Number of People Claiming Sickness Benefits Hits Two Year High

ESA-claims1The number of people claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits has hit a two year high provisional statistics from the DWP show.

2,510,000 people are estimated to have been claiming either Employment Support Allowance, or the benefit it is replacing Incapacity Benefit, in July 2014.  This is around 70,000 higher than a year earlier and the higest number since Summer 2012.

With Atos assessments finding people with cancer and other serious health conditions ‘fit for work’, there can be no doubt that these claims are genuine.  Yet despite hundreds of thousands of people having benefits slashed due to the bungled health tests, it seems that people are still getting sick.

This is hardly suprising.  Despite the endless propaganda from the DWP, the UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than comparable economies even before the current callous regime was introduced.  In any society there will be some people who are not able to work due to a health condition, accident or serious disability.  No amount of assessments, workfare or benefit sanctions will change that.

It would come as a shock to the out of touch bureacrats at the DWP that there have always been many people on long term unemployment benefits who in reality shold have probably been on the sick.  Some people feel making a claim for sickness benefits is giving up, others, particularly those with mental health conditions, may not be diagnosed or have a full understanding of their condtion.  One reason for a rise in sickness benefit claimants – at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling – may be that workfare and the endless ‘work related activity’ imposed by Jobcentres is making these people too ill to stay on unemployment benefit.

There is some evidence for this.  A DWP evaluation in 2012 found that people referred to Mandaory Work Activity were more likely to make a claim for sickness benefits than those who didn’t face workfare.  Other evidence shows that the assessment process for sickness benefits may be having a devastating impact on people’s mentak health.  Other reports have shown how benefit sanctions have caused people to be unable to meet special dietry needs, or going hungry, or being forced to beg or go through bins to find food.

Whatever the reason, and the huge backlog in sickness benefit assessents will be another factor, the number of people unable to work due to sickness or disability now looks set to have risen steadily over the past seven months.  It increasingly looks the case that all Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have done for people on sickness benefits is make them sicker.

You can read the latest figures at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014

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Be Brave Scotland! A Vote For No Just Means More Of The Same Shit. Forever.

scotland-yes-voteThere are have been few things more joyful recently than watching the British establishment runnung scared as the Scottish referendum draws closer.   When toffs are this panicked you know you’re onto a winner.

It will David Cameron who will pay the price of a vote for Scottish Independence on Thursday.  He will forever be remembered as the Prine Minister who oversaw the break up of the union, and that really means something to the kind of upper class pricks who think Game Of Thrones is an instruction manual on how to run a country.  He will not last long if Scotland votes yes, and questions will also be asked what role Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms played in the result.

But there are far better reasons than just spite to support the yes vote.  One thing that unites increasing numbers of people both north and south of the border is the urgent need for radical political change.  The rich are running rampant everywhere and next week Scotland has a chance to start doing something about that.

People should not be fooled by so-called Devo Max.  They may be promising the earth now, but who trusts a fucking politician?  In the event of a no vote, they will fight, discreetly if necessary, every possible concession that could be made towards devolution.  Already some Tories are openly declaring that they will attempt to destroy any possibility of further powers being granted to the Scottish Government. (H/T @faltskog5450)

Only a yes vote will open up the space for the chance of meaningful change.  Ignore the scare-mongering, which is mostly just rich people worrying that Scottish independence might cost them some money.  There are likely to be bumps in the road ahead if the Yes Campaign wins, but the alternative is more of the same shit forever for the people of Scotland.

Those of us in England and Wales should also not believe the hype, such as the shrill warnings from the Labour Party that a yes votes will mean a permanent Tory government.  Labour will still be able to win elections in England and Wales, not that it matters much.  When you vote Labour and get Tory what fucking difference does it make?  Scottish independence will lead to radical demands in the North of England, Wales, Cornwall, even London.  Nothing spreads like political turmoil.  The English and Welsh working class will be stronger if the Yes Campaign emerges victorious this week.  That will be well worth the sacrifice of a few Labour MPs.

In the event of victory for the Yes Campaign, there will still be bitter struggles ahead.  Alex Salmond is every bit as much a neo-liberal as his counterparts in Westminster.  The real fight is with capital – with the rich, the landlords, the company directors, bankers and all the other parasites who easily transcend the national borders that the rest of us are expected to respect.  Scotland may eventually end up with a different social security system after next week, but the likes of Atos, G4S and A4e will already be trying to work out how to make a buck out of that.  The people of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England will still have many common enemies, and there is no reason for us not to stay united in fighting the bastards.  That’s one thing we can do better together.

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Don’t Stop The Free Workers Plead The Workfare Exploiters

Poundland have seen dozens of protests outside their stores over their use of unpaid workers.

Poundland have seen dozens of protests outside their stores over their use of unpaid workers.

In a bizarre move, several companies known to use unpaid staff on workfare schemes have teamed up to write a letter to The Guardian singing the praises of the disastrous Work Programe.

The list of employers – which includes Homebase who are known to have used workfare is the past, and Poundland, who were at the heart of the successful legal challenge against workfare – say that the government’s support for schemes like the Work Programme ‘must continue’.  Otherwise they might have to start actually paying their staff instead of exploiting unemployed people coerced into unpaid work by sanction-happy Jobcentre busy-bodies.

It is not known whether all the companies on the list, which include Ocado and Gap, are involved in unpaid work, although it is difficult to see why they have signed otherwise.  In fact it seems a strange thing for these businesses to be bothered to do at all.

The last signatory on the list may reveal one explanation for how this strange initiative came about.  Kirsty McHugh is the Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Assocation, or ERSA for short.  This is the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work parasites like A4e and G4S who run the Work Programme.  Just last week they published a breath-takingly dishonest report making wild claims that no-one believed about how much money the Work Programme is saving the country.  It seems likely that this latest letter was co-ordinated by ERSA as part of a shabby PR campaign designed to convince the DWP to keep giving welfare-to-work firms billions of pounds of our money.

Labour have hinted that they might bring in local councils to run forced work schemes.  The Lib Dems are caling for a policy change and may yet hold the balance of power again come the next election.  More importantly, no-one knows better than the welfare-to-work sector that the latest ‘Help to Work’ scheme is set to be a disaster and that they will be the ones that get the blame when it all goes wrong.  The future does not look so assured for ERSA and their welfare-to-work cronies who  have made hundreds of millions out of bullying and exploiting unemployed people.  They will fight dirty to keep Brtain’s biggest benefit scam alive.  Expect more bollocks like this.

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on October 4th.  Please spread the word.

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Take part in the Boycott Workfare week of action! 4-12 October 2014

bhf-workfareFrom Boycott Workfare

Forcing people to work for free through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong. In the week of action, tell the companies and charities who are profiting from this exploitative regime what you think of their involvement! Email, Tweet, use Facebook, phone them, protest, organise a flashmob: for a week of piling the pressure on workfare exploiters.

We know these tactics work! Just look at how quickly Byteback IT had to pull out when you told them what you thought after George Osborne made the mistake of visiting them. This is just one of the latest in a whole list of businesses and charities that have also pulled out of workfare following our pressure.

The latest workfare scheme, “Community Work Placements” (CWP), forces people to work for nothing for up to six months – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime. But there is growing resistance from the voluntary sector which the scheme needs to work: over 400 charities have signed up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary and 22 councils have pledged to boycott workfare. They know that workfare does not help people find jobs and being
unemployed is not a crime.

Resistance is paying off: the launch of the CWP scheme was massively delayed. Instead of using ‘big name’ national charities, the DWP has had to resort to small local charities and businesses to provide these Workfare placements. So local actions are all the more important! See Boycott Workfare’s list of Workfare users to find one near you.

All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government to find new employers willing to risk taking on Workfare placements. In fact the government is desperately doing all it can to avoid revealing the organisations using Workfare out of fear the schemes will collapse!

People pressure has ended Workfare in the place where it all started – New York – now let’s end it here!

Workfare undermines real paid jobs and wages; results in sanctions for thousands; does nothing to improve the chances of finding a job; and exploits those forced to take up these placements. Our actions can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting this forced unpaid work. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 4-12 October.

Whatever you’re planning – let us know and we’ll help spread the word!

Join our Facebook event here which we will update with links to all the local actions.

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Scandal! Are These DWP Fat Cats The UK’s Biggest Benefit Scroungers?

Howard Shiplee relaxes after another exhausting day spending our money.

Howard Shiplee relaxes after another exhausting day spending our money.

At a time when disabled people are being driven from their homes due to the Bedroom Tax, DWP mandarins are being paid huge sums of our money to implement bungled welfare reforms.

The department have just released the salaries of their senior staff  and there is no sign of austerity for those running beneits system. Four senior staff are paid over £150,000 a year, with Universal Credit boss Howard Shipley the highest paid at a whopping £195,000 plus. This huge salary comes despite the fact Universal Credit has been a disaster and Shiplee is believed to have spent most of the year on the sick.

The gormless civil servant in charge of the DWP, Robert Devereux, is the second highest paid, earning a minimum of £180,000 per year. This is almost 50 times more than a single adult on unemployment benefits is expected to survive on.

Outgoing IT boss Andy Nelson earnt over £175,000 in the last financial year, whilst his replacement Mayank Prakash is set to earn around £180,000. Kevin Cunnington, the Digital Transformation Director who runs the DWP website or something, earns at least £150,000. According to one website, which monitors salary trends, the average pay of an IT Director is £72,459 per year.

Not everyone at the DWP is enjoying such genorosity at our expense.  A recent investigation unearthed almost 5000 staff working either directly or indirectly for the department who are not even earning the living wage of £7.65 an hour (or £8.80 in London).  Many of them are cleaners or catering staff, meaning they do real jobs instead of sitting on their arses in pointless meetings all day.  The harder you work, the less you get, and never has that been truer than at the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith (annual salary £134,565).

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#proudtowork – Yet Another Money Grabbing Scam From The Welfare-To-Work Parasites

Welfare to Work bosses pictured at yesterday’s #proudtowork launch

The body established to lie on behalf of the fraud ridden welfare-to-work industry have launched a new campaign on the back of a report so breath-takingly dishonest it would make Iain Duncan Smith blush.

According to the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the floundering Work Programme has been a huge success and is set to add £18 billion to the economy.  This is based on a report which ERSA commisioned from a consultancy company called Europe Economics who have mangled the figures in an attempt to hoodwink the DWP into giving Work Programme providers like A4e and G4S even more tax payer’s cash.

The report claims that around 100,000 people have gained jobs over the last three years as a direct result of the Work Programme.  Whether this is true is almost impossible to establish.  Long term unemployment has fallen, but only stands at 20,000 lower than back in 2010 when this Government weren’t elected.  Economic growth has eventually returned which would cause unemployment across the board to fall.  The report claims to have accounted for this by looking at the number of job vacancies, but what they don’t measure is the huge rise in self-employment.  According to ERSA boss Kirsty McHugh at the launch of the report, one in ten of the job outcomes on the Work Programme is self-employment.  There is no evidence wheher this self-employment is actually making claimants any money or whether they have just transferred their claim over to Working Tax Credits after pressure from their Work Programme provider.

The report decides to completely ignore Employment Support Allowance (better known as sickness benefit) claimants on the Work Programme, the worst performing aspect of the scheme.  It acknowledges that the growth in people getting jobs could be down to other welfare reforms and that the Work Programme might just be displacing jobs elsewhere. In truth they have pulled this figure out of their arses.

But then it gets worse.  The £18 billion they claim the Work Programme has added to the economy is over the next 50 years.  This is made up of the extra money the claimant will receive over their working life, the money saved by the government in benefit payments, and some magical money added on top which they pretend it will save businesses.  The problem with this figure, and it’s a fuckin big one, is that it assumes that everyone who gets a job and keeps it on the Work Programme is a 17 year old with 50 years of working life ahead of them.  17 year olds aren’t even eligible for the Work Programme.

Even taking their bungled figures at face value, all the report shows is that the Work Programme is adding £140 milion a year to the economy.  It is costing around three times that.  People leaving the Work Programme are now being forced onto the £300 million Help To Work scheme.  These costs will go on and on as new schemes are devised to harass and demoralise unemployed people.  Even when the figurs are spun to the point of parody by the very same industry that is raking in all that money, all they can do is show the Work Programme is costing a fortune to achieve virtually fuck all. But then being paid a fortune to do fuck all has long been about the only speciality of the UK’s biggest benefits scam, the welfare to work industry.

ERSA have launched a twitter page as part of their latest marketing strategy to lie bout the success of the Work Programme in the hope of being paid more of our money.  You can find them @Proud_to_Work and they are tweeting using the hashtag #proudtowork.

The report is available at: http://ersa.org.uk/media/news/work-programme-add-%C2%A318bn-value-uk-economy

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How The TUC Always Planned To Abandon Out of Work Benefit Claimants

boycott-workfare-real-jobsThe TUC’s shameful support of workfare may be part of a deliberate strategy of trying to win support for the welfare state by abandoning those they believe people see as the ‘undeserving poor’.

Towards the end of last year the TUC invited disability and anti-poverty charities to a one day conference called Winning on Welfare.  The real reason for this misnamed vol-au-vent munching session however was to discuss the terms of surrender as the TUC announced they planned to focus their support for social security on working claimants only.  They were quite candid about the reasons for this, a document accompanying the event explained:

“We must understand that the government has majority support for its general approach and that there is very strong support for some changes such as the benefit cap … People think that the current system is unfair as they think there is too much abuse and a dependency culture which keeps people from getting a job.”

The remedy for this according to the TUC is “to show that the government’s welfare reforms are a threat to the hard working people the government claim to support in the welfare debate.”  As such the TUC have decided to abandon people who are unemployed or unable to work due to chlld or other care commitments, sickness or disability.  Instead they will focus on the five week wiating period set to be a part of Universal Credit and on warning ‘hard working people’ what might happen to them if they lose their job or become unable to work.

This policy was manufactured based on a poll they carried out which found that some people had negative views of benefit claimants.  This was followed up with two further focus groups made up of people with “soft support” for the government’s current policies.  Somewhat predictably these groups were found to have views which softly supported the  government’s current policies.

Despite this however, most people strongly supported the principles of social security, even down to specific types of benefit such as Tax Credits or disability benefits.  The only benefit which was unpopular overall was Housing Benefit, which goes into the pockets of landlords, not claimants.

This apparant contradiction has been a feature of other research into people’s views on the benefits system, including that produced by the DWP.  Whilst Iain Duncan Smith has made much of the popularity of the Benefit Cap, the number in support fell to less than half if it was shown to cause people to have to move from their local area.  A DWP poll showed support for the Bedroom Tax initially, yet once people realised the suffering it would cause it became an electoral liability.

What all the research seems to show is that some people, usually slightly over half, are responsive to the kind of scrounger rhetoric that has poisoned the debate about social security.  But they are also often passionate supporters of the principles of a welfare state and do not want to lose it.

Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are built on lies: two of the main ones being that the social security system was generous to begin with, and that there is a job for everybody if they just try hard enough.  These lies began under the last Labour government who decided that even people with serious illnesses should be declared fit for work and forced to compete in the jobs market.  They called this equality, even empowerment.  It has caused breath-taking suffering.

There are around four million people on out of work benefits.  The most recent figures show there are about 650,000 job vacancies.  The idea that there is enough work to go around isn’t even taken seriously by the Tory think tank who designed current welfare policies, and who recently said that reducing unemployment to zero is neither feasible nor desirable.  As for the lie that the social security system was generous, well a million people using foodbanks soon demolishes that claim.

Many of those using foodbanks are working and of course in-work benefits must be defended.  The TUC could even go further and fight – really fight, not just print leaflets – to get those workers a decent wage.  That is the point of trade unions after all.  But to betray those out of work, just because 52% of people agreed that “too many people depend on government hand outs”, is inexcusable.  Winning on welfare means actually having the fucking argument not cravenly following the whims of whatever a polling company says public opinion is this week.  It means not cowardly accepting the Labour Paty’s current policies which seem to favour a two-tier social security system based on how long people have been in work, with benefits stopped or means tested for the young and forced work for people who are longer-term unemployed.

This is how we lose the welfare state.  By begging for compromises instead of demanding comprehensive social security for everybody.  By conceding defeat based on weak public opinion instead of arguing that it is an atrocity that people should go hungry in one of the richest countries in the world.  By not fighting against unpaid work, the one area where the TUC could actually make a real difference.  Unless they radically change course, the TUC must not be allowed to set the terms of this debate.  Because at the moment they are sadly not on our side.

Above pic from; http://wessexsolidarity.wordpress.com

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