Posts Tagged ‘Anne Begg’

Vox Political: Labour Should Not Let Disabled People Die Just to Curry Favour with Press

March 11, 2015

This is another piece of Mike’s that needs to be reblogged. In his piece, Why are disabled people being asked to die for Labour’s election hopes, Mike reports how Liza van Zyl, a campaigner against the work capability assessment system and the deaths it has caused, was told by the Labour MP Owen Smith that Labour did not support any change to the current work capability assessment. They were afraid that it would damage Labour’s chances of getting into power by allowing them to be attacked as soft on benefits. The article begins

… Especially when it won’t improve those hopes?

Extremely disturbing news has reached Vox Political, courtesy of Liza Van Zyl on Facebook. Extremely long-term readers may recall Liza was the lady who received a visit from police who claimed she had committed a criminal act against the Department for Work and Pensions, just before midnight on October 26, 2012 – being that she had been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following reassessment by Atos and the DWP for Employment and Support Allowance.

Fortunately for those who still have to undergo these assessments, she was not discouraged and has continued to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves. However, she is currently suffering severe disenchantment with the Labour Party, as she recounts below:

“We heard from Owen Smith MP today [Saturday, March 7] (a member of the left wing of the of the Labour Party leadership) that it is important for disabled people to continue to die, lest any commitment by Labour to scrap the Work Capability Assessment generate a negative response in the press and affect Labour’s general election chances.

“He said that while he personally doesn’t like the WCA, his Labour colleagues will not support scrapping it because of fears it will play badly with the right wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances… I’ve since been contacted by other disabled people who’ve raised the issue with their Labour MPs, and the response has been: Yes, the WCA isn’t nice but if Labour commits to scrapping it, it would appear to be ‘soft on welfare’.

“The similarities of these responses (and given that Owen Smith is a frontbench shadow sec of state and therefore presumably is up to date on party strategy) indicates that this is an agreed line or represents an actual decision. This is profoundly disturbing, given that a great many Labour MPs know in detail exactly what suffering and deaths the WCA is responsible for among their own constituents: Tom Greatrex organised a powerful meeting of Labour MPs with Chris Grayling two years ago. Dame Anne Begg is herself a disabled person, as are other MPs.

Mike asks the question when this decision was taken, and why didn’t left-wing MPs like John McConnell, Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn protest?

He also makes the good point that this policy will not benefit the Labour party, but will actually harm it. Disabled people and their friends and families also vote, and they won’t support a party that continues to let their loved ones die, all for its own cynical political advantage. The opinions of the right-wing press can be discounted. Their readers won’t vote Labour, and so there is no point courting them.

He also points out that if, as he hopes, Labour does decide to scrap the work capability assessment, then its silence on this policy in order to win the election also makes it guilty of the same misrepresentation and lies that have resulted in public distrust of politicians generally as self-interested liars.

Mike also points out that he has written to Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow minister for welfare, and Ed Miliband about this issue before, only to be met with stony silence. He has suggested that people should write to the very same right-wing press, of which Labour seem so afraid, to point out how their refusal to change the WCA will stop then and others like them from voting for the party. He himself is perfectly willing to draft the letter.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/10/why-are-disabled-people-being-asked-to-die-for-labours-election-hopes/. Go there to let him know what you think about this policy.

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Vox Political: How Many Deaths Have Tory Welfare Cuts Caused?

February 12, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political the other day published this article, How many deaths have Tory evidence-free policies caused?. It reports the Guardian’s article on Labour MP Anne Begg’s questioning of Esther McVile and Chris Hayes of the DWP over whether they actually carried out any studies into how this would affect the benefit claimants on whom it was inflicted. Mike writes

Yesterday’s Guardian article by Zoe Williams about evidence-free government is strangely muted about the main headline-grabber: The fact that she is writing about policies that kill.

“Recently, Dame Anne Begg had some questions for the employment minister, Esther McVey, on the Welfare Reform Act of 2012,” the article states.

“She wanted to know about cuts to benefits, having carefully gathered evidence from charities and food banks in advance. ‘Minimum JSA [jobseeker’s allowance] sanction,’ she began, ‘went from two weeks to four weeks and the maximum went from six months to three years. These are quite sizeable lengths of time, so what evidence did you have on the likely impact on claimants that these extended sanction periods would have?’

“Were there any reasonable grounds that could be shared with any reasonable person to think this policy would be effective – any attempt to visualise how it would look?… There were not. There was a lot of faffing, and some broad and extraneous evidence about sanctions in general. ‘I take it from your failure to answer the question that you did not do any research,’ the chair finally concluded, having grilled McVey and the DWP’s Chris Hayes for long enough.”

Mike then gives his estimate of the number of people dying per year due to government sanctions, based on the available figures and the examples of two claimants, who died within two weeks of each other after being sanctioned by Ashton-Under-Lyme Jobcentre. One died of starvation and exposure, the other joins a long list of people, who took their own lives. Given these examples, Mike suggests the number being killed is 53,040 people per year. This is more people than were killed by William the Conqueror during the Harrowing of the North following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The north had been the centre of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian resistance to the Norman invasion. The north of England had been a Viking kingdom, the Kingdom of Yorkshire, and still retained strong Viking sympathies for the Danish kings. In response William’s troops razed whole villages, reducing vast tracts to wasteland. The result was massive famine. William’s repression of the north was so severe, that even centuries later the villages razed by the Normans were depopulated. Mike’s comparison of the government’s attack on the poor and disabled with William the Conqueror’s Harrowing of the North isn’t a piece of romantic historical hyperbole. It graphically shows the depths of despair and deprivation that this government is forcing on its citizens.

He also quotes Samuel Miller, an academic who has researched the effect of the welfare reforms, who states that there was very little investigation of just how the benefit changes would affect people. This did not, however, stop the creation of the harshest sanctions system in the developed world.

To add insult to injury, Iain Duncan Smith has now crawled out of whichever festering pit he calls home, to spew out another self-aggrandising lie. This time he claims his benefit cuts have saved £50bn.

He’s a liar and genocide. It’s long past time he was thrown out of government, along with the rest of this cruel, corrupt and thoroughly degenerate administration.

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/10/how-many-deaths-have-tory-evidence-free-policies-caused/.

The DWP’s Refusal to Give the Death Stats for ATOS: A Political Decision

August 15, 2013

I’ve blogged several times about my brother Mike’s attempts to get the government to release the statistics for the people, who have committed suicide following their assessment by ATOS over at his blog, Vox Political. His requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been refused, on the spurious grounds that they were ‘vexatious’. Sparaszczukster, of Granny’s Last Mix and Johndeee have had exactly the same experience. They note that the replies sent to them appear to have been written by someone else, although the reply is signed ‘from the FOI team’.
Sparaszczukster states

‘What John says is interesting. My original FOI request was addressed ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and the reply was signed , as was John’s, ‘from the FOI Team’. The reply sent in response to my request for internal review was written in the first person in such a way as to give the impression that someone outside the FOI Team had scrutinised their decision. However, this letter was also signed off ‘from the FOI Team’. I’m hoping the ICO will take note of this sloppiness and make some comment.The ICO complaint form asks specifically for both the organisation complained about and the name of the person who dealt with the FOI request which suggests there is an expectation of more than the vague reference to ‘FOI Team’ which the DWP relies on.’

Mike’s request, and the consequent refusal by the Department to release the figures, was raised in parliament in a series of questions asked by Anne Begg and Frazer and Shield of the DWP. Mike says of this part of the meeting that

‘The next factette knocked this one into a proverbial cocked hat: It seems my request was most probably refused by a Conservative DWP Minister, for political reasons. Take a look at this exchange between Dame Anne Begg, chairing the meeting, and Messrs Frazer and Shield.

Anne Begg: Who makes the decision of whether to answer a Freedom of Information request?

David Frazer: In some cases the decision is finally down to the Minister, but on a routine basis it is officials that will routinely answer and prepare them.

Anne Begg: Recently there has been a Freedom of Information request and a reply came back saying that it was a ‘vexatious’ request, and the department wasn’t going to provide the information. Who would make that decision?

David Frazer: In the first instance we have officials who will look at what the request is; they will look at whether it would produce a disproportionate cost for what it is – they will make that judgement, but I believe it will come down to Ministers to make that call. (He is saying it was a political decision).’

So Mike’s request, along with those of Sparaszczukster and Johndeee, have been refused on political reasons why a Conservative minister. The trail of corruption goes all the way to the top, as they say in Hollywood thrillers.
Mike’s article is entitled ‘Revealed: The Facts about DWP Lies’ and can be read here http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/revealed-the-facts-about-dwp-lies/.

Johndeee also says ‘Note also, I wrote to an individual but was replied to from the ‘FOI team’ although *I didn’t make an FOI request*! I just wrote a “what’s going on?” request for info. Seems like more than a few other requests for this information were made if they’re now answering with a form letter from the ‘FOI team’….’

It seems from this that a lot of people are asking for the same information, which makes the DWP’s refusal to publish the figures even more reprehensible and scandalous. The Freedom of Information Act was a piece of Labour legislation, modelled on Clinton’s over in America. It seems that the Tories don’t like it, and instead have retreated into their old position of cover-ups and obfuscation in order to protect themselves.

The Conservatives: Definitely not the party of open government.