Posts Tagged ‘Atos’

Aide Who Walked Out on May Wants British Public to Stop Trolling Her

July 5, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Katie Perrior, who was one of the two aides, who walked out of May’s cabinet a week or so ago, appeared on Paul Ross’ show on Talk Radio to tell the country that we should all stop sending the PM nasty messages on Twitter.

She said: “We need to stop with the abuse, we need to stop trolling our politicians on Twitter”, and followed this with the comments that there is no money, people need to realise that” and “She [May] would be devastated right now.” She also said that “people need to get real” and allow Mrs May to do her job.”

Mike points out that there are perfectly good reasons why May is receiving abuse: she’s been the worst excuse for a Prime Minister we’ve ever suffered. He points out that she called a snap election, which she lost, and is now spending £1 billion of our money to keep herself in power through an alliance with the terrorist-linked bigots of the DUP. Mike also points out that her remark that there is no more money also undermines her credibility, but concurs that May should be left to do one job: clear out.

He concludes

The only way we can have any kind of “strong and stable” government – as Mrs May herself described it – is by holding another general election and electing a Labour government.

I really don’t have any sympathy with Perrior or her former mistress in No. 10. Despite May’s repeated statements that there is no ‘magic money tree’, there clearly is if it means securing an alliance that will shore up her tottering minority government.

It’s also a flat-out lie. The budget for the NHS has been cut disastrously, to the point where tens of NHS healthcare trusts are millions in debt, and just about ready for privatisation by a Tory government intent on destroying this most precious of British institutions. But in 1979 a report concluded that, contrary to Maggie Thatcher’s ideas about privatising the Health Service, the NHS provided excellent value for money and would easily be funded by expected changes in taxation.

The Tories have gone back to lying about ‘high spending Labour’ to justify their brutal, swingeing cuts, but the Labour party never overspent on the NHS, which was in budget when they left office. Unlike now, after Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt, and their masters David Cameron and Theresa May. Furthermore, Labour actually spent less than previous Tory administrations.

Perrior and the rest of them are, of course, terrified of the spectre of Jeremy Corbyn getting into No. 10, and undoing the forty years of harm successive Thatcherite regimes have done to this country. Hence all the bleating about there being no money. But there is money available. Corbyn and Labour costed all their proposals, unlike May and the Tories. And the La Chat Francaise Philosophique over at Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that it actually costs money to cut taxes. All that needs to be done to fund the renationalisation of the NHS, stop benefit sanctions and renationalise part of the energy industry and the other proposals, is to start taxing the upper five per cent of the population again.

But this gives the Tories a fit of the vapours, as it means taxing the rich to support the poor, while everything the Tories do is the reverse: to impoverish the poor in order to give greater power and wealth to those, who already have more than enough of it.

I also don’t have any sympathy for the supposed personal distress this is causing to May herself. In fact I find this highly hypocritical.

Thatcherite welfare policy, since the days of Thatcher herself, is modelled very much on the principle of Less Eligibility, which was at the heart of the Liberal’s New Poor Law of 1833. Conditions on welfare are to be made so harsh, that it will deter everyone except the very needy from going on it. Hence if you sign on at the jobcentre, the clerk will belittle you and put immense amounts of pressure on you to get a job, even if it is unsuitable. And it works. I personally know people, who are unemployed and who have not signed on, because of the insulting, demeaning way jobcentre staff have treated them.

That’s if you are sufficiently lucky to qualify for benefit in the first place. The government, like the Thatcherite administrations before it, is committed to dismantling the welfare state. And this means making qualification for jobseeker’s allowance and disability benefit as difficult as possible. This means that Maximus, like Atos, regularly and fraudulently decides that severely disabled, and even terminally ill people, are capable of holding down a job. And unemployed people have been sanctioned for the flimsiest of reasons.

The result of this is misery, mass poverty and starvation.

I’ve mentioned enough times the number of deaths this has caused, the numbers forced to use food banks, and the millions who don’t know if they’ll be able to eat tomorrow. But psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have warned several times about the rise in mental illness caused by the distress those with such problems suffer in filling out the forms and going through the assessment process.

One very graphic illustration of the distress this has caused ordinary Brits is the case Mike put up on his blog a few years ago. This described how members of the public came to comfort a young man, who was left crying outside the jobcentre, when they turned his application for benefit down.

Where the cries of Perrior’s and her colleagues then about distress? There weren’t any. Indeed, the whole attitude of the Conservative party, and its vile organs like the Daily Heil is that those on welfare are scroungers and malingers, who should be demeaned and vilified at every turn.

So I have absolutely no sympathy with Perrior’s wails about how upsetting it is for her former employer to get such horrible Tweets. May is presiding over a malign political system, which sees humiliation and distress as legitimate tools for managing the hoi polloi.

The best thing May can do is to end the distress she’s causing the rest of us, and resign to make way for a Labour government.

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Anti-Tory Cartoon – Esther McVey and Wasserman

June 28, 2017

Welcome to another instalment in my ongoing series of cartoons attacking the Tory party and their vile attack on the poor, the sick, the unemployed and disabled in the name of corporate profit. Yesterday I put up a drawing I’d made of Evan Davies, Andrew Lansley, David Cameron, Eric Pickles and George Osborne as members of a cannibalistic pagan cult, like the Aztecs or those of ancient Mesopotamia, because of the immense death toll their policies have inflicted on the British public. As I’ve blogged before, according to Oxford University, 30,000 people were killed by austerity in 2015. Over a hundred thousand people are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, and 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ household, where they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford to eat tomorrow.

This cartoon continues the pagan theme of the last one. It therefore has a picture of Baal, the ancient pagan god of the Canaanites, and other gods from what is now Iraq, with human skulls and a strange, demonic creature, part man, part serpent. The two Tories depicted are, if I remember correctly, Esther McVey and Wasserman – I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten this Tory functionary’s first name.

McVey was the Tory minister for the disabled in Iain Duncan Smith’s wretched and murderous DWP. She used to be the MP for Merseyside or one of the other constituencies in the Liverpool area, before the good burghers of that fair city got fed up with her and threw her out at the last election. Those Liverpudlians not enamoured of her – and there were quite a few – called her the ‘Wicked Witch of the Wirral’. Unfortunately, losing an election doesn’t seem to have put a stop to her political career, and she flew off on her broomstick to take up a position with the Tories in another constituency. She was also one of the proprietors of a TV production company, which produced the ‘poverty porn’ documentaries, intended to confirm the prejudices of all good Conservative voters that those on benefit are unemployed, not because there are no jobs due to structural problems with the economy, but because they’re really lazy.

So to express the deep festering corruption in this woman’s soul – Mike and the other bloggers and disabled rights’ activists found that in one year, 13-14,000 disabled people had died after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos – I’ve drawn one half of her face a seething mass of malignant pustules. So great was the carnage inflicted by this woman and her superiors in the department, that one wag amended her Wikipedia page so that she became ‘The minister in charge of culling the disabled’. Which is exactly how Mike and many other bloggers and commenters, like Jeffrey Davies regard her. Mike has made it very clear that this is the genocide of the disabled.

As for Wasserman, he was one of the two ministers, who prepared various documents for the privatisation of the NHS for Maggie Thatcher. She was forced to back down from this policy after there was a mass cabinet revolt, and her personal private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, told her just how bad the American system was. Nevertheless, it did not stop her from trying to get more people to get out private health insurance – she aimed at 25 per cent of the British public. And successive right-wing administrations, including Tony Blair’s New Labour, have been aiming at the privatisation of the NHS ever since, gradually selling off parts of it and passing legislation to allow private hospital management chains and healthcare companies, like Circle Health, to take over the running of doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. Wasserman later appeared in David Cameron’s cabinet, where I would guess that he was doing much the same there as he did under Thatcher.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised that he will end the fitness to work tests and the sanctions system, which have seen so many people thrown off benefits for the most trivial of reasons. He has also promised to renationalise the NHS, thus ending nearly forty years of creeping Thatcherite privatisation.

So vote for him for a fairer Britain, where everyone has access to free healthcare, and tens of thousands are not dying of starvation just so that billionaires can have their tax bill lowered, or have a supply of cheap, subsidised labour supplied to them courtesy of the workfare industry.

If you wish to see the faces and know a bit more about some of individuals, who have been killed by the Tories’ assault on the welfare state, Mike, DPAC, Johnny Void and Stilloaks have published articles on individual victims, and lists of those, who have died, complete with brief descriptions of the circumstances of their deaths. The last time I looked, it was about 500-600 plus people, but the true figure is many times higher.

To stop the carnage the Tories have inflicted and are continuing to inflict, vote Labour.

Cartoon of the Tories as Pagan Cannibal Cult

June 27, 2017

This is another of the cartoons I drew a few years ago of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg and its cheerleaders and propagandists in the media.

As I’ve written in my posts about the other cartoons I’ve drawn of them, the Tories are responsible for misery and deaths in Britain on a massive scale. This has been a direct result of their austerity policy of freezing wages, cutting benefits and their use of the sanctions system within the DWP to throw tens of thousands off benefits every year, often for the most trivial of reasons. Terminally ill patients on their death beds have been told that their benefit has been removed, because they’re ‘fit for work’. Amputees have been asked when they expect their limbs to grow back. People have had their jobseekers allowance removed, because they missed an interview at the jobcentre due to being in hospital at the time. Disabled people with mobility problems have been required to attend fitness for work interviews at offices situated several floors up, with little or nothing in the way of disabled access.

Whistleblowers have also come forward to say that the DWP and the outsourcing companies it employs, such as Atos, have a quota system in which they are supposed to get a certain proportion of claimants off benefits regardless of their actual physical condition. Staff in jobcentres have also been awarded prizes, such as gold stars, sheriff’s badges, Easter eggs and so on for being the clerk, who has got the most people off benefit that week.

The result has been carnage. Mike and other disability bloggers managed, after a very lengthy campaign, to get figures from the DWP showing that for a given period, 13-14,000 people died after being found fit for work by Atos and the DWP. Researchers at Oxford University have found that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people. This means that from 2015 to date, in mid-2017, and including Mike’s figures for an earlier period, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers, have killed 87-88,000 people with their policies.

Over a hundred thousand people are now forced to use food banks as they have no income due to their benefits being removed. Seven million people live in ‘food insecure’ households, where it’s a struggle simply finding the money for this week’s food. Women are going hungry, because if they feed themselves, they’ll starve their children.

Meanwhile, the assault on the state sector continues. The Tories are pushing ahead with the privatisation of the NHS, transferring state healthcare which is free at the point of use into a private, for-profit system like the American system.

And so I decided to draw them as members of a pagan, cannibalistic cult like the Aztecs, or like those of the ancient Canaanites and the demons in ancient Mesopotamian religion.

Thus I drew David Cameron eating a human arm, and George Osborne wearing a human skull as a headdress. I decided to depict Alan Duncan with empty eye sockets and eyes in the palms of his hands, like the sinister Pale Man in Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth. Behind Cameron and Duncan loom a sculpture of a demon from ancient Iraq, and a human skeleton. Below Duncan and to his right is the figure of an ancient Mesopotamian priest or king. Left of Cameron is a drawing of Eric Pickles, who was one of the ministers in Cameron’s cabinet. I’m afraid the drawing’s a bit smudged, so you may not be able to make him out. And behind and to the left of him is Evan Davies, the BBC presenter. I put him in after he made some comment supporting the Tories or austerity.

And below Davies and Pickles is Andrew Lansley, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s wretched health minister. Lansley was responsible for a piece of convoluted legislation way back in 2012, which effectively removes the health minister from his statutory obligation, dating from the establishment of the NHS in 1948, to provide state healthcare. This is one of the major legal foundations for the Tories’ planned eventual privatisation of the NHS. See the discussion of this in Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book, NHS-SOS. And so I gave Lansley a sign saying ‘NHS – For Sale. Apply A Lansley’.

Since I drew the cartoon, Lansley’s been replaced by the equally appalling Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has been responsible for plunging tens of British hospitals into massive debt as part of the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

Adding insult to injury is the lies the Tories are spinning about this crisis. People, according to them, aren’t going to food banks because they’re hungry. No! It’s because it’s free food. In fact, you can only use a food bank if you have a chit from the Jobcentre to say that you don’t have any money. And when Theresa May was asked by a TV presenter whether it was right that nurses should have to use food banks, she could only reply the weak excuse ‘There are complex reasons.’

There aren’t any complex reasons. There’s a very simple one: the Tories are paying starvation wages. Whey they are actually paying anyone, that is.

Davis and Tallis also point out that the NHS was in budget under the Labour administration the Tories replaced. And state expenditure was actually lower under Labour. But despite massive cuts to the NHS, the Tories are lying that the financial crisis, which they are using as their pretext to cut services and benefits, was all due to ‘high spending Labour’, rather than the 2008 financial crash created by corrupt bankers. And while NHS budgets are being cut to the bone and beyond, they’re also trying to tell the public that real expenditure on the NHS is higher than ever before in real terms.

All lies.

Bloggers such as Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike and DPAC have blogged about some of the victims, who have been killed by this murderous policy, and there are lists, art works and videos commemorating them. At present, the people on these lists number 500-600 plus, but this is just a tiny fraction of those, who have died.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to undo the Neoliberalism and austerity that is killing tens of thousands of people every year. He intends to scrap the fitness for work tests, pay people proper benefits and renationalise the NHS.

So please, vote for him and end the Tories’ reign of death and misery against the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and the lower middle and working classes.

Cartoon of IDS as Serial Killer from a Joke by Bill Hicks

June 23, 2017

This is another of my cartoons of the Tory party and their lackeys in the media. This time it’s of Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the Tory party before David Cameron, and head of the DWP in Cameron’s government. I’ve drawn him as a serial killer, lying dead in his bath, surrounded by the skins and corpses of his victims.

It’s based on a joke the American comedian, Bill Hicks, made about Jesse Helms, a member of Reagan’s administration way back in the 1980s. Hicks said that when you had somebody as right-wing as Helms, they had to be hiding a very dark secret. In Meese’s case, it was that he was probably a serial killer. One day they’d find him dead in his bath, after having cut his wrists. On the wall they’d find the words ‘Ah bin a bad boy’ written in his blood.

Then they’d find the skins of all the children he’d murdered up in his attic, with flies going in and out. His mother would at last remark that she’d wondered what the pile of children’s shoes were doing there.

It’s strong stuff, but it is appropriate to apply it to Iain Duncan Smith. He has never killed anyone personally, no matter how toxic his personality is. But under him, the Department of Work and Pensions has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

I’ve blogged before about the struggle Mike and other disability bloggers and organisations, including the Independent newspaper, had getting the figures for the number of people, who had died after they were thrown off benefits by the DWP. Often this was done for the most trivial of reasons. Seriously ill people, who should never have been called to a fitness to work test in the first place, were told they were ‘fit for work’. They included terminal cancer patients. The numbskulls at Atos also asked amputees when they expected their severed limbs to grow back.

The DWP stalled and prevaricated, doing everything it could not to reveal these figures. They turned down the requests as vexatious, and when this was overturned by the Information Commissioner, they waited until the very last moment before they had to release the information, and then appealed. When they were ordered to release it again, they deliberately misinterpreted the request to give a set of figures slightly different to those requested by Mike. Even so, the figures showed that in the period in question, 13,000-14,000 people had died after having their benefits removed.

Mike and his commenters, like Jeffrey Davies, have called this a genocide of the disabled.

Johnny Void, DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts, Stilloaks and others have compiled lists of some of the victims, putting names to faces and with brief biographies explaining who they were and why they died. Many died of starvation, while others took their lives in utter despair, wondering how they could ever cope. Their deaths formed the basis for a piece by a socially engaged and enraged artist, and a memorial video I’ve also posed on this blog.

The victims of this callous policy have included an elderly couple, who ended it all with hardly anything to eat in their house; a diabetic soldier; and a young woman in her twenties who leapt to her death with her baby.

And a few days ago Mike posted up news of another victim: Jodie Whiting, a middle-aged mother of nine.

The number of such individual cases recorded by Stilloaks and DPAC has reached somewhere around 500-600 plus.

And the total figures are much, much higher. Oxford University reported that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people in this country.

This is 30,000 people, who died in despair and poverty, in one year, in the sixth richest nation on Earth. In a country that has decided it is rich enough to give tax cuts to billionaires.

IDS left office a few years ago, whining about how he was getting the blame for the sanctions system, while it was Tony Blair and New Labour who had invented. Well, they did. But IDS and the Tories didn’t have to retain and expand it.

And IDS and his crew cannot claim ignorance of the immense harm their policies are causing. Oh, they do, of course, but then, Tories are inveterate liars. And the fact that they did not want to release the mortality figures shows exactly that they knew it was killing tens of thousands of people. They just didn’t want the British public to know.

And so its quite appropriate to show IDS as a psychopathic serial killer.

And because they were the architects of austerity, I’ve drawn the flies with David Cameron’s and George Osborne’s faces.

Unfortunately, the carnage hasn’t stopped. Theresa May’s carried on with it, with Damian Green the new head of the DWP.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to stop it, however. So we must have fresh elections, and get him into No. 10. Before the Tories kill again.

More on the Government Falsification of the Figures for the Deaths from Grenfell Tower

June 19, 2017

Mike has this evening put up another piece about the figures for the number of people, who have died in the Grenfell Tower fire. The Met police have now said that the number of people believed to have been killed is 79. Mike reasons from this that there are a further 382 still missing, as the block had 600 residents. 65 were rescued, and 74 are in hospital.

There is an appeal for residents who are well, but who have not yet made themselves known to the authorities to come forward.

However, as Mike points out in his article, many people are convinced that the authorities are deliberately underestimating the fatalities. He has a video in the post, where people say that they have seen many more bodies than have been officially counted.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/19/grenfell-tower-death-toll-up-to-79-with-382-still-missing-or-are-they/

In an earlier post, Mike suggested that a true estimate of the number of people, as suggested by EvolvePolitics, might be given by taking the total number of residents and subtracting the numbers for those, who had been rescued and were in hospital. At the time EvolvePolitics tweeted this, it was believed thirty people had been officially declared dead, so the probably figure for the numbers of people killed in the blaze is 461.

One of the people posting about this on social media, Gemma-Fox-Official, claimed that she had been told by two of the firefighters who tackled this inferno, that there were many more bodies recovered than have been officially acknowledged. According to her, they said it was three tents full of them. The firefighters informed her, she says, that they were ordered to count only those people who physically died in the building. If they leaped from it, and fell to their deaths, they were not counted in the official death toll.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/19/evidence-mounts-against-the-authorities-over-the-grenfell-tower-disaster-strong-language/

If this is true, then it’s truly revolting. It means that, in order to keep power, the Tories are once again lying about the numbers their policies have killed. It’s frankly another denial of justice.

These rumours may well be wrong, but considering the way the Tories have massively denied and then falsified other mortality statistics – such as for the number of disabled people, who have died after being found fit and well by Atos, they are all too plausible.

Government Trying to Cover Up the True Number of Victims of Grenfell Tower

June 17, 2017

Mike has also reported in one of his posts on the terrible Grenfell Tower fire that the government is trying to cover up the real number of the people, who have and probably will die. The death toll will only include those, who actually died in the fire itself. It will not count the victims who have or will die of their injuries in hospital.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/powderkeg-britain-people-died-in-grenfell-tower-because-they-are-poor-and-the-media-are-trying-to-hide-it-strong-language/

And there are also rumours that the government is seeking to put a D Notice on the figures to prevent them being known.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/vox-political-was-wrong-britain-didnt-need-an-ignorant-toffs-comment-to-rise-against-the-tories-over-grenfelltower/

This is another example of Tory mendacity and compulsive secrecy at its worst. I wouldn’t be surprised at any of this. The DWP under Ian Duncan Smith did everything it could not to reveal the true figures for the tens of thousands of people, who died after they were declared fit for work by Atos. Mike and the other disabled rights activists and bloggers had their requests for the information repeatedly denied. They were derided as ‘vexatious’. When the Information Commissioner upheld Mike’s request, IDS and his squalid band refused to release the figures, and then appealed against the decision at the very last minute. And when the Appeals Tribunal finally forced them to comply, they interpreted Mike’s request to send a slightly different set of figures from those he requested.

They even did the same thing to the Independent, when that newspaper made the same request.

This is a government that lies without qualm or compunction, and has absolutely no shame in falsifying the stats for the numbers of people its policies have killed, simply to secure another term in parliament, and to grind more people into poverty for the benefit of the rich.

If the rumours about the D Notice are true, then it shows that the government is terribly afraid that the disclosure of the true mortality figures from the fire will somehow be a threat to the security of the realm. What utter, disgraceful tosh! Perhaps they really do believe their own vile propaganda that the crowds of peaceful protesters, who forced their way into Kensington Council offices this morning, really are some kind of revolutionary mob, determined to overthrow the government. Instead of what they are, angry, bewildered people grieving for the people dear to them, who have been robbed of their homes and property.

The Tories’ determination to cover up the truth using such instruments shows not only their mendacity, but how they really do see themselves and the rich as the British state, which has to be preserved at all costs, even when this involves lying and denying justice and information to the victims of terrible tragedies, tragedies brought on by nearly forty years of Thatcherism in one form or another.

I also have no faith in the promise of a public inquiry. I can remember hearing something cynical about them on Yes, Minister, where Sir Humphrey or somebody remarks that calling one is the best way to cover up government incompetence, as they’ll spend years collecting information and by the time they publish their reports, the public will have lost interest. Perhaps this is what the government hopes will happen to the investigation into this tragedy. Mike has already reported how one Tory minister, Gavin Barwell, now May’s chief of staff, who was supposed to have published a report into the Lakanal House fire four years ago, has not done so. This report would have concluded that tower blocks such as Grenfell Tower were unsafe.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/powderkeg-britain-people-died-in-grenfell-tower-because-they-are-poor-and-the-media-are-trying-to-hide-it-strong-language/

I couldn’t find the clip I wanted of that piece of cynical official wisdom about public inquiries. But I did find this clip from the BBC comedy, in which Sir Humphrey and his boss, Arnold, tell Bernard why open government is wrong and how the British public doesn’t want the truth, and needs and indeed wants to remain stupid and ignorant.

From the actions of the Tory government in trying to suppress the numbers of the people who have and are going to die from this horrific blaze, it seems that May and her minions really do believe this.

They cannot be allowed to get away with this assault on the truth. Not only are they showing that they are an active threat to ordinary people’s lives, they are also a threat to open government and democracy. It is another step on the road to dictatorship that has been set with their establishment of secret courts in which you may be tried in secret, with the evidence against you withheld from yourself and your lawyers and the identity of the accuser also withheld, if the government decides that it is all in the national security.

Now it seems that they regard the figures for people, who have died in tragedies like this a similar threat to ‘national security’.

Vote for Corbyn to Stop the Work Capability Tests

June 8, 2017

This is the text of another of my table-top pamphlets, this time against the notorious Work Capability Tests. These were also introduced by New Labour at the behest of Unum and other private healthcare providers.

These are not objective tests to assess who is well enough to support themselves. They are simply a callous, bureaucratic mechanism for throwing people with disability off the benefits they need to support themselves. These have included severely disabled people, including terminal cancer patients in comas!

This iniquitous system has been retained and expanded by the Tories – David Cameron and his Lib Dem lackey, Nick Clegg, and now Theresa May.

It is killing people. As I’ve mentioned far too many times before, about 600 + people have died in misery and despair after having their benefit withdrawn due to these tests. Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and DPAC have put together lists and videos putting names to faces, to show the human reality of these statistics – whose mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were killed thanks to the Thatcherite insistence of cutting down on welfare.

The number of people, who have died after having been assessed as ‘fit for work’ is well above ten thousand, though the true figure may never be known. Mike and the other disability activists, who tried to get the figures were blocked by IDS and the DWP at every turn when they tried to get them.

Jeremy Corbyn has also promised to end workfare.

So vote for him. Don’t let the Tories kill more disabled people under the pretence of saving money.

Stop the Work Capability Test –
Before More People Die

by David Sivier

One of the very worst policies introduced by various governments as part of their campaigns to dismantle the welfare state over the past decade has been the Work Capability Test. This was introduced by New Labour in October 2008 along with a new benefit for the disabled and long-term sick, the Employment Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit. The Work Capability Test is intended to show if the person claiming benefit really cannot work. It consists of questionnaire, in which boxes are to be ticked in answer to particular questions about the claimant’s health and disability. 2Ten of these tests were on the claimant’s physical health, and another ten are on their ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual’ fitness. There may also be a brief physical examination. The tests are performed by medical doctors working on behalf of a government outsourcing company. This was given to the French company, Atos, but the company was forced to terminate its contract a year early in 2014 following public anger at the system’s incompetence and maladministration. The contract was then given to an American company, Maximus. The tests may be repeated as often as the JobCentre Plus decides. If the disabled person scores low in the tests, they are judged fit for work. They lose their ESA and are told to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The tests are based on a monograph, The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Beneft, by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward, of 2005 and a succeeding work, Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? By Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton. They were also strongly influenced by a 2001 New Labour conference, in which Aylward was a contributor, Malingering and Illness Deception. These led in turn to the publication of a Green Paper in 2006, A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work – an independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform. Both Waddell and Aylward were professors at the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, which was funded by the American insurance giant from 2004-9. The Work Capability Test uses a form of Bio-Psychosocial model of assessment, developed in America by Unum Provident. This model of assessment is considered to have been devised by George Engel in 1977. In 2006 a paper produced by Professor Christopher Butler and his colleagues attacked the model as ‘wanting’ and inadequate. Waddell and Aylward’s 2006 paper has also been attacked and discredited by Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz.

Unum, and pseudo-medical testing actually became part of the disability benefits system twelve years or so prior to the Waddell and Aylward’s paper, in 1993, when the-then Conservative Health Secretary, Peter Lilley, introduced tougher testing designed to evaluate whether claimants were totally incapable of work. They had previously been awarded benefit if they were unable to do their job. Lilley considered that this approach was to open to sentimental interference by doctors, and so set up an ‘Incapacity benefit medical valuation group’, whose members included Dr John Le Cascio, the second vice-president of Unum Corporation. Lo Cascio had recently been seconded to its British branch, Unum Ltd, based in Dorking in Surrey. In 1994 Lo Cascio was appointed to train the British doctors charged with carrying out the tests by the Benefits Agency Medical Services. New Labour claimed that the purpose of the Work Capability Tests has been ‘to get people back into work’. This was always a misleading claim. New Labour had a ten-year plan to remove one million people from the 2.8 million receiving disability benefits. Their Secretary of State for Health declared ‘We know that being in work can be good for your wellbeing’, echoing the title of the paper by Waddell and Burton. 13 Years before that, Lilley introduced the tests with the aim of cutting £2 billion from the benefits bill.

And Unum itself regarded the benefit cuts as a great commercial opportunity. In their report in 1994, Chairman Ward E. Graffam was enthusiastic about ‘exciting developments in Britain’, saying ‘the impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’

Atos immediately decided that three-quarters of those in receipt of benefit were fit for work.16 Between the introduction of the tests in October 2008 and February 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions made over 1.36 million decisions on whether to award ESA following the administration of the tests on claimants. It declared 794,000 sick and disabled people ‘fit for work’. From the very beginning, the tests were criticised as being vastly inaccurate, and the treatment of claimants under it as cruel and degrading. ‘We Are
Spartacus’, a network of disability researchers and campaigners, denounced the way claimants were ‘wrongly assessed, humiliated and badly treated’. In response to repeated requests by disability campaigners, the DWP finally released the figures for the number of people dying over 11 months in 2011 while in receipt of ESA. 10,600 people in total had died. Of these, 1,300 had died after being taken off benefit following the decision that they were ‘fit to work’. Some of the people, who have died, committed suicide in despair at having their income terminated. One of these was a 47 year old man, who took a drug overdose. Others experienced a deterioration in their mental health due to the stress of assessment. Between 2008 and 2014, there were 600,000 appeals. This constitutes a third of all assessments, and in 2012-13 there were 465,000 appeals, with a success rate of 39 per cent. In some areas, lawyers had a success rate of over 80 per cent overturning decision by Atos against the claimant receiving benefits. 60 per cent of those, who had successfully appealed had scored zero. That is, Atos had declared them entirely fit for work. In 2013, however, the Conservative government took the decision to end legal aid for claims for welfare payment, which meant that fewer people would be able to afford to take the government to court.

In America, Unum Provident was fined $31.7 million in a class action lawsuit in California in 2003 for running ‘disability denial factories’. Two years later in 2005, John Garamendi, the California Department Insurance Commissioner, fined the company $15 million, declaring ‘Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years’. The insurance commissioners of 48 American states had made a settlement with the company by 2006 that required it to review 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. In 2008 the American Association of Justice declared that the company was the second most discredited insurance provider in America.

Despite public anger at Atos’ conduct of the Work Capability Test for ESA, the government in 2012 awarded the company another contract, worth over £400 million, for assessing whether disabled people were suitable for the Personal Independence Payment that was scheduled to replace the Disability Living Allowance in 2013. The Disability Living Allowance provided the handicapped with up to £130 per week to help them look after themselves. This was mostly awarded to help people cook, wash, and assist those with mobility problems. In the three years from April 2013 to 2016, this is to be phased out and replaced with the PIP, which is designed to get people back into work. The government was determined to cut spending on the PIP by twenty per cent during these three years, after the number claiming DLA rose by 30 per cent to 3.2 million people between 2002 and 2011. This was expected to throw 500,000 people off disability benefit.

As with their administration of the ESA fitness to work tests, Atos has proved to be less than efficient in its administration of the PIP. Those applying for the benefit may have to wait months before being notified that they are entitled. The cancer charity, MacMillan Cancer Support, stated that there were serious delays in the approval of payments. As well as leaving the terminally ill without this benefit, it also meant that they were unable to claim other vital benefits with which PIP was linked. As a result, some were forced in their desperation to take out loans from payday loan companies, which have a truly exorbitant interest rate. The number of problems with ESA dealt with by Citizens Advice rose by 54 per cent from 2011 to 2012, when the bureaux dealt with 450,000 of them.

Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, Mind, criticised the tests for failing to consider the effects of mental health on people’s ability to work. In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, he said

The system is based on assumptions that claimants need to be forced back to work, rather than supported on their own terms, and that those not well enough to go back to work are somehow perceived as scroungers. These attitudes only serve to further damage individuals’ mental health and increase the time until they may be ready to return to work.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, another disability charity, stated that the tests ‘should be more than an exercise in getting people of benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job.’ The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee condemned the tests, stating that the system was so flawed it needed to be completely overhauled.

Guy Standing in his A Precariat Charter states that governments have been able to cut benefits for the disabled far more than for other groups, because they are a minority and so there is likely to be fewer objections to their treatment and lost votes. He also recommends that any firm hired by the government to provide services for the disabled should be bound by three commitments. The first should be to the disabled themselves; the second should be to the government; and the third should be to the whole of society, as the rest of us could be next. The employment contract awarded to such outsourcing firms should include penalty clauses requiring them to compensate the disabled claimant directly when they do not award them the correct benefits. This compensation should be much more than the benefits the disabled person did not receive. They should also be penalised for their mistakes. This would be a start, but it is not enough. The problem lies not with the companies administering the tests, but with the whole system of tests itself. The cause of the problem is attitude of successive governments, from John Major’s Conservatives, through Blair and Brown’s New Labour and then the Conservative-led governments of David Cameron, that the disabled should automatically have their benefits reduced, regardless of the poverty and hardship involved. The goal should be to provide benefits to support the poor and disabled, rather than cuts intended to reduce the tax burden for the rich. The Work Capability Test and the poverty and stress it inflicts should be stopped. Now.

American Politico Rick Santorum Calls People with Medical Conditions ‘Scammers’ Trying to Steal Health Insurance

March 2, 2017

In this video from The Ring of Fire, presenter Farron Cousins rips into Republican politician Rick Santorum for his mean-spirited, bigoted comments about people with pre-existing medical conditions. Santorum appeared on CNN this week, where he described people with these conditions as ‘scammers’ who were trying to steal others’ medical care. Farron points out that he didn’t describe how this was being done, when a scam is a deceit that is carefully planned and executed. He points out that people with medical conditions like diabetes or heart conditions aren’t scammers, trying to cheat others out of their healthcare. They are often people, who haven’t even spent a day doing anything wrong, who would otherwise find it extremely difficult to get medical care without Obama’s Affordable Care Act. How dare they take medical care away from those Americans, who don’t really need it! He makes the point that this is the common Republican strategy of trying to get people to turn on each other, as they’ve done with immigration.

This time, however, it won’t work. Ill health affects everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, Republicans and Libertarians just as much as Democrats, Green Partiers or whoever. By sneering at people with these medical problems, Santorum also shows how much he despises that segment of the Republican party who have them.

Cousins then lays into Santorum’s own massive political incompetence. He’s repeatedly tried and failed to get the presidential nomination. Cousins makes the point that he’s a stupid man, who says whatever comes into his head, who has so far been fundamentally lucky, but thinks it’s due to his own cleverness. With heavy sarcasm Cousins ends the clip ‘Good luck with your political career, Mr Santorum. You’re going to need it.’

Santorum is indeed no stranger to controversy. A few years ago his vocal opposition to gay marriage resulting in outrage gays and their supporters taking their own bizarre revenge against him. The submitted his name to the Urban Dictionary as the name for a substance too crudely biological to be decently mentioned in a family website.

It would be easy to dismiss Santorum’s comments as another product of the weird mentality of the American Right, which has no relevance to us Brits. But his mindset isn’t confined to him by any means.

It’s also very much the attitude of the Tories and the Blairites in the Labour party.

Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have pointed out that welfare fraud only accounts for 0.7 per cent of benefit claims. But thanks to the Tories and their media collaborators, like the Daily Heil and the Scum, the general public believes that it’s far more than that, and that roughly a quarter of all claims are fraudulent. This is how the Tories get their support for cutting down ESA, PIP and continuing with the wretched health assessments by ATOS and now Maximus.

And speaking of the work capability assessment, let’s not let Blair and his coterie in the Labour party off the hook for introducing it. Blair introduced it based on advice from insurance fraudster Unum and its head, John Lo Cascio, based on a piece of scientifically invalid nonsense, that considers poor health to be largely determined by mental attitude. Critics of the conference in which New Labour formulated its introduction of the tests and took the advice of Unum and other private health insurance companies on its implementation have repeatedly pointed out that the policy assumes that a large number of benefit claims are simply malingering. Blair and his minions even stated this at the conference in so many words.

The result of this is that there has been a massive rise in hate crime against the disabled. Mike last week reported the case of a young man with learning difficulties, who was beaten to death by a couple of young thugs. They seem to have thought their victim was a paedophile, but Mike also points out how much of their hate was inspired by the constant demonization of the ill and disabled by the Tories and their media.

And then there’s the role of the tests in creating massive poverty in this country. Mike, Stilloaks, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, Kitty S. Jones and many, many other left-wing bloggers have posted up the names of some of the hundreds of victims of the Work Capability Assessment, who have died of starvation, misery or despair after being thrown off benefit. There’s even a whole website devoted to criticising it and the harm it’s doing to the sick and disabled: Atos Miracles. As Mike reported, another poor woman ended her life this week, thanks to the same malignant policy.

Mike, and Jeff3, one of the commenters on this blog, have repeatedly asked the rhetorical question whether behind all this there is a deliberate eugenics programme to cleanse Britain of its disabled by stealth, just as the Nazis started murdering the congenitally ill in the infamous Aktion T4 during the Third Reich. It’s a good question. Thatcher’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph, stirred up controversy in the 1970s when he claimed that single mothers were a threat to British genetic stock. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was Jewish, he would have fitted right in with the Nazi party.

Santorum’s stupid, bigoted comments about the long-term sick and disabled being ‘scammers’ aren’t the exception. They aren’t the peculiarly twisted view of some nutty American right-winger. They’re bog-standard across the transatlantic Right. You find them in the Tories, their Lib Dem enablers, the Blairites in the Labour Party, and screaming at you every day in the page of the Murdoch Press, the Heil, Express and other tabloids. And this is having an effect. They’re encouraging a government determined to deny people support even if, or especially if, it kills them.

If you accept Santorum’s comments, if you support the Republicans in their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or support the Tories and Lib Dems over here, or hanker for the return of Blair or one of his cabinet of horrors to return to lead the Labour party, you are supporting this policy of bigotry, murder and death.

New Book on Foodbank Britain

November 20, 2016

Also going round the bookshelves in Waterstone’s on Friday, I found a book with the title, Foodbank Britain, or something similar. It was about foodbanks, and people’s experiences of using and working on them. This is interesting and very much needed. I’ve reblogged pieces before now from the website, Diary of a Foodbank Helper, as has Mike over at Vox Political and a number of other great, leftwing bloggers. ‘Diary of a Foodbank Helper’s’ written by a lady, who, as her blog’s title says, helped out at her local food bank. She describes the people she encounters, who come for its aid, and gives their often heartbreaking stories. These are hardworking people, who’ve been made redundant, or been forced to leave work through invalidity, who’ve found themselves sanctioned by the DWP under any one of the various petty excuses they use to make sure people can’t claim Jobseekers Allowance. Or else they’ve been declared ‘fit to work’ by ATOS/ Maximus, when they clearly are very much unfit for work.

Against this, we have the continued lies of the Tory party, particularly the heads of the DWP Damian Green and Iain Duncan Smith, and poisonous former ministers like Edwina Curry. They repeatedly refuse to release the statistics showing how many people have died after being declared fit for work, and when they’ve been finally forced to release them, have fiddled them to make them misleading. They also repeat the lie ad nauseam that no-one in Britain is really starving, and that people are using food banks voluntarily, because they’re a source of free food. This has shown to be a lie over and over again, but they keep on repeating it. They’re all students of Goebbels, who said that the secret to successful propaganda was repeating the lie again and yet again, until enough people believe it. And aided by an equally lying and mendacious press and a disgracefully biased Beeb, people will.

I didn’t buy it, as I’ve bought several books recently on poverty in Britain. But I thought this one was a useful addition to the armoury of books criticising government policy and the mass poverty its created. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to need many more of them before we can break the lies that supports the mass starvation food banks are intended to alleviate.

Clinton’s Defeat Has Potential to Harm Blairites

November 9, 2016

Mike yesterday posted a piece about the report in the Huffington Post that documents released by WikiLeaks show that Bill Clinton made a number of slighting remarks about Jeremy Corbyn in a speech to wealthy donors to the Democrat Party last October. Clinton claimed that Corbyn was ‘the maddest person in the room’, and that he was only elected because Labour party members were ‘so mad at Tony Blair that ‘they practically went out and got a guy off the street instead’. He compared Corbyn to the leader of the Greek anti-austerity party, Alexis Tsipras, and claimed that Ed Miliband lost the election against Cameron because he was too leftwing.

Mike in his comments states that Clinton’s remarks need to be put in context. He was speaking at a time when Bernie Sanders was competing with Shrillary for the Democrat presidential nomination. Corbyn had supported Bernie Sanders in the past, and the two had been compared to each other. He also notes that Clinton appeared to be a little confused, as he referred to a conversation he had had with a Northern Ireland secretary, who stated that Shrillary had helped him through a bad period in that part of the UK. Clinton thought it was one of Cameron’s minions, but in fact it was a minister in Gordon Brown’s cabinet.
Mike concluded that Corbyn’s office was right not to pay any attention to Clinton’s comments.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/08/us-presidential-has-been-attacks-future-uk-prime-minister-awkward/

I think that Mike’s been a bit too generous to Bill Clinton. Yes, he was speaking at a time when his wife was competing against Bernie Sanders, the most left-wing member of the Democrat party. Sanders is a self-declared democratic Socialist, just as Corbyn is seen as far left in the Labour party. Actually, this isn’t accurate. Corbyn is centre left old Labour. He isn’t a Trotskyite at all, no matter what the Blairites and their media enablers scream at the public.

But even without Sanders, Corbyn would be well to the Left of the Clintons, and I don’t doubt for a single moment that the former president despises both Corbyn and Ed Miliband, along with Sanders, for the threat they posed to the transatlantic electoral strategy he and Tony Blair had formed for their respective parties. Blair modelled his ‘New Labour’ on the ‘New Democrats’ Clinton formed within the American Democrat Party. After losing to Reagan and then to George Bush senior, Clinton took over many of the Republican’s policies in order to win over their voters. He therefore declared that his party was going to end ‘welfare as we know it’, and put forward the same neoliberal policies Reagan had pursued in the Republicans.

And the same strategy was put into practise over here by Blair. Blair ditched Clause 4, the article in the Labour party constitution which committed it to socialism. He carried on the Tories’ policy of privatising whatever remained of the state sector, including the NHS. And like the Tories, the American Republicans and Clinton’s New Democrats, New Labour was also determined to cut down the welfare state. Hence the introduction of the work capability test, taken from the ideas of an American medical insurance firm, and administered by Atos, in order to satisfy the Conservative desire to see more people thrown off benefits and into poverty.

I’ve said that Blair and New Labour are Thatcherite entryists. They’ve been pursuing right-wing, Tory policies, despite the fact that they belong to an historically left-wing party. Blair’s tactic was all about convincing the establishment – business, the banks and the press – that Labour was now thoroughly neoliberal and economically orthodox, and so would form a responsible government. In other words, one that would do everything the upper classes wanted.

Hillary Clinton in her own way was even more ‘establishment’. She made hundreds of thousands of dollars from giving speeches to Wall Street bankers, and was as corrupt and corporatist as the other American politicians, for all her claim that she was somehow an outsider because she was female. In the 1990s she briefly supported free universal healthcare and education, before she then started receiving donations from the medical insurers and other big corporations. She and the head of the Democrat Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, just as the Blairites in the Labour party tried everything in their power to stop Corbyn being elected as leader. And that includes purging voters from the rolls. Faced with Trump being nominated as their presidential candidate, many leading Republicans threw in their lot with Shrillary. She tried to make a show of supporting organised labour and American working people with a speech to an audience of trade unionists, in which she pledged to support them. But the damage was done. The left-wing Democrat base knew that she had betrayed them, and that her promises counted for nothing. Especially as American jobs were being harmed by the very free trade deals, the TPP, NAFTA and so on that she and Obama supported.

And now that policy has come crashing down. Hillary’s attempt to be as corporate establishment as the Republicans failed to get her into the White House, and she lost to a racist, misogynist braggart and wannabe Fascist.

Now The Young Turks have posted up a piece arguing that the Democrats will probably try and blame their defeat on Bernie Sanders. I think that’s highly likely. They’re absolutely wrong, of course. They lost for a variety of reasons. Sexism was one – many Americans objected to the idea of a woman holding the presidency. Media bias was another – for all Trump’s claims that the media were biased against him, they gave him hours and millions of dollars worth of free airtime. Pervasive racism is another factor. But Hillary’s own political stance was also a major factor. The Young Turks, Secular Talk and other shows made the point that if Bernie Sanders had been elected instead, then he would have beaten Trump easily.

But that was a step too far for the Democrats, who’d clearly rather have a Fascist buffoon in the White House than someone, who genuinely spoke for working Americans.

This should be the end of the line for the New Democrat, and by extension, the New Labour project. It has shown that copying the pro-privatisation, neoliberal line of the Republicans won’t get you into the White House. The Democrats really can’t go any further to the right, without returning to their original stance as the party of the KKK. And as that strategy has failed across the Pond, it’s going to fail over here. The Blairites in the Labour party should be worried. Clinton’s defeat has shown that they can’t and won’t get into power by copying the Tories. That was, after all, also the message of Ed Miliband’s defeat as well, followed by the victory of Jeremy Corbyn. But I doubt Bomber Benn and the other Thatcherite entryists will take any notice. They’re probably too busy concentrating on saving their careers and all the lucrative seats on private health and utility companies they can get after they leave politics.

So, you can expect further screaming that it’s all somehow Bernie Sanders’ fault from Shrillary and her team across the Pond, and violent denunciation of ‘unelectable’ Jeremy Corbyn from the Blairites and their right-wing colleagues in the media over here. Because with Clinton’s defeat, they know only too well that Corbyn is all too electable, and represents the end of their project.