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

Mr Osborne, you lie

Why does George Osborne insist on lying? Is he misled, devious or just stupid. We would hope it's not the latter. Mind you, I don't want it to be one of the other choices either.

He keeps insisting that that the deficit is a decade old debt. We know he is wrong. It's less than 2 years old and is because of the bank bailout. That's a fact.

He has told us that benefit fraud costs us £5 billion a year. We know he is wrong there too. It costs £1 billion. That's still a lot of money but is a considerable difference from the amount he is stating. And it's also a fact.

So why does he keep spouting this at us? Is he hoping that people will just swallow it and cheer him on? It's sad that there are people who are doing just that.
The rest of us know better. But he isn't answering our question. So we need to keep asking it

Mr Osborne, why do you keep lying to us?

A call to arms

Another brilliant video from BendyGirl. A call to arms, to speak out and share our stories. To show the 'coalition' that we do count, that voices matter and they will be heard.

To the disabled people of Great Britain:

To the disabled people of Great Britain. Our individual voices are too quiet to be heard, but collectively we can shout loud enough to drown out this tide of abuse against us. Disability Hate Crime, lack of full legal protection, people in care homes costing too much to be let out and not one political party willing to fight for us. We must emulate other successful civil rights movements and with polite determination take our place as equal members of society. Please send me your stories as together we are unignorable.
Initially please email me at until I can sort out a platform to host our stories and videos.

Overwhelmed by the Cuts and Lack of Equality - A Story

SunshineMeadows has shared her story of her distress over the cuts and how it will affect her. It's a heartrending read and I hope it will make people think and realise what this 'coalition' is doing to doing to disabled people.

Overwhelmed by the Cuts and Lack of Equality

Most everyone who is disabled will have times when they feel less of a person, like they are too much trouble to other people, like they wish there could magically be some way where they did not get made to feel a burden.

Right now I feel so overwhelmed by what the Cuts the tories announced are going to do to disabled people like myself and those worse off than me that it makes me feel like I am drowning, so I have been trying to distract myself and do other things. But it is not working so I decided to register here and make a post.

In making the cuts they have the tories have devalued the lives of ever sick and disabled person in the country including those who work. They have set a wrecking ball ready to crash into the lives of all the people who had there lives sorted, who had a place to live, a way of feeding and clothing themselves, of getting washed, of brushing their teeth, of being alive instead of just living, having a car to travel in, keeping pets, being able to afford books, a computer connection to see the world from their living room, to have a feeling of independence and being themselves and not a burden to be put in its small place.

Maybe if we tell our brief stories it will help (somehow).

I had to give up work because my employer could not accomodate me as a wheelchair user, I would find the disabled parking bays at work taken by able bodied people, the wheelchair access into the building became designated as the main access to everyone and for several months the electronic door opener was switched off and I could no longer get into the building without asking for another persons help, the disabled toilet was often occupied by people who went in there for various reasons including: being to lazy to walk to the men's toilets, needing to blow their nose, talk to a girlfriend on the phone, change into motorcycle gear, the list goes on. In term of the actual work it was a call centre and I did both call work and email support. I would find my phone log ins randomly changed, I would lose email access and my computer system would be up and down. The coffee machine I used was moved to 5 minutes wheeling away to the other end of the buildling. IAccess To Work had given the compnay I worked for over £10 000 to install electronic door openers to the internal doors so i could get around the building but other people turned them off by way of a switch on the top of the door. they did this because they did not like the doors being a bit heavier for them to push. This list goes on too.

The stress, the feeling of worthlessness and humilation, together with the physical distress meant I had to leave. I did bring a grievance which was settled (poorly) but the whole process nearly killed me and I went to counselling to sort my head out.

My ability to work was always very limited but even that has not returned and so I went the ESA route. More humiliation and feeling like crap because its all about trying to tell them what I can't do and why. When I went to the medical the fact there was a two way mirror in the waiting room so they could watch you waiting was a bit freaky.

I was given ESA only of the lucky 5% (est) and put in the work related group. More worry about what was going to happen, but it went okay 6 interviews at the Job Centre over about 7 months and then I was told that is it until 2013 phew.

Then the budget comes and I realise I might lose out later when I am reassessed for DLA. Lose out because the assessment process of being seen by a doc for a brief amount of time tells them little about me except yes I can just about pick up a coin.
I was upset about it but then said to myself okay think about it you have over two years before anything else is going to happen.

I tried to settle in to my life with my partner who has bipolar and barely hanging onto his job, which means my small income from ESA and DLA goes towards our mortgage. My sister also pays a third of the mortgage because she loves me enough to do so and she and I (when I was working) managed to keep the house by getting a joint mortgage.

Lsst year after a three year wait a very large disabled facilities grant was finally sorted and the building work was done. No more using a comode and not getting washed properly because they put in wider doorways downstairs, made all the floors level, no more stepsand put in a shower room toilet. There is even a wheelchair ramp into the garden I felt so lucky but also broken because all that work meant I was not getting better. I would never be able to walk my dog in the local woods - pathetic a want I know.

I worked for what I have, with my effort, my sister, my partner and a wonderful Occupational Therapist I finally had some breathing space and my life was set for at least two years.

No comes the news of the cuts, I will probably lose my contribution based ESA which has propped up my partner's earnings which are often less than £700 a month because of sickness. My income form DLA has a big question mark over it. Since getting on ESA I tried to find voluntery work that would keep me in the habit of 'working' but no one around here wants someone as physically limited as I am, so what hope of finding a few hours of actual work.

My sister will continue to pay a third of the mortgage as long as she has a job, but she can't do more and I would not expect it either. This house is not just home it is a disabled access and adapted home, but if my loss of ESA results in arrears to the mortgage and we will lose the house. If we lose the house there will be other consequences because we are expected to pay part of the housing grant back if the house is 'sold' within ten years.

I will never be able to get the life I have now Back once it is gone. It took 7 long years to achieve after I left my family moved away to be alive and not just live.

I already said it's like a wrecking ball is posed to smash everything to bits and even in all this I will be one of the lucky ones because I already know there are a lot of disabled people who are worse off than me.

Originally posted on BBC Ouch here

Friday, 22 October 2010

An open letter to Jo Swinson

After a frustrating discussion on Twitter with her MP Jo Swinson, single mum Lisa Ansell has written an open letter to her, published on East Dumbarton's blog.
I don't have permission to republish here so I will just link to it, but it is a brilliant letter which raises some very real concerns about the ability of single mums to work.

According to Ms Swinson, single mums don't need benefit help because the fathers should pay child support. I can hear plenty of people saying that's right, they should.
So answer me this - what about those instances where the father isn't capable? Or the ones where the father is violent so they are better off without him knowing their whereabouts?
What about the fact that this would leave women dependent on a man? We are in the 21st century here right? Not the 1950's?

Read Lisa's letter and then tell me that we don't need benefit help.

Read her letter here

Vodaphone tax bill

In this time of near bankruptcy, or so Mr Osborne claims, every penny counts. The Gov't has slashed public spending by £81bn and the public are starting to hurt. Why then, has their HMRC bloke let Vodafone off a multi billion pound tax bill?

The figure that is going around is £6bn. We don't know if that's true but according to this article in the Guardian, it's a significant amount more than the £1.2bn the mobile phone giant has settled for.

How is this fair? And more to the point - how is it right? If they owe, they should pay. No-one else would be allowed to get away with this. People have gone to prison for not paying their council taxes at sums that are a pittance compared to this.

And there's more. According to the same article

These big companies' tax rate will fall from 28% to 24% over the next four years – a move that seems generous, but quickly becomes ludicrous when it is appreciated that the effective tax rate of the largest companies in the UK is now 21%. This means that over the next four years, it is likely that their effective tax rate (that is, the rate they really pay) will fall to 17%. That's a lower tax rate than small companies will pay. It's lower than our VAT rate will be. It's also lower than our basic rate of income tax.

I don't pretend to know anything about tax but I do know what is fair and what is right. And this is neither.

We don't yet what the situation is with Vodafone, whether the case is completely settles or not. If it is, then there's nothing we can do. If it isn't, let's make ourselves heard now.

Sign the petition to tell Mr Osborne that the British people think Vodaphone should be made to pay their bill, not evade it.

The joke's on us.

Since Barack Obama became President of the USA, one of his main agendas has been that of healthcare reform.
The Democrats have struggled to pass any sort of reform, with the Republicans vetoing anything they can.
The right wing thinking of some of the Republicans echoed some of the opinions here in Victorian Britain - that being poor is your own fault, you're just lazy or not working hard enough. The insurance companies need to make a profit. We don't want a socialist America.
Yaddah yaddah yaddah.

We in Britain watched and shook our heads and extolled the virtue of our beloved NHS. We couldn't understand how some Americans could be so backwards thinking and so uncaring towards their fellow countrymen.

Now, thanks to George Osborne and his austerity measures, the joke is on us. The Americans are now shaking their heads as they look at us and wonder how on earth a Government could be so foolhardy as to adopt these measures.

From Paul Krugman of the New York Times:
It was all about the apocalypse looming if Britain failed to go down this route. Never mind that British debt as a percentage of national income is actually below its historical average; never mind that British interest rates stayed low even as the nation’s budget deficit soared, reflecting the belief of investors that the country can and will get its finances under control. Britain, declared Mr. Osborne, was on the “brink of bankruptcy.”

What happens now? Maybe Britain will get lucky, and something will come along to rescue the economy. But the best guess is that Britain in 2011 will look like Britain in 1931, or the United States in 1937, or Japan in 1997. That is, premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump. As always, those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

The truly sad thing is, most of us know this. But Mr Osborne refuses to listen.


Jobless figures

Osborne's cuts will leave around 750,000 people unemployed. At the same time he is cutting welfare benefits and planning to move around 200,000 people claiming ESA onto Jobseeker's Allowance.

So let's see: jobs down by 750,000. 750,000 plus an additonal 200,000 forced to look for work = 950,000 people looking for jobs.

Is it just me or does this just not add up? Where are these jobs going to come from? The 'coalition' expects the private sector to fill the gap left by the losses in the public sector. 750,000 of them? And we thought they had no sense of humour.

And meanwhile the root of the problem, the bankers, reap their rewards and ignore the rest of us.


Osborne isn't working

Brilliant post from David Osler, explaining exactly why Osborne's policies are bad for the UK.
As a socialist, and someone who actually cares about other people, I completely agree with his words.

Especially these:

the number one item on the charge sheet against capitalism is that it can – and regularly does – leave so many people out of work. Never mind the criminal waste of human potential this implies; the social cost of the devastation of entire communities is simply beyond the capacity of economists to measure.

For a Government that supposedly wants to be 'fair', they are failing badly.

Read his article here

Shame on you Prime Minister, I know you know better

A simple, heartfelt message to Mr Cameron, with the sting of betrayal.

Such a great video from BendyGirl, who is disabled herself. She is right, he should know better. And we are ashamed.

Find BendyGirl's blog here

Fawcett Society to take the Gov't to court

The Fawcett Society, which fights for equal rights for women, has filed an application for a judicial review of the budget for it's failure to give 'due regard' to the impact on women.

Former Labour chief secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper assessed the figures, even before the welfare cuts announced in the CSR, and was shocked by the answer she found.
72% of the burden of the budget cuts will be carried by women.
72% is enormous. And that doesn't take into account the cuts in welfare. How will those impact on women?
This is the 21st century and in one fell swoop, the Government has regressed.

From today's Guardian report:

The June budget and the predicted heavy cuts in this week's spending review created "a perfect storm", says Fawcett Society chief executive Ceri Goddard, confirming suspicions among many that 2010 was going to be a uniquely regressive moment in the history of sexism and the state.

The Government has also admitted that it failed to hold an Equality Impact Assessment for the June budget. So not only is it regressing us as a nation, it's failing to follow it's own rules.

Brilliant. A Britain we all can be proud of.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The deficit - figures

The deficit is £927 billion

The bank bailout was £850 billion

Let's call it 85% of the deficit is due to the bank bailout.

Why did the banks need bailing out? Because of their greed and irresponsible lending.
Now, no-one is saying that the banks shouldn't have been bailed out. The cash injections prevented a worse recession. But, those self same banks are now reaping massive profits again and paying themselves huge bonuses.

To quote Johann Hari
They have just paid themselves £7bn in bonuses – much of it our money – to reward themselves for failure. That's the same sum Osborne took from the benefits of the British poor yesterday, who did nothing to cause this crash.

He's right, we didn't ask for this,but we will have to suffer. How is that fair?

The banks should be made to pay. There is a growing faction at who have the idea to tax the financial sector just 0.05% on every transaction they make between each other. It's a tiny amount that could raise billions and puts the burden on those who deserve it.

That's a much better way of reducing the deficit.


A review of the Camden protest march

The Camden New Journal has published a review of the protest march from October 20th.

THE relentless cry was simple: “They say cut back, we say fight back.”

With the bugle of loud hailers ringing in their ears, thousands of public sector staff and anti-cuts protesters marched on Downing Street last night (Wednesday) to demonstrate against the slashing of government spending.

As ministers sold the cuts as a painful but necessary measure to tackle a spiralling national debt caused by the banking crisis and flabby expenditure, their names were spat out with venom in the streets around Westminster.

One placard read: “Nick Clegg – Judas”.

Right at the forefront of the protest were organisers from Camden including nurses, teachers, students, Labour party activists and union members.

Click here to read the article

Disability Awareness

In response to the proposed new testing for DLA and ESA, I felt compelled to write this post. I wrote it on my facebook account but since this blog has been created it seems perfect as a place to start.

I am a thirty four year old woman who has MS. I was diagnosed in January after being hospitalised because my symptoms were so bad I couldn't cope any longer. I had to suspend my studies at university - in the hope that I would be able to return in September - and claim for Employment and Support Allowance. I also had to claim for Disability Living Allowance.

Anyone who has ever claimed these benefits will know how hard it is.

For ESA I had to go through a 45 minute phone call to a call centre, at the end of which I was stressed, humiliated and exhausted. And that was only the beginning.

I was then told that I wasn't entitled to it because I was still a student. I had a letter from the university which stated that I was no longer considered a student, that I wasn't entitled to use their facilities and I was no longer exempt from Council tax.

This wasn't good enough. So in effect, for one government branch I was a student, for another I was not. How do they figure that one? And why are they allowed to get away with it?

I appealed against the decision. They upheld their original one. I appealed again. By this time it was April.

Then I had another relapse. A bad one. So bad that I could barely get out of bed. I didn't want to eat, I couldn't bear noise or light, I couldn't even talk on the phone. When I did get up I had to go back to bed a few hours later. If I made it past 7 pm that was a victory. My head felt like it was being constantly assaulted and I was in so much pain I spent all day in tears. I wondered every day how much more of it I could take.

And I couldn't even cope with opening the post.

So I missed the medical assessment I was supposed to attend.

Two months later when I had recovered enough to open the post, I rang the Jobcentre and told them what had happened, and asked what I could do. The woman I spoke to was very unhelpful and said I should write a letter and tell them what was wrong with me so it could go on the file for the next time I claimed. And she had the audacity to assume I was suffering from stress or anxiety.

By this time I had had to drop out of uni completely as I couldn't tell them if I would be well enough to return in September. (As it turned out I wasn't)

And I faced the whole battle of applying for benefit all over again.

This time they were satisfied that I was no longer a student and processed my claim, dependent on passing the medical assessment. I don't know if you've ever been to one of these but they are awful experiences.

Even if you can barely walk and never leave the house you still have to go. I had to take my son with me to lean on as support.

The doctors don't know much about MS and I couldn't show them because it's an invisible disease. There are no scars, plaster casts or broken bones to show them.

So I was shaking with fear from the moment I got the appointment till the day the result came through. Why? Because someone who knows nothing about me or the disease was about to decide whether I was fit enough to return to work. I knew I wasn't, my neurologist knew I wasn't and so did my nurse, my GP, my physiotherapist and my occupational therapist. But their opinions mean nothing to the Jobcentre. After all, what do they know? They are only specially trained medical professionals.

I was lucky, I passed and was finally awarded ESA in May. It had only taken 5 months. I was placed in the 'potential to work' category which had me shaking with fear again. Was I going to be forced into jobhunting before I had recovered?

Again I was lucky, my advisor at the Jobcentre knows what the situation and assured me I wouldn't be forced into anything before I was ready.

I still can't help worrying though.

As for DLA, what a minefield. The form is 48 pages long. It took months to fill in. Or rather, it took my friedn months to fill in since I couldn't hold a pen. It's invasive, humiliating, exhausting and emotionally draining. How would you like to specify every single thing that's wrong with you, from your walking ability to your bodily functions? The only thing they don't ask is what your shoe size is.

I half expect that next time I have to claim. Because yes, despite the fact that my condition is progressive, the DLA, once finally awarded, lasts only for 2 years. Then I will have to do it all over again.

But at least it was all over.

Except it's not over. I now live in fear of it all being taken away. Because our 'coalition' government - and I say that in quote marks because it's less a coalition than a takeover of the Lib Dems by the Tories - have decided to cut the welfare bill by focusing on ESA.

There are too many cheats out there they say.

Despite the figures which go against this, and despite all the evidence that these benefits are so hard to claim that there can be very few people who slip through the net, the Government are determined to punish me and others like me.

They announced a new medical test would be necessary to claim DLA. As if it weren't already hard enough. The sheer stress of it is enough to put many genuine claimants off. I would have been one of them if I hadn't had a friend who'd been through the process with her ex husband and was able to help me with it.

People with MS, along with those suffering mental illnesses, will be among those groups who suffer most. Simply because you can't see what is wrong with us. And if you can't see it, it isn't there right?

I now live with the fear that I will end up with my benefits cut and nothing to live on because the Government is insistent on punishing those who are most vulnerable. And then what will I do? If I push myself too hard I make my condition worse. Can you say rock and hard place?

I want everyone to be aware of this, because disabled people are forever overlooked. Their issues are somehow never as important. And the Government continues to punish us. It isn't fair, it isn't right and it shouldn't be allowed to happen. They have to make cuts yes, but not by penalising some of society's most vulnerable people.