very surprised to get the invitation as I had applied for the job several months beforehand and heard nothing, which I assumed meant I had not made the cut.
When the interview started, the lady apologised for it having taken so long to contact me but that she had advertised 10 library jobs for which she had received over 700 applications.
None of the jobs was more more than 12 hours.

I was shocked. I had assumed that because the hours were so low, there would be less people applying for them. Clearly this was not the case.

There are so few jobs that this situation was not rare. There are hundreds of thousands of people unemployed, even before these cuts are made.
The local Jobcentre has had to expand it's working area to accommodate the extra people they now have to see.

With all of these people chasing every job going, what hope do single parents, who need flexible hours, who have children that might, and will, commandeer their time, and who don't have recent job experience, have of finding work?


Watch this video

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A video message idea

Yesterday I watched two videos from brave disabled women who want to speak out against the cuts. They are inspiring in their desire to stand up and be counted, to tell their stories and refuse to be ignored by the ConDems.

I want to do something similar. But I want to get everyone involved. There are 10 million disabled people in the UK, all of whom will be affected to some degree by these cuts. Many of them can't make it to rallies because they don't live close enough, or because they simply aren't well enough to attend. But they are still people and they have a desire to do something to protest the cuts that will ruin people's lives.

I contacted BendyGirl with an idea I had for a video. It was inspired by this collaborative fan video, featuring the faces of fans across the globe.

If we could get everyone to film a short clip, holding a card with a message, something like name of disease and 'I will not be ignored', or 'You cut' one side and 'We bleed' the other.
The clips can then be edited together to send a powerful message to the 'Coalition'.
People can use the card to cover their face or use a body shot they prefer to keep their anonymity. The important thing is that we all stand together to show a united front.

We will show them the faces of the people they are hurting and we will show them that we won't just lie down and let them ruin our lives.
We equate to one sixth of the population and we will not be ignored, cast aside and discounted.
We campaign for our rights, since none of the political parties will do it for us.

They want to give us a universal credit, we'll send them a universal message.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Conservatives - A contract

In May, the Conservatives posted a contract. Or rather, David Cameron posted one, between himself and the British people. Interestingly enough, this contract has now been removed from their main website but is on the Youth page.

It makes for some interesting reading. And by interesting I mean eye opening.

Here are a few key points I have picked out:

Give you the right to sack your MP, so you don’t have to wait for an election to get rid of politicians who are guilty of misconduct.

What about Nadine Dorries? She is blatantly prejudiced against disabled people as she shows with this comment:
[Re Twitter] if they aren't then it's time they got a job which involves being sat at a key board because there's nothing much up with their fingers, brain or attention span!!
This post on her blog verbally attacks a disabled woman with unfounded accusations. As does this one, which also suggests a disabled person should be reported to the authorities if they use Twitter!
She also claimed her blog is 70% fiction in order to wriggle out of questioning during the inquiry into her expenses, despite the fact that the blog is clearly is clearly published in her professional capacity.
And she may have been 'cleared' in the expense inquiry but she was found to be in breach.
Individually these may not add up to misconduct but is this really the sort of behaviour you'd expect from an MP?

Gordon Brown’s economic incompetence has doubled the national debt, given us record youth unemployment, and widened the gap between rich and poor.

85% of the deficit is because of the bank bailout, not excessive public spending. And there is no dispute over the fact that the banks had to be bailed out or the country would have suffered even more.

Unemployment is still rising, and this year we will spend more on debt interest than on schools. We need to get our economy moving.

And how exactly will making nearly a million people unemployed lower unemployment?
And more unemployment doesn't help an economy. The cuts won't help our economy, even the Americans can see that.

protect the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel and other key benefits for older people.

Key benefits like DLA you mean? Except you're cutting it from them, just because they live in care homes.

Get Britain working by giving unemployed people support to get work, creating 400,000 new apprenticeships and training places over two years, and cutting benefits for those who refuse work.

Again, how are you getting Britain working by making nearly a million people unemployed?
And you're not just cutting benefits for those who refuse to work are you? Under the cuts, nearly a million disabled people will lose out. And that's not to mention the low income families and single parents.

Fight back against crime, cut paperwork to get police officers on the street, and make sure criminals serve the sentence given to them in court.

So cutting the policing budget forcing them to make job cuts will help fight crime will it?

Mr Cameron, you posted this contract so, in your own words, we could - use it to hold us to account. If we don’t deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years’ time.

You've been in Parliament for a few months and already this contract has been broken. Several times.

I don't want these cuts. Millions of us don't want these cuts. Listen to us. Because if you don't, we will do our utmost to get you out of Parliament.
See the contract here