Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mark Homophoban – The Most Homophobic Minister in 15 Years

David Cameron has made much of his support for gay rights in an attempt to ditch the blustering old bigot image which had dogged the Tory Party under Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard.

Even after he wasn’t elected, Cameron promised to introduce same sex marriage in an effort to show the Tory Party’s commitment to equality.  When William Hague was caught bunking up with his foxy younger male assistant Cameron brushed the matter aside, keen to show just how much the Tories had changed.

The promotion of Mark Hoban to Employment Minister shows that the mask has slipped and the nasty party are emerging from under their stones once more.  Hoban joins Ministry of Defence goons, Andrew Robatham and Mark Francois, as three of the most homophobic politicians to serve in ministerial positions for over 15 years.

The Public Whip website reveals that Hoban has voted against every piece of gay rights legislation since becoming an MP in 2001.  Hoban voted against scrapping the notorious Clause 28 – the nasty little policy introduced under Thatcher which banned schools and local authorities from displaying ‘acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.

Hoban voted against Civil Partnerships  and is opposed to gay and lesbian couples having equal adoption rights.  Whilst his boss, and devout Catholic Iain Duncan Smith has recently signalled his support for gay marriage – presumably having decided that God got it wrong – Mark Hoban has remained silent on the issue.

As recently as 2007, Mark Hoban voted against LGBT people being given protection from discrimination under the Equalities Act.  In the same year he also voted against gay women being permitted fertility treatment.

Hoban, who has no children, has never spoken about his quiet contempt for those in same sex relationships.  But his voting record speaks for itself.  Hoban is opposed to equal rights for LGBT people, and believes that it should be illegal to portray same sex relationships as acceptable.

Mark Homophoban is far from alone in the Tory Party, who never really changed in their desire to drag the UK back into the Victorian era.  But he is the only Minister with a responsibility for millions of young, and often vulnerable people on benefits.  With Housing Benefits cuts expected for the young – meaning people who face abuse at home will be unable to flee – it seems young people can no longer except the welfare state to be a safe refuge from homophobia and prejudice.

Blogging may be light until next week.

Council Tax Cuts – Protest on Oct 31st to Stop the Halloween Horror

Called by Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Taxpayers Against Poverty, WinVisible

COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT CUTS = THE NEW POLL TAX
Worse than Thatcher! Oppose all benefit cuts and sanctions

Vigil & protest: 12.30 – 1.30pm

Wednesday 31 OCTOBER
Opposite Parliament – Lords’ entrance
Old Palace Yard, Abingdon St SW1 – Westminster tube

All welcome

On Wednesday the House of Commons will debate the Local Government Finance Bill which proposes to cut 10% of the grant local authorities receive from central government towards council tax benefits.

People now entitled to Council Tax Ben efit will be expected to pay up to 30% of their Council Tax. People already struggling on poverty-line wages and benefits, are up in arms at the prospect of yet another expense they cannot afford.

The government claims pensioners, sick and disabled people and families with young children will be exempt, but we all know that many people who should be protected, aren’t when you look closely.

This tax is on top of the housing and benefit caps, abolition of the social fund, the escalating prices of food, fuel and transport. Vulnerable people are being forced off sickness and disability benefits, mums are skipping meals so children can eat.

Opposition is growing, including in Cameron’s backyard of West Oxfordshire . They and other Councils are insisting on keeping Council Tax Ben efit. We call on all Councils to do the same! http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/aug/26/council-tax-benefits-revolt

At least 2 million more people will be forced into debt to pay these bills, and could end up with massive fines and prison, without any legal representation because of cuts to legal aid and advice services.

With the poll tax, people refused on a mass scale — we can’t let this next disaster be railroaded through. There is plenty of money for all our needs – from military budgets, bankers’ bonuses, company profits and corporate tax.

The super-rich have got richer off our impoverishment.

For more information: smsd@allwomencount.net 020 7482 2496

taxpayersagainstpovertytap@gmail.com 07961 177889

win@winvisible.org 020 7 482 2496

How Much Did Atos Lie To Win PIP Contract?

The PIP tender reveals that poverty pimps Atos misrepresented their relationship with several organisations to win the  £540 million contract to carry out the upcoming Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are seeking legal action after Atos claimed they were in regular consultation with them to discuss any concerns about their health and disability assessments.  In fact DPAC have been some of the most outspoken critics of the company and have organised countless protests aimed at Atos.

Atos claim this bare-faced lie was a mistake.  Other charities Atos claim to consult with at national and local level include Citizens Advice, Mencap, DRUK, MIND, Macmillan Cancer Support, RNIB, SENSE, The National Autistic Society, the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health and the Scottish Association of Mental Health.  Whether there is any truth in these claims remains to be seen.

Now other organisations named by Atos are coming forward to reveal that they have been misrepresented in the tender.  Big Mouth Media (now LBi) are named as Atos’ suppliers who will be responsible for pro-actively monitoring social media to judge any areas of ‘public concern’ into their activities.

As revealed in the comments here, LBi deny they are involved with Atos. stating clearly:

“I’d just like to clarify that bigmouthmedia, which is now part of LBi, does not work with ATOS Healthcare in any way. We were initially involved in a project to help them better understand social media, but in February this year we decided to bring an end to our relationship. Furthermore, we were categorically not involved with the closure of any website, blog or online community space on behalf of ATOS Healthcare.”

The Atos contract is dated May 2012, meaning Big Mouth Media/LBi had already ended the relationship when the tender was submitted.  An unofficial spokesperson for LBi has claimed on facebook that there was a ‘difference of opinion’ between the companies.

Atos’ dodgy claims don’t end there.  Ever opportunistic Labour MPs have called for an “immediate investigation” into the PIP tender after Atos claimed they would be working with organisations such as Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), Disability Cornwall and ecdp (formerly Essex Coalition of Disabled People).

All of these Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have firmly rejected the claim they would have anything to do with Atos.  According to a piece recently published on the DPAC website, Richard Currie, an executive member of GMCDP said of the claims:

“As an organisation we are not keen to work with organisations that actively make life more difficult for disabled people.

“We would never want anything to do with Atos. We do not feel they are a fit and proper company to do the assessments, as they proved with the employment and support allowance claimant debacle.”

Hundreds of millions of pounds are to be handed over to Atos to manage the new disability assessments on which PIP is based.  One fifth of disabled people are set to lose benefits when the new system is introduced.  Atos’ claim that the very real suffering to disabled people that this will cause is to be minimised by them engaging with disabled claimants is based on little more than hot air.

For the victims of the Work Capability Assessment, already forced into workfare and poverty by the actions of Atos, the news that Atos lie will sadly be of no great surprise.

Big Mouth Media – The Online Stalkers of the Disability Denial Industry

Recently released tender documents for the upcoming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments reveal Atos has been using the services of online marketing agency Big Mouth Media to spy on disabled people’s social networking pages.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Big Mouth Media/LBi claim they ended their relationship with Atos in February this year and were not involved in the website closures by Atos mentioned in this piece, for more information see:  How Much Did Atos Lie To Win PIP Contract?

LBi claim: “I’d just like to clarify that bigmouthmedia, which is now part of LBi, does not work with ATOS Healthcare in any way. We were initially involved in a project to help them better understand social media, but in February this year we decided to bring an end to our relationship. Furthermore, we were categorically not involved with the closure of any website, blog or online community space on behalf of ATOS Healthcare.”

UPDATE: An unofficial spokesperson for LBi/Big Mouth Media claim they are no longer involved with Atos due to a ‘difference of opinion’.  Full official clarification is promised soon.

Atos claim that using Big Mouthed Media to “pro-actively monitor websites and social media”  for mentions of the company has helped them identify any areas of public concern about their activities. In reality Atos have been responsible for using legal threats in an attempt to censor and stifle any online criticism of their disability denying benefit assessments.

Atos carry out the notorious Work Capability Assessment.  This crude computer based test has been used to strip benefits from out of work sick or disabled claimants.

An increasing number of deaths have been linked to the endless assessment and re-assessment regime, whilst earlier in the year it was discovered that 32 people a week die after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos.  The company recently won the contract to carry out similar assessments for those claiming Disability Living Allowance, when it is reformed into Personal Independence Payments (PIP) next year.  It is in the tender document for these assessments, recently published online by bungling DWP officials, where Atos claim to monitor the social networking pages of sick or disabled claimants.

The Carer Watch website was shut down by Atos, simply because a post on their forum was critical of the company.  Other sites, such as the Atos Register of Shame, were bullied offline due to the phrase Atos Kills.

Big Mouth Media do not boast of their involvement with Atos on their client list, preferring to keep that dirty little secret to themselves.  But there can be little doubt that this company is making money was making money (see updates) supporting Atos and their drive to force as many sick and disabled people into poverty as possible.

There can be few things more embarrassing then for a online marketing company to become a target for protests and complaints themselves on social media websites.  This is the kind of thing they are hired to prevent.  Strangely Big Mouth Media, who claim to be an expert on social media, are inactive on twitter* where they have an empty account @bigmouthmedia.  Luckily they are on facebook, so why not tell them what you think of their involvement with disability denying poverty pimps Atos:  http://www.facebook.com/bigmouthmedia/

*Big Mouth Media recently merged with LBi, who can be found on twitter @LBiLondon

Emma Harrison Mauled Over Work Programme Disaster

Emma Harrison, former head of poverty pimps A4e, was mauled on Channel 4 News this week after figures were released suggesting less than 4% of people have found work after being sentenced to the Work Programme with the company.

The Work Programme is Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship scheme aimed at bullying long term unemployed people into low paid work or workfare.

Claimants on the Work Programme can be forced to undertake any activity that private sector spivs like Emma Harrison decide will help them find work.  Brutal benefit sanction, which can lead to extreme poverty and even homelessness, are inflicted on those who do not comply.  Despite this unprecedented power over people’s lives being handed to the likes of A4e and G4S, all the evidence suggests that the Work Programme is a dismal failure.

Emma Harrison, who is still the largest share holder of the fraud ridden welfare to work firm – despite resigning last year after repeated fraud scandals – claimed that Channel 4′s figures were wrong.  Despite this denial, she refused to offer any alternative numbers and complained she was being bullied – a mealy mouthed claim given that allegations of A4e bullying benefit claimants are rife.

The Government have steadfastly refused to provide any performance figures for the Work Programme, despite repeatedly hailing it a huge success.  Figures promised last Spring were postponed to November and it now appears the DWP may be trying to push back the date even further.  The DWP statistical release calendar suggests only the numbers of people who have started on the Work Programme will be released next month – not the number of those who have actually found work.  Channel 4′s Factcheck blog states that the release date for performance figures is now ‘not confirmed’.

Long term unemployment has risen month on month throughout the alleged fall in overall unemployment.  Despite this A4e’s figures, if true, represent a new low for the welfare to work sector which has already squandered almost billion pounds of tax payers cash on the Work Programme.

The DWP have previously published what they claimed were preliminary figures on the scheme which showed that 24% of early participants left benefits for at least 13 weeks during the programme.  This derisory figure does not necessarily mean that people got jobs.  Many participants will have retired, started full time education or training, or moved onto another benefit due to pregnancy or illness.

Curiously the Channel 4 factcheckers appear to have bought DWP spin that only around 5% of people would be expected to find work without any help from the Work Programme.  The true figures, as this report from the National Audit Office shows (PDF), is 28% as Channel 4′s Factcheck has previously reported.

The Government made wild claims that 35% of people on the Work Programme would find work due to the wonders of the payment by results system.  In truth all welfare to work contracts have had an element of payment by results ever since the introduction of Tony Blair’s New Deal in 1997.

With the performance figures for the Work Programme so bad that the Government is terrified to even tell us what they are, payment by results seems to mean that we pay whilst the DWP hushes up the results.

You can watch Emma squirm at: http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/241012

Iain Duncan Smith Plots China Style Family Planning Rules

Economically forced abortions or adoption could become the norm for low income families if Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to further slash benefits for larger families go ahead.

The latest crazy scheme, coming on top of the soon to be introduced benefits cap for families, is to stop additional benefits being paid when a family has more than two children.

In a garbled interview on the Today Programme this morning, the Work and Pensions Secretary appeared not to know how many families would be affected by these plans or whether the changes would save any money.  Instead the idea was presented as a moral crusade to stop the poor from breeding.

He failed to distinguish whether these new rules would apply to unemployed families, those on sickness or disability benefits, or those in work, but on low wages.  Under Universal Credit all those on any form of benefit are to face the same conditionality rules, unless all adults in a household are earning the equivalent of 35 hours at minimum wage.

Under the family planning policies in China  parents can be fined for having more than one child.  This has led to thousands of children abandoned to grow up in state institutions, soaring abortion rates and horrific child poverty.   The one child policy has been steadily watered down in China over the years, yet Iain Duncan Smith is now planning similar economic penalties for mothers who become pregnant in the UK.

Like so much of this Government’s attacks, it will be women and children themselves who will bear the brunt of these moralistic cost cutting measures.  Women who are widowed, divorced or separated will be forced into extreme poverty along with their children, should they happen to exceed the government approved family size.  Women who have an unplanned pregnancy will now be forced to choose between bringing a child up in poverty or abortion.  Those who have multiple births may be forced into choosing which of their babies to give away for adoption.

Iain Duncan Smith’s plans amount to a denial of nature.  In his tiny mind all pregnancies are meticulously planned and everybody lives in cosy two parent families whose circumstances never change.  As anyone in the real world knows, this kind of chocolate box existence is not the reality for many people.

It is unsurprising, if perverse that an old fashioned patriarch like Iain Duncan Smith should seek to destroy the lives of women and children first.  Don’t expect any chivalry from this dated old clown.

It will be children themselves who pay the highest price for these constant attacks on the families with least.  Children who are already growing up in poverty will see household incomes further slashed, if their impoverished parents are able to keep hold of a household.  Up to 50,000 families in London alone could be made homeless when the benefit cap is introduced next April.  But even this is not enough for Iain Duncan Smith.  Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies appears to the new direction of this toff Government.

Blunkett’s Buddy Baron Bichard Wants Workfare For Pensioners

A cross party peer has proposed forced labour for pensioners after warning that elderly people are a burden on society.

Baron Bichard, who used to run the Benefits Agency, is a member of a committee investigating demographic changes and their impact on public services.

According to the BBC,  the former public sector boss turned toff, admitted it would be difficult for politicians to sell to the public,  but pointed out:  “So were tuition fees.”

Baron Bichard was close to David Blunkett whilst the seeds of today’s brutal welfare reforms were being planned.  As the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and Employment the then Sir Michael Bichard even attempted to help David Blunkett cover up for his long standing affair with a civil servant.  Bichard was well rewarded for his loyalty, being made a life peer in 2010.

Whilst Bichard has little influence in the current administration, his statement, which appears to be justified by current workfare schemes, is revealing:

“We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don’t look for work you don’t get benefits, so if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another maybe there is some penalty attached to that.”

Whilst these plans are unlikely to see the light of day any time soon it is telling that a policy to work the elderly to death is even considered by an influential peer.  If a man who used to have significant responsibility for the benefits system is happy to make these vile opinions known in public, then what is being discussed behind the scenes must be truly chilling.

The Legacy of Grant Shapps – Soaring Rents, Homelessness and Housing Benefit Costs

Grants Shapps’ claims that Housing Benefit caps would lead to lower rents have been demolished by a report published this week by the National Housing Federation (NHF).

The NHF warn in stark terms that rents are soaring, a trend they believe will continue and lead to millions of people unable to afford to buy, or rent a home in the near future. The Evening Standard also warned last week that rents across London are at an all time high, having risen 6.2% in the last year. In Hammersmith and Fulham, one of the boroughs most impacted by the government’s caps on Housing Benefit, rents have soared by 15%.

Speaking about the housing benefit caps, Grant Shapps, when he was Minister for Housing, claimed that: “Rather than some of the catastrophic predictions that have been made, what’s much more likely is that rents will start to fall.”

The Housing Benefit caps were justified by lurid stories claiming people were living in Chelsea mansions whilst claiming benefits at a cost to the tax payer of thousands every month. The truth was that this represented a literal handful of homeless families who were in emergency temporary accommodation in expensive ares of London.

The housing benefit caps were set at a far lower rate than the cost of a Kensington town house and resulted in much of London becoming unaffordable for those claiming full housing benefit awards. The impact of these changes has barely begun to be felt and already every measure of homelessness in rising.

Whilst central London is socially cleansed an influx of housing benefit tenants into outer London boroughs and the home counties will mean soaring demand for rental properties. The impact of the housing benefit caps will be higher rents for everybody as competition for what few low cost rental properties exist intensifies.

The National Housing Federation also report on the huge rise in the number of people claiming Housing Benefit who are in work. In just three years the number of people claiming the benefit to top up wages has grown by 417,830 people. According to the report this number is increasing by 10,000 people a month.

Whilst rising rents are undoubtedly to blame for some of this increase, it hides a larger truth. Unemployment, we are led to believe is falling. Yet the number of people who need to claim Housing Benefit, a benefit based on income rather than employment status, is rocketing.

This apparent paradox is easily explained. The fall in unemployment has been largely down to people being sent on workfare, part time jobs, and the record number of people registering as self-employed. All of these people still need to claim Housing Benefit, because even if they are ‘officially’ working, they aren’t making any fucking money.

The Government plans even more cuts to Housing Benefits, with the threat to remove the right to a home for those under 25. Already people under 35 are now only permitted to claim for a room in a shared house. A perfect storm is coming which may yet see record numbers of homeless people once again hitting the streets of London and other large cities.

Despite the brutal cuts the Housing Benefit bill is rising. The Government’s policies so far have led to more homelessness, higher rents and more government spending on housing benefits. The only people to benefit have been greedy landlords (like Chris Grayling) who are pulling out all the stops to cash in on this Government’s housing shambles.

Thugs and Fraudsters to Run Probation Service in Bid to Cut Crime

The Chris Grayling comedy show is set to continue as the bungling Justice Secretary reveals plans to privatise probation service using the same disastrous model inflicted on long term unemployed people.

Astonishingly Grayling’s plan will allows Olympic bodging thugs like G4S and fraud ridden A4E to bid for contracts in a bid to cut crime!

The ‘payments by results’ model planned for probation services is to be based on the shambolic Work Programme, the scheme devised by Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith, in a bid to bring down long term unemployment.

Despite approaching a billion pounds being handed to welfare to work companies like the aforementioned A4E, long term unemployment has continued to rise even whilst other measures of unemployment have (allegedly) fallen.

Grayling is currently singing the praises of the Work Programme in his bid to export the chaos he created at the DWP to the Justice Department.  The truth is that the Work Programme has proved such an unmitigated disaster that the Government are terrified of releasing the performance figures which would tell us if anyone had actually found a job under the scheme.

Work Programme statistics were promised last Spring, but then the date was pushed back to Autumn. The DWP statistical release calendar promises that figures will now become available on November 7th.  Yet according to the calendar these figures will only reveal attachments and referrals to the Work Programme – meaning the number of people who have started on the scheme.  It appears that the DWP may be attempting to push back information on the performance of the Work Programme even further.

Despite this Chris Grayling has halted pilot projects aimed at assessing whether the same model would work in probation services.  In the tender documentation for these projects the Justice Department conceded:  “There is a very limited body of evidence for payment by results for reducing reoffending.  The Ministry of Justice therefore wants to test the approach through an initial pilot phase, before applying the principles of payment by results more broadly.”

Yet Chris Grayling is to plough ahead regardless despite the results of these pilots not being available.  It even seems as if only a fortnight ago Grayling was planning to scrap payment by results.  Yet this week he announces a plan to hugely expand the scheme, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that these plans will work.  It’s almost as if David Cameron has pressured him to resurrect the farcical plans in a bid to deflect attention from the endless succession of blundering toffs in his cabinet.

Above pic, showing activists blockading G4S’ annual meeting, from: http://nobordersnortheast.org/2012/06/22/protest-at-g4s-agm-accuses-company-of-violating-human-rights/

Fuel Poverty Demo – October 27th – Westfield Shopping Centre

NO MORE DEATHS FROM FUEL POVERTY

An action organised by the Greater London Pensioners’ Association, supported by Fuel Poverty Action and DPAC.

Saturday October 27 | Westfield Stratford Shopping Centre.

Meet at 12 noon outside the upper-level entrance to Primark

From Fuel Poverty Action

The latest gas and electricity price rises are a nail in many coffins. 65 people died every day last winter as a result of illnesses caused by cold homes. Many of these people were pensioners and disabled people. As energy company prices – and profits – soar, there will be many more deaths this year.

If we can’t afford to heat our homes we have a right to go into any warm building and make ourselves at home!

  • We have the right to warm up inside the offices of those driving fuel poverty: the Big Six energy companies, the government, landlords and letting agents.
  • We have the right to warm up inside public spaces threatened by cuts including libraries and day centres, which keep many people warm throughout the winter.
  • We have the right to warm up inside warm, privatised spaces that keep us shut out including shops, banks and shopping centres.

Pensioners from the Greater London Pensioners’ Association will be asserting this right by coming out of their cold homes and warming up inside the toasty Westfield Stratford shopping centre.

They demand:

  • That the government reinstate the Winter Fuel Allowance in full (this has been cut by £50 for those over 60 and £100 for those over 80.)
  • That the energy companies reinvest in affordable, cleaner and safer energy supplies and use their enormous profits to do so, instead of putting the cost on to the consumer.
  • That the government acknowledge an entitlement of all including the sick, disabled people, the elderly and families with young children, to a well insulated, warm place to live in good repair.

Please come along to support this pensioner-led action: https://www.facebook.com/events/289105317866052/

(Don’t forget London Anarchist Bookfair, on the same day and not far away at Queen Mary’s University, Mile End.  Boycott Workfare will be hosting a meeting at 2pm)