Category Archives: Poverty

Beggars To Be Grassed Up To DWP On New Scheme, Can The Salvation Army Sink Any Lower?

jesus-beggar3

The entire homelessness industry has questions to answer about how they are treating those they claim to support, but none has sunk so low as Jesus’ little fucking helpers in the Salvation Army.

A local paper in York reports that the Salvation Army are now teaming up with the police in a scheme which will could see homeless people grassed up  to the DWP if they are caught begging.

According to the paper, Salvation Army members, along with the police and local council busy-bodies will be patrolling the streets of York hunting for beggars.  The charity claim they will provide housing advice whilst the police will be ‘reminding people’ that begging is against the law, no doubt by arresting them.  Not to be outdone, representatives from York Council say they will inform the DWP if people found begging are receiving any benefits.  Which means their benefits will be stopped.  And they’ll have to beg more.

None of this will trouble the Salvation Army, who are quite happy to have people’s benefits sanctioned themselves should someone refuse to work without pay in one of their shit charity shops.  Some charities have warned that benefit sanctions are causing people to beg just to be able to buy food.  This latest initiative will ensure that in York at least, anyone sanctioned by the Salvation Army and forced to beg will now face harassment and possible arrest under a scheme part run by the same Salvation Army.  A vicious noose is being tied around the neck of some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the UK.  And everyday some of the UK’s best known charities help pull it a little bit tighter.

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DWP And Homelessness Charities Link Up To Bully Homeless Benefit Claimants

HomelessThe homelessness industry is today welcoming an upcoming change in the law which could see homeless people forced to live in unsuitable or unsafe accommodation or face losing eligibility for benefits.

Homeless Link and St Mungo’s Broadway have published a gushing press release cheering amendments to the rules for Jobseeker’s Allowance set to come into force next month.  The changes mean that newly homeless people may only be considered meeting the criteria for benefits if they take “such steps as are reasonable for him (sic) to take to find living accommodation.”

Homeless people will have an easement of jobseeking requirements if they follow these conditions, but this will usually only last four weeks, despite the average length of hostel stays being significantly longer than that.  The minimum length of stay in one of St Mungo’s Central London hostels is eight weeks, with most residents staying an average of six to nine months.  The so-called easement period will be granted only at the discretion of Jobcentre busy-bodies and will not apply to people who have been homeless for a long time.

This trivial concession has been won by the homelessness industry in exchange for a yet further extensions of Jobcentre powers over the lives of some of the most marginalised claimants.  Overpaid charity bosses have been working for a long time with various government bodies and local authorities to establish the homelessness industry as a sort of soft police force aiming to clear the streets of those destitute.  Instead of analysing why mass homelessness exists, which is first and foremost an economic problem, it has been assumed that there must be something wrong with homeless people, something that can be cured.  This is no different to the current thinking at the DWP which blames unemployed people for unemployment and it is vile.

The main way to cure people of homelessness, charity bosses believe, is to move everyone off the streets into one of their hostels. Of course they will still be technically homeless but at least the charity gets a huge Housing Benefit cheque every week. These hostels have slightly improved over recent years but they can still be dangerous and hostile places.  The rules and regulations are endless, bullying can be rife, they are often riddled with heavy drug use and evictions can happen at the drop of a hat and for the most trivial reasons.  Yet under the new regulations a newly homeless claimant who turns down a hostel place will now not be considered for the easement period.  If they are then judged unable to meet benefit conditions, which could include workfare, they will face sanctions or possibly even be disallowed benefits completely.  Homelessness charity bosses are either extremely fucking naive or have quite another agenda if they honestly believe this will be better for homeless people, who do not appear to have been consulted about the changes.  They never are.

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Number Of Employment Support Allowance Claims On The Rise – Is Iain Duncan Smith Making Us Sick?

IDS-I-dont-care-whos-diedThe total number of claimants claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits rose by 15,000 between March and April provisional DWP statistics report.

2.485 million people were claiming Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit in April, representing a steady rise of 1.2% since November 2013. This comes despite the horrific Atos regime which has seen hundreds of thousands of claimants being stripped of benefits after being assessed as ‘fit for work’.  The number of people on out of work sickness benefits should be plummeting, and it was until just over a year ago.

It is hardly surprising that people are still becoming ill or disabled despite the magical Atos assessments. The UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than other comparable countries even before the despised Work Capability Assessment began. It is unusual however that the number of people unable to work for health reasons should be rising at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling.

There is growing evidence that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are damaging people’s health. Some parts of the UK have reported soaring malnutrition linked to benefit cuts. A report produced by Citizen’s Advice last year told of people being unable to meet special dietary needs due to sanctions or having to beg or go through bins to find food. Homelessness charities have said that sanctions are causing people to lose their homes. And a damning report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland claimed that 35% of psychiatrists said at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the stress of Atos assessments.

Using hunger and homelessness as a weapon against benefit claimants will not incentivise people to find work, it will demolish lives.  Forcing people with mental health conditions into stressful and demeaning assessments under the threat of destitution will not magically cure them of their condition – in many cases it will make it worse.  Iain Duncan Smith really is making us sick, and with more workfare and sanctions on the way then things are only going to get worse.

The latest ESA figures can be downloaded from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014

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The Private Rental Sector Is Out of Control And The Solution is Obvious

landlordsFor millions of the UK’s poorest people, the biggest weekly expense by far is the cost of buying someone much richer than them a house.  Almost 4 million people now rent privately and many will live their entire lives without ever knowing what it is like to have a secure home.  The gradual demolition of the social housing sector combined with buy-to-let vultures gobbling up low cost houses will only entrench this monstrous future.

No-one was ever asked whether this is a future anyone wants.  Instead it is presented as inevitable – this is just something the free-market is doing to us that we have no control over.  This is neo-liberal ideology at its most insidious.  The only ones who benefit from the majority of the population living in insecure private rented housing are landlords and property investers.  Therefore no alternative can even be imagined.  It is a done deal and so the rich get richer and our lives get shitter.

This illusion is constantly re-enforced by those who benefit.  Landlords will pull out of the market if tenants are given more rights they shrilly proclaim – as if buy-to-letters are all going to start paying their own mortages for a change.  To back this up new laws are created, such as the ban on squatting in abandoned residential properties.  If this law was removed then landlords leaving thousands of homes empty would almost certainly lead to the kind of squatting movement that was seen both after the second world war and in the 1970s when entire streets were squatted by homeless families.  That is why no major political party opposed the squatting ban, the free-market must be protected with laws as well as lies.

The Labour Party is happy with this consensus.  Ed Milliband talks about flimsy rights for private tenants, but never council houses for everyone that needs one.  That even these wet proposals were met with howls of outrage from landlords reveal a private rented sector that is now out of control.  Buy-to-let landlords even complain that the money they make from rents barely even allows them to make a decent profit, nimbly forgetting that they are not only also being bought a property, but that someone is paying them to live in it and look after it for them.  These parasites seem to think that houses are free, probably because they are if you’re rich and immoral enough to convince a bank to give you a buy-to-let mortgage.

In truth nothing shows up the failure of the free-market run rampant then the private rental sector.  Rents are now so high that the tax payer spends billions each year topping up the rent of even those in work via Housing Benefit. We are paying a fortune to keep landlords rich, whilst thousands still go homeless.  The idea that a competitive market leads to the best for consumers is rendered laughable by the private rental sector.  It is the customer, the tenant,  who has to compete, jumping through endless hoops and shelling out a fortune just to get a roof over their heads.  Landlords don’t increase profits by improving the service they offer, but by failing to carry out repairs, hiking rents and evicting anyone who complains.  On some of the many internet forums devoted to landlords the contempt they hold for their tenants is staggeringly apparent, especially if they happen to rent to people on benefits.  No other business would dare treat their customers this way.

Landlords discriminate at will.  The vile No Blacks No Irish No Dogs of the past has been replaced with No DSS, which in practice means no lone parents, no disabled people, no unemployed people, or put more simply no-one poor.  This is probably illegal, but no-one seems to care how landlords behave.  A survey carried out by the government in 2010 found that almost half of private rental sector housing failed to meet the Decent Homes Standards.  Many did not even meet the very minimum health and safety standards required for housing.  Don’t expect the Government to do anything about this, they believe that ‘peer pressure’ is better than regulation to manage private sector landlords.

From shortly after the second world war up until 1980  millions of council houses were built in England, Scotland and Wales.   The answer to the housing crisis is boringly obvious.  But instead of low cost secure social housing we get offered hugely expensive  ‘affordable rents’ that no-one can afford.  The so-called Living Wage isn’t even enough to pay Affordable Rents in many parts of the UK where they can run as high as several hundred pounds a week.  The situation would be laughable if it wasn’t such a fucking disgrace and didn’t cause such acute suffering.

And yet not one of the politicians who claims to represent us will even consider any alternative to this profit-crazed exploitation of our most basic human need – a safe, secure and genuinely affordable home.  This is hardly surprising.  Around a third of MPs are landlords themselves.  They really are all fucking in it together.

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The Staggering Cost Of One Man’s Delusions: £25 Billion Squandered On Bungled Welfare Reforms

iain-duncan-smithThe recent report from the Major Projects Authority, which revealed that Universal Credit is such a fucking disaster they had to invent a whole new category to describe it, also laid bare the astronomical cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.

Just under £11 billion is budgeted to be squandered on some of the DWP’s largest projects, and that figure doesn’t include Universal Credit.  The cost of this hare-brained experiment is shrouded in mystery now it has been classed as ‘reset’, but last year the Major Projects Authority reported that the bill would reach £12.8 billion.

Even this is far from the whole story.  Community Work Placements, the latest mass workfare scheme, will cost almost a third of a billion.  The costs of other Jobcentre schemes, such as Mandatory Work Activity, are not included in the above figures.  At the very least the budgeted costs of welfare reform exceed £25 billion pounds.  The true figure is likely to be much higher as reforms such as the Bedroom Tax unravel and start to cost the tax payer even more money.

The good news is that not all of this budget has been spent.  It had been assumed by the DWP that the Work Programme would actually help some people get jobs.  They thought wrong.  Such has been the dismal performance of the payment by results scheme that it is one of the few of Iain Duncan Smith’s pet projects that is actually running under budget.

The bad news is that this kind of crazed optimism has led to ludicrous spending projections in which IDS has decided his reforms will lead to the cost of Jobseeker’s Allowance falling by over a third by 2017.  This is likely to be because of all the new jobs that he thinks will be magically created by Universal Credit.  What it means is that there is a time bomb in the social security budget for whichever bunch of bastards manages to win the next election.

With all this money being thrown around to bully and harass claimants off benefits it might be expected that spending on social security would fall, especially as those benefits themselves have been subject to huge cuts.  This is not the case however and total spending on social security this year is forecast to be £10 billion higher than before the cuts began.  This figures includes pensions, but spending on unemployment benefits, housing benefits and tax credits has reached record levels under this Government.  Even spending on sickness benefits seems back on the rise despite Atos and the DWP’s attempt at curing people with endless assessments and workfare.  It turns out people are still getting sick.

It is genuinely astonishing that a Government obsessed with austerity has given a blank cheque-book to a fucking idiot like Iain Duncan Smith.  The real tragedy is that if some of this money had actually gone into to those who needed it then some of the worst impacts of the economic downturn could have been avoided.  Instead the opposite has happened.  The very poorest have been driven to destitution whilst billions has been shovelled into the pockets of grasping crooks in the welfare-to-work industry like A4e and G4S.

We are all paying the price of this reckless spending spree, and the social costs of child poverty, homelessness and despair that Iain Duncan Smith has spent billions creating will last for generations.  One day people will look back in horror that one man’s folly was allowed to run rampant through so many lives.  But for now the horror show continues unabated, and the financial cost is nothing compared to the tragedy of future’s destroyed and lives demolished.

To view the Major Project Authority report visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-government-major-projects-portfolio-data-2014

To see benefit expenditure and projections download the spreadsheet: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/310483/outturn-and-forecast-budget-2014.xls

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Occupy Wonga On May Day!

wrongavia DPAC

On May 1st 2014, get ready for some direct action, Occupy London are proud to present OCCUPY WONGA!

In 2011 the Occupy movement had a clear message “The bankers are the problem”. Now in 2014, we are on the edge of complete debt slavery.

Pay day loan companies are the new economic fascists, their “clients” include, victims of the Bedroom tax, Fuel Poverty, Benefit cuts, Atos and all people suffering from the Governments Austerity program. Companies like QuickQuid, the Money Shop and Wonga are not helping us, they are holding us in debt bondage further extending the widening gap between rich and poor.

We see the most vulnerable people in society being charged Immoral Interest rates, the very people the government should be protecting. If you feel that something should be done about Payday loans, join us in London on Mayday 2014.

Occupy London hereby call for a complete end to Pay day loans and an immediate stop to all pay day loan advertising. On Mayday we will be paying Wonga some interest, but not with 5853% APR.

May Day Itinerary:-
12:00 (High Noon) Assemble at Clerkenwell Green
13:00 March sets off
14:30 Rally in Trafalgar square in honour of Tony Benn and Bob Crow.
As soon as the rally has finished, we march.
When we arrive at the target we will occupy a space and hold a general assembly on site.

Supporting this action on the day will be:-
*Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC)
*Fuel Poverty Action
*The Resistance Movement Of The UK
*Class War

For more info and the latest news visit: http://occupylondon.org.uk/may-day-occupy-wonga-assembly/

Please share, tweet, spread the word!

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Bin British Gas: Put Power in Public Hands! Take Action On May 12th

british-gas-protestA mass demonstration outside the annual AGM of British Gas has been called by Fuel Poverty Action Group on May 12th. Whilst many people are unable to properly heat their homes, British Gas made £571m in profit  last year.

Just staying alive in the UK is becoming ever more expensive as rents, fuel and food prices soar.  A low paid job now barely covers even the most basics needed for survival, whilst the safety net of the benefits system is being ripped away.  None of this is necessary or unavoidable.  Tesco workers get shit wages, whilst we pay extortionate prices for food, so that share holders and directors can make huge profits.  Pensioners are freezing in their homes so that energy company bosses can enjoy lavish lifestyles.

Virtually every last scrap of cash that passes through our hands ends up lining the pockets of the same rich who smear us as scroungers if we need benefits to survive, even if we manage to find a job.  Most of the time we spend working is not to earn ourselves what we need but to increase the huge profits made by those at the top – money we never see.  And they use that money to buy houses and flats that they rent back to us at eye-watering prices.  Then the greedy cunts complain if they have to pay some tax on the money they’ve fleeced.  Yet every single penny spent by the government is to maintain the system that keeps them rich, and us poor.

It’s time to make them feel uncomfortable for a change by confronting them wherever they gather.  The British Gas AGM is as good a place as any to start.  Join Fuel Poverty Action Group and others from 1pm on May 12th outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London, SW1P 3EE.

For the latest details keep an eye on: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/

Join and share the facebook page for the event and please tweet, blog and spread the word!

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Housing Crisis, What Housing Crisis? Says Homelessness Charity Boss Jeremy Swain

killing-with-kindnessAn astonishing post from the boss of one of London’s largest housing charities shows how those paid a small fortune to represent homeless people are completely out of touch with the reality that their so-called ‘service users’ face.

Jeremy Swain is the boss of Thames Reach, one of the largest providers of emergency and temporary accommodation for single homeless people in London and the South East.  Recently he attended a meeting with Unemployment Minister Esther McVey, along with other highly paid charity chief executives and civil servants.

In his write up of this cosy affair you might have thought that the boss of a charity which works with the homeless people would tear into the Minister about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap or the current brutal benefit sanctioning regime. Possibly he might have mentioned that Boris Johnson’s housing strategy for London contains virtually no provision for desperately needed social housing.  He might even have offered a vicious condemnation of the current appalling policies aimed at people sleeping on the streets which amount to little more than police harassment of those without a home.  Surely at least he would mention soaring rents which are currently making much of the South East unaffordable for people on low incomes, or changes to housing benefits which force people under 35 to try and find a room in a shared house rather than self-contained accommodation.

But instead of this Jeremy writes on the Inside Housing website* that he is  concerned that parts of the homelessness industry “doggedly refuses to acknowledge successes” or makes it an “an article of faith that these are the worst of times” which may even “lead us into unquestioningly believing this to be true”.   There is no mention at all of the vicious welfare reforms which have already taken place, or of the carnage that is yet to come.

The latest rough sleeping figures show a shocking 37% leap in the number of people on the streets since this Government weren’t elected.  Statutory homelessness, which in practice largely means homeless families, remains at a relentlessly high level, despite changes to the law which means families can now be fobbed off into the expensive and insecure private sector rather than qualifying for social housing.  Jeremy is right that the number of families in temporary accommodation has fallen slightly since the obscene highs that were seen at times under the Labour Government.  But really, so fucking what.  As the Bedroom Tax begins to bite, and Discretionary Housing Payments run dry then things are set to get much worse, possibly even than we can yet imagine.

For those on low incomes, who are often in insecure housing to begin with, a crisis is taking place, but not one that will ever affect Jeremy’s pay packet.  Benefits are being stopped or sanctioned for the most trivial of reasons.  Atos assessments are driving people into both desperate poverty and ongoing despair.  Plans to strip Disability Living Allowance from a fifth of disabled people will only make things far worse, as will further cuts to housing benefits which will now shrink on an annual basis.  And throughout this onslaught a hate-filled campaign has emanated from the DWP and Esther McVey herself which has led to the most marginalised groups – exactly the type of people Thames Reach work with – being abused in both the national press and the streets.

The sad truth is that at heart Jeremy Swain and Esther McVey are both committed to the idea that poverty is a personal failing rather than a structural consequence of a capitalist economy.  That’s why Swain has remained obsessed with making Special Brew or cider more expensive, rather than tackling the causes of why so many people are drinking themselves to death.  Just like Iain Duncan Smith, Swain believes making poor people even poorer is the only way to bring them into line.

This is why he was also happy to lend Thames Reach’s name to the Killing With Kindness campaign which re-emerged last year and warned “well meaning people” not to give money to beggars because they might spend it on drugs.  In a breath-takingly nasty move, this campaign was launched over the Christmas period.  Give the money to us instead said Thames Reach, so Jeremy Swain can continue stuffing vol-au-vents down his neck and sucking up to murderous monsters like Esther McVey.  There’s a good living to be made from homeless people for charity chief executives after all.  And no need to derail the gravy train, and risk those lucrative Government contracts, by telling DWP ministers what you really think of their vile behaviour.

*you need to register to read it, but it’s free.

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A Quarter of Children Living With Both Birth Parents In Unhappy Homes Says Government

Conservative Party Annual ConferenceJust under a quarter of children living with both birth parents are growing up in unhappy homes the DWP have admitted this week.

24% of parents who are bringing up a child born to both of them say that their relationship is unhappy according to figures from the new Family Stability indicator (pdf). 

This set of bonkers statistics has been created as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s attempt to prove that lone parents, step and non-traditional families are one of the causes of poverty and unhappiness. In an embarrassment for the Secretary of State, the numbers actually show that many traditional families are utterly miserable.

IDS ignored this part of the report in a gushing press release last week when he claimed that “A quarter of a million more children were living with both their birth parents in 2012 compared with 2011″.

This represents a rise of 2%, although  little can be drawn from the conclusions of the survey which took place before most of the DWP’s welfare reforms had been implemented.  This hasn’t stopped IDS taking the credit, despite the authors of the report warning that: “Caution is advised in drawing conclusions on trends in the data based on differences between the two years reported on”.

Taking the figures at face value however, one trend does appear to be emerging.  The number of children under 1 year old living with both birth parents has fallen by 6%.  Many of the recent changes to social security, in particular the Benefit Cap, may make staying together a financial impossibility for parents in the lowest income households.  Whilst Iain Duncan Smith is squandering millions producing daft surveys in an effort to confirm his personal prejudices, his policies are almost certain to force some families apart.

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Bare-faced Lies, Bluff and Bullshit Are All Iain Duncan Smith Has Left As Millions Suffer

IDSThe list goes on and on.  The Public Accounts Committee, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Office for National Statistics, the National Audit Office, the Archbishop of Westminster, even the Tory dominated Policy Exchange and coalition partners the Lib Dems, all of these people are wrong or lying said the increasingly bewildered Iain Duncan Smith in a rare appearance on the Sunday Politics this morning (starts at 13.20).

Much of the interview concentrated on the launch of Universal Credit, which has seen just a few thousand people start on the new benefit and tens of millions squandered due to bungled IT systems.  It is difficult to know for sure just how badly the launch of Universal Credit is going wrong, but IDS did admit that the new system will now not be fully in place until 2018.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith can bullshit his way out of awkward questions on the launch of Universal Credit – mainly because no-one, including him, knows what the fuck’s really going on behind the scenes – he quickly resorted to outright lies when asked about other benefit reforms.

The Work Programme is working according to the Secretary of State, despite the appalling performance figures which are getting steadily worse as time goes on*.  IDS then lied that the companies running the scheme don’t get paid until someone has been in work continuously for six months.  In truth providers receive an up front start fee for everyone who joins the Work Programme. Long term unemployment is falling he then claimed, yet the most recent figures from the ONS show that the number of people who have been out of work for over two years is up 9000 from a year earlier.  He then bluffed that the scheme was better than any programme run by the Labour Government, which would hardly be a ringing endorsement even if it were true, and it isn’t.

On the Bedroom Tax IDS pretended that he didn’t mean it when he hauled the family of a disabled child through the appeal courts in an effort to overturn a ruling on a spare bedroom.  Astonishingly he said he now agreed with the court decision that he spent our money appealing against.  He then claimed that the courts had backed the Government on all the decisions  relating to disabled adults facing the Bedroom Tax, completely ignoring a string of recent benefit tribunal decisions where local authorities lost bedroom tax cases.

On Housing Benefit overall, he lambasted the amount spent on the benefit under Labour whilst avoiding the stark fact that the number of people needing to claim for help with their rent hit an all time high last Summer.  The Housing Benefit bill will only get bigger as less people qualify for social housing under new rules, and even those who have them are forced into the private sector due to the Bedroom Tax.

When quizzed about Tory think-tank the Policy Exchange’s recent mild criticism of benefit sanctions, IDS claimed they’d  got their figures wrong.  In perhaps his most bare-faced lie, he blustered that people who have had benefits sanctioned can ‘immediately’ and ‘straight away’ get a payment from the Hardship Fund.  In truth most claimants have to wait 15 days before Hardship Payments are available (PDF – ref: 35300) and even then not everyone qualifies for this meagre support .  He then claimed the DWP had a billion pounds to support people facing benefit sanctions, including Crisis Loans.  He seems to have forgotten that he abolished Crisis Loans in April last year.

Finally IDS was asked about child poverty, which he repeatedly claimed was falling despite an enormous fucking graph behind his head which showed the exact opposite.  According to IDS this discrepancy is because the IFS, who produced the figures, measure poverty according to the “marginal income line” – in other words how much money someone has.  In future child poverty will be measured according to Iain Duncan Smith’s ever changing personal prejudices.  He says he will produce new figures showing that the number of poor children is actually falling just as soon as he can be bothered to make them up.

Iain Duncan Smith is now barely even pretending to tell the truth as his welfare reforms unravel in every direction.  It is a pitiful sight to watch, but the impact of his delusions are tragic.  People are dying because of Iain Duncan Smith.  Families are becoming homeless and children going hungry, whilst sick and disabled people are being driven to despair.  Rarely has one man’s arrogance caused so much suffering.  There is no more damning indictment of our so-called democracy then a dishonest and callous fool like Iain Duncan Smith being able to claw his way to power over millions of lives.

*the most recent Work Programme figures were sneaked out in the Christmas break and I didn’t have the time to cover them.  They showed that the steady decline in the number of successful job outcomes is continuing.

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