Category Archives: Uncategorized

How The DWP Is Drafting In Doctors To Promote Iain Duncan Smith’s Warped Ideology

fit-note-guidanceAre you working hard enough?  Are you sure?  What if you get sick, or have an accident?  Are you prepared to go to work anyway, even if you don’t think it would be good for your health?  What if your doctor and boss agree you could do something other than your usual job instead of malingering at home?  Like making cups of tea all day, or cleaning the bogs, or any form of work your empoyer can dream up to force you not to take time off.  Because that is now the chilling reality as the DWP attempts to inject Iain Duncan Smith’s warped ideology into the NHS.

Last week the DWP issued patronising new guidance to GPs on when they should issue a Fit Note.  Doctors are warned of the dangers of ‘worklessness’ and told they must consider “the vital role that work can play in your patient’s health”.  According to the department, “the evidence is clear that patients benefit from being in some kind of regular work”.

This is an outright lie.  What the evidence says is that on balance most people might be better off working but the beneficial health effects depend on the nature and quality of that work.  In the report on which the DWP’s claims are based – a paper incidentally commissioned by the DWP themselves – the authors actually warn that “a minority of people may experience contrary health effects from work”. 

This study – called Is Work Good For Your Health and Well Being (pdf) – has formed the basis of government policy ever since the Labour administration launched the despised Work Capability Assessment for out of work sickness benefits in 2008.  It features a reasonably wide-ranging review of the evidence of the health risks and benefits of work and concludes that work, on balance, is better for most people’s health than unemployment but with important caveats.  These findings have been consistently misrepresented by politicians who have used them to claim that any kind of work is good for health, and that this applies to everybody.

The study found that in some cases – possibly 5-10% – unemployment can lead to improved health and well being.  It warns that negative health impacts of unemployment are “at least partly mediated through socioeconomic
status” – meaning it is not work that is good for you, but poverty that is bad for you.   The review points out that whilst the evidence is conflicting, shift work and long hours could have a weak negative impact on health.  It also finds that school leavers who move into ‘unsatisfactory’ employment can experience a
decline in their health and that economically secure people who retire early may experience beneficial effects on their health.   Even if this report is taken at face value – and it comes loaded with assumptions about the social and moral imperatives of work – all it shows is that work can be good for your health – but only if it’s a good quality well paid job.

If you are in low paid or insecure work then what your GP should tell you – based on the existing evidence – is to take a few days off if you aren’t happy or feel unwell.  Perhaps they should warn that you might be one of the 5 or 10% of people who are healthier if they are unemployed, despite the loss of income.  A more recent study carried out in Australia, and quoted on The Conversation, found that people “who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.”

What the new guidance to GPs is intended to do is impose workplace dicipline via the healthcare system.  Much like a seven day NHS is a health service for bosses, not patients, and likely to lead to pressure on workers not to book medical appointments in working hours, the Fit Note scheme is designed to bully people into the workplace even if they are sick.  That is why the guidance states that if GPs consider their patient could do any work at all, regardless of their usual job, then they should tick a box suggesting amended duties, or workplace adapatations rather than issue a full Fit Note.  And if doctors are too squeamish to treat patients this way then they are instructed to refer them to Maximus – the shadowy US conglomerate brought in carry out health assessments under the new Fit For Work scheme.

To help doctors decide what is best for their patients, or more correctly their patient’s employers, the new Fit Note guidance features case studies, with recommended courses of action that GPs should take.  They include an example of someone diagnosed with anxiety disorder who says that her work in customer services is giving her panic attacks and that she is too distressed to carry out her duties.  According to the DWP her doctor should first warn her that working is important for her mental health and “remind her that there are still other things that she can do – for example, physical tasks or back-room duties.”  This will help her feel more positive according to the department.  Then she should be referred to Maximus who will develop  a plan with her boss, such as sending her on a course to learn coping techniques, or doing quieter shifts.  And of course bosses, being always right and always reasonable, will not abuse this new power to force sick employees into the workplace.

Yet even the most bullying of bosses are to be accommodated according to the DWP.  Another case study features someone – a woman again – who complains that a poor relationship with her manager is causing her severe stress.  She says the manager has been ‘really horrible’ to her and she feels unable to cope.  Rather than raise any concerns about what seems to indicate workplace bullying however, her doctor is instructed to declare she does not have a health problem and she should speak to her human resources department, or union rep.  She should not be issued with a Fit Note and her GP should explain that they are “acting with her health interests in mind.”  It is better for her health to be bullied and abused in the workplace than be workless, even for a short while, according to the DWP.

The introduction of this guidance makes it clear that the scroungers vs scroungers narrative is now impeding on healthcare even amongst those who are not on benefits.  It is not hyperbole to suggest that the credibility of doctors is now at stake.  For too long the entire healthcare sector has remained silent whilst scientific evidence is distorted to further the ideology of modern capitalism and increase the power of employers over their staff.  Any GP who believes in evidence over rhetoric should tell Iain Duncan Smith to stick these guidelines up his fucking arse.  Anything else is a betrayal of the role of doctors as guardians of our health and well being.

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It’s Never Been More Important To Ask What’s Wrong With Work

work-makes-meIf work was really so fucking wonderful then nobody would resent people living on meagre unemployment benefits.  It might even be seen as a noble and selfless thing – to give up the wonderful opportunity that work offers – so that another can bask in the joys of daily toil.

The truth, that now goes almost unspoken, is that hardly anyone wants to go to  work.  Nobody who wins the lottery really carries on working in ASDA.  For those at the lower end of the jobs market work is a shit deal – poverty pay for a lifetime of monotonous and often back-breaking labour.  That is why the entire apparatus of the state is now being mobilised against those who can’t find work, or worst of all don’t want it.  To be unemployed, or workless, is now akin to being a criminal.  And if the economy doesn’t provide enough jobs, then that is the fault of the worker, for not working hard enough.

The capitalist class regards us all as nothing more than thieving scroungers, ever ready to skive if we are given half a chance.  And it is not the payment of benefits that really irks the rich – it is the refusal to put our human capital – our minds and bodies – into their service that enrages them.  How dare we not work to fatten their wallets.

As wages and working conditions decline then unemployment will be seen as an ever greater sin.  The Victorian workhouse principle of ‘less eligibility’ – meaning the life of somebody unemployed must be less eligible (more shit) than the life of the lowest paid worker – must be maintained.  The screw is being tightened for everybody and as benefits shrink so will wages.  It is more important than ever that we start to question what’s wrong with work.

An evening at the Wellcome Collection in London will be doing just that this Friday 4th September.  This will form part of the free Friday Late event at the museum which will explore noise, tumult, rest and relaxation.  The organiser’s say:

Fed up with work? Don’t want to work? Actually hate work? Maybe work isn’t ‘good for you’. Explore and express what’s wrong with work: record your thoughts on tape, do a video or write a post card to your boss, the Chancellor, your work mates telling them what you think. Or just start a debate with the person next to you about everything and anything that’s wrong with work.

You can tweet about what’s wrong with work using the hashtag #wrongwithwork.  The Friday Late will run from 7-11pm at The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE.  Nearest station Euston, for accessibility information visit their website.

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The Mayor Of Liverpool’s Murky Fundraising Ball Should Not Pass Without Scrutiny

liverpool-mayorThe James Bulger Memorial Trust are a good example of what charities should be like.  Born out of tragic events, they have raised thousands for disadvantaged youth in the city of Liverpool and they deserve support.

The charity have recently been in the press after the Merseyside Love Activists, a group of anti-austerity protesters, dirupted what has been called a joint fundraising ball for the James Bulger Trust and the current Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson.  According to the Love Activists they did not know that this evening was partly being held to raise money for charity and this was a spontaneous protest, initiated by local cabbies, at which they hoped to confront the Mayor over growing homelessness in Liverpool.

Whilst accounts of the night vary, there is no doubt the disruption caused distress to the Bulger family and the Love Activists are right to have issued a wholehearted apology.  This should not take away from the fantastic work the Love Activists themselves have done supporting homeless people in Liverpool.  As clumsy as this intervention was, there is no doubt that it was an honest mistake.

However there is one more aspect to this incident which cannot be ignored because it cuts right through to the Mayor of Liverpool’s moral and financial integrity. And that is the fact that the financial arrangements for this event are so murky that it probably should never have taken place at all.

According to an advertisement for the night on Joe Anderson’s website, this event was a business dinner and charity auction with money raised “split between local charities and Mayor Anderson’s campaign fund.” Further down the page the James Bulger Memorial Trust are named as a nominated charity. It is unclear from this page, which was used to both sell tickets and solicit sponsorship for the event, exactly how much money was going to Anderson and how much to the trust or whether they were the only charity to benefit. Clearly the use of the trust’s name and logo would have been one deciding factor in whether someone bought a ticket. To put what Anderson did in context, this is a little like a chocolate bar company saying if you buy our product we’ll give some of the money to charities, but not saying how much, or even being clear about which charities. It is without doubt unethical. It is thoroughly dishonest. And, whilst the situation is complex, it is quite probably illegal.

How much money the evening raised in total is unknown, although local media reported that the charity received £21,000.  Whether this came from solely the charity auction, a cut of the ticket prices, or some of the sponsorship money, is unclear.  Details of sponsorship packages on Joe Anderson’s website suggest the event had attracted at least three silver sponsors, priced at £7500 each and one gold sponsor who had given an unspecified sum.  Along with a drinks sponsor, charity auction and ticket sales it appears that Anderson’s campaign also received a tidy sum from this charity-themed event.

The truth is that joint fundraising events are a legal minefield. It is possible that Anderson would be viewed as acting as a commercial partner under the law and this would mean a whole host of fundraising regulations come into play. These would include a requirement to provide a clear statement showing the exact percentage of the money raised that would go to the charity. There is no such information on Anderson’s website.

In addition to this there are strict rules to prevent unscrupulous politicians from taking advantage of public goodwill towards charities. And when it comes to raising money then charity law is clear, registered charities and political parties or individuals should not take part in joint fundraising events. The Charity Commission themselves issued guidelines on this (pdf) after an investigation found that The Prince’s Trust had broken charity law after a joint fundraising event held with a Tory Party campaign group.  According to the Commission:

“Joint fundraising ventures with political organisations pose fundamental risks to a charity’s reputation and to public perception of its independence from political parties.  Entering into a joint fundraising venture with a political party will almost certainly result in the charity giving support to that party, politician or political candidate.  This would breach charity law and could, in damaging the charity’s reputation, jeopardise its future ability to fundraise and further its charitable purpose.”

Whether the Mayor of Liverpool knew about these regulations, and ignored them, or was ignorant of the law, makes little difference.  Elected officials should be meticulous in informing their constituents how they raise money and what it is to be used for.  Perhaps most despicably, it would be the James Bulger Foundation who would face any potential legal problems were the Charity Commission to investigate this event. Yet it is Anderson to blame, this is clearly his initiative – there is no mention of the Mayor’s fundraising dinner on the charity’s website.

It was a mistake for the Love Activists to disrupt the evening, and they are right to have apologised to the Bulger family.  But they acted with a decent, if on this occasion misguided, intent – to confront the Mayor about the homelessness crisis emerging in Liverpool.  Joe Anderson however, who is currently milking the events of Friday night for all they are worth, is only fucking in it for himself.  To raise money for his own political campaign on the back of a well loved local charity – and potentially put that charity at risk – is about as low as a politician can stoop.

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When Politics Is This Broken It’s Time To Get Out In The Fucking Streets – Starting Tomorrow, 3pm Conservative HQ

fuck-rich1If yesterday’s election showed anything it is that most people do not want a Tory government.  Just 20% of the public voted Tory – the same proportion of the population the Office for National Statistics estimates have a personal wealth of over £600,000.  The rich are in charge despite what the rest of us want.  As usual.

No matter what might have happened yesterday the rich would still be in charge.  The UK’s electoral system has been designed over hundreds of years to ensure precisely that.  In Scotland the whole country can vote on mass to reject both of the main political parties and it doesn’t make a blind bit of fucking difference.  A million people can vote Green and nearly four million UKIP and nothing will change.  Although the UKIP thing is pretty funny.  Bye Nigel.

Already some in the Labour Party want to lurch even further to the right as if Ed Miliband really was the comedy communist some sections of the press protrayed him as.  This is a party that just lost dozens of seats to the SNP who want to build council houses, scrap Trident and halt many of the most vicious welfare reforms.  Despite what’s staring them in the face Labour still think that being more Tory is the only thing that will lead them to success.  They don’t give a shit about the people who actually did vote for them, in Northern England, London and Wales.  There is no voice for the poor, at all, and that is the way it’s intended to be.

When politics is this broken then all that is left is the streets.  For the last five years the real opposition has not been the Labour Party, but disabled people, benefits clamaints, students, tenants and the low or no paid.  As bleak as things may seem today we are in a better position than we were last week.  The Tory majority is paper thin.  Scotland is rising.  The Libs Dems are dead.  Welfare reforms are still in chaos and Iain Duncan Smith is still a fucking idiot.  And Minister for Employment Esther McVey is now unemployed.

London Black Revs have called a protest tomorrow (Saturday 9th May) outside the Tory HQ in London.  The sooner we get back out on the streets the better.  Please help spread the word, meet at 3pm, Conservative Campaign Headquarters, 4 Matthew Parker St, London SW1H 9HQ.  Visit and share the facebook page for more details.

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What Do We Want? More Fucking Money. Vote Class War To Double The Dole!

ClassW-War-double-doleOver the last couple of decades a warped consensus has emerged, shared by politicians, think tanks and even anti-poverty charities, that the very worst thing you can do for someone who is poor is give them what they need – which is more money.

The belief is that giving people money will dis-incentivise them, make them lazy, trap them in dependency to languish on benefits or discourage them from taking up all of the wonderful opportunities capitalism provides to work in a shit job on the minimum wage.  And it is this last reason that lies behind the ideology.  Bosses are worried that if people were paid decent unemployment benefits then then they would want more money for working.  Wages and working conditions have become so atrocious that they are right to be worried. If benefits were increased then wages would have to rise.

Increasing benefits would be easy.  The main unemployment benefits costs just over £4 billion a year.  The DWP spends nearly twice that on admin and salaries, with much of that money going to private companies paid to harass unemployed people by forcing them onto workfare schemes.  One report found that if the rich were actually to pay all the tax they dodge then it would raise £122 billion a year – enough to double both in and out of work benefits without a single tax rise.  Soak the rich who do bother to pay tax as well and doubling both state pensions and the dole would be a piece of piss.

It is astonishing and shameful that as figures show one million people were forced to depend on foodbanks in the last year that not one of the main political parties is calling for more money for the poor.  Only Class War, whose Westminster candidate Adam Clifford gave a fine interview on the Daily Politics show today, have promised to increase all benefits and pensions by doubling them.

If we have to live under this shit state of affairs, where the rich reduce our lives to near servitude with shit jobs, paltry benefits and soaring rents, then we should fight for every last penny we can take.  Until we are strong enough to take it all.  We want more fucking money – in wages, pensions and benefits.

Follow @ClassWar2015 on twitter and spread the word about Mayday’s Reclaim The Beats event outside the poor doors at 1 Commercial Street.

Class War are fielding seven candidates, including Lisa Mckenzie who is standing in Chingford against Iain Duncan Smith.  Visit their website for more details.

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Inflation Flat, Rents Soaring And Letting Agents Are Still Whining

chicago-rent-strike1On the same day it was reported that inflation had dropped to 0% a report from the Association of Residential Letting Agents (pdf) gleefully announced that rents are rising due to soaring demand for housing.
31% of letting agents reported rent increases between January and February with rises highest in the South East and “intense competition” for housing in London. Even the language used reveals a private rental sector that is broken beyond repair.

Tenants are customers, they should not be in competition for housing, landlords should be in competition for tenants. Even by the vile standards of a free market run rampant that is how it is supposed to work. No-one is in competition to shop at fucking Tesco. And yet even during this boom time for letting agents and landlords they can still find something to complain about.

The report warns that 70% of letting agents say landlords will pull out of the market if three year tenancies are introduced as Labour have vaguely promised to do if they win the election. They expect us to believe that buy-to-let landlords will all start paying their own mortgages in protest if they are no longer able to evict tenants at the drop of a hat.  They must think we are fucking idiots.

Millions of people are now living in private rented accommodation and can face eviction, for any reason, with just two months notice. As house prices soar and social housing disappears that means millions of people who will live their entire life without ever knowing what it is like to have a secure home. And all to prop up parasites in the private rented sector who are exploiting the fucked housing market to wring out every last possible penny from their tenants. Tenants who in many cases may already be living in desperate poverty.

Rent caps are needed urgently, but even that would only fix rents at their current astronomical levels. A huge expansion of social housing is the only real solution to the UK’s housing crisis. That means in London not one more yuppy flat should be built until there is no-one at all on housing waiting lists.   Alternatively we could all stop paying our rent and really give the bastards something to complain about.

The occupation of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark is still going strong.   Follow them @Fight4Aylesbury or for the latest news visit their website.

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What A Fucking Shambles, Work Programme Still Worse Than Doing Nothing At All


The dotted line represents the percentage of sick and disabled claimants who would have been expected to get jobs if the Work Programme didn’t exist.

It is astonishing that the ‘minimum expected level’ of people finding jobs on Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme is the same as would be expected had he done nothing at all.

What this means is that as long as the Work Programme isn’t making long term unemployment worse then both the DWP and the private sector parasites who run the scheme can claim it is a huge success when in fact it’s nothing of the sort.  It is just not doing any damage.  The problem is that in many cases the Work Programme is not meeting the ‘minimum expected levels’.  It is worse than doing nothing and from the latest figures appears to be creating, not curing long term unemployment amongst some groups.

This has left Iain Duncan Smith with nothing to shout about except for the huge numbers of people who have been forced to waste their time on the scheme.  And so that’s what he’s done today as the latest dismal performance figures are released with a jubilant press release declaring that the Work Programme has ‘helped’ more people than any previous employment scheme.  The truth is that the Work Programme has failed more people than any scheme before at a time when we are constantly being told how many jobs are now available.

Of the one million people who have been sent on the Work Programme over 700,000 were back at the Jobcentre after two years of expert help from companies like G4S, Maximus and A4e.  Only a quarter of those on the programme had a spell of 3-6 months in work – slightly below the ‘minimum expected level’.

This is less than the number of people who would have been expected to get jobs if the Work Programme had never existed.  Tax payers have forked out over a billion pounds for this fiasco.  The suffering of claimant’s sanctioned on the scheme is well documented.  The lives lost little more than human sacrifice – scapegoats for a failing economic system.  If there was any more proof needed that benefit sanction harm rather than help then today’s Work Programme statistics provide it.

For sick and disabled claimants the level of failure is shocking.  Just 3.4% of current claimants of sickness benefits (ESA/IB) who started on the scheme in December 2013 had a spell of at least three months in work a year later.  This is barely a third of the number who would have been expected to get a job under their own steam without any compulsory ‘help’.

Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of the Work Programme is what has happened to all those found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and told to frantically look for work or face their benefits being stopped.  Hundreds of millions has been spent harassing this group of claimants, who in many cases are not really well enough to work at all.  Just 1.5% of this group had found a job lasting over 3 months after completing a year on the scheme in December 2015.

Overall the Work Programme is only performing above minimum levels for mainstream Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants who have been on the scheme a year, and then only by a couple of percent.  There is a dirty fucking trick being played here however.  The most successful group of claimants are ‘other JSA’ which represents around a third of unemployed people sent on the scheme.  Over 20% of this group found work after a year.

Other JSA is largely made up of Early Entrants, which means those referred onto the Work Programme before they had been unemployed for over 12 months.  These are often people who have recently left work and are therefore the most employable claimants.  They are not the people the Work Programme was designed for.  They are also by far the most likely to get jobs on the Work Programme.

Documents leaked onto the internet by bungling A4e showed how Work Programme companies can receive huge payments even when someone has found a job themselves and not even started on the scheme.  All they need to do is make sure the paperwork is filled out correctly.  Jobcentre staff are also under huge pressure to produce job outcomes.  By encouraging the most employable claimants to sign up for the Work Programme then Jobcentre staff get a pat on the head when they inevitably find a job and the company running the scheme gets a cheque in the post.  And Iain Duncan Smith can pretend the Work Programme is doing better than it is. Everybody wins.  Except the tax payer and all those sanctioned or forced into workfare and who were back in the Jobcentre after two years wasted on the disastrous Work Programme.

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