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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Let us not help Theresa May bury the bad news about Universal Credit rollout, suicides and homelessness under a Brexit General Election

Yesterday's Kwug Blog carried a 'guest blog post' from Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty.(1) Even in his mid-80's, Revd Paul is extremely prolific with his offerings and far quicker to respond than this disabled person. The best I can do to 'catch up with him' is generally to forward e-mail notifications of the Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP) website on to the Kilburn Unemployed e-list, but even then be selective so as not to give vulnerable list members a sense of melt-down and information overload.(2)

The Kwug Blog 'guest contribution' posted yesterday, — A Universal Credit case study — however, included tabulated data that proved difficult to transmit by e-mail and provided valuable information about Universal Credit that the general public are largely ignorant about, and corporate mass media generally keeps buried while Universal Credit-related rent arrears can catapult the number of evictions from social housing.(3) It can take up to 12 weeks for a Universal Credit claim to be processed and thus for the claimant to get any Universal Credit income; yet under English Law, eviction proceedings can begin after just eight weeks or rent arrears.(4)

Revd Paul Nicolson does not keep his incisive light buried under a bushel, and though his latest offering by e-mail has not yet made it to the TAP website, I can help here to get the message out as soon as possible even while I was hoping to prioritise other things just now.

Referenda and General Elections are too often based not on real knowledge of issues, and the results are mangled in an unrepresentative 'first past the post' electoral system that is too influenced by the wealthy. Whatever the result of an 8 June General Election, it will not really be a mandate for what the people have heard too litlle of. I should add that while the KUWG focus is mainly on the benefits system while housing law is too complex for us to handle, TAP has a more extensive overview of things, and more specific to LB Haringey where Revd Paul lives.

With that, I shall just bring in Revd Paul's latest offering.

During election TAP will do what we do



--
HARINGEY COUNCIL TAXES BENEFIT INCOMES OF ITS POOREST RESIDENTS OF UK'S MOST DEPRIVED WARDS WITH 
LOW LIFE EXPECTANCY AND HIGH RISK OF LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT.

from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an 
adequate income in work or unemployment. 

93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 


Link references

http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/a-universal-credit-case-study-by-revd-paul-nicolson.html
http://taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/
http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/a-universal-credit-case-study-by-revd-paul-nicolson.html 
https://scottishunemployedworkers.net/2016/07/15/sharing-knowledge-in-the-face-of-further-attacks/

Polls close 5pm on Weds 19 April in Unite the Union General Secretary 2017 election

Today is Tuesday 18 April. Polls close 5pm tomorrow in Unite the Union General Secretary Election 2017.

Some members of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group are members of Unite the Union's Community Section. If you are a Unite the Union member you are likely to have had your ballot paper through the post with reply envelope for sending off your vote with 2nd class postage prepaid. I sent mine off last Thursday, adding 10p stamp to bring the postage up to 1st class.

For something of my personal views on this election, see my previous posting
Unite Community General Secretary Elections 2017.(1) That posting gives links to the three candidates' campaign websites.

Link reference

  1. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/unite-community-general-secretary-elections-2017.html

Monday, 17 April 2017

A Universal Credit case study by Revd Paul Nicolson

Guest blog post by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

Universal Calamity 

Struggling to survive in Tottenham, with a history of depression.

Paid one penny to last next month because he earned £1109 last month. The Universal Credit is a nightmare for zero hours contract workers.

£317 a month UC standard allowance is the equivalent of £73.10 a week IS/JSA/ESA

The council charges him council tax at £3.40 a week or £14.75 a month

He has rent and council tax arrears due to a three month benefit sanction and irregular work. 

He is threatened with eviction when he inevitably gets behind.

We know that £73.10 a week IS/JSA/ESA has reduced in value since 1979, the increase was frozen at 1% in 2011 and it has not been increased since April 2015.




Link reference

--
HARINGEY COUNCIL TAXES BENEFIT INCOMES OF ITS POOREST RESIDENTS 
OF UK'S MOST DEPRIVED WARDS WITH 
LOW LIFE EXPECTANCY AND HIGH RISK OF LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT.

from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an 
adequate income in work or unemployment. 

93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The colonisation of 'lifestyle choices' in the name of 'welfare reform'

All too frequently in matters of 'welfare reform' that are really about the privatisation of the welfare state, we hear that poor people are poor because they/we have made 'poor lifestyle choices'.(1) The reality is more that the 'key decision makers' are completely ignorant at best, calous liars with their own agendas -- leading to huge lobbyist salaries for likeminded global corporations -- at worst.

An example of this is given in the false promises of Disability Minister Penny Mordaunt in persuading fellow-Conservative MPs to back new legislation that cuts to Jobseekers Allowance levels the amount of money people in the [sickness and disability benefit] Employment & Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group have to live on each week.(2) These are people who are so disadvantaged by sickness or disability that they require more financial support to compensate for reduced chances of getting waged employment, while those advocating this cut in benefit level claim that the real problem is this group's lack of 'incentive' to do paid work.

As Disability News Service reports:(3)
... Penny Mordaunt had ... promised fellow MPs on the work and pensions select committee in November (pictured) that she was working on a package of measures to “mitigate the £30”, which she said would be in place “before April”.(4)

Facing fierce criticism over the cut, Mordaunt told the MPs that she was working at “ensuring that someone’s outgoings can be managed”, and at reducing their “non-work-related costs”, such as energy, broadband and phone bills.(5)

She told them: “I know what I need to do and I have put a large amount of resource in the department behind it, and I can only repeat that the more reassurance I can give on this the better.

“I am not in a position to outline chapter and verse, but I hope to be soon, and I very much understand what I need to do.”

She also said that she was “talking to energy suppliers, mobile phone companies and broadband suppliers”.

But when Disability News Service (DNS) asked this week what Mordaunt had managed to achieve in the four months since November, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggested that her only success was ensuring that new WRAG claimants would be told by their jobcentre work coaches how to secure the cheapest BT telephone tariff....
[A Department for Work & Pensions Spokesperson] declined to comment when asked if working with businesses “to harness the power of technology to ensure disabled consumers are better informed about the accessibility and inclusivity of products and services available” was another way of saying that Mordaunt was helping businesses to market their products to disabled people.
So, essentially, such bad government can be regarded as colonising disadvantaged groups for the benefit of global capitalism.

Understand 'the benefits jungle'

By contrast, London Green Party is hosting an event on Sunday 23 April toward helping caring people better understand 'the benefits jungle':(6)

Description

An information, casework and campaigning base about Universal Credit, the bedroom tax, benefit caps and cuts for disabled people. You can book your free place any time now.

The main speaker will be Barb Jacobson, who is a benefits adviser and coordinator of Basic Income UK and member of the board of Unconditional Basic Income Europe.

Background docs are on https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mueihb7UdXJfgH91zjGYR7Cr-NWOzmghKGXPkkpfyHQ/edit?usp=sharing

Date and Time

Sun, April 23, 2017
2:30 PM – 5:00 PM BST

Location

Chadswell Healthy Living Centre
Lower ground floor, Chadswell Flats
Harrison St (off Grays Inn Rd)
London
WC1H 8LD
View Map


Though hosted by London Green Party, the event is open to non-Green Party members and members of other politicall parties who want to help people get what they require from the benefits system and to make the benefits system serve vulnerable people more than global corporations.

Even if we do not ourselves do casework as such, for whatever reason, we can gain insights that help us campaign better for social and economic justice.

Link references

  1. https://uk.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=%22welfare%20reform%22%20%22lifestyle%20choices%22&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-100&type=newtab
  2. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/exposed-mordaunts-false-promises-on-wrag-cut-mitigation/ 
  3. ibid.
  4. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/mordaunt-working-on-urgent-plans-to-reduce-living-costs-ahead-of-wrag-cuts/ 
  5. http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/disability-employment-gap/oral/44058.html 
  6. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/london-green-parties-understanding-the-benefits-jungle-tickets-33261650492



Thursday, 13 April 2017

Unite Community General Secretary Elections 2017

By Alan Wheatley as Kwug Blog Editor expressing personal preference that does not necessarily represent the views of KUWG members as a whole


At least a few Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group members are also members of Unite the Union's Community section, and Unite the Union currently has a General Secretary election for which the postal polls end on 19 April at 5pm.

The Islington branch at least has supported retention of Len McCluskey as General Secretary, and I seem to get official e-mail from Unite the Union backing Len McCluskey for my vote, and that does not really give much encouragement to find out about the other candidates.

So I post below a youtube video of candidate Ian Allinson from Manchester speaking about his candidacy, that is in favour of strengthening Unite Community and opposing reliance of jobs on wasteful nuclear industries and weapons production.

Moreover, he regards such 'welfare reforms' as benefit sanctions and repeated summonses of disability benefit claimants to reassessment interviews as part of a broader attack on the working class. Such attacks aim a making the workplace more oppressive, as people too ill to work are forced to apply for any kind of work.



The full list of candidates and their websites


Ian Allinson http://www.ian4unite.org
Gerard Coyne http://www.votegerardcoyne.co.uk/
Len McCluskey http://www.unite4len.co.uk/



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq stands with Kwuggies against government-driven-suicides

Tulip Siddiq joined Kwuggies outside Kilburn Jobcentre on Monday 3 April 2017, on our demo against austerity-driven suicides.
Tulip outlined her voting record against nasty right wing 'welfare reforms' that are driving more and more people to suicide.

Discussion and explaining around the role call of austerity-related suicides



More at

Kilburn Job Centre protest 3/4/17 ' Demonstrate and Commemorate'

Sunday, 2 April 2017

DWP cast as serial litigant in 2012

This Kwug Blog editor has just come across the below New Law Journal article by way of a hyperlink in a January 2012 e-mail.(1) What the Department for Work & Pensions does nowadays is to change the law to suit its own standpoint, as in the case of people getting or not getting 'Personal Independence Payments' on mental health grounds.(2)

The article below is reprinted here by copy and paste from New Law Journal.(3)

Making the polluter pay

Date: 15 January 2012

Tom Royston makes no excuses for bad government decision-making


A serial litigant is trying the patience of judges across the nation. This litigant habitually refuses to settle cases or give serious thought to the weaknesses in his arguments. He loses a lot, of course, but it’s hard to know whether he appreciates the gravity of his situation, for he has virtually given up attending or being represented at the hearings.

Surprisingly, the judges are powerless to penalise him in costs, however unreasonable his behaviour. So there is no sign of the situation improving. His cases clog up the legal system in astonishing and increasing number, producing about 265,000 final hearings last year alone. To put that into context, all the county court non-family civil litigation in England and
Wales produces only 63,000 final hearings per year.

This litigant is the secretary of state for work and pensions (SSWP), and these cases are appeals against social security decisions, in the First-tier Tribunal’s social entitlement chamber. This article suggests that a significant number of benefit appeals could be avoided if that tribunal was given the power to award costs against public authority parties where they have behaved unreasonably.

Why are there avoidable appeals?

Bad decision-making is cheap
At my first social security tribunal, I represented an arthritic client subject to a government decision that he had no difficulty walking—so was not entitled to benefit—because he managed daily to walk his dog. The decision not only flew in the face of compelling evidence from the client’s doctors, it also ignored the fact that the client did not possess a dog.

That was no isolated case. One judge writes extra-curially of “decisions which are an affront to any sense of fairness or reasonableness” (Nick Warren, “The adjudication gap” [2006] 13 JSSL 110, 114).

Once a bad decision has been made, the SSWP frequently refuses to change it without the intervention of a tribunal. The proportion of decisions revised pre-hearing is not published, but a freedom of information request for sickness benefit reconsideration statistics in one area showed pre-hearing revisions in fewer than 4% of appeals. Yet half of all oral tribunal hearings eventually result in defeat for the government.

In any commercial setting, a litigator who only managed to settle one in 25 of their cases would not likely be long in their job. However, in the social security system, this tendency is not really the fault of the overworked decision-makers. Rather, it is a perversely economically rational outcome.
Losing tribunal hearings is cheap
The First-tier Tribunal is not a cheap system to run. Its judges are paid more than £100,000 a year; its medical members not much less. The average cost to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) of a social security appeal is £293. There is a further cost to the state in legal aid cases of at least £167, the social security fixed fee.

The amount spent by the SSWP defending an appeal, in contrast, is about £55 (HC Deb, 2 November 2010, vol 517, c794W). Therefore, where an unreasonable decision is made, his department may bear only around one tenth of the cost to the state of its consequences. The SSWP’s budget does make a contribution to HMCTS towards the cost of tribunals, but it bears no direct relation to the quality of his decision-making.
Losing cases no longer embarrasses the secretary of state
There has, in recent years, been a substantial decline in the proportion of First-tier Tribunal hearings where the SSWP is represented. The president of the social entitlement chamber has deprecated this: “There is a crucial gulf because the department [for work and pensions] does not know what goes on in the hearing and so is at a complete loss to understand where it may have gone wrong…It also has a bearing on the volume of appeals because the department loses the ‘embarrassment’ factor. [The SSWP] is absolved from someone going back to the office and [saying], ‘We made a mistake here. I felt very embarrassed trying to defend a hopeless decision’.” (Work and Pensions Committee, Decision-making and Appeals in the Benefits System (2009-10, HC 313)).

Budgetary pressures probably preclude any return to routine respondent appearances. Some alternative means must be found of restoring the “embarrassment factor”.

Can costs orders reduce appeals?

Costs rules have a normative effect on litigation behaviour
In the mainstream English legal system, the principle that costs follow the event is regarded as of “fundamental importance in deterring plaintiffs from bringing and defendants from defending actions they are likely to lose” (Roache v News Group [1998] EMLR 161).

In tribunal litigation, permitting a hopeless decision to proceed to tribunal costs the SSWP little or nothing. In contrast, scrutinising it pre-hearing costs money. It is rarely economically rational for the SSWP to expend resources making the right decision in the first place, or to investigate later settlement.

If losing carried costs risks, the balance would shift. It would become economically rational to investigate settling. The “embarrassment factor” of facing a costs award might also be influential. Fewer cases would proceed to hearing. So costs powers would tend to reduce the volume of appeals.
The rationale for costs orders applies to public bodies, not natural persons
If costs orders encourage rational litigation, why not make unreasonable individual appellants liable too? This would be neither effective nor just—for three reasons:
  • First, lay appellants are in an inferior position to government decision-makers when attempting rational litigation decisions in the “enormously complex” field of social security law (Kerr v DSD [2004] UKHL 23, [2004] 4 All ER 385). The threat of costs, potentially ruinous to a low-income individual’s finances, could cause nervous appellants with good cases to withdraw. Yet it might well be inadequate to modify the behaviour of unreasonable appellants.
  • Second, costs risks work best against serial litigants (insurers, government, large companies), because they can learn from repeated experience. Most social security appellants are one-time litigants.
  • Third, many social security appeals concern means tested benefits. Appellants are generally extremely poor. Costs awards would often be unrecoverable, or expensively slow to recover.

How tribunals costs powers could work

The kinds of costs which would be covered by orders

While most of the expense of mainstream civil litigation is lawyers’ fees, it is rare for appellants to pay for legal representation in social security cases.

The major cost of unnecessary tribunal litigation is the cost of holding the hearings. In civil proceedings, losing defendants pay this indirectly, by compensating the claimant for having paid court fees, but social security tribunals do not charge fees.

The potency of reform would be considerably weakened if there were no way of making unreasonable public authority parties pay such costs, for in the many cases where an appellant does not seek advice, the hearing cost is the only financial cost to anyone.

One solution might be to introduce fees for public authority respondents’ submissions to a tribunal, reimbursing them where the respondent is found to have acted reasonably. This model is increasingly popular in modern dispute resolution schemes. A similar arrangement is employed by the legal services ombudsman.
Tribunal costs orders consistent with speed and informality

The advantages of the tribunals system have long been said to include “cheapness, accessibility, freedom from technicality, [and] expedition” (Gillies v SSWP [2006] UKHL 2, [2006] 1 All ER 731). None of these are words one might associate with the worst excesses of civil costs litigation, which “[fill] one with despair”, as lamented in Carver v BAA [2008] EWCA Civ 412, [2008] 3 All ER 911. Is there a risk of importing that plague? No.

The social security costs orders could justly be “rough and ready”, since they would usually be redistributing money around different agencies of the state, or state funded bodies. The principal “cost” awarded would be the “case fee” paid to the tribunal, not the victorious party’s legal costs. So reform would not encourage “those looking for profit rather than justice”, to borrow the words of Ken Clarke.

The tribunals system already has experience in making costs orders without sacrificing its traditional strengths. Three of the six First-tier Tribunal chambers have costs powers. So does the employment tribunal. They have not experienced substantial problems with satellite costs litigation.

In addition, it is not proposed that costs orders would become the rule. Costs powers would be modelled on those of the other chambers, directed at unreasonable conduct only. Losing a case would by no means automatically produce a costs penalty.

Reform not revolution


This is reform not revolution. It will not eliminate bad government decision-making. But it could bring a degree of market discipline to an area where government decision-makers have a perverse financial incentive never to settle litigation.

There would be a saving to the public purse. Fewer appellants would have to undergo the stress and inconvenience of litigation. It would also draw social security tribunal procedure into closer alignment with that of other courts and tribunals. And the changes suggested above should not require primary legislation.

The SSWP might not be keen, for it would transfer to his department costs presently borne by others. But can it really be desirable for departmental sectionalism to prevail over the broader interests of the state and its citizens?

Tom Royston, Kirklees Law Centre


Sources

  1. https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/making-polluter-pay
  2. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/pip-cuts-will-be-debated-and-voted-on/ 
  3. https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/making-polluter-pay


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Illegitimate authority robs people through forms and lack of support in filling in those forms

American singer, songwriter, 'man of the people' and extensive traveller Woody Guthrie wrote, 
Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.(1)
The Kwug Blog already has one reference to those lines from Guthrie's song Pretty Boy Floyd.(2) 

While I forward the below onto you, it strikes me through a more thorough reading of today's Camden New Journal lead story,(3) that illegitimate authority exacerbates people's form phobia and by denying them the support they require and also by making application forms of various kinds more complicated and minefield-like, strips many decent people of everything they've got.
[Stoly said]: “I ended up in this mess because I couldn’t fill out my indefinite leave to remain form properly. I don’t understand those things. I can write poetry in English, I dream in English and I function professionally in English, but I can’t read forms in Serbian or English. That’s my problem and that’s how I ended up in this sticky situation.”(4)

See also Kwug Blog references to forms.(5)

Alan

On Saturday, 1 April 2017, 15:29, Kwug Blog editor e-mailed:

I was shocked this afternoon to see that the lead story in Camden New Journal today is about the prospective deportation of a local shop worker who has served me frequently.

So I have signed the petition that has arisen out of the threatened deportation.

I added this comment to my signature:
"As a measure of the man that Stoly is, the last time I saw him was as I was waiting at the Kentish Town Post Office bus stop after my regular Earth Foods shop. What was Stoly doing there at that bus stop? He was helping a blind/visually impaired customer who uses the same home bus stop as I do, to get on the correct bus.

"As a measure of those who would like to deport him, they would love to steal his national insurance and tax contributions."

Notes

  1. http://www.metrolyrics.com/pretty-boy-floyd-lyrics-woody-guthrie.html
  2. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/hostage-taking-by-government-as-act-of-terrorism.html
  3. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/stoly-jankovic-much-loved-shop-worker-is-mortified-over-looming-deportation
  4. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/stoly-jankovic-much-loved-shop-worker-is-mortified-over-looming-deportation 
  5. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=forms

The real-terms economics of DWP helplines

Kwug Blog editor — citing the reader's letter published this week in Camden New Journal(1) and which formed the basis of subsequent Kwug Blog post (2): It has struck me over the past few days on reading e-mail from a friend who is going through Universal Credit registration, that perhaps "Telephone calls [to the Universal Credit helpline] can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes," is less illuminating than saying that the call charge is £33 per hour.

Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty(3): Dear Alan - I wrote a similar letter to Guardian Society in 2003.. It was published with the following cartoon. -  good wishes - Paul
Guardian Society cartoon, 2 July 2003, of JSA call centre recorded message stating, "All our operators are busy just now .... Why don't you just go out and buy another top-up card?"

Kwug Blog editor notes: In the recent Camden New Journal news story about a report by Camden Council regarding the damage done by Universal Credit processing delays and the extortionate call charges of the Universal Credit 'helpline', it was pointed out that the Council report had cited waits of "up to six weeks" for claims to be processed.(3) KUWG members realised that that seemed a far-too-conservative estimate, and waits of "up to six weeks" are nothing new.

I commented in response by e-mail that perhaps the gross under-estimation of the wait for claims to be processed and the assumption that waits of up to six weeks and resultant resorting to extortionate DWP helplines is something very new indicates how cushioned the report's authors are? A Camden Council source said that that was a peculiar reaction from me, as I should have been grateful for the report's existence rather than begrudging of the under-stating of the waiting period.

What do you think, dear Kwug Blog reader?

Notes:

  1. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/benefit-related-suicides-will-be-highlighted-on-april-3
  2. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/is-dwps-under-resourcing-of-universal-credit-helpline-a-means-of-torturing-poor-people.html 
  3.  http://taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/
  4. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/universal-credit-claimants-stealing-food-to-eat-due-to-benefit-delays




Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Ex-Kwuggie Mark Savage stars in one-man show at Hope Theatre

Human Issue is absolutely fantastic. Hilarious. Mark is excellent in it!

CJ and PA lutside Hope Theatre with the show flyer
On Sunday night CJ and PA attended the HUMAN ISSUE play starring Mark Savage at the Hope theatre above the Hope and Anchor pub.(1) A one man affair — just Mark who is a former KUWG member. He also played the infamous school bully Gripper in Grange Hill in the early 1980s.
Human Issue star Mark Savage flanked by adoring fans

The play is absolutely fantastic. Hilarious. Mark is excellent in it. CJ and I hung around to get a selfie with him-which we did and while doing so we chatted with Nicholas who is the events organiser at Hope Theatre. CJ told him we were sponsored by KUWG to see this play and 2 more are booked to come, also paid for by KUWG. He was impressed with the idea that a group would do this...who knows were this could lead. We told Nicholas he will enjoy this play very much and he is looking forward to seeing it tonight. 
Report by PA

Note

Monday, 27 March 2017

UK Government signed up to UNCRPD on 30/03/2007

Ten years ago this coming Thursday, a UK Government signed up to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.(1)

I know because as the then London Green Party Disability Spokesperson, I was at a launch event at the Tottenham Court Road conference centre with a link to the signing ceremony at UN HQ in New York. The London event was hosted by disability charity Scope whose President was Cherie Booth -- the barrister wife of then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The New York event was attended by then Disability Minister Anne McGuire who was the one that signed the paper.

Representative statistics and unrepresentative national news media

I also recall the statistic being raised at the launch event that around one in five of the population had a disability of some sort. That statistic did not matter one bit to the UK's national press, who roundly ignored the event.

I would argue that that non-attendance has been largely responsible for what has transpired since in terms of UK government's reign of terror over disabled people. The same national news media that has apparently gone overboard in covering and retreading over last Thursday's 80 seconds of terrorist events around the UK Parliament seems to have vetoed the signing up by UK Government to legislation that would impact favourably on the lives of one in five of the UK population.

Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Note

  1. http://www.un.org/press/en/2007/hr4914.doc.htm

Friday, 24 March 2017

Is the DWP's under-resourcing of Universal Credit helpline a means of torturing poor people?

At Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group's weekly business meeting on Thursday 23 March, though we warmed to the page 2 prominence given to Camden New Journal's news story published the same day 'Universal Credit: Claimants "stealing food" to eat due to benefit delays: Finance chief warns people are being forced into new debt',(1) we were very concerned at what to us seems a fundamental error in one sentence of that report.

That error concerns the length of wait for Universal Credit payments to be processed. The CNJ's Richard Osley reports:
'In some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed....
'A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. Our research shows the majority of UC claim­ants are comfortable managing their budgets. We’re working with local authorities and landlords to get extra support to people who may find themselves in arrears. “We’ve been rolling Universal Credit out gradually so we have time to ensure it works in the right way.”''(2)

Déjà Vu?

"Waits as long as six weeks for benefit claims to be processed" and "unacceptable" telephone helpline service standards are nothing new and pre-date Universal Credit and even the 2010 General Election. In November 2006 Community Care magazine reported:(3)
'Earlier this month, MPs slammed Jobcentre Plus for leaving 21 million calls unanswered. Despite government claims of improvements, stories of poor service continue to mount, Neil Bateman argues.
'Jobcentre Plus (JCP) is the arm of the Department for Work and Pensions that administers benefits and job search activities  or people under 60. It was set up in 2001 as a key part of the government’s welfare-to-work reforms, the aim being that people could obtain advice and help on benefits and job-seeking under one roof.
'Since the announcement in 2005 that DWP had to lose 30,000 staff over three years, on top of other spending cuts in the department, concern has been growing in the social care and welfare rights fields about the deteriorating standards of service provided by JCP. There has been concern about the effect on vulnerable customers, particularly care leavers, those with sensory impairments and people with mental health needs who have greatest difficulty with the JCP one-size-fits-all approach to customer service.

'Welfare rights advisers and social care specialists identify problems with JCP, including:

● Delays in processing claims and changes of circumstances – six weeks is common – leaving people destitute.
● Communications between different parts of JCP “not being received”.
● Huge difficulty accessing JCP by phone.
● JCP staff insisting that all benefit claims are made by phone, when the law does not state this.'

Is Universal Credit helpline's under-resourcing aimed at destroying the economically vulnerable? 

Where our 'experts by experience' would disagree with the CNJ's report is that we believe the report should state, 
'People wait a minimum of six weeks for claims to be processed.' 
Those delays are exacerbated by the income fluctuations caused by means-tested processing of Universal Credit claims in zero hours economies; and the DWP's deepening reliance on 'pay-as-you-go' call-centre service delivery that  penalises economically vulnerable people for their vulnerability and is arguably designed to discourage people claiming their entitlement.

Now, as the CNJ reports:(4) 
'Telephone calls [to the Universal Credit helpline] can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”
That is an all-too-common experience, leading in many cases to rent arrears and subsequent evictions. The reality is that such waits are now far more common and cannot be ignored, and also that 'austerity' cost-cutting in public services has eliminated council welfare rights units. As Neil Bateman has said in response to my sending him an earlier edition of this response to the CNJ article:
'If we thought things were bad back in 2006…'
This sickening system leads more and more people to sickness and suicide, while the DWP refuses to take lessons from coroners courts,(5) and insists instead that disability benefit claimants be reassessed every six months as standard. If this system is 'fit for purpose', what is its purpose?

For those who have fallen

Against that backdrop, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group will be highlighting local benefits-related suicides on Monday 3 April as follows:
  • 12 Noon: Assemble outside Kilburn Jobcentre, Cambridge Avenue, NW6 5AH for rally with 
    • local Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, 
    • PCS (jobcentre workers union) National Executive Officer Zita Holbourne and 
    • Brent Trades Council Executive Committee.
  • 12:45: Black Flag march to Paddington Cemetry via Kilburn High Road.
  • 13:30: Address at Leon Brumant graveside by 
    • Dawn Butler MP and 
    • RMT Political Officer Cat Cray.
  • 14:00: Prince of Wales PH, Willesden Lane NW6 for Tea & Sandwiches.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Behind the 'Improving Lives' smokescreen of the Dept of Health and the DWP

The 'Improving Lives: work, health and disability' Green Paper 'consultation' closes today.(1)

The UK Parliament website says of 'Green Papers':
Green Papers are consultation documents produced by the Government. The aim of this document is to allow people both inside and outside Parliament to  give the department feedback on its policy or legislative proposals.
Copies of consultation documents such as Green Papers are available on the related departmental websites.(2)
The 'Improving Lives' Green Paper is put out jointly by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Health (DH). The ordering and content of the questions asked in 'Improving Lives' help reveal that this document is apparently aimed far more at 'deliverers of services' than disabled people as experts by personal experience witnesses themselves.

Chapter 1: Tackling a significant inequality [Questions start on p 88 of the printed document, which is p 91 of the online document]

  • What innovative and evidence-based support are you already delivering to improve health and employment outcomes for people in your community which you think could be replicated at scale?
    What evidence gaps have you identified in your local area in relation to supporting disabled people or people with long-term health conditions? Are there particular gaps that a Challenge Fund approach could most successfully respond to?
  • How should we develop, structure and communicate the evidence base to influence commissioning decisions?(3)
Given that kind of line of questioning, do not expect the answers to really help sick and disabled people find true support in improving their own lives on their own terms!

For far more incisive reading, Disability News Service reports:

Spartacus exposes work and health green paper 'smoke screen'

Campaigners have published a withering 237-page attack on the government’s work, health and disability green paper, accusing ministers of creating a “smokescreen” to disguise their intention to cut support and force sick and disabled people into inappropriate work....(4)
In short, 'Improving Lives' is not really about empowerment of disadvantaged people, but about more firmly establishing sick and disabled people as commodities by which parasitic corporations obtain money from the public purse. It is about stripping us of our rights rather than helping us to enforce them.

Blogpost posted by Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Reference links

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564038/work-and-health-green-paper-improving-lives.pdf
  2. http://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/green-papers/ 
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564038/work-and-health-green-paper-improving-lives.pdf 


Thursday, 2 February 2017

'I, Daniel Blake' for 21st Century enlightenment

The 'branding strapline of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is '21st Century enlightenment'.

Thus it is highly appropriate that the RSA will be screening the Ken Loach film 'I, Daniel Blake', and has tagged the promotional blog about the screening: employment, public services, social justice.(1)

RSA Screens: I, Daniel Blake

Tuesday 21st February 2017 at 18:00 - 20:15
Great Room Auditorium, RSA House
For further details go to https://www.thersa.org/events/2017/02/rsa-screens-i-daniel-blake

Reference link

  1. https://www.thersa.org/events/2017/02/rsa-screens-i-daniel-blake

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

DWP ministerial nominations and equal opportunities?

Honorary KUWG member Kate Belgrave reflects — or in her words 'rants' — upon Employment Minister Damian Hinds' spurious claim that as more and more people claim benefits online, the need for jobcentres becomes obsolete.(1)

Leaving aside his obvious lack of grasp regarding reasonable adjustments for claimants with very low level or non-existent literacy and computing skills, what do the appointment of Damian Green as Secretary of State for Work & Pensions and another Damian — Damian Hinds — as his Employment Minister, infer about Equal Opportunities within the prospective selection pool of candidates for DWP ministerial office?(2)

And would not such key policy decision makers be much better employed perusing the Kate Belgrave | Talking with people dealing with public sector cuts blog — complete with knowledgeable comments — (3) than the delusional, policy-driven evidence gathering Reform UK 'think tank' report The future of public services: digital jobcentres.(4)

Link references

  1. http://www.katebelgrave.com/2017/01/cant-use-a-computer-or-read-or-write-very-well-tough-no-benefits-for-you/
  2. http://www.reform.uk/?s=damian+green
  3. http://www.katebelgrave.com/
  4. http://www.reform.uk/publication/the-future-of-public-services-digital-jobcentres/

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Demonstrate against benefits assessment homicide, Kentish Town Jobcentre, Weds 25 Jan 2017, Noon till 1pm



At Thursday's kuwg meeting, we decided to return to 
Kentish Town Jobcentre
174-178 Kentish Town Road
London NW5 2AG
on 
Wednesday 25 January, Noon till 1pm.
We made this decision after reading the CNJ Top story and Editorial Comment below. As this could happen to any of us, we cannot sit and not let the scummy rules of the DWP and JCP allow this to happen without protest. Wearing black would seem appropriate. Hopefully Jobcentre Staff can join us!

The Coroner should delve into the Medical Assessor industry, and the DWP-Governmental "turning a blind eye" methods of allowing vulnerable people to "slip thru the net."

Claimants and Workers Unite! Pass the word!

CJ




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