Category Archives: Welfare Reform

How The DWP Is Trying To Hide Even More #fakedwpstories

james-universalcredit

Click to enlarge.

Panic seems to have set in at the DWP after the department was caught out making up case histories to justify the use of benefit sanctions leading to the hashtag #fakedwpstories.  With Iain Duncan Smith promising heads will roll for the blunder – but not his own of course – the DWP now seems to be carrying out a purge of previously published propaganda.

One victim of that purge is a bloke called James, who had been drafted in to explain how Universal Credit will make work pay in a handy infographic.  Unfortunately James has now been disappeared with a notice saying ‘We are reviewing this publication.

The only reason James’ disappeareance has come to light is because evey time the DWP updates a document it is automatically republished as new on their website – which is a real pain in the arse just by the way.

Luckily, as can be seen above, the ghost of James lives on in google’s cache (be quick).

If only we could rewrite history to not include Iain Duncan Smith this easily.

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These Statistics Tell Us Fuck All But One Death Was Too Many

first-they-cameIf there’s one thing we can learn from the release of statistics examining the deaths of sickness benefit claimants it’s that most journalists writing about social security haven’t got a fucking clue what they are talking about.  Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail* reported this week that 2,380 people died within two weeks of being found Fit For Work by the DWP when in truth these people could have died anytime up to two years after their assessments.

The reason for this blunder – and that seems the wrong word given the subject matter, negligence might be better – is simply because they misunderstood the DWP’s garbled explanantion of how they collect data for statistical purposes.

Two statistical reports were reluctantly released by the government yesterday and both are equally confusing – and no doubt deliberately so.   The first is a report on the death rates of people on all out of work benefits and the second a response to the long-standing FOI by fellow blogger Mike Sivier asking about the deaths of claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), the main out of work sickness and disability benefit.  Sadly neither of these documents tells us very much about the impact of the despised Work Capability Assessment, the crude benefit eligibility test which was introduced by the last Labour government, not Iain Duncan Smith.

The ESA statistics show the total number of people who have died whilst claiming the benefit, and of those how many had previously been found Fit For Work.  The key questions which are left unanswered are whether those judged ‘Fit For Work’ were more likely to die than the general population, and exactly what is meant by claimants who the report says were found Fit For Work but were also still on ESA at the time of their death.

According to the department, 2,380 people who had previously been found Fit For Work ended their claim for ESA because they had died.  Now this doesn’t seem to make any sense because they shouldn’t have had an ESA claim to end if they had been found Fit For Work.  However, as the DWP allude to in the report, those who appeal a Fit For Work decision may have their ESA claim re-instated whilst awaiting the outcome of that appeal – or at least they would have until Mandatory Reconsiderations were introduced in late 2013 but let’s ignore that because it only muddies the waters even more.

What this suggests is that those 2,380 deaths do not represent the total number of people who have died after being found Fit For Work , but only those who went on to appeal that decision and died before the appeal was heard.  Some people who didn’t appeal will have died as well, which means that the number of people who died after being found Fit For Work may be significantly higher than reported yesterday.  But without a clarification from the DWP on exactly who they are talking about we cannot be sure.

The statistics also report that there were 1,340 deaths amongst people who had completed an appeal against a Fit For Work decision.  The DWP do not tell us what the outcome of these appeals were, but given they were on ESA at the time of their death it seems reasonably certain they were successful.  This means that 1,340 people were found Fit For Work, subsequently appealed, won the appeal, got their benefits back, and then died.

These numbers sound shocking, but they still don’t tell us much.  As Ben Goldacre pointed out yesterday, without knowing the rate of deaths compared to the rest of the population – as in are people found Fit For Work at a benefit assessment more likely to die than a non-claimant – then we don’t really know much at all.  It is worth remembering that a large number of people claiming  ESA are nearing pensionable age.  There are many deaths amongst non-claimants in this age group as well.

Where Goldacre is wrong, despite his snide remarks about confused bloggers, is in assuming that we could establish the rate of deaths amongst those found Fit For Work by tracking them through other benefits they may be claiming.  DWP research shows that over half of those who lose ESA due to a Fit For Work decision disappear from the benefits system completely (pdf).  The DWP simply does not know what happens to them after that, including whether they are alive or not.

There are two interesting facts that can be gleaned from yesterday’s statistics however, one being that people in the Work Related Activity Group are over twice as likely to die as non-claimants.  These are those assessed as fit for some work, or being able to work at some point in the future, but who keep sickness benefits and cannot be forced to take a job.  The government has just announced that this group will soon be abolished with benefits slashed to the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance (the dole).  There is now clear statistical evidence that people in this group are significantly more likely to die than the general population.

The other surprising news is that people on Jobseekers Allowance are less likely to die than those not on benefits.  This is a consistent trend that is recorded as far back as 2003.  Care should be taken on how to interpret this, but it surely demands further research.  Sadly with the government, charities, think-tanks and the health establishment all currently obsessed with the flawed notion that work is good for your health, we are unlikely to see any.

Iain Duncan Smith is a fetid piece of shit but he didn’t invent death.  And we shouldn’t attempt to conjure up thousands of deaths to show why current social security policies are causing horrifying suffering.   The massive growth in the use of foodbanks, soaring malnutrition cases in hospitals, rocketing homelessness – these all tell their own story about what is going on in the lives of the poorest.  As do the ever-growing number of coronors reports and anguished stories from relatives about deaths that we know for sure are linked to failures of the benefits system.  There should be no assumption that just because tens of thousands of people have not been killed by Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms then that makes everything okay.  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have had their lives turned into a miserable and daily battle for survival and that is an atrocity.  The Work Capability Assessment needs to be brought to an immediate end, one death was far too many.

UPDATE 29/08/15  Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have added an amendment to these stories, with the Mail seeming to clarify that the Fit For Work deaths were people going through the appeals process.

For the sad list of those we know have died due to failures of the benefits system visit: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2014/10/21/uk-welfare-reform-deaths-updated-list-october-21st-2014/

Above pic from here

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Iain Duncan Smith Is Still A Fucking Idiot – And Only We Can Stop Him

Incapacity Benefit for new claimants will go, replaced by Employment and Support Allowance with the emphasis on what a person with a physical or mental health condition can do, rather than what they can’t.

Peter Hain, Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2007

We need a system focussed on what a claimant can do and the support they’ll need – and not just on what they can’t do.

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 2015

It’s just the same old shit, over and over again, whichever bunch of bastards is in charge.  The above two comments were made almost a decade apart and in that period the number of people claiming out of work sickness benefits has barely changed.  And why would it?  In any society there will be some people who cannot work due to illness or disability and as the pension age gets ever higher then that number as a percentage of the workforce will grow.

There is nothing unusual or unexpected about this.  Whoever you are reading this, one day you will get sick and then you will die.  If you are lucky this will not happen until you have reached retirement.  If not then you will be helped on your way to an early grave by politicians desperate to cover up for their failure to provide enough jobs by blaming unemployed, sick and disabled people for unemployment.

Iain Duncan Smith’s speech yesterday was a masterclass in this deception, but everything he said has been said before.  So out of ideas is the Secretary of State that he is now misrepresenting the entire process for claiming sickness benefits – pretending it is a binary system which “decides that you are either capable of work or you are not”.  This is simply an outright lie and he knows it.  Currently claimants are assessed as being fit for work, unable to work, or placed in the Work Related Activity Group which means capable of some work, or of being able to work in the future.  In the recent budget George Osborne declared that this group is to be scrapped, creating precisely the binary system that Iain Duncan Smith says he opposes.  Perhaps he hopes we won’t notice.  Perhaps even he hasn’t noticed.

The UK does not spend significantly more on out of work sickness and disability benefits than other comparable economies.  According to the OECD we spend a fraction more than Poland as a percentage of GDP on ‘incapacity’ – and less than Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, Belgium. Luxembourg, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  It is true as Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday that the UK spends more than France, Germany and Japan.  In humane society this would be a source of pride.  Or at least it would be until you found out that Germany spends over three times as much on unemployment benefits whilst France and Japan – where the retirement age is lower – both spend almost double what the UK spends on pensions.  And the incapacity spending figures by the way come from 2011, before most of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts had been implemented.

Only an astonishing degree of self-delusion could explain Iain Duncan Smith’s latest belief that more workfare, more assessments, and more benefit cuts will magically cure those unable to work because of illness.  But then he is deluded.  That’s why he could claim yesterday that  “The Work Programme is … the most successful back to work programme we’ve ever seen.”  That’s the Work Programme that has seen less sick and disabled people enter employment than it was estimated would have done if the scheme hadn’t existed.  Hundreds of millions of pounds spent on making things worse.  This is what Iain Duncan Smith calls a success.

Rarely, if ever, has such a fucking idiot been given so much power over so many people’s futures.   If the human cost were not so great then the best response would be to point and laugh.  But we can’t do that, not as millions of lives are destroyed.  If society means anything at all it means looking after each other and that means driving Iain Duncan Smith back into the sewer he crawled from before he can do anymore damage.  No-one should stand idly by now.  We need to be relentless as he is, to wake up every day with one thought on our minds – to destroy Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms before they destroy us.

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Begging Is A Lifestyle Choice Says Leeds Councillor As Homelessness Charities Launch The Nastiest Campaign Yet

think-before-you-give

Leeds City Council have teamed up with the police and so-called charities, to come up with the nastiest campaign yet aimed at discouraging the public from giving a bit of spare change to homeless people.

The above poster has been placed at key sites across the city warning people not to give money to beggars because it may help fuel their addictions.  As ever the homelessness industry demands that people give the money to them instead so they can spend it on drink soaked conferences in posh hotels that cost £700 quid a ticket.

No thought at all seems to have been given about how this campaign will further stigmatise homeless people who already often face abuse and even violence from some members of the public. Those attacks will now be more likely as homeless people are smeared as addicts or drunks by the very organisations that claim to be on their side.  The dehumanisation of the very poorest is no longer just coming from the pages of the right wing press.

The truth is that the homelessness industry’s own figures show that only around half of street homeless people have a drink or drug problem.  And even these people still need to eat.  All that campaigns like these achieve – if they are successful – is that homeless people who do have drug or alcohol dependencies are forced to beg for longer.  No-one is going to give up smack because some bunch of fucking idiots have put a few posters on the walls after all.  Meanwhile those forced to beg because their benefits have been sanctioned are left to go hungry.  But then this is just a lifestyle choice according to Leeds Labour Councillor Mark Dobson.

What people in poverty need is more money, however it comes   There is plenty of research which shows this.  Yet this research is repeatedly ignored, not just by politicians obsessed with cutting benefits, but also by charities whose bosses are currently doing very well out of poverty and homelessness.  To attempt to smear and impoverish one of the most marginalised groups in society with campaigns like this is bad enough.  To do it to further line the pockets of overpaid charity chief executives is beneath contempt.

This is far from the first initiative aimed at stopping the public helping homeless people directly, but it is one of the most of unpleasant.  Luckily it has been a dismal failure, with just £50 raised according to the justgiving website. The people of Leeds have shown they are better than this.  It’s time these organisations realise that if they continue to attack homeless people then they won’t see a fucking penny of our money.  Give a beggar a quid instead.  At least you know it won’t be spent on campaigns like this.

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#WEcan Expose The Wannabe Tory Councillor Behind The DWP’s Workfare Campaign

After failing to become a Tory Councillor Laura-Jane Rawlings decided she was the voice of youth employment instead

After failing to become a Tory Councillor Laura-Jane Rawlings decided she was the voice of youth employment instead

It’s been a humiliating week for the DWP on social media.  Yesterday hundreds of people used the hashtag #fakeDWPstories to take the piss out of the them after Welfare Weekly revealed that they were inventing case studies in support of benefit sanctions.

Whilst all this was taking place the DWP were desperately trying to rescue their #WEcan campaign which had also become a laughing stock on twitter.  This was a shabby attempt to promote unpaid work schemes, and came with a gushing press release promising that up to 12,000 young people would be posting ‘workies’ and sharing their stories of unpaid work experience.  Those 12,000 young people were supposed to come from their campaign partners Youth Employment UK (@YEUKYouth).  They never turned up.  Fucking kids eh.

At first glance Youth Employment UK appear to be exactly what they say, which is “The Voice for Youth Employment in the UK”.  On twitter yesterday they claimed that both the organisation, and the woman who runs it, are politically neutral and all they care about is helping young people get jobs.  They emphatically denied that their Chief Executive, Laura-Jane Rawlings, is a Tory.  That tweet has now been deleted.

In truth Laura-Jane Rawlings stood as a Conservative candidate in the 2011 Corby Council elections.  She lost and shortly afterwards set up Youth Employment UK.  And be in no doubt, Laura-Jane Rawlings is Youth Employment UK.  She is the sole director, the website is registered to her and even one of her claimed corporate patrons – plotr – is a company run by her.

Her qualification for this lofty position as The Voice for Youth Employment is that she’s a life coach.  In a nice little sideline business if you pay her £35 quid she will talk to you on the phone for 50 minutes.  Her coaching, according to her, is inspired by the discredited pseudo-science neuro-linguistic programming along with counselling and Cognitive Behavoir Therapy – neither of which she seems to be qualified in.  As she boasts on her website, she isn’t really qualified in anything at all.

But of course none of that matters if you know the right people in the Conservative Party and are prepared to say the right things.  Yesterday she gave a cautious welcome to the announcement that young unemployed people are to be sent on bootcamps or face benefit sanctions.  She sounds far more like the voice of the Conservative Party pretending to be neutral than she does the voice of youth employment.  And she has been well rewarded for it.  Whilst Youth Employment UK say they have not been paid by the DWP for the #WEcan campaign, they have received a huge of amount of free advertising including national media coverage.

Youth Employment UK claim to be led by their young members and youth ambassadors rather than just a Tory spiv with a big mouth.  If this is the case then those young people need to know they are ripping off themselves and millions of their fellow young people by endorsing workfare and benefit sanctions.  There is no evidence that Work Experience schemes help people get jobs.  A recent DWP evaluation found that young people who refused workfare were more likely to find work than those who went on the scheme.   Demand a wage and join the fight to destroy workfare.

Visit Boycott Workfare’s website for more info on the fight against unpaid work.

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#WEcan and We Did Fuck Up The DWP’s Online Campaign To Promote Workfare

Once again the DWP have been reduced to a laughing stock on social media after their online campaign to promote unpaid work became dominated with comments from those opposed to workfare.

The #WEcan campaign aimed to enourage employers to provide unpaid work experience placements for young people.  The DWP had also hoped that young people would post up ‘workies’ – apparently the work version of a selfie – on social media alongside their experiences of unpaid work placements.  It turns out though that the young were too lazy and feckless even to bother doing that.  Minister for Employment Priti Patel must be furious.  It wasn’t like this when she worked for the tobacco industry encouraging kids to take up smoking.

Instead what happened is that the hashtag was dominated by people furious at a government that seems obsessed with forcing young people to work for no wages.  Alongside this many people used the hashtag to pledge to boycott some of the companies named as being involved in workfare, such as @marksandspencer, and @Halfords_uk.

Amusingly the DWP also invited people to laugh at them on facebook, where unfortunately for the department the #WEcan hashtag is already in use by the Wellness Education Cannabis Advocates of Nevada. The DWP’s social media team get paid real money – our money – for this bungling shit.

In what seems like an attempt by the DWP to muddy the waters the #WEcan campaign promotes all forms of work experience, including short placements for schoolchildren or paid internships as well as workfare schemes.  This led to some of the organisations backing the campaign complaining that they only do nice work experience and they don’t support the nasty stuff.  These organisations should be at the forefront of challenging the government about ever more exploitative Jobcentre enforced workfare which can now involve 780 hours of forced, unpaid work.  Instead they are quite happily helping the DWP rehabilitate workfare with gushing tweets about how wonderful unpaid work can be.  So fuck them, they are on the wrong side.

The DWP have now resorted to drafting in Jobcentres to tweet furiously and try to rescue the campaign. Make sure it doesn’t work and tell @WEcan what you think of workfare using the hashtag #WECan.  Please spread the word.

Here’s what some people have said so far:

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#WEcan Fuck Up The DWP’s Online Campaign To Promote Mass Workfare

workfare-stick-upA whole host of corporate vultures have teamed up with the DWP to launch an online campaign celebrating young people being coerced into working for no pay for some of the richest companies in the UK.

Marks & Spencer, Whitbread, Halfords and shamefully the BBC have all signed up to the #WEcan campaign which aims to encourage even more businesses to provide unpaid work experience positions instead of employing young people properly.  The new initiative comes as the Government draws up plans to force all unemployed young people into permanent unpaid work if they are unable to find a job within six months of becoming unemployed.  This means they have to find enough grubby companies and so-called charities who are prepared to take part in this shocking exploitation.  The #WEcan campaign is part of an attempt to achieve this, so let’s fuck it up.

Already parasites from the welfare-to-work industry are tweeting using the hashtag #WEcan whilst a tumblr page has been set up calling for young people to share their experiences of workfare.  The DWP have also posted a host of youtube videos (comments currently enabled) such as this one which says that “whatever you are doing, any experience is good experience”.  Gone is any pretence at providing placements which involve real training or a chance of a job at the end.  Instead they want young people to mop floors and stack shelves for two months and have the fucking gall to claim they are doing them a favour.

Please help spread the word about this and tweet using the hashtag #WEcan.  And let’s make sure everybody knows which companies are using workfare, starting with @marksandspencer, @premierinn, @Halfords_uk, @WhitbreadPLC, @Barclays and @BBC.

For the latest news on fighting back against forced unpaid work visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

I’m still on a break.  Back properly in a week or so.

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