Tag Archives: Welfare reform

“This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us”

“This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us” says Keith Hebden, in a “Comment is Free” piece for the Guardian on Monday. As an atheist, I have no automatic respect for religious rituals. I think it’s a good idea to eat fish at least once a week, for example, but I don’t see why it should be a Friday.

So a religious man, doing something that ties in with his religion, but taking it a little further, is just a publicity stunt. One that I applaud.

We can probably all recall at least one Tory politician who has spent a week on as much money as someone on benefits gets, to show how, with a bit of planning, it’s possible to adequately look after yourself. These cynical ploys are undermined, either by abject failure, or by revelations of cheating.

Keith Hebden isn’t trying to prove anything by fasting. He isn’t trying to show either how easy it is, or how difficult. He almost certainly won’t suffer any long term health problems, though I hope he has taken, and will heed, medical advice. He isn’t even evangelising for his faith, as he concludes his article with:

“We can all help: whether you are spiritual, religious, or just that wonderful thing called “human”.”

He’s fasting to raise awareness of a very real problem. The phrase “publicity stunt” is usually taken to mean that there’s an ulterior motive, but it doesn’t have to and, in this case, I don’t think there is.



You can follow Keith’s progress on Twitter by clicking here.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil – Talk Bollocks

I’ve noticed a couple of times on Twitter someone claiming that the mere act of reporting that people are committing suicide after losing some or all of their benefits is irresponsible, and that suicides will increase as a result. Now, in the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill adds the slur that those of us who care enough to even notice are exploiting “such psychologically disturbed behaviour for political ends“.

His “reasoning” seems to be that suicide “ is not a rational response to having your benefits cut” and we therefore can’t link the deaths to the cuts.

Of COURSE suicide isn’t rational, that’s the point we’re all making! Vulnerable people are losing money that they can ill afford, are often in danger of losing the very roof over their heads, don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and are increasingly desperate about their future, until it all becomes too much for them.

Keeping quiet about suicides doesn’t slow down the rate, however. It just keeps them hidden, and better off people, who don’t rely on benefits, can smugly pretend there isn’t a problem.

O’Neill ends:

” These campaigners approach working-class and less well-off communities through the politics of pity rather than the politics of solidarity, and consequently have a tendency to view “the poor” as vulnerable, at risk, irrational, on the cusp of suicide, and in constant need of care and largesse from the do-gooding state. Poorer communities would be far better off fighting against such Victorian-style pity-politics than against Cameron’s welfare reforms.”

Not everybody is vulnerable in terms of mental health. On the other hand, poverty is a vulnerability in itself, since one increasingly needs money these days to obtain any kind of justice. Even a small reduction in benefits can be devastating.

Something that  Brendan O’Neill probably cannot, or will not, see, ensconced as he is in his ivory tower.

Sinister Goings-on at Atos

As if the activities of Atos “Healthcare” weren’t sinister enough, it now emerges that the company demands that all its employees sign the Official Secrets Act.
Doctors and nurses, who are already bound by a confidentiality code, that would see them struck off if they broke it, are being forced to sign the OSA, even though their work isn’t covered by the act.
It’s true that some parts of the company deal with defence contracts, but they are completely separate from the work capability assessments that are so controversial that, I am sure, the company will do all it can to prevent criticism. Including bullying its employees.
It is telling that even the Department for Work and Pensions was unaware of this draconian practice.
Makes me wonder what else Atos has to hide.

Hatebook – The War Against the Vulnerable

It has been quite obvious for a while now that the government, with the help of some of the more right-wing press, have been running a smear campaign against disabled people, to make it easier to pass their Welfare Reform Bill with a minimum of protest.

An example of how well they are succeeding can, if it hasn’t been removed by the time you read this, be found on a Facebook page that seeks to have “Blue Badge” parking permits taken from disabled people.

The page seems to be American in origin, but there have been quite a few comments from Brits keen to show their disdain for the disabled.

Here’s their mission statement:

Notice at the end the call to break the law, yet Facebook, at the time of writing, have ignored the many reports that I know they have received.

The most recent post, and the reply, demonstrate the stupidity of this group.

Stacey makes a fatuous leap from a few cases seen in a television show, to widespread abuse of the system, and Amelia agrees, and makes a further leap, that disabled people are liars because some people are pretending to be disabled.

With witless people like this around, is it any wonder that disabled people are increasingly being bullied and attacked?

EDIT: 11th April, the page has disappeared! 

Atos Ahoy!

To the list of undesirable attributes displayed by Atos, such as incompetence, heartlessness and arrogance, we can now add dishonesty.

I’ve read many accounts of work assessments being carried out by people who have a very tenuous grasp of honesty, but the Advertising Standards Authority’s latest findings speak to a corporate disdain for the truth.

The parts of the ad in contention were

Each year Atos Healthcare process over 1.2 million referrals for medical advice completing over 800,000 face-to-face medical assessments”  and  “our 1700+ healthcare professionals

The ASA upheld the complaint and said that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

That was on the 4th of April and yet, today, the 8th of April, I visited the Atos website, and took this screenshot:

You should be able to see the detail if you click on the image, but in case you can’t, here’s a close-up of the relevant part:

They’ve not changed a single word.

EDIT TO ADD: Still no change, as of 19th April.

That the advertisement was misleading is bad enough, but Atos compounded the aforementioned arrogance by not even bothering to respond to the ASA, which was itself a breach of the  Committee of Advertising Practice code.

The DWP need to address this issue too, and a FOI request has been made.

Pretend Journalist Writes Garbage

Rod Liddle, already known to many of us as a misogynist, racist, religious bigot and liar, has now targeted disabled people. In today’s Sun “newspaper” (and yes, the scare quotes are in the right place) he has denounced most disabled,especially those who claim disability benefits, as “pretend disabled”.

Here are a few quotes from his diatribe, as collated by the Political Scrapbook blog.

“My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to become disabled. Nothing too serious, maybe just a bit of a bad back or one of those newly invented illnesses which make you a bit peaky for decades – fibromyalgia, or M.E.”

“And being disabled is incredibly fashionable. The number of people who claim to be disabled has doubled in the past ten years.”

“I think we should all pretend to be disabled for a month or so, claim benefits and hope this persuades the authorities to sort out the mess.”

“It has become easier to claim those benefits, partly as a consequence of the disablement charities who, out of their own self-interest, insist that an ever-greater proportion of the population is disabled.”

Even if Liddle were to pass the exams necessary to make an accurate diagnosis, he could not possibly examine enough people to make such a gross generalisation remotely worthwhile.
Of course, Liddle isn’t the only one picking on the disabled. The ConDem government, while pushing their Welfare “reforms”, continue to brief against the most vulnerable in society. Liddle just can’t resist such an easy target for his vitriol.

Update: If you are on Facebook, there’s a page called Justice for people with Fibromyalgia/M.E against Rob Liddle (columinist), where you can add your voice to the growing number of people angered by this clown.

There’s also a petition that people in the UK can sign, about recognising the illnesses that Liddle writes off as “pretend”: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20035