Tag Archives: Welfare Reform Bill

Call To Action – From Disabled People Against Cuts

Protest 18th of April led by Disabled People Against Cuts
Call To Action

Make Osborne and Cameron Obsolete

Disabled People are asking as many people as possible, from every section
of society, to come to London to show their opposition to “The Scapegoating of Disabled People” including Remploy workers and “Selling Pensioners Down the River” with the  “The Granny Tax”.

Trade Unionists, Pensioners, Disabled People and all claimants need to stand UNITED against these vicious attacks.

Meet Leicester Square McDonalds:  at 1:30Pm on the 18th of April. There will be a short stroll or wheel from here. Any accessible transport queries can be addressed to Transport for All: contactus@transportforall.org.uk telephone 02077372339.

http://www.dpac.uk.net/

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Weekend of Online Action Against Workfare – Saturday 3rd – Sunday 4th March

Repost from Benefit Claimants Fightback

Facebook page now up at: http://www.facebook.com/events/121631907965194/

Protests against workfare will be taking place in 35 (and counting) locations tomorrow as part of a National Day of Action called by Boycott Workfare.  For the latest details of all protests visit their website at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=359

Despite Chris Grayling’s humiliating climbdown on workfare this week, the battle is far from over.  The government have not scrapped workfare sanctions. They have removed some sanctions from one of the five schemes.

Just like before, we need to show that companies profiting from forced labour that is not acceptable.  Under the Work Programme claimants can be forced to work in private companies for up to six months or face the poverty and possible homelessness that benefit sanctions bring.

We need to stop this now.  Please contact the companies concerned, flood their facebook pages and twitter feeds, email them and make sure they know that we are just as angry as ever about their used of forced labour.

The government refuses to tell us which companies are profiting from unpaid labour on the Work Programme, and has removed any information from the DWP’s website.  How, due a now ‘disappeared’ Freedom of Information Act request, we know for sure that the companies and charities below have taken on workfare staff under the Work Programme scheme.

Remember to tell them if are are planning to boycott them or withdraw donations unless they pull out of workfare immediately.

ASDA – on twitter @asda and facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/Asda  Their facebook wall is locked down but you can leave comments.  Or you can contact them direct (Freephone no) at: http://your.asda.com/contact-us

Savers – on twitter (but not very active) @saversstore or facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Savers-Health-and-Beauty/102022502083? Contact them direct at: http://www.savers.co.uk/contact-us_19.html

Barnados – on twitter @Barnados  They have said they will not take young people on work experience who face sanctions but have remained silent on the workfare staff in their shops.  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/barnardos#!/barnardos?sk=wall  Contact page at: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/who_we_are/contact_us.htm

Holiday Inn – on twitter @holidayinn on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/HolidayInnUKIreland#!/HolidayInnUKIreland?sk=wall

Pizza Hut – on twitter @pizzahut  There UK page is @pizzahut_uk but is barely active.  They are busy on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/PizzaHutUK?sk=wall  Contact page at: http://www.pizzahut.co.uk/restaurants/faqs.aspx

Poundstretcher – on twitter @poundstretcher1 (barely active) and not active on facebook email them at: ed@poundstretcher.co.uk – website at: http://www.poundstretcher.co.uk/

British Heart Foundation – on twitter @thebhf on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/bhf   Contact page: http://www.bhf.org.uk/contact-us.aspx

Wilkinson – Barely active on twitter.  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/WilkinsonPlus#!/WilkinsonPlus?sk=wall  Their wall is locked down but you can leave comments or contact them at: http://www.wilkinsonplus.com/page/contact_index/

99p Stores – Can’t find them on twitter.  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/99p-Stores/49590173920  or contact them at: http://www.99pstoresltd.com/contactus.asp

Salvation Army – believed to be involved in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme.  On twitter @salvationarmyuk or facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk Contact page at: http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/uki/contactus

Booker Wholesale – on twitter @bookerwholesale and facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/BookerWholesale  Contact page at: https://www.booker.co.uk/help/contactus.aspx

Jamie Oliver – Jamie has been whinging this week that he hasn’t been sent a workfare slave yet even though he signed up to the Work Programme months ago.  Why not tell this multi-millionaire what you think of him using forced labour on twitter @jamieoliver

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It is unclear whether the following companies will remain involved in the Work Experience scheme or the far more draconian Work Programme.  Ask them and demand they do not profit from forced labour.

Argos – on twitter @argos_online and facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/argos  Contact page at: http://www.argos.co.uk/static/StaticDisplay/includeName/ContactUs.htm

McDonalds – very busy international page on twitter @mcdonalds  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/McDonaldsUK  Contact page at: http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ukhome/Aboutus/Contact-us.html

Primark – on twitter @primarkjobs Seemingly impossible to get in touch with any other way.  Visit your local store instead!

Holland & Barrett – inactive twitter page @holland_barrett  Contact page at: http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/pages/contactus.asp

Cancer Research UK – on twitter @CR_UK  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/cancerresearchuk  Contact page at: https://aboutus.cancerresearchuk.org/contact-us/?secure=true

Age UK – on twitter @age_uk   On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ageuk  Contact page at: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/contact-us/

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Many other companies and charities are using workfare.  Very little has changed despite Chris Grayling’s announcement.  According to the trade industry for workfare providers,  only Boots have told them they are pulling out so far.  Oxfam and Shelter have made clear statements distancing themselves from workfare and the Work Programme.  Sainsburys, Tesco and Waterstones have all said they are not involved in the scheme.  Poundland has pulled out of Work Programme but will continue to take work experience placements as long as they are not subject to benefit sanctions.

Please list contact details of all known workfare exploiters in the comments.

The following charities are part sub-contractors for Work Programme as part of the Disability Works consortium.  Several of them have also used workfare in their charity shops.  Contact them and demand they pull out of workfare.  More importantly, with government plans revealed to force sick and disabled people into permanent work for no pay we urgently need a statement from all these charities that will they not play any part in such a crueland abusive scheme.

SCOPE – on twitter at @scope  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/Scope  Contact page at: http://www.scope.org.uk/contact-us

Mencap – on twitter @mencap_charity  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/Mencap  Contact page at: http://www.mencap.org.uk/contact-us

MIND – on twitter @mindcharity  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mindforbettermentalhealth  Contact page at: http://www.mind.org.uk/contact

Leonard Chesire Disability – on twitter @LCDisability  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leonard-Cheshire-Disability/77071765498  Contact page at: http://www.lcdisability.org/?lid=108

Action for Blind People – on twitter @action4blind  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/actionforblindpeople  Contact page at: http://www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk/other-pages/contact-us/

Advance – not active on twitter or facebook.  Contact page at: http://www.advanceuk.org/index.asp?m=6&t=Contact+Us

Pluss – on twitter  @plussaddtolife  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pluss/257795488431  Contact page: http://www.pluss.org.uk/contact

United Response – on twitter @unitedresponse  On facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/UnitedResponse?ref=ts  Contact page at: http://www.unitedresponse.org.uk/get-support/contact-us/

And if you’ve still got time after all that then why not give disability deniers Atos a kick, the company responsible for the flawed health and disability benefit eligibility tests testing which have driven some people to suicide.  They’ll only feel left out otherwise.  On twitter @atos  Not allowed on facebook.  Contact page at: http://www.atoshealthcare.com/index.php?option=com_enquiries&Itemid=226

If you ring companies please remember you are probably speaking to a low paid receptionist, and just as importantly that communications can be easily traced.  It is an offence to make malicious or abusive phone calls.

Why Single Mums Stay Single

It’s hardly surprising that Cameron and his party should hate women so much.  After all other than the odd thrashing by nanny, they probably never saw a real one until they left the torrid dormitories of Eton.

Cameron’s recent pathetic attempt to appeal to women,  offering them the opportunity to become skivvies for the rich, recently fell as flat as his regular sexist behaviour in the House of Commons.  So in time-honoured tradition they are turning their attention to the usual Tory scapegoat,  single mums.

The DWP has announced tough new measures aimed at feckless single parents who are caught living with a partner and not informing the benefits office.  Lord Fraud has declared:

“Pretending you are a single parent to get benefits when you are actually living with a partner is stealing money from the people who genuinely need help.”

Which is a rather strange way of looking at it, when in fact if they are stealing from the government.  By the same logic you could argue they were stealing from the Queen, which perhaps wouldn’t have had the same impact that Freud was hoping for.

Under the ‘tough’ new measures anyone convicted of benefit fraud three times in a row will be banned from claiming benefits for three years, a neat little way to ensure that their children should also suffer as much as possible.  The problem is, as it was revealed last time this was announced, no-one has ever been convicted of benefit fraud three times in a row.  Next week Lord Freud will be announcing legislation aimed at preventing armadillos being used as train drivers.

This isn’t what the law is supposed to be used for, inventing non-existent circumstances to further the myth that all claimants are on the fiddle.  This is PR, not legislation.  The law is being used to try and entrench the lie that fraud is endemic in the benefits system, when in fact fraud levels are tiny compared to comparable sectors, such as tax evasion.

So whilst this change won’t affect anyone at all, what is concerning is that on conviction for a first offence of benefit fraud, single parents could face having benefits stopped for 13 weeks.  That financial penalties like this should be tossed so casually on the very poorest families, where it will be the children who ultimately suffer for their parent’s crime,  is a fucking disgrace.

It is true that the public are not loving people who falsely claim benefits at the moment, and this, on the face of it, is fair enough.  The problem is that the benefits system is so complex and rigid that it can be virtually impossible to avoid some degree of breach of the rules at times.  If you are on Jobseekers Allowance and take twenty quid cash for helping a mate move you are a criminal.  If you are sick, but perhaps recover enough to not quite be eligible for benefits, and don’t tell them quickly enough, you could face prosecution.  If you inherit a sum of money, and neglect to inform the DWP so they can knock the exact same sum of money from your benefits,  you may very likely face jail.

For single parents however the situation is even more difficult for two reasons.  The first is that if you begin a co-habiting relationship then your partner is immediately expected to take full financial responsibility for you and your children or you (not your partner) will be prosecuted.  This places a heavy burden on a blossoming relationship, especially as if the partnership doesn’t work out you will be at the mercy of the DWP as to whether they accept the relationship has ended and restore your benefits.

The second problem is that there are no clear guidelines as to what living with a partner actually means.  A common urban myth that if your partners stays over three nights a week then you are deemed to be living with them is simply not true.  In fact all measure of factors are considered, or not considered, including whether you have sex with them (although they are not supposed to ask you this directly), and whether you are viewed by others as being in a co-habiting relationship.  The full guidance for DWP decision makers on co-habiting couple can be downloaded at (PDF): http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/dmgch11.pdf

Ultimately it may not be clear whether a parent has broken the law until they face a court, and of course this uncertainty infects the whole system.  Therefore it is not uncommon for claimants to be told by misinformed DWP officials that even spending one night with a partner could leave them liable to prosecution.  The confusion, and chilling effect this  can have on the ability of single parents to form relationships, can be summed up by this thread on the netmums forum where one poster asks:

“I don’t get the rules to be honest, If I go on a date with someone would I have to inform anyone, Also if you have been going out for 2 weeks or something are they expected to move in and financially contribute? Wouldn’t that just be rushing things so to speak?”

The problem is made worse by the Benefit Fraud Hotline, which means any snivelling grass can ring the DWP and report you because they don’t like you and saw you holding someone’s hand or snogging at the bus stop.  Whilst prosecution based on flimsy evidence like this is unlikely, even an investigation can lead to the suspension of benefit payments, as well as the stress of facing a huge fine, criminal record, all benefits stopped for thirteen weeks and even imprisonment.  All just for having a shag.

Wanker Freud informs us not to worry, because Universal Credit will ‘simplify and automate the benefits system to make it less open to abuse.’  So perhaps a computer will decide whether people are in a relationship or not in future, another magical feature of the new IT system which is set to be the most complex and large scale project ever attempted anywhere ever.

In fact Universal Credit, when it is rolled out in 2057, will do nothing to stop the problems outlined above.  All it will actually do is remove humans from the equation.  Which is okay because computers can#amp/’t make mistakes.

There is obviously no excuse for benefit fraud (well, apart from poverty, the challenges of raising children alone, lack of clarity in the rules and the ever moving goal posts).  People with multiple claims or dodgy landlords claiming for non-existent tenants should be condemned and treated the way we treat any else who rips off the tax payer, such as giving them a knighthood and then taking it away a year later.

But these rules are not aimed at organised fraud.  They are aimed at people just getting by, who may have made a mistake, or not declared a few quid here and there.  Compared to the huge sums lost due to tax evasion this is a trivial sum of money, that will place added stress on already over-burdened single parents should they commit the crime of falling in love.

Whilst MPs who did far worse were simply allowed to repay dodgy expense claims, single parents and claimants face abject poverty and even jail for far lesser offences.  However the stories of people going hungry, families separated and children being taken into care will not feature in the press who instead prefer to salivate because a one legged man has been caught playing golf or a wheelchair user went on holiday.

Benefit Claimants Fighting Back

The Welfare Reform Bill is back in the Lords today which may yet result in some more tinkering with this desperate piece of legislation.  However the main thrust of the bill, enshrining as it does Universal Credit, benefits caps, mass health and disability testing programmes, workfare and the slashing of benefit for 20% of disabled people, is all firmly established and will become law.

That ermine clad  toffs had no more understanding of the intricacies of the benefits system then Oxbridge MPs is of little surprise.  Few, if any, would have any experience of signing on.  That’s how, based largely on rumour, prejudice, Daily Mail headlines and bad arithmetic, this car crash of a bill came about.  The very mechanisms it enshrines are already failing.  The Atos system of computer based health to tests to establish benefit eligibility is in a shambles, running 80% behind target whilst the appeals system is in melt down.  Major retailers, such as Sainsburys and Waterstones are pulling out of workfare, with more set to follow them.  DWP sources have claimed the idea that Universal Credit will be ready to roll out on time next year is ‘pie in the sky’.

It is in the implementation that this Bill will come apart at the seams, and that is where it has always been most vulnerable.  Eighteen months after the non-election of this government, the fight to save the Welfare State is just getting started  New groups are springing up around the UK to resist the all out assault on the very poorest and after over a year of action claimants aren’t going anywhere just because Cameron has bullied this Bill through the Lords.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was formed after the 2010 anti-austerity protests outside the Conservative Party Conference and has been at the forefront of the struggle against the Welfare Reform Bill since the beginning.  Recently, along with UK Uncut and others, they helped bring traffic in the West End to a standstill for two hours after wheelchairs users chained themselves together and blocked Oxford Street.  More action has been promised, you can visit their website at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/ or find them on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/DPAC2011/

Also increasingly active, are the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights, who attended at Oxford Street and have been involved in organising against welfare cuts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Dundee.  They are on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/blacktriangle11?sk=info

Benefits Claimants Fightback began as a facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/116432071735566/) back when the onslaught against claimants first began under Labour and aims to be a meeting place and online organising tool for all benefit claimants.  A website of the same name attempts to keep track of action against benefit cuts at: http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

Boycott Workfare has organised actions and protests and is maintaining a register of organisations who refuse to support the government’s forced labour scheme.  The next action is on 3rd March which has been called as  a National Day of Action Against Workfare, with other resistance already planned in Liverpool and Brighton.  They have a new facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Workfare/222201111204955

A Boycott Workfare group has also been established in Birmingham, whilst last weekend Brighton Benefits Campaign held a picket of Poundland in protest at their use of workfare.  The word on the street is that Brighton Poundland will no longer be accepting workfare placements.  This shit works.  Brighton also has a DPAC group on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/BrightonDisabledPeopleAgainstCuts/

Other regional groups include the Crutch Collective in Glasgow who will be continuing their houding of the local Atos sharks with a picket outside their offices on Friday 17th February.  The long established Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have organised countless protests and actions and have a wealth of information on their website at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/

Winvisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities) and Single Mother’s Self-Defence have long been involved in supporting claimants and organised the recent series of lobbies and vigils outside the Lords where the debate was taking place, as well as helping co-ordinating the joint letter to the BMJ and RCN expressing disgust at the activities of Atos Healthcare.

The Spartacus Report was compiled by disabled activists and highlighted the shoddy consultation and inhumane changes implicit in the move to Personal Independence Payments.  Several authors of the report blog at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and they can be found on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/wearespartacus/

Also on facebook is the busy Disability Defence page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/#!/groups/disabilitydefence/  whilst After Atos Alliance provides support and discussion for victims of the Atos testing regime at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/afteratos/

Other groups on facebook opposing the benefit cuts include the Social Welfare Advocacy page at: http://www.facebook.com/SocialWelfareAdvocacy  and Respect for Unemployed and Benefit Claimants: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Respect-For-the-Unemployed-Benefit-Claimants/128136787240200

Elsewhere online, the Atos Register of Shame, DWP Examination, Work Programme and Watching A4e are just some websites keeping track of the assault on welfare and those, like A4e and Atos, who are making a fortune from the changes.

Pat’s Petition against the benefit cuts now has nearly 30,000 signatures, you can sign it at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

Sol Fed, UK Uncut, Anarchist Federation and Right To Work are other groups that have been supportive and helped organise action, whilst support has come in the political press from Freedom, Schnews and the enduring Morning Star.  Union support has come from the PCS at national and branch level and the RMT.

It would be impossible to list all of the groups, websites and organisations involved in challenging the Welfare Reform Bill and vast apologies to all those that have been missed in this list.  Please post links in the comments to any and all groups fighting to retain a system where losing your job, becoming sick or disabled, having children, or being low waged, does not mean a life of poverty, homelessness and state harassment.

Please also share groups on facebook, post links to organisations, tweet and help make sure that every last one of the millions of claimants set to be devastated by the upcoming benefit changes has access to local support, and more importantly the chance to organise and take action.

We will not stop, we will not die, escalation is called for, let’s watch them crumble.

Does Universal Credit Mean The End of Jobcentres?

Further evidence that Iain Duncan Smith is making it up as he goes along comes from the DWP’s Major Programmes Director Steve Dover who admitted this week that Universal Credit (UC) will be ‘digital by default’.

In a piece buried in the Guardian’s Computing section Dover says:

“The starting point, I said to our telephony collaboration teams based in Newcastle, was just think of a contact centre, but it has got no people in it and think of an operating model that has got no back office, and start from there,”

This may well comes as a shock to the thousands of people who currently work processing benefits and dealing with claims in jobcentres and Housing Benefit offices.  At present new claimants have a face to face interview with an advisor at the jobcentre, where a Job Seeker’s Agreement is drawn up and a claim for benefits is established.  It appears this is no longer to be the case.

Whilst the DWP claim there will be a small back office for ‘vulnerable’ claimants, for the vast majority there will be a “massive web-enabled internet channel for the vast majority of the transactions that will be done for universal credit.”

It therefore seems unlikely that IDS is planning to retain Jobcentres and Housing Benefit Offices to carry out the same job.  However this doesn’t fit with Duncan’s Smith’s claim that Universal Credit will feature the toughest ever sanctions regime, with even part time and low waged self-employed workers to face being bullied off benefits.  Currently this type of bullying is carried out by jobcentres.  There is also the small matter of helping people find work, sometimes jobcentres actually help someone find a job.

Are these services to be farmed out to private poverty pimps like A4e, effectively privatising jobcentres and condemning thousands of public sector workers to the dole?  Is this his plan to curb rocketing unemployment – close the jobcentres and sack all the staff?

The alternative is that the two systems will be run in tandem, creating two huge bureaucracies which is hardly conducive with IDS’ claims that Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system.  And like so many of his increasingly bonkers plans, it will cost of fortune.

Despite the DWP persisting with claims that the new benefit will be ready to roll out next year, so far there have been no clear answers to these questions.  Possibly IDS himself doesn’t know and if he does he ain’t telling.  The goal posts seem to be shifting ever more frequently as the deluded Secretary of State attempts to blag and bluster his way through the quagmire he has created.

Equally worrying is the fact that according to Ofcom only 75% of people have access to broadband.  It’s not a big leap of imagination to assume that those without broadband generally represent people with lower incomes and therefore includes a substantial proportion, if not most, of the millions of people set to be moved onto the new benefit.

Will these people be expected to process their claims and provide sensitive and confidential information to the DWP from internet cafes in full view of any passing fraudster?

Even possessing a broadband connection, an additional expense to be  inflicted on the very poorest, may well not be enough.  Many claimants have literacy and numeracy difficulties, some people do not speak English as a first language, and the ability to use IT varies hugely from person to person.  Some people have disabilities and may not be able to afford specialist IT equipment or use internet cafes and libraries to administer their claims.

When Working Tax Credit became available to claim online the system quickly fell over and was abandoned as millions clogged phonelines for advice on how to use the clunky bug-ridden system.  Universal Credit is set to be far more complicated than Working Tax Credit, taking into account as it allegedly will, housing provision, health needs, childcare support and possibly even Council Tax Benefit.  On top of this Working Tax Credit was an annual claim.  Universal Credit is planned to be a real time benefit, with monthly alterations to awards.

This ‘contact centre with no people in it’ looks set to be a very busy place.

None of this is stopping Iain Duncan Smith, who appears to have been bought an lap-top for Christmas and now thinks he’s Bill Gates.  He won’t be the first silly old man to get himself in a muddle with computers.  Unfortunately he plans to inflict his ineptness onto millions of the countries poorest people.

But it’s not all bad news.  Cameron nailed his colours firmly to the mast by forcing the Welfare Reform Bill through Parliament last week.  So when the whole thing comes crashing down it won’t just be Iain Duncan Smith who might find himself queuing up outside a non-existent Job Centre.

Why Not Hang A Liberal From This Lamp Post

From today every Lib Dem MP, Councillor, activist or member has blood on their hands.  Last night Lib Dem MPs voted to strip vital and often life saving benefits from cancer patients and children with disabilities.

The objections from the Lords to the most insiduous aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill will be over-ridden as Cameron and his lapdogs ram-raid the bill into law.  With suicides already taking place due to the UK’s increasingly vicious welfare policy, even more people will take their own lives rather than face indignity and poverty.

Ten of thousands of people are to be made homeless at a stroke, many of them children.  Disabled people and people with life-threatening conditions may find themselves forced onto workfare schemes, stacking shelves in Poundland for no pay.  The untold suffering this Bill will bring, in a country with already one of the strictest and least generous welfare regimes in the western world, cannot yet begun to be imagined.

Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith must be laughing their fucking heads off at their spineless coalition partners.  Just like when they destroyed the educational chances of a generation, it will be the Liberal Democrats, not the Tories, who are remembered for unleashing devastation on the vulnerable.

Every Lib Dem member with a shred of conscience should immediately hand back their membership or know that they too are a part of this all out assault.  The party that opposed the Iraq war has now chosen to wage war on our own children.  Those who stay in the party in the hope of modifying the Tories approach or having some influence on the power dazzled Clegg and Cable are fully culpable for the actions of this government.  If you are a member then remember this next time you see someone freezing in a shop doorway, or hear of a suicide due to the vicious health testing regime.  You and your party did this and the suffering you have already caused cannot be undone by weasel words.

Will you be able to look the person who sells you the Big Issue in the eye knowing that you helped place them in that position.    That the Party you support and you pay for is very likely responsible for them losing their homes.  Should a friend or relative be diagnosed with cancer will you hold your head up high as their benefits are stripped away and they are forced to undergo chemotherapy whilst living on a pittance and being subjected to demeaning health testing and back to work interviews.

No matter how many intellectual or moral hoops you jump through there is no justification for this.   If you stay in the Liberal Democrat Party after this you are scum and should be treated as such.  However unlike Tory scum, whose intentions are clear, you are far worse.  You are collaborators, scabs, traitors, treacherous vermin who turn their backs on their own community and morality in the vague hope that perhaps one day you too will get a ride in the Ministerial Limo.

There is no changing the party from within.  You had a chance at that and failed and it’s now far too late.  Clegg and Cable don’t care about you, or what you think, anymore than David Cameron does.  And neither does anyone else.  Whilst you remain in the Liberal Democrat Party your opinions are worthless.  You can be as politically correct as you like and dutifully read the Guardian everyday – it means nothing when by your actions you have condemned millions to poverty, ill health and homelessness.  You are rotting fetid vermin clinging onto the illusion of power for no reason other than that you didn’t haven’t the moral courage to do anything else when you had the chance.  May your rancid hearts rot you from the inside out.

And all for what.  For your stupid fucking badly timed referendum that has seen your precious electoral reform taken off the table for a generation.  You are nothing now.  Whether you die quietly in your sleep or are ripped apart in the street by your constituents, no tears will be shed for you.

So go back to your constituencies and prepare to die.  Politically and morally you are bankrupt.  Take your sandals, and your hemp clothing, and your fucking beards, and throw them on the pyre to burn along with your party and your principles.  We will never forgive.  And should the time come we will hunt you down like dogs.

Atos on the Run – the PIP contract is a poisoned chalice

Back when the con-dem government weren’t elected, few people other than benefit claimants had heard of French IT firm Atos Origin, the company Labour shamefully employed to carry out the Work Capability Assessment.  This  health and disability assessment was designed to strip sickness benefits from as many people as possible and has caused untold suffering with some people driven to suicide by the process.  Over the last year this has led to countless protests around the UK outside Atos’ offices and online as the infamy of the company has soared.

The world must be a very different place in Atos’ Public Relations Offices these days.  ‘Atos’ is now a dirty word, synonymous with the worst of corporate cruelty.  As well as demonstrations outside their offices, the internet is awash with websites and stories of people’s experiences at the hands of these bastards, who have declared people with terminal illnesses as ‘fit for work’.

Atos fought back, with legal threats demanding the closure of some websites, which only served to further disseminate information about their activities around the world.  When Atos objected to their logo being used in satirical images budding digital artists came up with new and increasingly creative uses of their corporate identity, based around such  phrases as ‘Atos Kills’, ‘Atos don’t give a Toss’  and ‘Atos Macht Frei’.  A google image search for ‘Atos Kills’ reveals the extent of the anger aimed at this company who have been dubbed the Euthanasia and Racial Purity Arm of the DWP.

Atos’ involvement in the Paralympic Games should have been a PR victory for the company, instead quite the opposite happened.  Poor old Steve Cram, who was appointed as the Atos Olympic Ambassador, has virtually disappeared from view after hundreds of people contacted him to ask what he thinks he’s fucking playing at taking money from these sharks.  Already one demonstration targetting Atos has been held outside a Paralympic Test event.

With demonstrations set to continue Atos appear to have backed off on their aggressive legal campaign to silence critics.  A disabled man and a pensioner were arrested and charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ for peacefully entering one of their assessment centres at a Nottingham protest before Christmas.  After a well supported solidarity campaign in support of the arrested it seems to have been Atos who made the decision to have the charges dropped.

None of this looks like the actions of a company that is confident in their activities.  This is hardly surprising for a firm which was previously largely unknown and is now having to manage the ‘corporate challenge’ of being despised by millions of people.  Atos insiders have claimed morale is at rock bottom and they are finding it increasingly hard to recruit medical staff to carry out their assessments.  The PR damage to the company for taking on this contract is incalculable.  Of course they could hand the contract back any time they want and this would all go away.

The Tories are ploughing ahead with the flawed process regardless as they re-assess benefit eligibility for 2.6 million people claiming Employment Support Allowance.  Should the Welfare Reform Bill become law then they also plan to re-assess over 3 million people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with the stated aim of stripping benefits from 20% of disabled claimants.

Behind the scenes however the whole system is a shambolic mess.  Atos are staggeringly behind their contract commitment to assess 11,000 people a week, having only completed around 20% of that figure.  40% of people appealing against Atos’ decisions are successful and the appeals system itself is in meltdown due to the number of cases.  Citizens Advice have pointed out that many people losing their benefit at their assessment are simply re-applying and going through the process again.  More and more Doctors and other medical professionals are raising concerns about the medical ethics of the scheme.

This is bound to impact on Atos’ other healthcare business interests, such as the Occupational Health services that are increasingly inflicted on public sector workers and used to dismiss staff for health reasons.  After all Atos boast on their website that they specialise in ‘Headcount Reduction’.  Atos’ healthcare professionals may now recommend you are laid off your job for health reasons whilst finding you fit for work when you apply for sickness benefits.

That the situation is unsustainable is obvious.  Even if Atos are managing to make a profit the damage to their reputation this contract has inflicted is enormous.  When a protest was held outside the BMJ’s annual recruitment fair last years many doctors stated they would not dream of working for such an unethical company.  With medical assessment positions going unfilled it seems that Atos literally can’t get the staff.

All of this should serve as stark warning to Atos or any other company thinking of bidding for the contract to carry out the assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  A more poisoned chalice has rarely been offered by a government.  With 3 million more people now set to be forced to undergo these brutal and flawed tests, which ignore the opinions of GPs in favour of a short computer based assessment, the resistance to the process is likely to be fierce, and more importantly, to prove expensive.

Whether it will even be physically possible to find enough healthcare workers to carry out this testing procedure is in doubt.  Like much of the Welfare Reform Bill, it is the implementation of Iain Duncan’s Smith’s crazy schemes that will see their undoing.  The changes proposed to Housing Benefit and disability benefits, along with the roll out of the doomed Universal Credit, will be disastrous as the numerous contradictions in the bill emerge in reality.

This will be of little comfort to people whose lives are set to be devastated by the changes.  Just like coppers, just because this Bill is stupid it doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.  It will be the most vulnerable in society who will suffer as the system breaks down.  One thing’s for sure is that when the whole thing goes tits up the government will seek to blame anyone but themselves.  Whether it’s Atos or prison company G4S who take on the PIP contract, they are very likely to be hung out to dry as soon as it becomes politically convenient.

No matter what Iain Duncan Smith attempts to ram-raid his bill through parliament, opposition to his plans will not stop just because the bill becomes law.  In fact it is likely to intensify as more and more people are forced into a fight for their very survival.  Poverty pimps like Atos risk becoming collateral damage in what may yet prove to be the undoing of this government.

The heroic action by DPAC and UK Uncut which brought the West End of London to a standstill on Saturday shows a new militancy on behalf of campaigners.  Despite Atos and the CPS dropping the charges against the Nottingham protesters, a demo is being held anyway this Friday 3rd February.  In London protesters will be paying a lunchtime visit to Atos Headquarters in Triton Square in solidarity on the same day.

There will also be a vigil/protest against the Welfare Reform Bill on both January 31st and February 1st outside parliament meeting at Old Palace Yard from 1-3 pm.

The fight to save the Welfare State is just getting started.  The likes of Atos could do themselves a favour by getting out of the way.