Tag Archives: Iain Duncan Smith

Meet Stephen Crabb, Like Iain Duncan Smith Only Shitter


Spot the difference. One is knob. The other is a fictional character.

Jobcentre busy-bodies should be valued as much as firemen and nurses the new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb said in his first speech today.  He has seen, first hand, he claims the life-changing interventions made by Jobcentre staff and now wants them to stalk benefit claimants even once they start work with the sinister announcement they should always be “coaching you….mentoring you….supporting you”.

This is what the introduction of Universal Credit will mean for millions of people.  Endless Jobcentre bullying with no escape.  Benefit sanctions that drive people into desperate poverty that traps them in a twilight world of a daily battle for survival.  Vicious cuts to sickness benefits that disabled people have warned will make them less likely to have the means to look for work.  There will even be benefit sanctions for workers to ‘incentivise’ those who need housing or other in-work benefits to constantly strive to earn more, or find an additional job.

In some tragic cases these life-changing Jobcentre interventions will be fatal as more sanctioned claimants are driven to suicide and ill health.  What Crabb and all the grasping poverty pimps who turned up to see him speak today fail to realise is that it is the so-called help from Jobcentres that is the problem.

Crabb was speaking at the Early Intervention Foundation conference, a vol-au-vent munching skive for charity bosses and think-tank dickheads where they pretend to care about socially excluded kids for the day.  The event was sponsored by Capita whose shocking abuse of disabled benefit claimants was exposed on Channel 4’s Dispatches last night.  Also speaking was Philippa Stroud, the former advisor to Iain Duncan Smith who used to try and cure people of being gay with magic.  Crabb would approve, he himself is an ardent supporter of a Christian cult that has organised conferences on curing gay people.  And this evangelical fervour lies behind everything Crabb says.  His coded reference to the ‘foundational role of the family’ reveals his true agenda.  Crabb voted against gay marriage.  He doesn’t like that kind of family.  He probably thinks they should go to hell.  Unless they can be cured of course.

The sad truth is that Stephen Crabb is like an even shitter version of Iain Duncan Smith – who he today called a great social reformer.  The only difference is that Crabb doesnt have any ideas of his own and so is doggedly sticking to the endless messianic schemes intending to fix poverty by making people poorer that his predecessor introduced.  That’s why there were no policy announcements today beyond an ominous threat to use unpaid workfare schemes more ‘creatively’ and yet more harassment of claimants on sickness and disability benefits.  Instead Crabb went on about his mother, as usual, and tried to convince the assorted delegates what a nice person he was.  He really cares, he’s a bit like Jesus.  So let’s fucking crucify him.

Above pic from: Is the new Work and Pensions Minister the REAL David Brent? #EIFNatCon #TheOrifice

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A Bungling Fucking Idiot On A Mission From God, That Was The Real Iain Duncan Smith


Good riddance, to an absolute tool.

Pass the fucking sick bag.  Iain Duncan Smith’s performance on the Andrew Marr show this morning was one of the most nauseating displays politics has seen in a long, long time – and there’s been stiff competition.  His crass portrayal of himself as a decent man, trying to do the right thing for both the people and his party, is perhaps his greatest self-delusion yet.  Remember one thing from that interview if you were unlucky enough to watch it.  Iain Duncan Smith, quietly amid his bluster, admitted that he agreed with the cuts to disability benefits that he resigned over, but that they should have come as part of a package of wider support.

Every claimant knows what that support would be.  Yet another chance to squander billions pursuing his messianic fantasy of himself as a great welfare reformer with more workfare, more sanctions and more harassment from Jobcentre busy-bodies.  George Osborne said no, cut the fucking crap, we’re supposed to be pretending to save money.  So Iain Duncan Smith did what he always does when he doesn’t get his own way.  He had a tantrum.

This petulant temper is why it has been tactically useful at times to portray him as a conniving and brutal architect of death and hardship. This approach no doubt even contributed to his recent flounce.  The truth though, is that he’s not that clever.  He’s worse than that.  Iain Duncan Smith is a bungling fucking idiot on a mission from God.  And like all zealots before him, so convinced has he been that he is treading the one true path that his eyes, and heart, have remained closed to the consequences of his actions.  Consequences that have been tragic.  Consequences that have included the state’s bureaucracy driving some of the UK’s poorest citizens to their deaths by placing intolerable and unsurvivable pressure on those already living fractured lives.  He has not been called a killer for nothing.

But to view his actions as the work of a mere power-crazed murderer fails to see the entire horrifying picture.  Which is that amongst think-tanks, charities, self-appointed experts in the welfare-to-work industry and even the Labour Party – perhaps most of all the Labour Party – Iain Duncan Smith’s views are not extreme.  There is a consensus amongst these respectably clad vermin, even if not all would have the stomach to play out their ideological beliefs to their logical conclusion – as Iain Duncan Smith was proud and happy to do.  This consensus believes that poverty is an individual failing not a structural problem.  That it can be cured by fixing poor people, not society.  That all it takes is hard work to prosper under modern capitalism and so it is right, natural and unavoidable that our entire lives should be a competition – we must constantly strive, every day, to reach the next rung on the economic ladder.  That happiness is just around the corner if we work hard and do the right thing – and if we don’t then we must be punished, to help steer us on the path to prosperity.

It is, they imply, a competition everybody can win if we all just pull our socks up and put in the hours.  But competitions don’t work that way, especially when they are rigged by private schools, elite universities, inherited wealth and structural unemployment.  A lottery where everyone wins means sharing the spoils amongst us all.  The capitalist class have no intention of ever doing that.  Their ideology is a sham, a crude self-deception to wash away their guilt and justify their greed.  And they are all fucking in it together.

None of this gets Iain Duncan Smith off the hook.  He is a truly nasty man.  A devious bigot, a liar and a calculating plotter without the intellect to back it up.  A proper fucking wanker who needs kicking round a pub car park – not that it would teach him anything,  it wouldn’t, but it would be nice to see him bleed for a change.

Like most of his fellow Tories, his own privilege shielded him from any understanding of what he was really creating.  He seems to think that a benefit sanction – removing the only means of survival for those without work or savings – is just a mild rebuke, a welcome jolt as he put it to encourage people to try a bit harder.  In the world of Iain Duncan Smith money never runs out, so how could he understand what it really means to have nothing at all.  Why would he understand the devastating and debilitating consequences of extreme poverty.  How anguish, hunger and intolerable stress demolishes people.  That destitution means spending the day thinking about where the next meal is going to come from, not updating your fucking CV.  His reckless reforms have been like a doctor injecting cyanide into the veins of his patients and then being appalled when they die.  Then thinking the dose must be too low, they need more poison, to incentivise them back to health.  To help them learn.

Of course the likes of George Osborne have been only too happy to exploit this moral shield that, until now, had masked the cruelty of his government to the dwindling number of genuine conservatives in his party.  Those who believe in God, and charity, who put a penny in the box for the poor and pat cripples on the head.  The ones who don’t want to upset the vicar and only torture kittens when they are absolutely certain no-one else is watching.   Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice facade was the perfect cover for Osborne’s class war.  Austerity appeared to map perfectly to an insistence that those with nothing can be taught not to be poor anymore by making them poorer.  It worked, for a while.  When Osborne pulled the strings IDS danced.  But the Chancellor under-estimated one thing about Iain Duncan Smith – his incessant need for power and status.

This is a man who truly believes himself to be magnificent despite his meagre talents.  Who will happily tear his own political party in two, for the second time, to place himself as the great man of history in control of dramatic events.  Whether his obsession is Europe or social security reform makes little difference as long as he is at the centre of any chaos he creates.  Vain he may be, but he can take the criticisms, the insults and the fact he can’t hang around in a pub car park for too long these days, as long as he can convince himself that he is important.  Despite his claims to be compassionate he loved the thought of the poor being forced to scurry around like lab rats whilst he prodded and poked to see how much they – we – could take.

His grandiose schemes like the Work Programme and Universal Credit have been the props on which this fragile self-belief depended.  Without them he is just another grubby Tory, cutting disabled people’s benefits and whining about the poor.  That is not enough for Iain Duncan Smith.  That is why he resigned.  If he doesnt get to be the messiah then he doesn’t want to play anymore.  Good.  Bring on the next cunt.

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They Are Coming For Our Kids! Jobcentre Harassment To Start From 12 Years Old.

ids-dead-teddySchool-children as young as 12 are to face Jobcentre harassment coercing them to join unpaid work schemes when they leave education the DWP have announced today.

Jobcentres busy-bodies are to be sent out into schools in a chilling move that  Iain Duncan Smith has pledged  will have a ‘dramatic’ impact on the nation’s children and encourage social mobility.  Yet this, of course, is a bare-faced lie.  There is no mention of going to college, university, or even starting a real job in today’s gushing DWP press release announcing the scheme.  Instead children will be encouraged into unpaid Work Experience, unpaid traineeships, or poverty paid so-called Apprenticeships which are little more than an excuse for companies like McDonalds to dodge paying their workers the minimum wage.  This scheme is merely the latest shabby attempt to indoctrinate young people into accepting the life of low paid, insecure, shitty jobs – or unpaid workfare – that the Tory Party have planned for the working class.

The good news is that only one school has agreed to take part so far, the Holy Trinity Catholic School in Birmingham who can be found on twitter @HolyTrinityCol. The scheme will be overseen by creepy Jobcentre district manager @NigelKimpton who seems to spend half of his time squandering tax payer’s money by posting happy-clappy ‘inspirational’ garbage on twitter.  Like the tweet below where he thinks he’s fucking Einstein.  Do you trust this man with your children’s future?

This ideological campaign comes in advance of plans to force all young people into unpaid work for private companies if they are unable to find a job.  From 2017 policies aimed at compelling those under 21 to ‘earn or learn’ will mean vicious benefit sanctions for those who refuse to work for free. And when the Tories talk about learning what they mean is stacking shelves in Poundland for no wages.  Despite their name, Traineeships contain no training beyond basic Maths and English.  They are a workfare programme, designed to prepare young people for being an Apprentice where they will be paid as little as £3.30 per hour.  And once they’ve done that they will probably be slung back on the dole, where they will face yet more workfare.

With the welfare state being weaponised against the very people it was designed to help there can be no tolerance of Jobcentre propaganda in schools – especially when benefit sanctions may be putting parent’s lives at risk.  It is beyond vile, and teachers and school kids alike should tell them in no uncertain terms to fuck off.  As for the rest of us, with mass workfare back on the cards for the young, then it’s time to tell the grasping corporate sector that if you exploit our kids, we will shut you down.

To join the fight against unpaid work visit Boycott Workfare’s website or follow them on twitter @BoycottWorkfare.

Above pic amended slightly and (I think) from here.

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Sliding Towards Disaster, How Universal Credit Is Already A Failure

universal-credit-shamblesTwo reports have been released by the DWP this week which show that Universal Credit is fast becoming the toxic mix of poverty, insecure work and demoralising Jobcentre harassment that many feared when plans for an overhaul of the benefit’s system were first proposed.

At first glance one of the evaluations, which examines how many people have found a job after a period on Universal Credit (UC), appears to show a rosy future. Claimants on UC were 8% more likely to have had some work nine months after making their claim than those on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), the benefit which it is due to replace. However this does not tell the entire story.   Whilst UC claimants were more likely to have had a period of temporary work during the evaluation period, they were only 3% more likely to actually be in work at the nine month point. Also, and significantly, whatever work it was that they were doing, it didn’t earn them much. UC claimants earned around £80 more in the nine month period than those who made a JSA claim at the same time – less than two days wages on the minimum wage, despite on average working for 12 days more. Whilst the researchers warn, not unfairly, that the data on days worked and earnings is not as robust as that on job entry rates, if this result was replicated on a national scale then Universal Credit would be a disaster.

There is no real saving to the tax payer in people earning an extra eighty quid over nine months – especially if they are only marginally less likely to be unemployed at the end of it than those on the current system. Astonishingly the government’s long term spending plans are based on Iain Duncan Smith’s magical belief that changing the name of the dole and slightly upping the amount of Jobcentre harassment will cure structural unemployment for hundreds of thousands of people. As such lots of money will be saved, particularly in Housing Benefit payments. These results show that is not likely to be the case.

And it gets worse. The people studied in the evaluations were all single claimants with no housing costs, meaning they were probably living with family or friends. Most of them would be newly unemployed and therefore the most likely to move into work. In theory at least, it is far easier to take on (and declare) a couple of days work under UC than it is on the current system where working for short periods is likely to plunge your claim into chaos. The researchers themselves admit “some of the increase in the likelihood of becoming employed is due to UC leading to an increase in short-term work.”  What this means in practice is teachers and nurses stacking shelves in Poundland just to get the Jobcentre off their backs whilst the long term unemployed stay out of work.

This report by the way was the good news for Iain Duncan Smith. The second evaluation, which included looking at the impact of Universal Credit on those with housing costs, provides a chilling glimpse into the future of the UK’s social security system.

This study compared questionnaire responses from Universal Credit claimants with those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. Participants were questioned twice, at five and a half weeks after first making their claim and then, for those that agreed to be contacted again, three months later. The results of the first wave of responses have previously been published and this report confirms the trends of the first.  Once again most people thought much of the ‘work related activity’ they were required to carry out as part of a UC claim was a waste of time, probably not achievable and did not take into account their personal circumstances. Despite this almost all were aware they could be sanctioned if they did not jump through the endless petty requirements to provide evidence they had been looking for work for 35 hours a week. Some even suggested this was detrimental to their job search: “What’s more important writing notes [for the Jobcentre] or preparing for an interview?.”

Whilst this evaluation was mainly concerned with the experiences of those claiming UC it also recorded how many people had successfully gained work, although it points out this is a ‘descriptive overview of working status’ rather than a measure of the impact of Universal Credit. But then they would say that wouldn’t they. Especially when the evaluation found that not only were employment rates almost exactly the same for UC and JSA claimants (at 41% and 40%), but that those on the current system were significantly more likely to be working full time than those on Universal Credit. 55% people in employment after claiming JSA were working over 35 hours a week by the time of the second questionnaire compared to 48% of UC claimants. So when those in rented housing are taken into account then Universal Credit is worse at helping people find full time work than the current system.

It still gets worse. Whilst the chances of finding a decent job on Universal Credit are dismal then the experiences of many who have claimed range from tragic to laughable.

The implementation of 35 hours a week enforced job search as part of the Claimant Commitment which underpins Universal Credit is revealed to be a farce by the evaluation. Claimants did report spending more time on job search than those on JSA, but they actually applied for slightly less jobs on average. It appears that if you fill in job applications really, really slowly then that will help maintain your benefit conditionality. For the technologically skilled this requirement is bizarre – one survey respondent pointed out that by setting up job alerts and using online applications they could apply for 50 jobs in a couple of hours so the requirement to spend 35 hours job searching was fruitless. Others claimed a lack of local jobs in the area made this demand impossible “there’s only so many people you can go and see in a week, and then the next week you’re struggling… you are going to run out of places to go and people to ring”.  Some pointed out they did not have the money to constantly visit employers to hand in CVs or use internet cafes as they were required to do to avoid a benefit sanction.

All that this unachievable and draconian conditionality is likely to do is shatter people’s confidence and sadly even this was borne out by the research. After around five months claiming benefits, 28% of Universal Credit claimants did not believe they were likely to get a job within the next three months compared to 19% of of those receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance.

It is not just people’s confidence that is demolished by Universal Credit, but also their finances. The five week waiting period for the benefit led to almost half of UC claimants with housing costs falling into rent arrears by the time the first survey was carried out. Some had even been taken to court by their landlords and were likely to be staring eviction in the face. As survey respondents pointed out, the loss of a job is a big enough financial hit to take without having to wait over a month for housing benefits to be processed. Even three months later some had still not caught up with rent – UC claimants were five percentage points more likely to be in rent arrears than those on JSA by the time of the second survey. The so-called budgeting support available for claimants appears to have been met with a scathing response with one person pointing out they were quite capable of working out themselves what their monthly income and outgoings were. Whilst UC claimants were slightly more likely to ask for help with budgeting than those on JSA, the general attitude seems to have been they didn’t need better budgeting skills, they needed more money – or just some money for those waiting for their claim to be processed.

Even claiming the new ‘digital by default’ benefit seems to have been shambolic. 63% of those with housing costs who tried to claim UC online experienced at least one difficulty with over a fifth of those saying the website crashed.

To read the gushing press release that accompanied these reports you would think that Universal Credit was already a huge success. But the truth is very different. About the only real positive findings for the DWP was that almost everyone claiming Universal Credit was well aware they needed to waste hours of their time providing reams of evidence of job search to Jobcentres or they would be sanctioned. This isn’t helping anyone find long term sustainable work though.  For those with no housing costs and a high chance of finding work – young graduates living with parents for example – then perhaps it pushes them into low paid temporary work a little bit faster than the current system, although even the impact of this is largely diminished in the long term. For everyone else it is a disaster. Rent arrears, debt, and unemployed people’s confidence destroyed by constant Jobcentre harassment is the real consequence of government’s flagship welfare reform. And it will carry on getting worse when sick and disabled people or lone parents are pushed into an already failing bureaucratic nightmare.

Iain Duncan Smith has called the results of these evaluations ‘remarkable’. Billions more pounds is now set to be spent propping up this delusion as Universal Credit is extended to the 99% of out of work claimants who have yet to be transferred onto the new system. It has taken over five years to produce this mess. About the only remarkable thing about this shambles is that Iain Duncan Smith still has a job. Which is more than you can say for over half of those claiming Universal Credit.

The first evaluation is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-estimating-the-early-labour-market-impacts-updated-analysis

The second can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-research-with-single-claimants-including-those-with-housing-costs

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What a fucking shambles, the rise and demise of Community Work Placements

Iain-Duncan-Smith-poutIn 2013 the government published an evaluation of the Community Action Programme.  This workfare pilot scheme involved sending long-term unemployed people to work without pay for six months for charities or so-called community organisations.  It was one of several workfare programmes introduced in a flurry of activity after the 2010 election as Labour’s forced work schemes were shut down at huge cost to be replaced by Tory forced work schemes.  As the evaluation later found, the Community Action Programme was a disaster.

Despite attending full time forced work for six months the programme had no impact on whether people were able to secure paid work.  Even unpaid workfare placements could not be found for half the participants, whilst there was some evidence of claimants transferring to sickness benefits as they were too unwell to carry out full time physical work.  So shit were the results from the evaluation that many assumed it would be abandoned, including apparently Iain Duncan Smith who was unusually quiet about the future of the scheme.

Then came the 2013 Tory Party conference.  Whilst Iain Duncan Smith was reduced to announcing a small scale pilot scheme in his speech, George Osborne stole the limelight by pledging a vast £300 million ‘Help To Work’ programme including forced community work for long term unemployed people, for six months, without pay.  And so the Community Action Programme was renamed Community Work Placements and set to be inflicted on all of those leaving the Work Programme.  As ever it would be overseen by private companies from the welfare-to-work sector.

It was clear that Community Work Placements would be shambles as soon as the tender documents were published.  An analysis of the proposed payment structure by Private Eye found that it could be more profitable for welfare to work companies to keep people on workfare rather than encouraging them to take up short periods of real work.  This of course didn’t bother the welfare-to-work sector, who were more concerned with the requirement that if they could not find somebody a placement then they would have to provide 30 hours of work related activity themselves.

Traditionally this has been achieved by herding people into a room containing a couple of out of date newspapers and a broken computer and ordering them to stay there for 30 hours a week.  Even this costs money though, at the very least someone has to be paid to sit in a back office all day playing Angry Birds whilst pretending to supervise the inmates.  And not only did the welfare-to-work companies have to provide this activity, but they wouldn’t be paid anything until they found someone a placement.  With the previously mentioned pilot showing that placements could only be found for half of participants then this was not the kind of DWP gravy train the workfare industry has come to expect.

Very few of the usual welfare-to-work sharks chose to bid for Community Work Placements, and those that did, such as Learn Direct, had little experience of running schemes of this scale.  But there was one firm who were very keen to get back in the Government’s good books.  There was just one problem.  At the time G4S were banned from carrying out government contracts due to being  investigated after the security tagging fiasco.

The companies set to run Community Work Placements were supposed to be announced at the beginning of March 2013.  This announcement never came.  It was not until mid-April that the DWP informed those who had bid for contracts whether they had been successful, and two weeks later before they bothered to tell the public.  The investigation into G4S was closed on the 9th April.  On the evening of the 28th April, the day Community Work Placements were due to begin, it was finally admitted that G4S would be running the placements in most areas of the UK.

This delay meant that the scheme was long behind schedule, but those opposed to it were very much on the ball.  First dozens, then hundreds of charities signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary statement pledging not to take part in this or other workfare programmes. Demonstrations were called by Boycott Workfare and other groups, whilst even previously enthusiastic workfare advocates like the Salvation Army said they would not take part in a scheme lasting so long.  The problem of securing enough placements was getting worse.

Over the next year and a half thousands of people were sent to work, without pay, for six month stretches.  Yet there was no word from the DWP on whether any of these participants had gained real jobs as a result of the Help To Work programme.  There still isn’t.  It was not until last month that any performance figures for Community Work Placements were made available at all and these neglected to include job outcome rates.  What they did tell us is that less than half of all people referred to the scheme had actually started a placement.  Which was hardly surprising.

Last week George Osborne scrapped Community Work Placements in his Autumn Statement document rather than admit in his speech that his much fan-fared Help To Work initiative had been a flop.  The truth is that these placements didn’t help anybody except the charities and community organisations who benefited from up to 20 million hours of forced unpaid work.  There have been no statistics made available on how many people have had their benefits sanctioned for refusing to take part in this embarrassing and exploitative mess.  Bungled schemes like this carry real human consequences, consequences that can be tragic.

Referrals to Community Work Placements should end in March next year although it is likely to start being wound down now.  It is in no-one’s interests to keep this charade going, not even G4S who for once are probably not making any money, or at least not much.   Workfare, on this kind of scale, is expensive.  Far more expensive than just leaving people the fuck alone.  The DWP spends nearly twice as much on admin, Jobcentre salaries and payments to welfare to work companies then they do on actually paying people the pittance of Jobseeker’s Allowance.  But don’t expect them to have learnt their lesson.

A new Health and Work Programme is due to begin in 2017.  Once again this will be contracted out to private companies although there is some suggestion that local councils are also to be invited on board the workfare gravy train.  It is likely, although not certain, that this programme will make use of the ‘black box’ approach – meaning welfare-to-work companies having the power to mandate claimants to any activity they choose, including workfare.  Until then those on the current Work Programme can still face forced work under the same arrangements.  Plans have also been announced to compel all those under 21 to carry out unpaid work experience for private companies or be sent on community workfare.  Workfare isn’t going anywhere yet, although that should not stop us celebrating this important victory.

It is an open secret that Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne despise each other.  The lives and futures of benefit claimants now appear trapped between a clash of two egos.  Osborne thought he could do workfare better than Iain Duncan Smith and has been humiliated.  In revenge he seems to have turned off the vast sums of tax payer’s cash that were being used to pay for Iain Duncan Smith’s endless crazy schemes.  What this means for the future is anybody’s guess.  Millions of people are now at the mercy of two warring politicians.  Both believe in a nasty ideology that claims unemployment is caused by unemployed people – and increasingly that sickness and disability are caused by unemployment.  They just disagree on the best way to torment and punish claimants for their perceived sins.   The future is far from rosy for the poor, but in the chaos that is to come there will be more opportunities than ever for collective action to defeat and destroy this bullshit for good.

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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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