Tag: dwp

The royal benefit sponger

Princess Beatrice and Boyfriend at the Beach - Zimbio

For many years the media have portrayed the lifestyles of ‘the undeserving rich’ who inhabit Britain’s Benefit Malls, as feckless wasters and a burden on the tax-paying public. There have been signs over recent months that their attacks on this largely invisible minority in society are beginning to take their toll.

So extreme have these attacks on some of Britain’s most privileged elite been, that many within the gold-vaulted communities of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Kensington have decided to fight back. One of these individuals is 28 year old Benefit Mall TV reality star princess Beatrice Ferguson.

Allegations

Recent allegations that Ms Ferguson has taken advantage of Britain’s benefit system, continue to be stringently denied by the princess. One of the most serious accusations relates to the claim that Beatrice set herself up as a business matchmaker after having secured a high-profile client in the shape of would-be stock market debutant Afiniti.

It has been reported that a member of the Zia Chishti entourage, who is said to have accompanied Ferguson to meetings and parties at the World Economic Forum in Davos, including to a lunch for many of the most senior figures in British business, phoned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) hot-line in the UK anonymously in order to inform on her activities.

Undercover

When challenged by undercover journalists about this, Beatrice reportedly said that she informed her local Job Centre Plus in London’s Bayswater Road of her intention to take a week’s holiday abroad to which she claims she was entitled:

“I phoned the DWP three days in advance informing them that I would be taking a foreign holiday for a week which was agreed at the time by my work coach. This was not a working holiday”, she said.

But this version of events was contradicted by her alleged clients, the advisory board members of the company that is headquartered in Washington DC, comprising no fewer than 21 senior figures. An account relayed to investigators by one of these individuals, BP chief executive Lord Browne, however, appears to support the benefit claimants version of events:

“The notion this young lady is connected to a company called Afiniti, or that I am one of her clients, is absurd. I recall that she was at a party I attended as a guest. The fact that Mr Chishti, who previously co-founded and brought to market a company that makes transparent braces for teeth straightening, is merely coincidental”, Browne said.

Spotted

In previous years, Beatrice has been spotted taking to the water on Roman Abramovich’s £1 billion super yacht, Eclipse, which is docked off the Spanish coast near Ibiza.

Asked by reporters how the alleged penniless royal could afford to rack up seventeen holidays in nine months on a weekly Job Seeker’s Allowance of £73.40 since giving up her 20k a year role at Sony, Beatrice claimed the trips were paid for using savings accumulated in her Barclays Instant Saver account.

Responding to accusations that her lifestyle is excessive, Beatrice snapped back at reporters: “The Benefits Mall programme represents a smear campaign. If I knew then, what I know now, I would never have agreed to participate in the programme”, she said.

Beatrice claimed that chalking up three skiing holidays on top of multiple hot weather breaks and repeated trips to New York, “is my human right”. The celebrity princess continued: “People are jealous that I have saved up some money that funds a lifestyle to which I’m entitled. When I visited New York, it was to see my sister, Eugenie”, said the streetwise hustler from downtown Belgravia.

In November 2016, the DWP cited an on-line article which claimed that Beatrice visited the United Arab Emirates for a “business engagement” with her father, the Duke of York and also that she subsequently attended a lavish party on board a Polynesian themed party yacht. Beatrice categorically denies both claims.

Private jet

Later that week, Beatrice admitted to investigators she flew on a private jet with her mother, Sarah Ferguson, to Beijing for a wedding, paid for by her father which she claims didn’t break DWP rules since she was able to sign-on the following week.

Moreover, she claimed she was able to prove to her job coach that she had spent the required amount of time actively seeking work. The alleged princess put her late attendance that day down to heavy traffic along the Bayswater Road and that the number 148 bus she was travelling on had broken down.

Serious questions, however, remain with regards to Beatrice’s whereabouts during the Christmas period. Having failed to have turned up to a 2pm appointment previously arranged with her work coach who had planned to run through her CV with her, Beatrice claimed she phoned Job Centre Plus saying that she was too sick to attend.

But a tip-off from a member of Beatrice’s entourage later alleged that after enjoying Christmas lunch with the Queen at Sandringham, the Benefit Mall star jetted off to Verbier to stay at her parents £13m ski chalet. My source then alleges she flew to the Caribbean where she saw in the new year relaxing on a yacht belonging to billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Verbier & Great Guana Cay

With the authorities becoming suspicious of Beatrice’s increasingly erratic lifestyle, the DWP finally made the decision to suspend the reality TV stars Job Seekers Allowance. The suspension of her housing and council tax benefits swiftly followed.

After complaining vociferously to TV executives at Channel Five about the manner in which the programme-makers had characterized her and her class in Benefit Mall, Beatrice flew back to her parents place in Verbier.

With her stress levels now at breaking point, Beatrice then flew out to Florida for her twelfth holiday in five months before moving on to the Gulf State of Bahrain as a guest of it’s Prince whose father helped put down pro-democracy protests.

In September, Beatrice flew to Florence before jetting off for her third Caribbean jaunt where she was photographed lounging on a beach in Great Guana Cay, home to just 150 people, and blessed with a five and a half mile stretch of sandy white beach, virgin forest and pristine coral reefs.

In a recent column for the Daily Mail, renowned independent investigative journalist, Richard Littlejohn, asked how her father, who has a modest naval pension, could afford a £13m property and pay for regular private jet flights?

“The Royal Family is still guarding secrets that we the people should know about”, said the Guardian.

Conservative MP, Amber Rudd, has reportedly taken an interest in the Beatrice Ferguson case. She has also promised to look into the other alleged incidences of royal benefit fraud highlighted in Benefit Mall. Rudd stated that in the event of any more information coming to light, members of the public could contact her anonymously at the Palm Fringe Savoy Hotel, Bahamas.

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‘I, Daniel Blake’: A tale of Dickensian cruelty in Tory Britain

By Daniel Margrain

The mismanagement of the UK economy by both the New Labour and Tory governments’ that followed the global crash of 2008 led to the poorest and weakest in society disproportionately picking up the pieces by way of savage cuts and austerity resulting from this incompetency. This is the context in which British film director Ken Loach denounced what he described as the UK governments “conscious cruelty” towards the poor following the screening of his latest film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ at the Cannes Film Festival five months ago. Loach’s questioning of the narrative which suggests that the poor are to blame for an economic predicament beyond their control rather than the vagaries of the capitalist system, is a notion that is widely accepted within the hierarchy of government.

Loach’s film, whose red carpet London premier two days ago (October 18) was attended by Jeremy Corbyn, is story about a skilled working class man who, after having suffered a heart attack, is at the end of his tether as a result of his attempts to navigate an uncaring, remote and labyrinthine ‘work capability assessment’ process integral to the UK benefit system. The scenario is one in which many of us would have experienced directly or known of friends or family who have/are going through a similar nightmare.

Loach’s denunciation of the Tory governments approach to welfare, is predicated on its unnecessary commitment to a supply-side economic strategy centered on ideology rather than pragmatism. Indeed, given the governments awareness of the causal link between their anachronistic work capability assessment programme and suicide rates, the hatred they have towards the poor can be said to be pathological.

Cheque book euthanasia

The governments strategy of ‘cheque book euthanasia’  is, in principle, similar to the way Nazi Germany, over time, created – through a strategy of divide and rule – a climate in which the marginalization and the dehumanization of targeted minorities were blamed for the ills of society. In Germany it was the Jews who bore the brunt of this treatment as the Nazi state methodically marked them out for destruction, first by innuendo, next by legal sanction and finally by the direct action of rounding them up and exterminating them.

Other groups including gypsies, communists, homosexuals and those with permanent disabilities were labeled as being ‘undesirables’, a drain on society and likewise a target for elimination. The process by which the Final Solution was implemented was as gradual as it was deliberate. By cultivating the notion that the unemployed and disabled are somehow ‘undeserving’ is to implant within the wider public consciousness the notion that some human beings are less worthy than others, are not a legitimate part of society and are therefore ‘sub-human’.

I’m not suggesting a direct comparison between Nazi Germany and the contemporary British state under the Tories currently exists. I am, however, arguing that there are disturbing parallels and similar types of trends that blinded Germans to the potential of Adolf Hitler which can be found within our society today. What is certain, is that a universal social security system that has at its basis the proposals set out in the Beveridge Report (1942), has been in steady retreat from the mid 1970s with a greater emphasis on means-testing and exclusion. The Conservative government under David Cameron, and now Theresa May, seem to be taking this ethos several stages further with their Dickensian ‘back to the future’ policy not experienced since the Poor Law of the 19th century and before.

Poor Law

The Poor Law was first established in Elizabethan times as the means of providing relief from local funds for those unable to provide for themselves. In the 19th century it became a national system of state support under which those who could prove they were destitute would receive public assistance on the condition that this assistance included a direct incentive to seek alternative self-support. It was provided on a more punitive (‘less eligible’) basis than the conditions of those in the worst paid employment. This early form of social security often took the form of the harsh conditions of the state institution known as the workhouse. The intention was to make the conditions in the workhouse so harsh that the ‘able-bodied’ unemployed would do virtually anything rather than apply for relief.

The only objective difference between then and the present is there is currently no workhouse in existence. However, there is no logical reason to think that the political establishment will not consider the re-introduction of a variation of the workhouse in the foreseeable future. History has shown that large swaths of the middle classes have been only too willing to succumb to the divide and rule strategies of the ruling elites by pointing their fingers at those less fortunate than themselves as long as they are not deemed to be directly affected by such strategies.

The middle classes of the mid-19th century, for example, had been willing to tolerate the poor living in overcrowded squalor and dying of disease or hunger. But by the late 19th century they understood how diseases could spread from poor to rich neighbourhoods and so pushed for the building of sewage systems, the clearing of overcrowded city centres, the supply of clean water and the provision of gas to light streets and heat homes. Then, as now, the ruling class attitude towards the poor was, at best, indifferent.

Women and children provided the cheapest and most adaptable labour for the spinning mills, and they were crammed in with no thought for the effect on their health or on the care of younger children. If capital accumulation necessitated the destruction of the working class family, then so be it! By the 1850s, however, the more far-sighted capitalists began to fear that future reserves of labour power were being exhausted. In Britain in 1871, the Poor Law inspectors reported:

“It is well established that no town-bred boys of the poorer classes, especially those reared in London, ever attains…four feet ten and a half inches’ in height or a chest of 29 inches’ at the age of 15. A stunted growth is characteristic of the race.”

The Mansion House Committee of 1893 drew the conclusion that “the obvious remedy…is to improve the stamina, physical and moral, of the London working class.”

Robert Malthus

A succession of laws restricted the hours which children could work, and banned the employment of women in industries that might damage their chances of successful pregnancy. In terms of the unemployed, sick and disabled, the ruling and middle classes of the Victorian era argued that they were justified in treating these groups in the manner that they did because they perceived them as a ‘drain on society’ – an argument that was reinforced by the pseudo-scientific writings of the 18th century Anglican clergyman, Robert Malthus.

According to Malthus, population growth will inevitably lead to resource depletion because, he claimed, there is a tendency for the mass of the population to reproduce at a greater rate than the ability of existing populations to produce food under conditions where living standards exceed the bare level of subsistence. It is little wonder that Malthus’s theory of population was invoked by 19th century capitalists and their apologists in order to justify paying workers their bare subsistence and no more. This myth continues to shape the decision-making processes of numerous contemporary social policy-makers and, moreover, legitimized, in part, the thinking that underpinned Hitler’s extermination policy.

Malthus’s theory also provides some insight as to why many people misguidedly believe that the world is over-populated and therefore that the “conscious cruelty” outlined by Ken Loach that continues to result in the deaths of the poor and weak, is deemed to be a price worth paying. Malthus’s theory, in other words, proffers the kind of justification for the attacks by the Tories, their apologists and supporters against some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It is the cruelty and pathological hatred of the disadvantaged by the Cameron and May governments depicted in I, Daniel Blake that won the film the prestigious Palm d’Or at Cannes.

Low-lying fruit

It is this kind of cruelty and pathological hatred of the working class by the ruling class that has continued to resonate throughout the centuries and which Loach has managed to capture so movingly on film. During the press conference at Cannes, Loach related the themes in I, Daniel Blake to a quotation by Bertolt Brecht – ”and I always thought the simplest of words must suffice. When I say what things are like, it will break the hearts of all”.

Loach said that what he tried to do in the film “was to say what things are like, because it not only breaks your heart, but it should make you angry… He continued, “In the places where…[the governments ‘work capability’ assessments] take place, some people who work there have been given instructions on how to deal with potential suicides, so they know this is going on… It is deeply shocking that this is happening at the heart of our world… the heart of it is a shocking, shocking policy.”

Script writer, Paul Laverty said:

“The people who are disabled, have suffered six times more from the cuts than anyone else, and there was a remarkable phrase by one of the civil servants we heard who talked about the cuts, who said “low-lying fruit”, in other words the easy targets. So this story could have been much harsher, it could have been somebody with mental health difficulties… we could have told a story from someone who is much more vulnerable, much more heartbreaking.”

Laverty continued:

“I think it’s very important to remember too the systematic nature of it….talking to whistle blowers, people who worked inside the Department of Work and Pensions… there are several people we met, and they spoke to us anonymously…They said they were humiliated how they were forced to treat the public. So there is nothing accidental about it, and it is affecting a huge section of the population.”

The commercial and critical success of I, Daniel Blake is a testament to the growing awareness of the repugnant way in which the political establishment in Britain treat many of their citizens. Whether the film will be as influential in affecting positive social change as one of Loach’s earliest films, Cathy Come Home, remains to be seen. We can only hope it does.

 

Yvette Cooper: Imaginary wheelchair woman

By Daniel Margrain

Yvette Cooper (5257912357).jpg

Those who were paying attention during Yvetcte Cooper’s challenge for the Labour leadership would have been aware of the undisclosed £75,000 businessman Dan Jarvis contributed to the New Labour enthusiasts campaign.

The mainstream media didn’t pay much attention to that scandal at the time. Over a year later on September 24, following what columnist Fraser Nelson described tellingly as “the terrifying victory of Jeremy Corbyn’s mass movement” at staving off the coup attempt against him, the Corbyn critic and New Labour MP for Normanton, Ponefract, Castleford and Nottingley tweeted the following:

Congratulations re-elected today. Now the work starts to hold everyone together, build support across country & take Tories on

Clearly, a day is a long time for liars to avoid tripping over their own pronouncements. Less than 48 hours after her insincere message on Twitter, the Blairite MP engaged in a media publicity stunt intended to draw a deeper wedge between the PLP and the membership.

Cooper’s crude ‘politics of identity’ strategy was to infer that shadow chancellor John McDonnell was a misogynist for his use of emotionally charged language in defending the “appalling” treatment of disabled people by the last government.

The context in which McDonnell made his remark is set against a backdrop in which former secretary of state for work and pensions, Esther McVey, planned to cut the benefits of more than 300,000 disabled people. That Cooper rushed to the defence of a Tory who presided over some of the most wicked policies of arguably the most reactionary and brutal right-wing government in living memory, is extremely revealing.

What was also revealing was the media’s obvious double-standards. A few days prior to their reporting of McDonnell’s comment, Guardian journalist Nicholas Lezard called for the crowdfunded assassination of Corbyn. Needless to say, there was no media outrage at this suggestion.

Selective outrage is what many of us have come to expect from a partisan anti-Corbyn media. In May last year, independent journalist, Mike Sivier reported on Yvette “imaginary wheelchairs” Cooper’s criticism of those “using stigmatising language about benefit claimants”.

But as an article from April 13, 2010 below illustrates, while in office as Labour’s secretary of state for work and pensions, Cooper had drawn up plans that would almost certainly have met with the approval of Iain Duncan Smith.

Indeed, the policy plans outlined by Cooper were subsequently adopted by the Coalition government under the tutelage of Esther McVey. In policy terms, it would thus appear Cooper has more in common with McVey than she does with McDonnell. This, and her disdain towards both Corbyn and McDonnell and the mass membership they represent, explains her outburst. She was not motivated by sisterly love.

This is the relevant part of the 2010 article implicating Cooper’s policy outlook with that of the Tories she supposedly despises:

“Tens of thousands of claimants facing losing their benefit on review, or on being transferred from incapacity benefit, as plans to make the employment and support allowance (ESA) medical much harder to pass are approved by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Yvette Cooper.

The shock plans for ‘simplifying’ the work capability assessment, drawn up by a DWP working group, include docking points from amputees who can lift and carry with their stumps.  Claimants with speech problems who can write a sign saying, for example, ‘The office is on fire!’ will score no points for speech and deaf claimants who can read the sign will lose all their points for hearing.

Meanwhile, for ‘health and safety reasons’ all points scored for problems with bending and kneeling are to be abolished and claimants who have difficulty walking can be assessed using imaginary wheelchairs.

Claimants who have difficulty standing for any length of time will, under the plans, also have to show they have equal difficulty sitting, and vice versa, in order to score any points.  And no matter how bad their problems with standing and sitting, they will not score enough points to be awarded ESA.

In addition, almost half of the 41 mental health descriptors for which points can be scored are being removed from the new ‘simpler’ test, greatly reducing the chances of being found incapable of work due to such things as poor memory, confusion, depression and anxiety.

There are some improvements to the test under the plans, including exemptions for people likely to be starting chemotherapy and more mental health grounds for being admitted to the support group.  But the changes are overwhelmingly about pushing tens of thousands more people onto JSA.

If all this sounds like a sick and rather belated April Fools joke to you, we’re not surprised.  But the proposals are genuine and have already been officially agreed by Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.  They have not yet been passed into law, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives seem intent on driving as many people as possible off incapacity related benefits, they are likely to be pursued by whichever party wins the election…..”

Cooper’s deeds and words are yet another illustration as to the extent to which the ideological consensus between the New Labour hierarchy as represented by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on the one hand, and the ruling Tory establishment on the other, is structurally embedded within a dysfunctional system of state power that is no longer fit for purpose.

 

Victorian Holocausts & the Tory killing machine

By Daniel Margrain

Author Milan Kundera’s aphorism that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” might well have been written for Britain’s poor, mentally ill and disabled who lately have slipped from the media headlines and hence the consciousness of the wider public. To their credit, shortly before the last General Election, the Mirror newspaper reminded their readers how many ordinary mentally-ill and disabled people who had nothing to do with causing the financial crisis had committed suicide which the Tory government had attempted to cover-up.

Although initially the opposition from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to releasing figures highlighting the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who had died between November 2011 and May 2014 was solid, increasing political pressure from below meant that they were eventually forced into releasing the information by the Information Commissioner (IC). The DWP Secretary at that time, Iain Duncan Smith, who admitted that his department has a “duty of care” to benefit claimants, disingenuously insisted that there was no evidence of a ‘causal link’ between the governments work capability assessment (WCA) and the subsequent 590 recorded deaths from suicide, despite the fact that the coroners findings stated that all of the deaths “certainly aren’t linked to any other cause”.

It’s clear that the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith practiced ‘chequebook euthanasia’  in which “WCA assessors used psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill towards suicide in order to reduce the ‘burden’ on society caused by these “useless eaters”.  A year down the line, and with Duncan Smith gone, many people hoped that there would be a change in policy direction. But this has been to no avail. After announcing that the government had “no further plans” for benefit cuts in March of this year, Duncan Smith’s replacement, Stephen Crabb has recently said to have gone back on his word.

Crabb has implied that six years of “welfare reforms” (euphemism for £12 billion of cuts) look set to continue for the sick and disabled which will almost certainly result in yet more unnecessary deaths among some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Mike Sivier has correctly, in my view, described this Tory policy as a “war of attrition” that “may clearly be seen as a genocide”. This form of ‘chequebook euthanasia’ would not be possible without the intervention of Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, who oversees the writing of the cheques.

The attempts by the Tories to humiliate and inflict immense suffering on the weakest in society, in what film-maker Ken Loach described as the British governments “conscious cruelty” towards them, would not have come as any surprise to Osborne’s Victorian counterparts. These Victorian politicians would have shared with the Tory Chancellor an ideological commitment towards ending ‘welfare dependency’ which then, as now, lofty sounding morals were regularly evoked.

One of Osborne’s prominent 19th century counterparts was ‘India’s Nero’, Lord Lytton. Queen Victoria’s ‘favourite opium-smoking poet’, vehemently opposed efforts to interfere with ‘market forces’. In 1877-78 he rubber-stamped the export of a record amount of wheat grain to Europe rather than relieve starvation in India. During the late 19th century, India, under Lytton, had effectively become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were wagered against dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth”.

A similar Utilitarian laboratory had been established by Britain in Ireland during this late Victorian period. Under the tutelage of free market zealot, Chancellor Lord Charles Trevelyan, the Irish famine ‘relief effort’ was put into place that resulted in a politically-induced genocide no different in principle to the ‘chequebook euthanasia’ policy of the modern day Tories. The tragedy of the famine is commemorated by people from all over the world who, next Saturday (May 21), will descend on the beautiful County Mayo coastline in the west of Ireland to take part in the annual ten mile Famine Walk from Doo Lough to Louisburgh – the town where on the night of March 30, 1849, hundreds of starving people arrived seeking relief and workhouse shelter.

They were met at the shelter by the local Poor Law guardians whose role was to ‘inspect’them as certification for their ‘official pauper’ status. This would then supposedly entitle them to a ration of food to be eaten the following morning at a fishing establishment called Delphi Lodge owned by the Marquess of Sligo, ten miles away. Many didn’t arrive at their destination having died from exposure to the harsh elements or through starvation. The few that did make it were refused the relief they were told they were entitled to and they died on their homeward journey, with the bodies remaining where they fell.

Such tragedies were common in Ireland in the mid-19th century. By 1871 the population of Ireland had halved, with at least 1.5 million dead. Two million fled to America, many of them dying during the voyage or on arrival. The historian and critic, Terry Eagleton, describes the famine as “the greatest social disaster of 19th century Europe, an event with something of the characteristics of a low-level nuclear attack.”  In echoing the kind of detached but scornful class-based attitude the contemporary ruling elite have towards their working class minions Trevelyan, in a rather casually racist manner, said of the Irish:

“The great evil with which we have to contend, is not the physical evil of the famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.”

Lord Clarendon, an establishment Anthony Wedgewood (Tony) Benn, of his day, pleaded with the Liberal PM, Lord Russell to intervene, stating:

“Surely this is a state of things to justify you asking the House of Commons for an advance. For I don’t think there is another legislature in Europe that would disregard such suffering as now exists in the west of Ireland, or coldly persist in such a policy of extermination.”

Clarendon’s call for Russell to intervene wasn’t heeded and neither were similar calls to prevent famines in other nations during the Victorian colonial era – China, India, Egypt, Korea, Brazil, Russia, Ethiopia and Sudan. In the latter two countries alone, an estimated one-third of the populations died. The European empires, together with Japan and the United States, rapaciously exploited the opportunity to wrest new colonies, expropriate communal lands, and tap novel sources of plantation and mine labour. As Mike Davis points out:

“What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre. The total human toll…could not of been less than 30 million victims. Fifty million dead might not be unrealistic.”

The famines of the Victorian era continue to resonate today. Then, as now, they are a symptom of social and economic policies that result in unnecessary deaths. Even in the 19th century this was well understood. The radical journalist and humanitarian, William Digby, principal chronicler of the 1876 Madras famine, as well as famed naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, for example, both viewed mass starvation as an avoidable political tragedy not ‘natural’ disaster. Published in 1898, Wallace characterized the famines in India and China, together with the slum poverty of the industrial cities, as “the most terrible failures of the century.”

Millions died, not outside the capitalist system but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. Indeed, they were murdered by the theological application of the sacred principles of Smith, Locke, Hobbes, Bentham, Malthus and Mill in much the same way as hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of today’s poor, mentally ill and disabled have, under the Tories, died as a result of the neoclassical economic Chicago School’s application of the sacred principles of Friedman and Stigler. The consensus view among the ruling class of the Victorian era was that famine was deemed to be morally justifiable as a “salutary cure for over-population.”

Today, over 3 million of the world’s children die (needlessly) from hunger. Indebted countries are forced to export food as a ‘free-market’ commodity while the producers are denied their own produce and many of them go hungry, and their children starve. That is what happened in Ireland and India. In Trevelyan and Lytton’s day it was known as Liberalism. Today it is known as ‘neoliberalism’. “England made the famine”, wrote the Irish socialist, James Connolly, “by a rigid application of the economic principles that lie at the base of capitalist society.” In essence, nothing has changed. The ruling class attitude towards the poor and sick who suffer as a result of the political consequences and actions of those who rule over them, is as embedded today as it was a century and a half ago.

‘I Was Only Following Orders.’

By Daniel Margrain

I was only following orders of my superiors” was a not an adequate defense for Nazi war criminals”. The legal precedent set by the Nuremberg Principle IV states:

“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

Back in December The Poor Side of Life made the following observation:

I was stopped by a homeless chap who wanted to congratulate us on our hard work. He said that he hated this Job Centre. His friend who lived on the streets with him had been sanctioned after being taken off the sickness benefits that he was on and was put on Job seekers Allowance. He had severe mental health and addiction problems. He was sanctioned, and without warm clothes and very little food he fell asleep on the streets and never woke up. He died of hypothermia. People had passed him and thought that he was asleep. He didn’t stand a chance. And what do the Job Centre staff say? “We are only following orders.” 

On August 27 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that the number who died while claiming incapacity benefits between January 2011 and February 2014 was a shocking 91,740. This represents an increase to an average of 99 deaths per day or 692 per week, between the start of December 2011 and the end of February 2014 – compared with 32 deaths per day/222 per week between January and November 2011. DWP figures also show that some 2,380 people have died after being found fit for work and losing benefits.

Canadian Disability Studies specialist and disability activist Samuel Miller, has been communicating frequently and voluntarily, since January 2012, to senior United Nations officials, on the welfare crisis for the United Kingdom’s sick and disabled. The campaigning seems to have worked as the U.N seems likely to set up an inquiry into the sheer brutality and callousness of Iain Duncan Smith and his department.

Duncan Smiths attacks on the most vulnerable in society are being undertaken on the basis of the Tory support for austerity which is one of the greatest ever confidence tricks perpetuated on the British public. The reality is austerity under the behest of civil servants’ following orders, kills the poorest whilst the pockets of the wealthiest get fatter.

Iain Duncan Smith Is A Sociopath

Stuart Chester has Down's syndrome, epilepsy and autism

Stuart Chester has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism
WHO CAN NOW CLAIM WITH A SERIOUS FACE THAT WE LIVE IN A CIVILIZED SOCIETY?
WORDS LITERALLY FAIL ME. 

A SEVERELY disabled young man who is unable to talk, read or write and needs round-the-clock care from his mother is the latest target in Iain Duncan Smith’s campaign against Scotland’s most vulnerable.

Stuart Chester, who has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism and is unable to feed or wash himself, is being told by officers in the Tory minister’s Department for Work and Pensions to prove he is unfit for work.

The 25-year-old has been sent a controversial 20-page work capability assessment form to fill in that will investigate his fitness for work and whether he deserves his Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.

Last night Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil described Stuart’s case as “absolutely outrageous” and “shameful”.

Stuart has been given a deadline of September 18 to complete the complicated and detailed document and return it to the DWP.

His mother Deborah McKenzie, 51, said receiving the form had caused her “undue stress” and said Duncan Smith’s plan to deliberately target the sick and disabled was tantamount to “genocide”, after shocking DWP figures were released last week showing more than 80 people were dying each month following work capability assessments.

She said: “Stuart gets the high-rate DLA and he was supposed to get that for life because his condition will never change. He also received ESA benefits.

“I cannot understand why he was sent this capability for work questionnaire because he cannot talk, read or write or do anything for himself. There is no way he could work and this is just causing a lot of undue stress and anxiety.

“I was really upset when the form came through the door. I called up the DWP and asked them why they would send it out to someone like my son when he is supposed to to get DLA for life and they told me it was tough luck, that it’s just the way it is and I would just need to fill out the form for him just like everyone else.

“I know other disabled people in wheelchairs with conditions like cerebral palsy, also people like Stuart who cannot do anything for them, are being harassed by the DWP to fill in fit for work forms when there is absolutely no way they could work.

“I used to have to fill in a form for my son every three years but eventually we were told he had the DLA for life because his circumstances were not going to change and he I no longer had to fill in an application for benefits for him.

“I am his full-time carer and there is no way my son could work, no chance. He needs 24/7 care and cannot feed or wash himself and he has a lot of accidents toilet-wise. I have to do everything for him.”

Neil called for the “cruel” assessments on the sick and disabled to be scrapped, and demanded that David Cameron hand over the rights to decide on benefits to the Scottish Government.

He said: “This is absolutely outrageous and these are the kind of cases which highlight that the Tories are out of control and they must hand over running of our benefits system to the Scottish Government.

“It bad enough the DWP sends out these forms to people like Stuart but they don’t seem to understand the stress and worry this causes families in Scotland.

“If someone is clearly unable to work and has a lifelong condition they should not be hounded like this and they should be left alone, not put through the hell of being assessed for work and worrying about whether or not they will get their benefits when they are quite clearly entitled to them.

“It is nothing but bullying, harassment, intimidation and a breach of human rights of the most vulnerable in our society and it has got to stop.

“They have crossed the line and if we had control over these benefits, the first thing we would put an end to this kind of harassment and treat these people with respect and dignity they deserve.”

Last week, disability campaigners spoke to The National and warned more people would die because of work capability assessments unless they were scrapped.

The claim followed the release of figures that revealed 2,380 claimants died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after being told to get back to work and that their benefits were being stopped.

In the same period, 50,580 people who received ESA died within two weeks of their benefit claim ending.

Stephen Cruickshank, director of the Scottish Disability Equality Forum, who has spinal neuropathy, said the work capability assessments were unfit for purpose.

Mother-of-two Deborah, of Glasgow, said Duncan Smith had “a lot to answer for” and described him as “the lowest of the low” for targeting disabled people.

She said: “I don’t know how Iain Duncan Smith can sleep at night or live with himself targeting the disabled and most vulnerable in our society like this.

“It is beyond belief and absolutely disgusting considering many of the people being sent these forms were awarded with DLA for life which we had to fight for.”

Deborah said coping with everyday life caring for Stuart was “hard and challenging” and even though she knows that he cannot work, it is the uncertainty of having to fill in the complicated form that is putting her under even more stress.

A DWP spokesman said: “We regularly review people’s conditions to ensure that they are not simply written off and condemned to a life on benefits. That’s why we have improved the work capability assessment since it was introduced in 2008, ensuring that it is fairer and more accurate.

“Decisions are taken following a thorough independent assessment, and consideration of supporting medical evidence provided to us by a claimant’s GP or medical specialist.”

“It’s important that regular assessments are made, as for some people, conditions may improve or worsen.”

Originally posted in The National

Do We Need the U.N To Protect Us From Our Own Government?

Protesters
Protesters demonstrate against benefit cuts in London in 2014. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis

The shocking news that in two years up to February last year some 2,380 disabled claimants died within two weeks of being assessed as fit for work as part of the governments Work Capability Assessment Programme (WCAP), is finally beginning to make the mainstream. I am a regular listener to LBC Radio and the issue is now a regular feature of many phone in shows. How long it will take before it makes peak time BBC television news bulletins is another matter, but at least the topic is making some inroads which has to be encouraging.

Such is the sheer brutality and callousness of Iain Duncan Smith, that the U.N now proposes to act in circumstances where the government resists. At the very least, the potential setting up of a U.N inquiry into Tory welfare reforms on the back of the deaths in the manner of, for example, Goldstone, could theoretically, in the longer term, result in the man responsible for causing untold misery and suffering being brought to justice.

But even if the U.N ultimately proves to be toothless as it was in terms of the misnamed Israel-Gaza conflict, the negative publicity they will generate for the government will be invaluable. Secondly, and even more importantly, the WCAP must be stopped in its tracks irrespective of the U.Ns findings. But short of electing an effective opposition into power worthy of the name, how can this be achieved in the short term?

Currently, as Michael Meacher acknowledged, parliament has no power to instigate an immediate emergency debate, Neither has it the power to force an inquiry into the workings of WCAP. So leaving aside the proposed U.N intervention, the options appear to be extremely limited. Questions have been raised in the House regarding the deaths but these were sidestepped. In any case, it’s telling that the questions were only asked in the first place because of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The figures only came to light (conveniently) during the recent bank holiday, clearly in the expectation that they would be forgotten about. But it took nearly four months for them to be released and only then after pressure was applied as a result of a ruling by the Information Commissioner. The DWP had appealed against the Information Commissioner’s ruling and only gave up when campaigning blogger Mike Sivier submitted an application for the appeal to be struck out as an abuse of process. As Mike says, the DWP’s response to his FoI request shows three things very clearly

Firstly, that the DWP is very bad at responding to FoI requests – in terms of both timing and content. The response is deliberately written to make it as opaque as possible, and does not include all the information I requested, and this reflects poorly on both the department and its ministers. Therefore I shall be writing to the First-tier Tribunal (information rights), asking that a hearing scheduled for November 10 should still take place because the DWP has not answered my request.

Secondly, that despite the poor quality of the report, it is clear that the work capability assessment is not fit for purpose and the misallocation of people with long term illnesses – either into the work-related activity group or into the jobs market, classified ‘fit for work’ – has certainly led to needless deaths. Iain Duncan Smith said as much last week but it should not save him. Evidence that this was the case has been available since December 2011, when the number of deaths of people on ESA tripled – yes, tripled – in comparison with the average for the previous 11 months. The DWP and its ministers have been hiding this information from us for nearly four years. In the eyes of the law, that is criminal negligence – corporate manslaughter.

Thirdly, that the principles on which Employment and Support Allowance was designed are causing deaths. When Mrs Mike’s Contributory ESA ran out (she used to be in the work-related activity group), her benefit was cut off with no notification or advice about what to do next. How many others have received the same treatment? Many, it seems, according to the DWP’s statistics which show that the number of ‘unknown’ cases (into which these people are thrown as their NI credits are still paid) has dropped while the proportion of deaths in that group has increased hugely, year on year.

The fact that the issues relating to the WCAP are only now beginning to enter the wider public consciousness and, moreover, almost certainly reveal the tip of a much larger ice berg will, in years to come, be regarded as one of the greatest domestic political scandals of recent times.

The fact that the deaths have been brought into the open should be sufficient justification for the scrapping of the WCAP with immediate effect with a view to bringing a prosecution forward for all those responsible for hiding the facts from us for so long. I wonder if Blair and Duncan Smith like the same prison food?