Tag Archives: welfare reform

Matthew Oakley: Tory Stooge Appointed to Independent Welfare Scrutiny Commitee

matthew-oakleyA Tory stooge who works for the Policy Exchange think tank has been appointed to the so called independent Social Security Advisory Committee by Iain Duncan Smith.

Matthew Oakley appears to one of those chinless failures who’s bummed about doing non-jobs at the government and whose only experience of social security is writing sub Daily Mail rants about benefit scroungers and the urgent need for more welfare cuts.

Despite this he’s now being paid a tidy £256.80 a day of tax payer’s cash to provide ‘expert’ advice on welfare reform.

The SSAC are a body whose job it is to scrutinise any changes to laws which may affect social security.  Whilst they have no formal power, the government must legally consult them on new legislation.  Shortly after this Government weren’t elected, the committee issued a scathing report on the plans for mass workfare.

Not long after this the head of the Committee was replaced by DWP stooge, Paul Gray.  Then last year Manpower stooge, Keith Faulkner was appointed to the committee.  Faulkner is the former head of workfare company Working Links –  a front for the global recruitment firm Manpower who have long been trousering huge sums of cash as part of the welfare reform racket.

Manpower also fund the Centre for Social Justice, Iain Duncan Smith’s weird Christian think tank who have generated much of the misinformation and outright garbage that is currently spouted about welfare by DWP Ministers.

The rest of the crap has come from the Policy Exchange, a kind of corporate subsidised employment scheme for rich kids who are too lazy to get a real job and too stupid to be proper academics.   Matthew Oakley is their Head of Economics & Social Policy.  He was recently behind the Welfare Reform 2.0 document which calls for even more state harassment of people in part time work or on low wages.

Before working at the Policy Exchange Oakley was an advisor at the Treasury and also worked on the white paper outlining Universal Credit – the sweeping and botched changes to welfare currently being mismanaged by Iain Duncan Smith.

It appears that Oakley will not leave his lucrative job at the Policy Exchange, meaning he will now be paid by a right wing think tank to propose changes to welfare and then be paid by the tax payer to ‘independently’ scrutinise those changes.

Much of welfare reform is already unravelling largely because of hare-brained schemes dreamed up by think tanks who couldn’t even be bothered to learn about the very system they were proposing to reform.

That clueless idiots like Oakley are now being rewarded with tax payer funded jobs for their role in the shambles suggests it’s full steam ahead for yet more crazy schemes at the DWP.

Oakley is on twitter @PXEconomics

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Universal Credit Needs Universal Jobmatch – So Do Not Tick The Box

universal_jobmatch-spyUPDATE 27/2/13:  Registering an account with Universal Jobmatch will  become mandatory from the beginning of March 2013.  There should still be no requirement to tick the box giving DWP access to your account.  For the latest details and what this means for claimants keep an eye on:  http://consent.me.uk/2013/02/26/mandatory/

UPDATE: The latest news (as of 20/01/13) and confirmation from the PCS Union that Universal Jobmatch is not yet mandatory.

From this month hapless Iain Duncan Smith has warned that unemployed claimants who refuse to sign up for the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch website may face having benefits sanctioned.

This is contrary to the information given late last year when the DWP confirmed that signing up to the site is not mandatory.  It’s almost as if the DWP is trying to catch people out in order to trick people off benefits.

Already the website has been plagued by fake jobs, spam, sex work and scammers.  The lax verification procedures for employers wishing to advertise vacancies leaves users at risk of having their personal details accessible to any old crook or pervert.  Many people have reported problems registering or even logging into the site, meaning even those who want to use it could find themselves unable to.  If the number of google referrals to this blog from people searching phrases such as ‘Universal Jobmatch can’t log in’ is anything to go by then it seems the sites technical problems are far from over.

When Universal Credit is introduced next year millions more people will be expected to prove to the DWP that they are seeking ‘more or better paid’ work.  Part time workers, disabled people, parents and self-employed workers on low incomes will all be placed under ‘work related activity’ conditions which now only apply to those on Jobseeker’s Allowance.  Those who Jobcentre staff decide aren’t trying hard enough to find work could face workfare or sanctions.

With the Jobcentres all running at full capacity – and no signs of any large scale recruitment on the horizon – then the only way this can be policed is by forcing claimants to use the Government’s own shit job search website.  The DWP are attempting to bully claimants on the cheap.

Luckily however there is no legal way that the Jobcentre can force you to allow them to access to monitor your activity on the site.  When claimants are asked to register with the site they are given the option of ticking a box which provides consent for Jobcentre snoops to monitor their use of the website.

It is vital that all claimants are made aware that they do not have to tick this box.  This means a concerted effort on behalf of everyone concerned about the endless abuse of those on benefits to inform everybody of their rights.  Spread the word to every Jobcentre in the UK.

There is also no legal requirement for claimants to accept cookies (the small computer programmes which allow the DWP to track usage of the site) on their own home computers.  If people don’t accept cookies then Universal Jobmatch won’t work.  This means that if you have a PC at home you cannot be forced to use it to look for jobs on the new website.

If enough people refuse to allow the Jobcentre to snoop on their accounts then the ‘work related activity’ that underpins Universal Credit won’t work.

Whilst IDS has threatened to haul claimants into the Jobcentre everyday if they refuse give the DWP access to their accounts, this is little more than an empty threat.  Harassing claimants face to face costs money., which is one thing the DWP don’t have

It is possible to use the site to look for jobs without logging in or even having an account for those who wish to.  The truth is there are far better places to look for work then Universal Jobmatch where the vast majority of jobs are self-employed sales jobs, employment agencies trawling for CVs,or zero hour contracts.

It is a shocking state of affairs that Iain Duncan Smith is forcing claimants to waste their time looking for jobs on a crap website with barely any vacancies just because he’s too arrogant to admit he just spent nearly £20 million quid on a piece of shit.

Once again welfare reform is not being driven by trying to genuinely help people find work.  In fact quite the opposite is happening.  Iain Duncan Smith is so obsessed with benefit claimants jumping through the endless hoops he sets that he no longer seems to care whether any of it will help people find a job.  This is all about one arrogant man who has decided that he knows better than anyone else how unemployed people should look for work.

If that means benefit claimants pointlessly clicking away at a website just to meet the conditions for claiming benefits – when they could be out looking for work properly – then Iain Duncan Smith will consider his job well done.  All he cares about is that people do what he tells them to.  It would be embarrassing if it were a boss, teacher or parent acting that way, for a Secretary of State it’s little more than pathetic.

UPDATE: via @refuted on twitter – Registering for Universal Jobmatch is not yet mandatory according to DWP.  Despite this stories persist of sanctions and threats of sanctions, print out this FOI request and take it with you next time you sign up if you are concerned about being forced to register: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/140693/response/347764/attach/html/3/FOI%204776%20Response%20PDF.pdf.html

In case of sanctions/threats of sanctions the PCS Union advise claimants to speak to Jobcentre Managers and if you can find out who they are, PCS reps.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Will Welfare Reform Collapse Due to IDS’s Blundering?

welfare-reform-bannerSome much needed Christmas good news has come from the DWP of all places with the announcement that next year’s benefit cap is to be delayed for up to six months in most parts of the UK.

The cap, which restricts benefit levels regardless of how big a claimant’s family is, or the soaring costs of renting, will threaten thousands of children with homelessness at a stroke.  Whilst the announcement is only a delay, it does at least give those whose lives are about to be plunged into government inflicted chaos, a little longer to prepare for the onslaught.

The cap will sadly still go ahead in Enfield, Croydon, Haringey and Bromley, three London boroughs already suffering rising homelessness.

The hold up, according to The Guardian, is due to concerns about computer software.  It’s seems more likely that the practical administration of co-ordinating cuts to housing benefit – currently processed by local councils – and other benefits, some of which are paid by the DWP, and some by HMRC, has not been adequately thought through.

Once again another of Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy schemes had fallen at the first hurdle because the Secretary of State doesn’t understand the benefits system he’s reforming.

This announcement follows the  Universal Jobmatch shambles.  IDS is believed to have paid Monster Jobs approaching £20 million for the bodged website that he’s now having to pretend is great.

As anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the internet could have warned him, with no safeguards in place, the website has become a target for scammers, spammers and spoof vacancies.

IDS announced recently that it will be mandatory for those on Jobseekers Allowance to sign up to the website in the New Year.  However there will be no requirement for claimants to tick the box giving Jobcentre staff access to snoop on their account, so don’t!

The website uses cookies, small computer programmes which track how a website is used.  Under recent laws, it is not legal for a website to force anyone to use cookies if they don’t want.  If you refuse to accept cookies then Universal Jobmatch doesn’t work. This means that whilst the Jobcentre can force you to sign up to the website, they can’t force you to use it, or monitor if you do.

A piece of legislation that Iain Duncan Smith was either was unaware of, or chose to ignore, has put a digital spanner in the works of the endless jobseeking activity to be expected of all claimants when Universal Credit is launched.

Many people wondered how the DWP would have the manpower to police the new regime.  Disabled people, parents, part time and self employed workers, will all now be expected to search for more, or better paid work, as a condition of receiving benefits.  Universal Jobmatch was the answer.  And they’ve fucked it up.

Building a basic website, and introducing a benefit cap, are far from the most difficult challenges facing Universal Credit, which involves the construction of the largest government IT database ever created anywhere in the history of the world.

You might even call them the basics.  The ongoing shambles won’t protect many claimants from having lives thrown into chaos by the incompetence of the DWP.  But there remains at least a chink of hope that this ineptness will ultimately mean the collapse of Iain Duncan Smith’s precious Welfare Reform Bill.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Who’s Fighting Welfare Reform

As promised earlier in the week, here’s a list of some of the groups around the UK currently fighting welfare reform.  This list is not exhaustive, apologies to anyone I’ve missed, please post up links to any other claimant groups, websites and facebook groups in the comments.

All groups are open to everyone to get involved in – contact them to join the fightback.

Please share, blog, tweet and help spread the word about all groups.

National Groups

Boycott Workfare – fighting forced labour and unpaid work:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/boycottworkfare
on twitter @boycottworkfare

Also fighting workfare and keeping claimant’s informed of their rights – http://www.donotsign.com/

Black Triangle Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights involved in organising many protests against Atos and Welfare Reform as well as lobbying and campaigning work: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blacktriangle11
on twitter @blacktriangle1

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – National group who’ve organised many actions in London and elsewhere including blockading Oxford Street and Occupying the DWP: http://www.dpac.uk.net/

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/
on twitter @Dis_PPL_Protest

DPAC also have a network of local groups – for local contact details visit: http://www.dpac.uk.net/contact-details-for-local-dpac-groups/

Solidarity Federation – Not specifically a claimant group by a long way but are running a national campaign against workfare. Were recently successful in forcing Holland & Barrett to stop using unpaid labour and have now turned attention to Poundland – for all details, including local pickets of workfare using shops visit: http://www.solfed.org.uk/

Other national groups which have been involved in action against welfare reform include UK Uncut, Right to Work Campaign, UNISON Community Union, Anarchist Federation and the PCS Union.

Local Groups

Glasgow: Crutch Collective – fighting welfare reform, workfare and Atos, visit http://thecrutchcollective.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Crutch-Collective/132893236781931?sk=wall

Brighton Benefits Campaign – long running campaign which organises regular actions and protests: http://brightonbenefitscampaign.wordpress.com/

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty – another long running campaign, lots of info on their website at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Edinburgh-Coalition-Against-Poverty/181015481950367

Liverpool Claimants Network – very active group have organised meetings, actions, protests and communications blockades: http://antiworkfare.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/liverpoolclaimantnetwork/
on twitter @claimantnetwork

Birmingham Against the Cuts – not just benefits related but have organised lots around welfare: http://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BirminghamAgainstTheCuts
on twitter @BrumAgainstCuts

Winvisible – Women With Visible and Invisible Disabilities – based in Crossroads Women’s Centre, Kentish Town: http://www.winvisible.org/

Manchester Against Benefit Cuts (part of Manchester Coalition Against Cuts): http://www.coalitionagainstcuts.org.uk/

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group – hold weekly meetings, more info at: http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/

Bradford Claimants Union – not much detail online but have a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bradford-Claimants-Union/178195065573385?sk=info
email: bradfordclaimants@gmail.com

York Welfare Campaign: http://yorkwelfarecampaign.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/york.welfarecampaign

Mental Health Resistance Network – largely South London based group: http://mentalhealthresistance.org/

Nottingham and Tyneside both have claimant union groups – although its not clear from the web how active they currently are:



Plymouth Claimants Union have taken action against welfare reform and Atos, not sure if they are active, email them at: plymouthclaimantsunion@yahoo.co.uk

Online Groups

Benefit Claimants Fightback – facebook group which was involved in last years national days of action against benefit cuts: http://www.facebook.com/groups/116432071735566/

Social Welfare Union – a union of welfare campaigners fighting benefit cuts: http://socialwelfareunion.org/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SocialWelfareUnion
on twitter @WelfareUnion

We Are Spartacus – network of disabled bloggers, campaigners and supporters. Recently released The People’s Review of the WCA Report available at: http://wearespartacus.org.uk/

DWP Examination forum – friendly forum for all those struggling with the WCA and welfare reform: http://www.dwpexamination.org/

Unemployment Movement Forum – forum for all things claimant related: http://unemploymentmovement.com/forum/index

Anti-Atos Alliance – facebook group fighting Atos and the WCA: http://www.facebook.com/groups/AntiAtosAlliance/

After Atos – another facebook group supporting survivors of the brutal Atos regime: http://www.facebook.com/groups/afteratos/

Disability Defence: Facebook group fighting for disabled people’s rights: http://www.facebook.com/groups/disabilitydefence/

Respect for the Unemployed and Benefit Claimants – long running facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/25024876259/




To keep up on welfare issues also follow: @patspetition, @IzzyKoksal, @Fight_Workfare, @postpolionews, @Quinonostante, @doNOTsign, @solfed_iwa, @shivmalik1, @missdennisqueen, @LindaBurnip,@suey2y, @HouSolidarity, @AtosStories, @BendyGirl, @redjolly1, @e_lisney, @AtosVictims1, @Miss_Ben_E_Fit, @CarerWatch, @AtosKills, @BrumProtestor, @DarkestAngeL31, @NCCLols, @BrokenOfBritain, @pcs_union, @a4ehighpark1, @VirtualResistan, @slsolfed, @lisybabe,‏ @wheresbenefit, @FalseEcon, @UKuncut

You can follow me @johnnyvoid

Universal Credit is Falling Apart Insiders Claim

Iain Duncan Smith’s bodged welfare reforms could be falling apart at the seams according to Whitehall insiders.

The Independent today reveals that Universal Credit is now a year behind schedule, £100 million over budget and that senior figures involved in the new benefit roll out have quit.

A government adviser on information technology is reported to have said: “IDS, like other ministers before him, has been hypnotised by promises of what an online system can deliver. Warnings were given to him more than a year ago. They were ignored.”

Universal Credit is dependent on a colossal database and IT system being created which is far more ambitious than has ever been attempted  by any country previously.  The new benefit regime will be digital by default, meaning millions of people, many of whom don’t have and can’t afford internet connections at home, will only be able to access benefits from Jobcentres and libraries.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that Universal Credit will simplify the benefits system and ensure that being in work always pays it seems that neither of these objectives are likely to be met.  Increasingly there have been warnings that many working people could be worse off under the new regime.

Already the new benefit is mired in complexity, as the reality of throwing away 50 years of steady development in welfare administration is thrown away to be replaced by Iain Duncan Smith’s increasingly crazed schemes.

Iain Duncan Smith and Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud have repeatedly announced policy off the cuff, with little thought as to whether the new systems can be made to work in reality.  Bodged proposals to deal with everything from how rent payments to supported housing such as Women’s Refuges will be administered or how free school meals will be managed have been invented on the spur of the moment with barely a thought for the practicalities.

Research which recently suggested that just under half of social housing tenants are expected to fall into budgeting difficulties and be unable to pay rent has even been presented by Lord Fraud as somehow representing good news.

The social costs when the new system is implemented are chilling.  Part time workers could be bullied by Jobcentre staff to give up their jobs in favour of temporary full time work.  Single parents with young children could be compelled to work from dawn to dusk with reduced childcare support or face sanctions which mean they are unable to feed their kids.  Sick or disabled claimants will face unprecedented harassment and brutal benefit sanctions if they are not judged to be trying hard enough to find non-existent jobs.  A combination of the new payment system and benefit caps have meant that many private landlords are saying they will no longer let to benefit claimants due to the complexity of the new plans.

Astonishingly Universal Credit won’t even save any money and is likely to cost far more to administrate than the current system.

Today’s revelations reveals that behind the scenes the implementation of Universal Credit is equally shambolic.

Whilst the new benefit system was intended to be rolled out in just next April it now seems that these will just be small pilot projects in Chesire and Manchester.  With just six months to go, The Independent claims a complete reorganisation of the complex IT system is now taking place which could add another half a billion to the cost by next Spring.

The Universal Credit programme director Malcolm Whitehouse, and the DWP’s head of IT, Steve Dover, are both reported to have left the DWP last week.  Other key staff are also claimed to have left whilst the civil servant in charge is on extended sick leave.

The small pilots which have taken place to test the IT system are reported to have reported errors in dates and payments, with one trial involving just 400 claimants being described as ‘chaotic’.

None of this is likely to stop Iain Duncan Smith whose defiant charge into political oblivion may yet drag half the country with him.  It will not just be benefit claimants who suffer as rents go unpaid, debts are defaulted on and household bills are unpaid.  With 18 million people likely to be affected by the change to Universal Credit, a bungled roll out could send the economy into meltdown.

And bungling is what Iain Duncan Smith does best as he attempts to steamroll through the welfare reforms he designed on the back of an envelope after watching an episode of Shameless.  The end result could be a shambles that dwarfs anything we’ve seen so far from this toff Government.

Iain Duncan Smith Plans Food Stamps Scheme For Disabled Parents

Iain Duncan Smith is planning to introduce a food stamps style scheme aimed at the poorest families who he accuses of wasting all their benefits on drugs and alcohol.  Disabled parents or those with a mental health condition on the lowest incomes, are likely to be the first targets of the scheme.

The planned system will see benefits loaded onto smart cards which will only be able to be used at government approved shops for government approved products.  The 120,000 ‘troubled’ families identified earlier in the year by Eric Pickles will be the first to be moved onto the new payment system according to today’s Daily Telegraph.

The criteria for being a troubled family have nothing to do with a history of drug or alcohol abuse and are based solely on income, health, disability or educational background.  Troubled families are those that meet five out of the following seven factors: a low income, no-one in the family in work, living in poor housing, parents with no qualifications, a  mother who has a mental health problem, one parent with a long-standing illness or disability,or the family is unable to afford basics, such as food and clothes.

It is telling that four of these criteria mean essentially the same thing.  That the family is poor.  Add a mental health condition or long standing disability to this and the family will be placed on the new smart card scheme.

This will be devastating for low income families as well as the local small businesses they use.  No longer will the poorest families be able to use street markets or second hand shops to shop around for vital items.  It will no doubt be the likes of Tesco, Argos and Poundland, or expensive local shops who are part of the paypoint network, who are the ‘approved’ shops for the poor.

Disabled people who are not lucky enough to have a local shop affiliated with the scheme may be forced to make expensive and arduous journeys on public transport to the nearest ‘approved’ shop.  Those with dietary needs, whether for health, religious or ethical reasons, may no longer be able to buy food locally at all.  Children will see the occasional little treat disappear whilst a birthday visit to the cinema or funfair will no longer be possible.  Instead they will be forced to watch their parents humiliated at the check-out as overworked shop assistants assess whether they are allowed to buy what’s in their trolly.

A similar supermarket voucher scheme was abandoned for Asylum Seekers in 2002* due to the stigmatising impact of the regime, which Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes called: “degrading, discriminatory and impractical”.  The same MP is now part of a government planning a similar scheme for UK citizens.

Those who do spend benefits on alcohol or drugs are unlikely to be affected, unless they also fall into the criteria for being ‘troubled’.   Those who are caught up in the new scheme will simply trade in goods such as razors and batteries, sell their smart card allocations to others, or resort to begging and stealing.  Many small shops who do manage to qualify for the scheme will no doubt still accept the smart cards for fags and booze anyway, although perhaps at a premium.  Illicit money changing schemes, under which cards are swiped for cash payments minus a cut, will be inevitable.

The supermarket voucher scheme for asylum seekers was launched by Jack Straw after ten years of press demonisation of those who had fled their homelands and become refugees.  It was thought that fake asylum seekers were flooding the UK because of the overly ‘generous’ benefits system – which in fact is one of the most miserly in Europe.  Supermarket vouchers did nothing to slow the numbers entering the UK.   The next step for asylum seekers was detention centres.

A similar smear campaign has been taking place recently aimed at ‘benefit scroungers’.  So successful has it been that the Tory Party talked of little else at their party conference.  With the Government fast becoming a laughing stock, ever more draconian policies are likely to be dreamed up in an effort to placate the Daily Mail hate mob.

Should Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal smart card scheme emerge in reality – and a change in the law will be necessary first – then they are unlikely to stay confined to so called ‘troubled’ families.  Already smart cards have been floated as an idea for everyone on benefits.  For those on the lowest incomes free-market capitalism will be anything but free.  The Government will choose what you buy and where you buy it.  Nanny knows best and Nanny says you have to shop at Tesco.

*those who have been refused asylum can now be forced to depend on supermarket vouchers whilst they are awaiting deportation, if they are pregnant or to ill to leave or are launching a judicial review against their asylum decision.

George Osborne’s Benefit Bullshitting Hides His True Agenda

Hidden beneath the benefit bashing which has dominated the obsessed Tory Party Conference, George Osborne’s speech yesterday was not just the attack on out of work claimants it appeared to be.

One big lie has dominated the Tory debate on welfare and the chancellor was only too happy to repeat it yesterday.  Twice in his speech he claimed that both young people or families are “better off on benefits than they would be in work.”

This crude attempt at divide and rule has become a Tory mantra ever since this Government weren’t elected.  And it’s not true.

A person under 25 working for the minimum wage for 37 hours a week receives  a net salary of £204.36.  Jobseekers Allowance for those under 25 is £56.25.    The maximum available Housing Benefit for someone under 25 in Birmingham (for example) is  £55.

This means that a young person in work, in almost all areas of the UK, is almost twice as well off as someone on unemployment benefits. Even in expensive Kensington & Chelsea the maximum Housing Benefit payment to those under 25 without children is £123.50.  This is an exception due to the staggering cost of properties in a London borough which also has it’s share of children growing up in poverty.  However a young person working in this borough (on minimum wage) is entitled to £30.49 a week in Housing Benefit.  Or at least they were.  George Osborne plans to change this.

The situation for working families with children is equally clear.  Sadly even some workers at the lower end of the pay scale have bought into the relentless bullshit and bemoaned how they would be better off on benefits.  They wouldn’t.  No-one is.  This is another lie and it’s time to nail it once and for all.

A single parent with two children living in Birmingham and renting in the private sector would receive  maximum possible benefits of £348.14 (over a third of this would be in Housing Benefit payments which go to landlords).  A single parent working on minimum wage for 37 hours a week, in otherwise the exact same circumstances, would receive a total of £445.86 in net wages and in work benefits.*

It’s important to note both these calculations are based on the minimum wage.  As wages rise Housing Benefit is reduced at a tapered rate, meaning the difference between a better off earner and someone on benefits becomes even greater.

In work benefits are now under attack like never before.  Working Tax Credits have already been stripped away for parents working part time.  Housing Benefit has been subject to caps and set at a lower rate whilst for those under 25, whether in or out of work, it is seemingly to be abolished completely.  Disability Living Allowance which pays for vital care and equipment for working and non working disabled people alike is to be cut by a fifth.  Part time or self-employed workers who do not earn enough and depend on some in work benefits could face workfare when Universal Credit is introduced next year.

George Osborne may pretend to aim his cuts at the mythical feckless but this hides another quite different agenda.  Osborne is attacking not just benefit claimants, but low waged workers.  His contempt for the poor goes far beyond the tabloid rhetoric aimed at so called scroungers.  If you aren’t rich, he’s not interested.   As Osborne himself said in his speech:

“Whether it’s the owner of the corner shop staying open until midnight to support their family.

Or the teacher prepared to defy her union and stay late to take the after-school club.

Or the commuter who leaves home before the children are up, and comes back long after they have gone to bed, because they want a better life for them.

Or the pensioner, who has saved all their life, and doesn’t want to spend it all as they want to pass something on to their children.

Or the entrepreneur who doesn’t cash out and pack up, but devotes their flair and energy to building the next success story.

They are all part of one nation – one nation working together to get on.

That is the nation we represent.

These are the people I serve as Chancellor.”

Not bus drivers, or classroom assistants or call centre workers.  Not pensioners who’ve worked their whole lives and are dependent on Housing Benefit to keep a roof over their heads.  Unusually for tory scum, not even the poor bastards getting limbs shot off whilst earning a pittance in Afghanistan.

Instead small business owners, large business owners and middle class commuters who can afford to not only pay huge rail fares but live in the leafy commuter belt (and when did neglecting your children become an aspiration?).  Or rich pensioners like George Osborne’s dad who hoard their money away so their wealth and privilege is passed onto the squirming vermin they’ve spawned.  And professional public sector workers.  But only if they are prepared to scab.

These are the people George Osborne governs for.  And no-one else.

*These figures represent claimants eligible for Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support, the two main out of work benefits.  They include Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefits, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (for those in work).  They do not include the sickness or disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA).  A single parent with two kids qualifying for the support group for ESA – meaning a person assessed as being unable to ever work again or someone being treated for cancer – would receive a total of £396.99 a week in benefits compared to £445.86 total income for someone in minimum wage work.

Child Starves To Death in the UK: A Vision of the Future After Welfare Reform

Inside Housing this week reports on the tragic case of the child of an asylum seeker who starved to death due to ‘significant problems’ in providing welfare services for the family.

In a chilling portent of what is to come for those with children whose benefits are sanctioned under the upcoming Universal Credit regime, the family had been forced to rely on ‘ad hoc’ charitable handouts.  Increasing numbers of families are already dependent on food banks and charities to feed their children.

This case, whilst exceptional, highlights the very real poverty faced by those seeking asylum, despite the endless lurid headlines attacking benefit scrounging immigrants.  Last year the government scrapped the funding for the Refugee Integration and Employment Service which provided support for those seeking asylum.  The sad death took place before these changes,meaning the situation for refugees has got worse, not better since these cuts.  Details of the cause of death have only now emerged due to a case review into the tragedy.

Under planned changes to benefits as part of the Universal Credit regime , families with children could face benefit sanctions of up to three years should parents fail to meet the requirements to actively seek work for 35 hours a week.  Half a million sanctions were handed out to claimants without children last year under a similar regime.

Those who work with refugees have warned that more tragedies like the one highlighted by Inside Housing are likely unless more is done to improve support for refugees.  With welfare reform about to plunge hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families into a similarly chaotic and inhumane system, it may not just be those seeking asylum whose tragic stories are told over the coming years.

A child starving to death in one of the richest countries in the world should be a wake up call to all those who are all too happy to condemn those with least to abject poverty.  Whatever opinions about benefit claimants, asylum seekers or immigrants are spewed out by this vile government and their supporters, no child – whoever their parents are and wherever they came from – should go without food in the UK.  Since this government of millionaires doesn’t seem to care, then it is down to all of us to ensure this sad waste of young life remains an exception and not the norm.

Sign Pat’s Petition

There’s now just over a month before Pat’s Petition expires on the 1st November and already just short of 50,000 signatures have been collected.

The petition calls on Parliament to: “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families” and can be signed at:  http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

If another 50,000 signatures can be found before the end of October – which is a big ask and will take some work – then it could force the cuts to disability benefits to be debated in Parliament.  Whilst this is unlikely to change much, it will at the very least nark them off and possibly slow them down a little.

I don’t generally get on with the never ending stream of petitions.  A government that is introducing sweeping cuts that are killing sick and disabled claimants as well as forcing children into homelessness and hunger is hardly likely to change because of a petition after all.  Government’s need to be forced into making concessions, not asked nicely.

But not everyone can get out on the streets or take part in direct action and there is no question that online campaigning has been effective so far in the struggle against benefit cuts.  A diversity of tactics is a good thing.

Signing this petition will at the very least show that despite the endless stream of crap about benefit claimants there is a significant number of people who support the welfare state.  And it will get up the Tory’s noses.  And it takes 2 minutes.  So sign it, share it and tweet it.

Lord Freud Doesn’t Know How Much JSA Is!

Lord Fraud, the comedy toff who also happens to be Minister for Welfare Reform, doesn’t even know how much the weekly unemployment benefit  Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is worth.

Speaking recently to the Work and Pensions Select Committee the former banker stated:

“the JSA amount is £64, or whatever the precise figures is.”

JSA is £71 for those over 25 and £56.25 for younger people.

Lord Fraud’s  staggering ignorance of the benefits system is far more telling than often repeated stories about out of touch ministers not knowing the price of a pint of milk.  Lord Fraud has been involved with welfare reform since 2006 and is currently attempting the biggest changes to the benefits system since the birth of the Welfare State.

Had he actually been doing any real work then it might be expected that the basic facts about the most common benefits would be burnt into his brain.  After all, it is his fucking job to know these things.

It comes as no surprise that this inept clown should not even bother to learn anything about the very benefits he is tasked with reforming.  After all  Lord Fraud himself has admitted: “Nearly everything I’ve done has been total chaos.” 

Jokes have been pretty thin on the ground at the DWP since the departure of the Chris Grayling comedy show.  It appears however that Lord Fraud is only too keen to step into his bungling, bull-shitting shoes.  Sadly for the millions of people who will see lives and incomes devastated due to welfare reform, Lord Fraud’s incompetence will be anything but a joke.