Tag Archives: Welfare reform

The Poor Can’t Cook – What a Give Away!


Champagne

When Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, a member of the House of Lords Refreshment Committee that spent £250,000 on champagne since David Cameron entered Number 10, said recently that the rise of hunger and food bank use in the UK was because “poor people don’t know how to cook”, there was understandable uproar, but she has since apologised, and some people think that should be an end to it.

But was her apology sincere?

“I made a mistake” she said. “Obviously I was stupidly speaking unscripted.

“What I meant was as a society we have lost our ability to cook, or that no longer seems to be handed down in the way that it was in previously in previous generations.

“Life is considerably cheaper if you are able to cook.”

Most of that was fine. As a society, we tend to rely more on pre-prepared food than earlier generations, but that is at least as true of well-off people as it is of those with very limited means.

In fact, it is people with plenty of money that are likeliest to eat, by choice, food prepared by others, whether they eat at restaurants or they employ a cook.

Poorer people have less choice, because they have less money, and the very poorest have the least choice. If they eat junk food, and don’t cook, it may well be that they can’t afford the gas or electricity. They might – just – manage to heat a ready meal, but not a meal from scratch. Some people haven’t even the money for that, and there are reports of foodbank recipients giving food back for that reason.

The part of the Baroness’s apology that was, for me, the most telling was the line “Obviously I was stupidly speaking unscripted.” Now that did look scripted, as if she’s been told off for letting the cat out of the bag! Disdain for the poor is common in the Conservative party, but they’re normally careful to shroud it in weasel words, and leave it to their friends in the press to wage a campaign against them.

That’s the script that Jenkins failed to follow. An odd mistake for a former public relations consultant.

See also this excellent post by the inestimable Johnny Void.
Some of the comments make valid points too, such as having a freezer and the money to run it making eating cheaply easier. One or two commenters have criticised the post for getting some prices wrong. While that was a valid point, owned up to quickly by Johnny, it does accurately portray a dilemma faced by someone with only loose change left to feed themselves for several days. If the item on your shopping list, the cheapest cous cous for example, is not available, and the next price up is out of your reach, it throws your whole plan off, and you have to search for other cheap staples. Sudden increases in price can have just as devastating an effect.
Of course, if you are financially buffered against such things, you can pontificate about poor people’s lack of culinary skills until the organic grass-fed cows come home.

Passport to Hell


DWP passport

There’s a “Passport Crisis”, apparently, and the mainstream media is full of it.
I sympathise with holidaymakers, especially those of modest means, who may have struggled to save enough to go away, and families of expats who may be unable to see their loved ones, perhaps for another year, if they have work commitments.
I’m not going to decry the media’s coverage of this story. What angers me is their abject failure, often wilful, to properly cover the plight of thousands of people living in terror of losing their benefits.
Some Job Centre Plus staff go out of their way to help claimants but, more and more, others go out of their way to entrap them, in order to sanction them. Those most at risk, such as disabled and mentally ill people, are in most danger of losing their money, but even the most stark cases, such as someone in a coma being found fit for work, don’t make the headlines, and usually don’t get reported at all, except on internet blogs.
The State is failing the most vulnerable people in society, people are starving to death, and the media’s only response, in most cases, is to parrot government Ministers as they try to bully charities like the Trussell Trust to stop them reporting the problem.
They’ve already silenced the mainstream media.

“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.