Tag Archives: Welfare

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.

Daily Mail Bigots Reach New Low


How stupid are the idiots at the Daily Mail?
Their front page today branded everyone on benefits as murderers, suggesting that welfare makes the crime inevitable.

Even if their readership is gullible enough to believe that (and I dare say some of them are), why would it matter to them if the victims of the killing (manslaughter, as it happens, but murder in the eyes of a Mail devotee), were themselves “products of the welfare state”, as much as their parents anyway. Did they deserve to die then?

Of course not, the whole thing was utter bollocks, an opportunistic jab at anyone who unfortunate enough to rely on benefits.

If I was as stupid and insensitive as a Daily Mail editor, I could claim that an excess of money leads to homicide, as in the case of Ian Workman. The Mail missed that connection when they reported on his case. I wonder why?

Mail journalists often express indignation at being characterised as Nazi sympathisers, just because the paper’s owner Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, was a good friend of Adolf Hitler, and often praise him for his “great and superhuman” work.

If those journos object to such crude generalisations, they should refrain from making them themselves.




So the Tory led coalition, aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats, has brought in changes to the welfare state, putting lives at risk, either from the effects of poverty, as people on benefits (including many in work) see their income slashed and their expenses soar, or from the lack of healthcare, as the National Health Service is picked apart for selling to vultures who include members of the cabinet.
Meanwhile, in a few days, most of that same cabinet will be giving themselves a huge tax cut. though why  Iain Duncan Smith needs so much money is a mystery, since he claims he could live on £53 a week if he had to.

“We’re all in it together.”

The purported reason for slashing benefits is to “make work pay”, yet now the government has floated the idea of freezing, or even cutting, the minimum wage. Obviously, if they still maintain that they want to “make work pay”, they’ll want to cut benefits even more, to make sure those without jobs suffer even more than those with. Given Iain Duncan Smith’s fondness for a mediaeval style Christianity, he’ll probably want to get rid of the welfare system altogether, and replace it with the giving of alms. Many Conservative voters would probably agree.

At least until they hit upon hard times themselves.


Alec Shelbrooke’s Doublespeak

Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke thinks it’s a good idea to closely monitor the spending habits of everyone in receipt of benefits and, in December, introduced a bill to make them use a “Welfare Cash Card” to buy only the essentials of existence.

Several questions arise, which Shelbrooke has so far failed to answer.

Firstly, what are the essentials? Well, food, obviously, is one, but what food, and from where? One of the problems with having a limited budget is that good, healthy food tends to be more expensive. A free range chicken, for example, is much more expensive than a battery one, but has a lot less fat. Thus, seemingly paradoxically, the less you have to spend on food, the more chance of obesity.

By shopping around, that free range chicken may be affordable, but a “Welfare Cash Card” will, inevitably, limit the cardholder to “approved” shops, and shopping around will be difficult, even impossible, and most certainly extremely humiliating when payment with the card is refused.

Transport, too, will be difficult. Jobseekers need to get to interviews, sick and disabled people need to get to doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. Not all bus companies, for example, will accept dedicated travel cards (like the ones that used to be issued to jobseekers when they were put on certain courses) let alone this proposed one-for-all card.

Those are just a couple of examples, but I’m sure that people who are prepared to think can find even more.

On his blog, Shelbrooke, incredibly, claims to be defending the Welfare State, against a Labour Party who, he says, is intent on destroying it! I expect to learn, in his next blog post, that up is down, black is white, and the moon is made of blue Stilton.

He inadvertently gives the game away, however, with the use of an image to illustrate his claims. It shows that, far from defending the Welfare State, he is fighting it, and is calling for support in that fight.


Shelbrooke’s geographically confused illustration.

It is also rather odd that the image is that of an American icon, and that it has the word “sample” plastered all over it. That smacks of laziness to me.

Shelbrooke! You bloody shirker!

Why The “Quiet Man” Should Stay Quiet

At the end of BBC’s Question Time (25/11/2012), Owen Jones tried his best to mention a couple of names of disabled people who’d died as a result of, or sooner than necessary because, of their loss of benefits after being wrongly assessed as fit for work.

I didn’t catch the first name*, but I heard the second one, possibly because I was already aware of it: Karen Sherlock. You can read of Karen’s last years, in her own words, by clicking here.

Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, decided his best argument was to shout Owen down

IDS’s final words before the programme ended were “We’ve heard a lot from you!” followed by a rant about how he was proud of changing people’s lives. In a rare moment of honesty, he omitted the words “for the better“.

Well, Smith, you are wrong. You may not have wanted to hear any more from Owen Jones, perhaps due to a guilty conscience (though one you studiously suppress), but we (myself and many others) wanted to hear more. What we got instead was childish, petulant rudeness from someone who thinks he has a divine right to rule, and to treat people outside his circle of rich friends as disposable nuisances.  Disabled people cannot be made well by you or your ATOS lackeys telling them they are fit for work, nor can unemployed people be helped into work by stripping them of benefits if there aren’t enough jobs.


With any luck that angry outburst will dissuade enough people from voting Conservative at the next election to keep them far away from power. I just hope the deaths that are to come because of government policy are few in number.

It’s probably a forlorn hope.

*A better account, by someone who was listening more closely than I was, can be found by clicking here.

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.