Tag Archives: Iain Duncan Smith

DWP Block Report To Cover Up Work Programme Shambles

IDS-slugThe DWP are refusing to release an evaluation of the floundering £6 billion pound Work Programme despite the report having recently featured on Channel 4 news.

The evaluation is believed to be critical of the Work Programme and in particular benefit sanctions, warning that they found: “no conclusive evidence that sanctions were changing job search behaviour or increasing job entry rates.”

A Freedom of Information request asking to see the report has today been refused by the DWP on the grounds that they plan to publish it at an unspecified later date (PDF).  The evaluation was scheduled to be released in the Summer of last year.

This is not the first time the DWP have treated Freedom of Information (FOI) rules with contempt in a shoddy effort to conceal what’s really going on, and wrong, with the department.  A ruling by the Information Commissioner;s Office (ICO) ordering the release of the names of charities benefiting from free labour under the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme has been completely ignored.  A second ICO ruling (PDF) ordering the DWP to confirm whether a charity was involved in workfare was issued last month, and has so far been snubbed.  The DWP were found in breach of the FOI again (PDF) at the end of last month when they were slammed in a ruling for not taking the reasonable steps required to clarify another request relating to Mandatory Work Activity.

The DWP have claimed that if the public were allowed to know who is using workfare then the scheme might collapse.  They pretend this would stop people benefiting from the ‘disciplines’ that workfare offers and may even harm the economy.  After all, if people knew that household names such as The Salvation Army, the YMCA, Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers were all forcing people to work without pay then they might decide these charities were a bunch of wankers and never give them a penny again.

There is no such excuse for refusing to release an evaluation into the Work Programme however – a report produced with our money.  The only person likely to look like a wanker if people see this document is Iain Duncan Smith himself who is still pretending how wonderful the Work Programme is.  The Work Programme statistics already show the scheme is a disaster and steadily getting worse. No doubt the DWP hope they can hide just how much of a wanker Iain Duncan Smith actually is until after the next election.  But it’s too late.  Everybody knows.

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Iain Duncan Smith Should Be Put On Trial Over The Work Capability Assessment Deaths

atos_kills_bannerThe tragic death of severely unwell Mark Wood, who died of malnutrition just five months after he was found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and the DWP, was not just ‘wrong’ as the Government have today admitted – it was grossly negligent.  Whether this negligence was criminal must be urgently investigated.

Morally, and almost certainly legally, the DWP have a duty of care when making decisions which can potentially devastate the lives of those called  ‘vulnerable adults’ by care professionals.  The Work Capability Assessment, which led to the death of Mark Wood, has already been found unfair for people with mental health conditions in the courts.  Instead of halting the assessments based on this judgement, Iain Duncan Smith has brushed it aside – convinced he knows better than the courts, the medical establishment and the thousands of sick and disabled people themselves driven to despair by the current system.

Mark Wood’s death is far from the first linked to welfare reforms.  A recent report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (PDF) highlighted another suicide which they found was directly linked to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).  In a damning report, the charity surveyed 56 psychiatrists who had treated patients facing one of these crude, computer based assessments.  Their findings are both horrifying and desperately sad:

“85% of the 52 respondents to this question told us about an increased frequency of appointments. 65% had at least one patient who required an increased dose of medication and 35% reported at least one patient who had changed medication. 40% had at least one patient who had self-harmed after the WCA. 13% of respondents reported that a patient had attempted suicide and 4% (two RMOs) stated that a patient had taken his/her own life. 35% said that at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the WCA and 4% told us about a patient being detained under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.”

The Work Capability Assessment must be brought to an immediate halt.  Even the company in charge, the notorious Atos, finally seem to have realised this, confirming this week they will pull out of the contract early.  This is the only way to stop any more deaths, and it needs to happen now, as in this week.  Otherwise more people will die.

It is no longer enough however to call just for the Government to scrap every aspect of the bungled and brutal welfare reforms that are destroying so many lives.  People are dying in one of the richest countries in the world as a direct result of this horrifying attack on the very poorest people.  The politicians in charge know this, but are happy to let these deaths continue as part of the ideologically driven obsession with proving that people on benefits are scroungers or fakes and that unemployment is caused by unemployed people.

According to the Daily Mail, David Cameron has backed an urgent review into the Work Capability Assessment.  This review should not just look into the failures in the process but assess whether negligence has taken place and if so who is culpable and whether criminal charges can be brought.  If Iain Duncan Smith. Atos or the DWP, can be put on trial over these shameful deaths it will not bring anyone back.  But at the very least it will send a message to every politician, today and long into the future, that the UK’s legal system will not tolerate reckless cost-cutting experiments that put human lives at risk.

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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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More Workfare, More Sanctions, Iain Duncan Smith’s Brutal and Barmy Plan To End Child Poverty

Iain-Duncan-Smith415The Government’s latest child poverty strategy is a blueprint for pushing already struggling single parents into financial destitution with benefit sanctions and workfare.

This year’s five reasons for child poverty are predictably unemployment, along with low levels of qualifications, single parent families, having more than three children and ill health.  Such is Iain Duncan Smith’s desperation to blame children being poor on anything other than not having enough money that this is his fourth re-definition of poverty in just three years.  Previous reasons for poverty, which included step-parents, mothers with mental health problems, being disabled, and of course drugs, no longer make the top five.

The main thrust of the latest strategy is to tackle what is repeatedly referred to as ‘worklessness’ – as if raising children requires no effort at all.  The measures to combat this great social ill – which can mean parents spending time raising their young children instead of working for Tesco – are unpaid work and benefit sanctions.

Lone parents are to face Jobcentre harassment from the time their child is three, with the possibility of mandatory training.  Parents of older children leaving the Work Programme will be sent on the same woefully misnamed ‘Help To Work’ scheme that single unemployed people are to face from April.  For many this will mean workfare, as they are forced to attend Community Work Placements.  Others will be forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday, where they will not doubt spend most of the day in a queue rather than actually looking for a job.

One slip, such as a missed meeting, or being late for ‘work related activity’,  will result in a benefit sanction – one of the real reasons why so many children are living in desperate poverty  Alongside these increased conditions for claiming benefits Iain Duncan Smith is still pretending that Universal Credit will not only happen (stop laughing) but will also magically lift 300,000 children out of poverty overnight.  Mostly this will be done by threatening part time and low paid workers with in-work benefits being stopped if they fail to spend every waking hour they aren’t at work looking for a better paid job.

There is barely anything in this child poverty strategy for children and parents themselves.  Plans to give free school meals to all infant school children had already been announced and simply represents one of increasingly meagre scraps thrown down from the top table to stop Nick Clegg crying at Cabinet Meetings.  Alongside some tinkering with utility bills – which will merely save a handful of families a few pence – other measures for destitute families include keeping down the cost of petrol and building more affordable homes – like the ones built in Stratford last year which charge £323 in rent a week for a two bedroom flat.

Measures to strengthen the minimum wage, also hinted at in the document, have already been torpedoed by the pitiful 3% increase announced this week.  At a time when prices of essentials such as food and fuel are still soaring, in-work benefits, such as Housing Benefits and Tax Credits, will still only rise by 1% this year, a move which the Government themselves admit will drive a further 200,000 children into poverty.  Every poor family will get a little bit poorer from April this year.

In a humiliating blow for Iain Duncan Smith, none of the measures in this strategy will actually mean anything.  The Secretary of State, along with the Lib Dems, had hoped to rewrite the rules by enshrining new definitions of child poverty as official targets.  George Osborne – who couldn’t give a fuck about hungry children but does seem to understand that the main reason for poverty is not having enough money – has recognised this for the bollocks it is and put the brakes on. This will be no relief to struggling parents as the Treasury draws up ever more vicious ways to cut the incomes of the poor.

The lowest income households are now trapped between the wild delusions of the messianic Work and Pensions Secretary and the cut-throat brutality of the Chancellor.  Osborne’s only interest is stealing enough money from the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich.  Iain Duncan Smith seems  convinced his backwards strategy to blame unemployment on unemployed people and poverty on the poor will magically create enough well paid jobs for everyone to do overnight.  Even the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap – two of the most vicious cuts to social security – will help bring down child poverty according to this latest strategy. Businesses are also to be encouraged to offer more Work Experience places, as if forced unpaid work will somehow put food on the table.

It would be laughable if it weren’t real and you almost couldn’t make it up.  But the real tragedy is that Iain Duncan Smith is making things up, with little regard for either the evidence or the suffering he has already caused.  There will be more poor children because of Iain Duncan Smith, possibly up to a million more.  One man’s arrogance did this, and that must never be forgotten as the social costs of this onslaught resonate throughout future decades.

The strategy is now open to consultation and can be read at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/child-poverty-a-draft-strategy

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The Not So Hidden Ideology Behind The DWP’s War On Women

Conservative Party Annual ConferenceThe impact on women of austerity policies has often been assumed to be an unfortunate side-effect driven not by ideology but simple bad luck.  Women are more likely to work in the public sector, and therefore were hit harder by mass job losses.  More women than men are single parents, and as such more women have suffered due to the benefit cuts.

Few in mainstream politics have suggested this was intentional – instead the impression given is that this has represented a lack of thought or care about the needs of women.  Undoubtedly the result of a sexist society, but still pretty much business as usual, particularly for the Tory Party.

The reality, which has gone almost unnoticed even during a much discussed feminist revival, is that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms represent an attack on women’s autonomy which is unprecedented in the UK’s recent history.  And this assault – which by and large only affects women who are poor – is driven by an ugly and out-dated fantasy of Victorian family values which come directly from the mystical beliefs of the Secretary of State himself.

Before the non-election of this Government, a woman in an abusive relationship was able to leave knowing that her and her children would be supported by the social security system.  This support was scant – most lone parents live in poverty – but it was there, no matter where the woman happened to live.  For women in London, that situation has now disappeared due to a cap on benefits which makes much of the capital unaffordable for single parents who are not working, or even those working part time.  Whilst there are still Women’s Refuges and other sources of support, the most fundamental part of the safety net – the guarantee that a woman who leaves a violent partner will have her rent paid in a new property and be able to feed her kids – has vanished.

Prior to this Government’s welfare reforms a woman who became pregnant was able to make an informed decision about how to proceed regardless of her own wealth and the behavior of the father.  Again the future would be little more than a subsistence income unless she was able to find work – but her and her child would be able to eat.  The Benefit Cap, and threats to further cuts on child benefits, mean that for many women the right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy has been effectively dismantled.  If keeping a baby means poverty, homelessness or forced relocation hundreds of miles from friends and family then there is little choice at all.

It may seem perverse that a Government which has threatened to limit access to abortions has also created an situation where a termination may be an economic necessity.  But it is not working class women having babies that so irks the current administration – it is working class women having autonomy over both their lives and sexuality without a man involved.

Earlier this month Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech to the Marriage Foundation, a religiously influenced think tank which claims to promote ‘healthy stable relationships’.  IDS heaped praise on the work of this organisation and its founder Sir Paul Coleridge.  Coleridge is a former High Court Judge who recently resigned after being reprimanded for Judicial Misconduct due to banging on in the press about the sanctity of marriage and the dangers of cohabitation.

Cohabitation is a big deal to these 1950s throwbacks and has led to some appalling assumptions.  According to the Marriage Foundation’s Director of Communications Harry Benson, couples co-habiting, along with women who have separated from a previous partner, are the two “largest predictors of domestic violence”.

Benson believes that domestic violence happens because of “problems in relationships” and that “domestic violence is likely to depend on both structure and quality of the relationship”.  The inference is clear, victims of domestic violence share some responsibility for the abuse.  In 2007, when he made these  comments, Benson was furious the Government didn’t take his rantings seriously blaming them for “pandering to political correctness”.

Benson is not some swivel-eyed crank on the fringes of this debate.  He has also co-authored papers for Iain Duncan Smith’s own think-tank the Centre for Social Justice and was a deputy chair of their family policy group

It is not just women who dare to have a sex life that has not been blessed by God who are under fire from Iain Duncan Smith’s moral crusaders.  The Advisory Board of the Marriage Foundation also includes Nola Leach, CEO of CARE, a Christian organisation who campaigned vigourously against gay marriage.  Sitting alongside her on the board are Dave and Liz Percival, founders of  2-in-2-1 who organise Marriage Week, a ‘celebration of commitment’ which Iain Duncan Smith has helped launch in the past.

Dave and Liz have some useful advice for friends and families of gay people on their website which states: “Some people, upon learning of the homosexuality of someone close, will actually become physically ill and be sick. These violent emotional and physical symptoms are a normal reaction to homosexuality.”

Dave Percival has also contributed to a working group for the Centre for Social Justice.  The influence of this type of divine rhetoric on Iain Duncan Smith was doubtlessly also one reason for his decision to make Phillipa ‘pray away the gay’ Stroud his special advisor shortly after he took over at the DWP.

Beneath the cloak of austerity and welfare reforms lies a nasty and outdated ideology – and one which the Tory Party pretend they have left behind.  The likes of Iain Duncan Smith however have never bought into David Cameron’s attempt to rebrand the Tories as socially liberal kitten huggers.  IDS is on a mission from God to re-establish the male dominated family structure where women know their place and LGBT  or non-traditional relationships are sidelined.

This is why women facing abuse are now at risk of being unable to leave a violent partner.  It is why single mothers have been attacked from all sides by vicious benefit cuts.  And it is why when Universal Credit is finally introduced all payments will go direct to the so called head of a household and not necessarily the person responsible for the primary care of the children.

Of course none of this conflicts with Iain Duncan Smith’s belief that poverty is a moral failing, to be punished with unpaid work and benefit sanctions.  Fallen women, living without a man, will soon face workfare from the moment their child starts school whilst Jobcentre harassment will sometimes begin before their babies are even weaned.  If that doesn’t bring single mothers into line then they will be banished by the Benefit Cap from their communities, forced into lives of poverty and isolation where they know no-one.  Such is the punishment for a life of sin in the eyes of Iain Duncan Smith and his warped little helpers at the Marriage Foundation and the woefully misnamed Centre for Social Justice.

Woman Against Rape will be holding a protest against the Benefit Cap tomorrow (28th January 2014).  Meet outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand WC2A 2LL at 9.30am – more info on facebook.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Are Tories Planning To Cut Tax Credits Because Iain Duncan Smith Thinks Parents Spend Them On Drugs?

Iain-Duncan-Smith-workfareAre the Tories really planning to cut Tax Credits because Iain Duncan Smith thinks struggling families spend them on drugs?

That’s the astonishing claim made by the Daily Telegraph after focussing on a part of Iain Duncan Smith’s speech this week which went unreported elsewhere in the press and was not included in the transcript published by The Spectator.

According to The Telegraph:  “Mr Duncan Smith indicated his party is preparing to review tax credits, which are paid to people on low incomes or with children. The system was introduced by Gordon Brown and has been criticised for subsidising low wages. They will cost £28bn this year, and the cost is forecast to rise £35bn by 2018/19.

He said the cash pushed people above an “arbitrary” poverty line on paper but failed to change their lives, and some “unproductive” people spent the extra money on drink and drugs rather than food for their children.

“Quite often you’d take a family that had been on drugs or abusing alcohol, much of that money would have been spent in the wrong place and their own families would remain officially over the poverty line but unofficially rooted in poor lives,” he said.

“I met many families where the adults are themselves are deeply addicted. Even beyond their abilities, the money that they get often goes in quite negative ways, drugs, alcohol. They don’t mean to harm their families, far from it, but their kids will then have to be raised in an environment which is well below the poverty line. You can’t measure that effect. They then don’t go to school, they don’t eat enough,”.

This followed a diatribe about the system of Tax Credits, which IDS called poverty plus a pound (he prefers just poverty).  In an ominous statement he then went on to say that Tax Credits had failed and asked us to  consider: “what more could have been achieved had that money been invested in a more focused way to create lasting improvements to people’s chances… be it higher attainment in schools, better budgeting skills, recovery from addiction, and so on.”

The implication is clear, IDS wants to get rid of Tax Credits and instead shovel yet more tax-payers cash into the pockets of crooks like G4S in exchange for failing to provide public services.

Of all Iain Duncan Smith messianic rantings yesterday, this is surely the biggest hint of what is to come in the unlikely event that the Tories win the next election.  Millions of “hard working families” currently claim Working Tax Credits, people George Osborne once called strivers.  Now it seems these parents could find their already meagre incomes are set to shrink even further.  And all because IDS has decided that people who are poor must be spending their money on drugs.

Comparing cutting disabled people’s housing benefit to ending slavery was a new low even for the increasingly deluded Iain Duncan Smith.  Or at least it seemed to be.  Suggesting that low-income parents will have to accept yet more cuts to in-work benefits -  already pegged to rise below the rate of inflation – because some of them take drugs is genuinely astonishing.  This is what these bastards really think of us.  No-one on a low income, whether in work or not, is safe from these parasites.

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RIP Tim Salter and Denis Jones. Is This What You Wanted Iain Duncan Smith?

Iain-Duncan-Smith415Ever since this Government weren’t elected the question has been raised whether Iain Duncan Smith really is a murderous tyrant, or whether he’s just a fucking idiot.

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter anymore.  The end result of his policies will be the same whichever is the case.  A result as tragic as it was predictable, as poverty not seen in generations returns to the UK.

The recent case of Tim Salter, who committed suicide after benefits were stopped due to the brutal Atos assessment regime, is far from the first death directly linked to welfare  reforms.  At the end of last month two suicides linked to Atos assessments were reported in just one week. Also reported just before Christmas was the death of Denis Jones, a disabled former soldier who died alone five weeks after his benefits were stopped.  Whilst his death was recorded as natural causes a close friends has revealed the horrific circumstances he had been living in, telling the Bolton News that:

“He was dependent upon income support and without it he couldn’t heat his home or pay his electricity bill. He became dependent on food parcels and the generosity of friends but he was crushed under the pressure of it all.”

It is not just the growing number of deaths linked to welfare reforms which gives a glimpse of the terrifying future many of the poorest now face.  The use of foodbanks has rocketed over recent months, even prompting a parliamentary debate from the ever opportunistic Labour Party.  But all of the main political parties, and the Lib Dems, are committed to the demolition of social security, they are merely quibbling about the details.   This is why the largest cause of hunger in the UK – benefit sanctions which can leave people with no money at all for up to three years – have barely been mentioned by any politician.  The reason for this is that Labour are every bit as committed to benefit sanctions as Iain Duncan Smith.  They started it after all.  Things will not magically and suddenly be alright if the Labour Party manage to win the next election.

The appalling truth is that the entire political class seems to have started believing everything they read in the Daily Mail.  The lurid tales of benefit scroungers have been assumed to be a fair representation of the social security system instead of the warped delusions of the swivel-eyed right.

The impression has been given that welfare in the UK is so generous that vicious cuts can be made without anyone getting hurt.  Politicians and right wing newspapers alike have created the fabrications that claimants are living in the lap of luxury, sick or disabled people are probably faking it and that there is a plentiful supply of jobs and cheap housing for those who choose to look.  The reality – which is that those dependent on benefits were already living in desperate poverty even before the cuts – has been completely ignored in the savage chase to blame the poor for the economic crisis created by the rich.

Over the next year, as bungled welfare reforms take place in the most casual and haphazard manner possible, we are set to see the outcome of this manufactured contempt for the poor – and it really has only just begun.  Many people are dependent on discretionary housing payments to meet the shortfall in their income due to the benefit cap or bedroom tax.  These payments will run out soon.  The number of benefit claims sanctioned is likely to soar even further as ever more ludicrous conditionality is invented to claim the pittance of Jobseekers Allowance. Reform of Disability Living Allowance, which will see around a fifth of disabled people lose benefits, has barely even begun.  The Atos assessments will continue, and even those judged unable to work may still face workfare.  Possibly hundreds of thousands of claimants face court action due to Council Tax benefit reform.   Housing Benefit caps are fast making many cities completely unaffordable for the poor.  And next April, as food prices, fuel bills, fares and rents continue to soar, all claimants, including many of the poorest pensioners, will face a real terms cut in benefits.

The only question that now remains is just how bad are things likely to get?  How many people will lose their homes, how many thousands, or millions, of children will go hungry?  How many more heartbreaking deaths will occur like the ones we heard about throughout December?

Iain Duncan Smith either doesn’t care or is truly deluded about the consequences of making the poorest even poorer.  Despite talk of austerity, the rest of the cabinet seem to think that money falls from the sky, which it does if you happen to be George Osborne or David Cameron.  No-one in this Government, and few in Parliament, seem to have any understanding that money actually runs out if you happen to be poor.  To take away the last few pounds that someone needs to survive will not just make them hungry, desperate and depressed but could be a death sentence.

This inhumanity, in one of the richest countries in the world, must be brought to an immediate end.  A massive escalation in the fight against all welfare reforms is the only way to achieve that.

If things seem bleak that’s because they are.  But Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are as bodged as they are brutal.  Without the connivance of charities, functioning welfare-to-work companies, employers, health and social security professionals, housing associations and local councils, all of his policies could turn to dust.  There are many places to inflict pressure or just fuck shit up.  Every weakness in this Government’s plans must be exploited to the full, and new vulnerabilities uncovered.  And every time we find one we should be ramming a spanner in the works, until things start to break.

Stay strong next year, as healthy as you can, and most of all stay alive.  Do not give these bastards what they want.

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DWP Cancel Poverty Party: Week of Festivities to Celebrate Benefit Sanctions Scrapped

IDS-poverty-partyThe DWP have cancelled a vile week long celebration of benefit sanctions due to be held to coincide with the Tory Party Conference the PCS Union have reported.   In a sign of growing militancy from the PCS leadership to oppose the vicious sanctioning regime (stop laughing) the union had issued a strongly worded letter to DWP bosses complaining about the upcoming shindig.

Iain Duncan Smith and his department had been planning to rejoice at the news that hundreds of thousands of people are being pushed into desperate poverty by the massive increase in draconian sanctions.  According to the PCS, the DWP had said the week of festivities was about “celebrating how far we have come since the introduction of tougher sanction levels last year”.

It now appears that the week of fun has been scrapped with all mention of Conditionality Week disappearing from the DWP’s website except for a memo to Work Programme providers inviting them to join the party (PDF).

Benefits can now be sanctioned for the most trivial reasons, such as missing a meeting or being late for an appointment.  A list of especially stupid sanctions, such as benefits being stopped because someone didn’t look for enough work on Christmas Day, has recently appeared online.

In some cases benefit sanctions can last up to three years.  Homelessness charity umbrella body Homeless Link last week released a report which claimed sanctions were driving some recently housed homeless people back to the streets.  Foodbanks consistently report sanctions as one of the main reasons families find themselves dependent on their scant support.

The DWP are dragging their feet on providing the latest information on the number of benefit claims sanctioned this year, but it is believed to be likely to top one million.  That’s a million cases of children going hungry, people unable to pay their rent or sick and disabled people not having the money to heat their homes.  And that is one million reasons to party as far as Iain Duncan Smith is concerned.

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The Public Humiliation Of Iain Duncan Smith

pauline-pensGeorge Osborne’s public humiliation of Iain Duncan Smith will be a bitter blow for the bungling Work and Pensions Secretary as his welfare reforms along with his credibility both continue to disintegrate.

Whilst Osborne stole the show with a flagship headline grabbing workfare scheme costing approaching half a billion pounds, Iain Duncan Smith was reduced to announcing a small pilot scheme which seems to be based on the type of Job Clubs that have been around for decades.  The type of pilot scheme that would usually be announced in a memo to the relevant Jobcentre staff, not from the podium at a party conference.

IDS’ latest crazy scheme will see unemployed people sent to sit around ‘job searching’ in Mandatory Attendance Centres for 35 hours a week.  This is the kind of expert help for unemployed people that was so savagely satirised in the comedy show The League of Gentlemen featuring Pauline, the jobsworth jobs counsellor who took delight in humiliating and demeaning her ‘clients’.

There is no bigger comedy show currently than the shambles at the DWP and this latest scheme reveals the joke to be wearing desperately thin.  This type of provision has a long and illustrious history of not working for anyone except the profit hungry sharks in the welfare-to-work sector who will be rubbing their hands in glee at today’s announcement.

Whilst exact details are so far unclear it seems likely that claimants could be sent to one of these Mandatory Attendance Centres in the first few months of their claim.  Companies like A4e, Ingeus and Working Links will have already spotted how lucrative this could be.  All they have to do is encourage Jobcentres to send them people likely to get jobs anyway and they can pick up fat job outcome payments for doing nothing at all.  Jobcentres will play ball if the figures look good and it helps them meet referral targets.

For those who aren’t ‘job ready’ the welfare-to-work sector has the answer, which is to do as little as possible as cheaply as possible.  Tony Blair’s New Deal often included large chunks of mandatory supervised job search.   This led to unemployed young people sitting around in A4e’s offices, sometimes for weeks on end, doing little more than talking amongst themselves.

If welfare-to-work companies don’t think they can get a job outcome from a claimant then the most profitable thing to do is nothing.  And if they think a claimant is likely to find work then they still do little more than nothing, knowing that the claimant themselves will do the work that makes them the money.  Workfare and benefit sanctions can be used to make sure there is no slacking for those most likely to get jobs, who often end up in low paid insecure work rather than the sector they have skills and experience in.

This is the business model of the welfare-to-work sector that has had billions of tax payer’s cash shovelled into their grubby pockets over the years.  Provide scant help those who don’t need it and leave the rest to rot.

In the case of the New Deal this meant claimants were packed into offices with a few out of date newspapers lying around and a couple of cheap computers.  Supervision meant a handful of poorly paid and untrained staff scurrying around in back offices doing everything they possibly could to avoid the punters.  Even asking for a stamp was met with indignation from the penny-pinching poverty pimps in charge of the New Deal.  Every single penny spent on claimants was less money for the likes of Emma Harrison who made millions from this racket when she was still head of the scandal ridden A4e.

This is Iain Duncan Smith’s latest big idea.  A resurrection of the biggest benefit fraud in living memory.  And all done not with the intention of helping people find work, but instead to make life as unpleasant as possible for unemployed people.  To establish the Victorian principle of ‘less eligibility’, meaning that life on benefits must be made far worse than the life of the most exploited and lowest paid worker.  The spirit of the workhouse has been alive and well at this year’s Tory Party Conference.

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