Author Archives: johnny void

They Are Coming For The Internet – New Porn and Copyright Laws Could Criminalise Millions

facepalmIf you ever needed confirmation that the UK is not run by a shadowy cabal of sinister plotters but a bunch of chinless fucking idiots then the upcoming Digital Economy Bill is a good place to start.

As well as massively increasing personal information sharing amongst government departments, the proposed new laws will seek to ensure that all pornographic content available on the internet in the UK carries an age verification system.   The bill will also introduce new copyright legislation which could mean that simply sharing or retweeting an internet meme, such as the one that accompanies this post, could mean prosecution with a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.  Really.

According to the government age-verification is necessary to protect children from the danger of online porn.  And wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy.  The reality is that this bill will do nothing to stop teenagers accessing porn but will create a potentially chilling effect on all creators of online material which could be said to be adult in nature.  If this legislation is successfully implemented then it is unlikely to end there.  If seeing sex on the internet is banned for under 18s then why not violence, or swearing, or anything else that government censors decide is unfit for young minds?

Of course this legislation will not be successful because it was drafted by a bunch of dickheads who don’t appear to have ever used the internet.  They can’t even decide what internet pornography is, insisting that anything which would normally carry an 18 certificate, and which is designed to sexually stimulate, should be covered by the law.  So content creators will not even know that they need to provide age verification until some state-appointed literal wanker decides that they are pornographers.  The new laws will also apply to content which is sound only, ominously bringing the written word under censorship laws.  Sites hosting ebooks with erotic content may find themselves falling foul of the legislation.  We could be heading back to the days when someone faces legal sanctions for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover in an audio format.

At a protest this week outside parliament, feminist and queer porn producers warned this law will shut them down leaving only the big mainstream porn companies able to afford the age verification software that will be necessary to comply with the law.  And astonishingly this software does not yet exist – the government has decided that the market will somehow invent a solution.  Anti-privacy campaigners have warned this will lead to the creation of giant databases detailing the UK’s porn watching habits, with all the risk that entails of that information being released to the public.  Of equal concern is that there is a shitload of adult content on sites like twitter, tumblr and wordpress, potentially meaning that social media and blogs may also be required to implement age verification.

None of this will have any impact on the availability of online porn, most of which is not produced in the UK.  These sites will only face the possibility of the government asking credit card companies to refuse to process payments from the UK.  They may well tell the government to fuck off.  And it is unlikely that the large number of youtube style porn sites, who are largely funded by advertising, will give a shit either.  All this legislation is likely to achieve is the annihilation of an industry catering to sexual minorities and massive insecurity for anyone making edgy or erotic content who could face sanctions if they accidentally give a government censor a hard-on.

The new copyright laws are equally draconian. The Open Rights Group, who campaign to protect free speech and privacy online, warn that simply sharing a well known image online could lead to prosecution, using the archetypal image of the Vietnamese child suffering napalm burns as an example.  Millions of social media users may soon find that many of their posts are technically illegal.  The group also caution that these new laws could affect teenage file sharers, with a new threat of prosecution for anyone uploading to torrent sites.  The same government that wants to protect young people from seeing sex is quite happy to terrify them with the threat of prosecution and jail if they impact even in the slightest way on the profits of the giant entertainment corporations.

What these laws are attempting to do is change the culture of the internet in the UK.  Most of the internet is not in the UK though and will carry on as normal.  Meanwhile those of us here will face complex censorships rules and petty legal action – such as the recent attempt by police to prosecute a man for having a video of someone dressed up in a tiger suit having sex.  A government which introduces laws which will affect millions of its citizens is a dangerous thing.  That they seem to be doing it by accident is even more chilling.  Much like the police, don’t assume that just because they are stupid it means they aren’t dangerous.

You can sign a petition aimed at stopping this bill at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/ensuring-personal-privacy-and-sexual-freedom

I’m back by the way, but will be some time before I’m up to full speed.  DWP/benefits stuff is coming up.

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Sanction Low Paid Worker’s Benefits To #solveukpoverty Say The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

jrf-in-workNowhere in the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest stupid report do they ackowledge the real cause of poverty – which is the relentless theft of our labour and land by a capitalist class whose wealth and power grows ever greater.

In fact this atrocity, which condemns us to a lifetime of drudgery, servitude, poverty and need, is presented as a perfectly natural, and even desirable state.  Which of course it is if you’re some chinless wonder paid a fat salary to toss yourself off at some liberal think-tank all day whilst the people you write reports about do the work that makes your lifestyle possible.

If JRF were serious about ending poverty they would not asking employers to try not to use zero hour contracts quite so much, or pay the living wage – just if they can afford it of course.  They would be throwing every resource they have into supporting those working class people fighting back, whether that was the recent Deliveroo strikes, or the bold, and successful actions taken by grassroots union United Voices of the World.

They would not be asking faith groups, and social entrepreuners, and housing associations to all have a big think about how to help the poor.  They would be calling for rent strikes, and occupations, and mass direct action to force concessions from the parasitic rich.  Because it is only through determined, collective and bold acts that the poor have ever won any significant changes in their lives.

Of course you’re not going to get that from the bunch of Ned Flanders wannabes at the JRF.  But you might have hoped, at the very fucking least, that they would not support solutions which will make people even poorer.

The support for ‘in-work conditionality’ is perhaps their biggest treachery.  This means the lowest paid workers facing brutal benefit sanctions if they do not constantly search for more or better paid work in the hours they are not working.  JRF may say that non-financial sanctions should be used first, whatever that means, and that they should be less severe.  But they are fully behind using poverty as punishment to incentivise low paid workers to try harder to stop being so poor.

It is no longer acceptable to be a part-time cleaner, care worker or labourer and to expect decent pay for that work, even if that is the only work available.  You must now work “as much as society expects” according to the JRF.  How much that is they don’t tell us.  The working class weren’t invited to that meeting.  But you must do it, and more importantly you must constantly compete and be punished if you don’t.  And if the jobs you are competing for don’t even really exist it doesn’t matter.  Benefit sanctions and enforced competition are the method, the object is to change the soul.

It is these toxic assumptions that have created the conditions where ever more poverty – where hungry children and suicidal disabled people – are normalised and accepted.  The belief endures that it is the poor, really, who are to blame.  That if everyone just passed their GCSE’s and tidied up their CV then low pay, exploitation, slum landlords and criminal bosses would all disappear.  The poor would have enough to eat, the rich would keep getting richer, everyone would know their place and the people running the JRF could stop feeling so guilty next time they shell out the price of a normal family’s annual food budget on some voluntary sector vol-au-vent munching piss up.  Or a conference as they are known in the industry.

Astonishingly the JRF do not even call for the scrapping of many of the recent social security cuts that have created such a crisis amongst those with the lowest incomes.  Instead they demand some minor changes, such as an exemption from the Bedroom Tax for those with special housing needs who want to move but cannot due to a lack of suitable properties.  And whilst there are calls to reverse cuts to Universal Credit, slightly raise Jobseeker’s Allowance rates and delay the upcoming slashing of sickness benefits, there is no substantial objection to many of even Iain Duncan Smith’s most vicious welfare reforms.  What a difference five years makes.  The Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap are the new normal, even the UK’s leading anti-poverty think-tank is too craven to call for them to be scrapped.

Instead what we are left with in this report is the usual tinkering round the edges backed by a delusion that these recommendations will fix poverty at a time of cut-throat capitalism.  That a prosperous neo-liberal paradise is just around the corner, we just need to upskill, work hard, and do the right thing  And if we all do our bit then surely bosses, bankers and landlords will agree to do the same.   Because that is how capitalism works in the minds of those at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  All of us working together to help the rich stay rich, in the hope of a pat on the head one day from the powerful.  It’s just like a big cuddle really, now stop complaining and fill out those job applications.  You fucking mug.

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Hunger, Homelessness and Despair, The Stark Reality of the Benefit Cap

benefit-cap2It is hard to imagine a more poisonous piece of legislation than the lowered Benefit Cap, set to be introduced this Autumn, which will plunge quarter of a million children into desperate housing insecurity and possible homelessness.

This will be the third time that the Benefit Cap – which limits the weekly amount that can be received in benefits – has been lowered in just five years.  In 2011 George Osborne capped Housing Benefit in a sweeping move which made much of central London unaffordable for those unable to work due to childcare responsibilities, sickness or unemployment.  Then in 2013 benefits were capped further, at £500 a week for a family with children, extending the problem of unaffordability out to Greater London, the Home Counties and beyond, with many large cities seeing families affected.  And now the cap is to be lowered again, to around £440 a week in London and £384 elsewhere.

On average this means families set to lose £60 a week according to an Impact Assessment published by the DWP last week and it will no longer be just a London problem.  Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and Bradford are all likely to have at least 1000 households affected whilst in Birmingham 3,900 households will face an abrupt cut in housing benefits.  It is not the fault of struggling families that rents in the UK have soared out of reach in many areas which has led to the growing Housing Benefit bill.  It is the result a failure to build enough low cost housing.  But it is the poor who will pay.

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The government claim the Benefit Cap has been a huge success, pointing to a series of evaluations that showed a small rise in the number of people subject to the cap who found work.  But behind these celebratory statistics lies a bitter truth.  It has become common, in evaluations of DWP policy, to use ‘job outcomes’ to justify any atrocity.  Someone hangs themselves after being found fit for work and having their benefits stopped – well this is just fine because someone else got a job in Poundland.  No other social policies would be evaluated this way.  It is like testing a new drug and completely ignoring deadly side effects on the basis that a handful of people’s health had slightly improved.

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With families facing eviction due to the Benefit Cap it has indeed forced many to desperately look for any job they can find.  Those able to find between work, of between 16 and 30 hours a week  depending on their circumstances, become exempt from the cap leading many to hound their employers for more hours, often unsuccessfully.

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For the 18% of claimants affected by the Benefit Cap who are long term sick or disabled this of course has not been an option.  Despite repeated lies from DWP ministers that disabled people are not affected by the cap this only applies to those with the most serious health conditions or disabilities.  Claimants of the sickness and disability benefit Employment Support Allowance are not exempt from the cap if health assessors decide their condition may improve in the future.  Many claimants are battling ill health as well as facing the prospect of losing their homes.

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Neither is simply finding a job a realistic solution for those with very young children, or even babies.  This hasn’t stopped many local councils simply shrugging off the upcoming trauma faced by those with young children who face losing their homes.

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What the interviews with claimants do seem to suggest is that if the cap has had any impact at all, it has been to encourage lone parents to seek work before they felt their children were ready to be left alone.

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These were parents who intended to go back to work anyway.  Others have had dreams of furthering their education shattered by the cap.

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Sometimes it has not been the claimant themselves who was affected.

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Rarely has government policy had such a devastating impact on children’s lives.  Behind the lauded ‘job outcomes’ lies a trail of destitution.  Countless families have reported being left without enough money for food.  Huge numbers are in rent arrears.  Many have been forced to move – at the time of the most recent evaluation 10% of households had moved house due to the cap.  These evaluations were carried in 2014 however, meaning many families covered by the reports would have only been subject to the cap for a short period.  The growing rise in homeless families, especially in London, points to the devastating long term impact of the Benefit Cap.

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Punishing children with homelessness because of the eye-watering rents demanded by landlords is a new low for even the Tory Party, but it is the upcoming lowering of the cap which will perhaps inflict the greatest cruelty.  According to last week’s impact assessment, “those already capped at £26,000 will have the new, lower, cap applied to them.”  This is estimated to be around 22,000 households.  These are families that may have already moved to a cheaper area and are just starting to get their lives back on track.  They are the families featured in the quotes that accompany this piece.  Some of the poorest people in the UK, already struggling to survive and raise their children.

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And now the government is coming for them again.  Imagine explaining to a young child just settling into a new school, who may have recently faced a spell in temporary housing that they now have to go through it all again.  A child just starting to make friends to replace the ones they lost due to the last forced relocation will now be looking at a future in yet another new school, or even another new city.

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Most of those facing the Benefit Cap are women, usually lone parents.  Black and Ethnic Minority families are hugely over-represented amongst those affected, as are disabled people.  For those unable to find work or increase their hours their options are stark.  Many have only been able to stay in their homes due to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) paid by local authorities to families facing imminent homelessness.  These payments will not last forever and are increasingly being used to meet the cost of housing families in temporary accommodation.  A recent homelessness update from Westminster Council (H/t @nearlylegal) showed that around half of the borough’s spend on DHP’s is paying for temporary accommodation for those made homeless due to the benefit cap.  It is only now that Local Authorities are starting to feel the impact of the Benefit Cap introduced in 2013. With a new further cut set to pile on the pressure even further homelessness amongst those with children could soar to levels not seen in generations in the UK.

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DPAC Week of Action – September 4th-10th. #RightsNotGames

WOA-Logo-5Apologies for the lack of posts recently.  Back very soon, in the meantime this is from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and gives details of the upcoming week of action to coincide with the Paralympic Games.  Please spread the word and get involved if you can.

DPAC Week of Action- September 4th-10th

Sunday September 4th pop-up art action – if anyone wants to take part in this please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net as further information will not be made public. This will go live on-line at 2pm

Monday September 5th Independent Living Day. Lobby and report in parliament following the horrendous cuts to care and support funding for personal assistance following the closure of the Independent Living Fund in 2015. Committee Room 21 from 2-4pm. Please allow about 20- 30 minutes to get through security

Afterwards 5pm at College Green opposite parliament for fun and festivities DPAC-style.

Tuesday September 6th National Day of Action against cumulative cuts faced by disabled people. Around the country. Please send us details of anything you’re organising. See this page for more information, including a list of locations where protests are being held.

Wednesday September 7th meet for noon opposite Downing Street for ‘No More Claimant Deaths’ protest.

Thursday September 8th An online day of action for all. More details will be published on website nearer the time.

Saturday September 10th International Conference, Resistance:Beyond Borders from 10.30am-4.30 pm at Resource for London, 356 Holloway Rd, London N7 6PA.
Speakers from Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Greece, Ireland and Germany.
See Conference 10th Sept Disabled Peoples’ Resistance: building beyond borders
To book a place please email us at mail@dpac.uk.net and give details of any access and dietary needs. Limited places available.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Working Class Is Back In The Game, Let’s Make Sure We Fucking Stay There

fucking-angryI was fucking angry when I wrote this post in the early aftermath of the referendum and I’m sorry if I offended anyone.  Of course not everyone who voted Remain was part of the pampered middle class and some of the racism from the Leave campaign was as vile as anything we have seen in decades.  I should have mentioned that, and equally that Remain were all too happy to exploit racism when it suited them.  And I forgot to mention that Nigel Farage is a cunt.

I was angry though, at the sneering abuse from a metropolitan elite that assumed working class communities were racist,  thick or uneducated because they refused to vote in the interests of the privileged.  I was furious, and astonished, that a vote for an institution that would rather non-Europeans fleeing war drown in the sea than cross its hallowed borders was presented as the anti-racist choice.  And I was dismayed that EU imposed austerity, that has brought such devastation to so many lives,  was air-brushed away in favour of some sentimental notion of harmony that is apparently so flimsy it will fall apart unless it is imposed by an authoritarian neo-liberal superstate.

As ever, there was little thought for the poorest in the EU referendum, wherever they came from.  No cares at all for the EU migrants set to face a four year freeze on benefits in the event of Remain winning.  A wilful ignorance of EU rules that were already leading to the deportation of homeless migrants and which are soon to be used to attack those who have come from Europe and can’t find a job – or who don’t earn enough money.  And of course these rules are set by an EU Parliament that has little more than a handful of Black or ethnic minority MEPs but dozens from the far right.  Fortress Europe as a force for anti-racism?  Don’t make me fucking laugh.

It is clear that class, and perhaps more precisely income, was one of the largest drivers of the vote to leave the European union.  As voices from the forgotten North have pointed out, there are many communities that have nothing left to lose and who hope, as we should all hope, that any significant change could be a change for the better.  That just for once the powerless could seize some control and inflict a crushing blow on the bankers and bureacrats that have driven so many into destitution.

Of course many of these voices were drowned out as television crews scoured the poorest parts of the UK looking for the most racist person they could find and giving them unprecedented air time in a bid to smear the entire working classs. Yes, immigration was a factor in some people’s vote, but rarely the only factor.  The Remain campaign though, and the media that supported them, were intent on portraying this as the sole reason anyone could possibly want to leave the decaying monstrous European Union.

It is true that immigration often leads to economic growth and that this can increase jobs.  There is ample evidence to support this.  But to claim that these benefits are felt uniformly across society is a deception.  The sad fact is that austerity plus the current neoliberal management of migration has impacted on housing, wages and services in some areas, and in particular in places that were already desperately poor to begin with.  These impacts may be relatively small in economic terms, but when you’ve got fuck all then relatively small can be the difference between keeping a roof over your head or not.

This may be an uncomfortable truth for the left,  which is rightly committed to anti-racism, but it is a truth.  To insist that people are liars or racists when they describe what is happening in their lives is a path that will divorce the left from the poorest members of the working class completely.  In many cases it is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic communities that are raising these concerns, places far more diverse than the latte-slurping metropolitan enclaves where white middle class self-styled anti-racists only ever speak to a migrant when they are at the check-out in Waitrose.  It is time to listen, without pre-judging, to what many working class people in the poorest parts of the country are saying.

That does not mean pandering to racists, in fact the opposite urgently needs to take place.  More than ever racism must be confronted, whether that’s organised fascists or loud mouthed dickheads who’ve deluded themselves that just because the UK voted out of the EU it means we all agree with their spiteful bigotry.  But it does mean having difficult conversations, and thinking difficult thoughts and recognising that having concerns about immigration policies, at a time of savage austerity, does not mean someone is automatically a closet nazi or swivel-eyed extremist.

There has been no attempt by the government to mitigate the scarcity caused by  austerity in deprived areas that have also seen high levels of migration.  In fact they have done the opposite with vicious cuts to benefits and vital services.   If that causes divisions in our class then that is all the better for their neoliberal aims.  Migration – a normal human phenomena – has been weaponised by capital across Europe to drive down the living standards of the working class.  Free movement was not granted so we could all have nicer holidays, but to create a flexible, mobile, precarious workforce to allow the continent to compete with China, India, Brazil, or whoever this week’s scary foreign bogeyman is.

That doesn’t mean free movement is automatically bad just because it has been imposed by capitalists – the ability to live, visit and work in any Euopean country is truly a wonderful thing.  It is a freedom that is certain to continue even with the UK outside of the EU.  But it costs over seventy quid these days just for a fucking passport.  That’s a week’s money for someone on the dole before they even step on a boat.  And if they do get on a boat they’ll lose their benefits because you aren’t allowed to go abroad if you’re claming Jobseeker’s Allowance.   At a time of such rampant inequality this freedom to travel across the continent is invisible to the poor.  Many who voted Leave will have never set foot in another European country – not because they are racists, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t afford it.

The dream of a truly integrated Europe, or indeed world, will never be anything but a middle-class fantasy under current economic policies and whilst the poorest are suffering like never before.  Fascism is stalking many countries despite their membership of the European Union.  If there is one thing that is certain it is that they are organising here as well.  The  political chaos that has ensued in the wake of the referendum is creating a vacuum at the heart of the UK’s political system.  That is a fucking opportunity.  The far right know this and the more the liberal left sneers at the thick racists who didn’t do what they wanted then the stronger fascism becomes.  There seem some who will almost relish any increase in far right activity, as an opportunity to say ‘I told you so’.  This is a truly treacherous position.  There is no excuse for standing on the sidelines now, whichever way you voted.

The UK is facing a period of political instability that has not been seen in generations.  There is barely even a government at the moment and the Tory party are just as split as Labour.  We are about to see an unelected, inexperienced Prime Minister trying to hold onto power during a period of enormous turbulence.  Meanwhile austerity continues apace with the introduction of Universal Credit set to cut the incomes of the poorest even further.  It is easy to generalise, and I have done, there were many subtleties at play during the EU referendum.  But what can’t be ignored is that a large proportion of the working class demanded change and politicians are terrified.  The working class is back in the game, let’s make sure we stay there.

And that means taking real action, not just shouting slogans or marching pointlessly behind ever more irrelevent leaders.  It means those that may have concerns about immigration policies standing side by side with immigrants themselves against racism and benefit cuts because we are always stronger together – and there is a difference between policies and people.  It also means those from more affluent areas listening to and trying to understand what many people in the North, Wales and parts of the South, have been saying – despite being ignored – for over three decades.

It will require doing the hard work, the boring stuff, and an anti-fascism that not just engages in set piece punch ups with the far right but addresses the reason those cunts even exist.  Most of all it means a class united, whatever people’s race, colour or creed- with no tolerance for bigotry, including the elite, liberal sneering at the poor that has been all too evident the last few weeks.  Because then we might actually start to fucking win some stuff.  And that will mean another Europe really is possible.

Here’s some things coming up that are taking place in London and elsewhere over the next few days.  Support DPAC’s national day of action against disability assessors Capita this Wednesday (13th July), in person if you can or online – events have been organised around the UK.  Groups organising under the Black Lives Matter banner are also holding protests this week against racist policing, including one in London tomorrow (10/7/16) beginning at Oxford Circus at 10am.  There’s another solidarity protest with the migrant cleaners currently on indefinite strike doe to the shit wages paid by property vultures CBRE being held on Wednesday 13th July from 5pm at 100 Wood Street, EC2V.  On Friday 15th July Class War will be marching on Boris Johnson’s house in Islington because why should that wanker get away scot-free after the chaos he has caused in the capital and beyond.  Then there’s a boring as we make it People’s Assembly demo in central London next Saturday 16th July.  Get along to everything you can and let’s seize the initiative.   Our time is now if we choose to live it.

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What A Shambles, Lord Fraud’s Budgeting Support Trials An Embarrassing, Expensive Flop

lord-fraud-freudMinister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud could do with some budgeting support himself after his recent trial to help benefit claimants manage their money proved to be an embarrassing flop that squandered £4 million of tax payer’s money.

Under Universal Credit all benefits will have to be claimed online, despite many claimants having no access to the internet and some having no experience of using computers.  Benefit payments are also to be made monthly and there is a minimum five week waiting period for new claims.  For the small group of claimants transferred onto the new system this in particular is already causing desperate suffering – a recent evaluation found that almost half of Universal Credit claimants were in rent arrears.

This was not supposed to be a problem according to comedy toff Lord Fraud who is over-seeing much of the introduction of Universal Credit.  A new budgeting support scheme would be set up to help the so-called vulnerable manage their money and teach them to use a computer.  Several trials were established to test how this scheme, named Universal Support, would be supplied.  These trials cost just over £4 million and the results are bleak.  An evaluation of the pilots published today found that Universal Support had “no statistically significant impact on either digital or financial capability.”

Perhaps the biggest flaw in this scheme to help those on Universal Credit manage their finances was that those involved in the trial were not on Universal Credit.  The areas in which the pilots were carried out did not include those places where Universal Credit has been introduced.  So what these trials really tested was the impact of Universal Support on people claiming benefits that are being phased out such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.  This meant that the pilots had to sort of pretend that participants were about to claim Universal Credit when they weren’t.  According to the evaluation this presented a significant barrier to people wishing to take up the support, which was offered by local councils, advice agencies and Jobcentres.  As one support workers involved in the trial said “Trying to get them to understand a system that’s not in place that may or may not apply to them at any given time is not very easy to do .”

Some Jobcentres of course managed to find a way round this reluctance amongst claimants to take part in the trials.  In a chilling example of how Jobcentre Work Coaches mislead and coerce claimants the evaluation reported that “Carmarthenshire and Dundee both reported that it was easier to encourage claimants to engage through Jobcentre Plus because they thought that the support was part of their Claimant Commitment.”  Several participants in the trials said they only took part because they thought it was mandatory.  In truth it was only in Islington that those carrying out the trial had the power to mandate claimants to attend under the threat of benefit sanction.

In the end just over half of those (51%) referred to Universal Support chose not to take it up.  Amongst those that did two key problems emerged which point to a worrying future.  The first impacted on those requiring help with using computers.  Both staff and participants involved in the trials said that many claimants depend on mobile phone for internet access, with one reporting “‘I would say the majority of the people we see have a mobile but many of them (a) can’t use it or (b) can’t pay for their broadband connection or (c) can’t pay it, don’t have the money to pay for a call or don’t have one at all.”  A further problem was that in more rural areas internet access is still limited and superfast broadband is rare.  Universal Credit is set to be ‘digital by default’.  If claimants cannot access the internet then they will not be able to manage their claim.

The second problem emerged amongst claimants accessing budgeting support.  The evaluation found that the most significant problem facing this group was not that they needed help learning to budget but simply that they didn’t have enough money.  As one person involved in managing the scheme said “It’s not a capacity issue in terms of actually being able to do the sums or being able to understand when to pay what when…what comes out is actually they just don’t have enough money to get from one of the months to the other.”

The evaluation does report that there were some ‘soft outcomes’ as a result of attending the scheme, with some claimants reporting a positive impact in areas of their lives which were unconnected to budgeting or computer skills.  This may reflect the fact many of the scheme were run as part of a wider package of support which also looked into areas such as housing, health, and of course employability.  The results of the overall evaluation of the scheme however found it made no difference in people’s ability to access IT or manage their money – although the researchers caution that only the short term effects of the scheme could be studied so far.  A cost/benefit analysis of the trial therefore showed that the £4 million spent on Universal Support was squandered, with no demonstrable benefits either to the public or the claimants themselves.

Just over 4000 people were referred onto Universal Support and actually took up the offer and engaged with services.  Many of them faced significant financial hardship and debt.  If Lord Fraud had better budgeting skills then he could have used that £4 million to chuck everybody a grand and actually give them some real help for a change.  But help is the last thing you can expect from a social security system devised by a former banker who has never been elected to anything.  Of course this will never affect Lord Fraud himself, who is a very rich man.  So the next time he wants to inflict a half-baked vanity scheme on benefit claimants he should fucking pay for it himself.

You can read the evaluation at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/evaluation-of-the-universal-support-delivered-locally-trials

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Shocking Transphobia From Evangelical Group Linked To Stephen Crabb

crabb-brentIt is not just gay and lesbian people that are sinners in need of a cure according to the Evangelical Alliance – the extremist Christian group who boast Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb as one of the council members of their voluntary sector offshoot in Wales.  Those who are transsexual are also targetted by the organisation.

In a report published in 2000 the group say they oppose the use of surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria and insist that an ‘authentic’ sex change is both impossible and incompatible with God’s will.  Mirroring their attitude towards lesbian and gay people, the Alliance say transsexuals should be welcomed into the church, but that they ‘hope and anticipate’ that transsexual Christians will accept the need to ‘re-orientate their lifestyle with God’s teachings’.  In return the church should offer ongoing care following ‘gender re-orientation’.

The report also endorses discrimination against transgender people in the workplace, claiming that in principle they oppose this, but in practice some circumstances may make the continuing position of a transsexual  ‘extremely difficult’ whether or not they were transitioning.

A later report on transsexuality was published by the Evangelical Alliance in 2006, in association with Parakaleo Ministeries.  This report is no longer available online, but a quote discussing Caitlin Jenner from Parakaleo ‘s website gives a hint of what to expect: “The sick national conspiracy to pretend that Bruce Jenner is a woman because he is mentally confused, has surgically mutilated his male body, and received plastic reconstruction surgery to give him a not entirely successful appearance as a woman, to the fanfare of the twisted leftwing elite.”  This is compassion, evangelical style.

More recently the Alliance published a glowing review of a book by Christian psychologist Mark Yarhouse discussing church responses to transsexuality.  Yarhouse believes one way of looking at gender dysphoria is as a “disability resulting from living in a fallen world”.  In a somewhat garbled rant he seems to say that cross gender identitity compromises the “sacred integrity of maleness or femaleness implicit in the body” and calls for transsexual people to be drawn into the ‘transformative’ power of Jesus Christ.

Yarhouse believes that through a “combination of holistic therapy and professional psychotherapy” those who are transgender will “accept their true selves as created by God”.  He calls for compassion during this process, saying if a transsexual person shares their name with him, then he will use it along with any desired pronouns, as an act of respect.

This is a bit much for the Evangelical Alliance who comment that some Christians might be nervous Yarhouse is making “too many concessions towards colluding with illusion and deception.”  They agree with the general argument though which is that transsexual people should be welcomed into the church and then cured.  Or in their words churches should point transsexuals to “the transformative work of Jesus Christ who created each individual and knows them from the moment of conception and is able to lead them to acceptance rather than rejection of their true selves – body, soul and spirit.”

The review of Yarhouse’s book was written by  Don Horrocks who also wrote the Evangelical Alliance’s Transexuality report in 2000.  Horrocks was Head of Public Affairs at the Evangelical Alliance until retiring recently.  Stephen Crabb sits on the Council of Reference of GWEINI, the voluntary sector offshoot controlled by the Evangelical Alliance.  It is inconceivable that he was unaware of the views of this organisation – they never shut up about LGBT people.  It was only once he got a top job, and decided he wanted to be Tory leader that he had a sudden conversion to LGBT equality.  He has never condemned his evangelical colleagues.  Were a senior minister linked to a group that promoted extremist racial or religious hatred then they would be gone from government office in seconds.  Crabb however has shrugged this off like it is nothing.  That says everything you need to know abut the true beliefs of not just Crabb, but also the party he seeks to lead.

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