Posts Tagged ‘Department of Work and Pensions’

IDS Makes Food Banks Part of the ‘Welfare State’

October 28, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has reported that IDS, in his comments to the Commons, seems to see food banks as part of the welfare state, despite his previous denials. Mike’s article Are food banks a part of the benefit system now DWP advisors are being sent there? begins

Iain Duncan Smith has indicated that he considers food banks to be a permanent part of the benefit system now, while answer questions posed by the Commons Work and Pensions committee.

He said he was “fully in support of food banks” and added that, “where people go to food banks because of problems with the department, the department tries to pick up those problems.”

He also said he was visited by representatives of a food bank before the summer break, who said some individuals had a problem with benefit payments.

He said he tried putting a benefits adviser in the food bank when it is open, so he or she can look into these cases. If the initiative works, it will be rolled out nationally.

As with so much by this vicious and mendacious government, I’m not actually surprised by this. Maggie always wanted to replace the welfare state with private charity, and it seemed to me from the start that what the Tories have wanted is to replace payments with food stamps, like in America. This has just confirmed it.

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Bravo: Tom Pride and Vox Political Cited in ‘I’ Newspaper

February 12, 2015

Net satirist Tom Pride and the very serious Vox Political have been spotted in today’s I newspaper. The I has a column, ‘The Opinion Matrix’. Subtitled ‘Comment from Home and Abroad’, this features quotes different newspapers and other sources commenting on various stories from around the world. In the extreme right-hand column are the comments about the sad death of Malcolm Burge, who died starving after having his benefit cut off by the DWP. Tom wrote an excellent piece commenting on Mr Burge’s death, and pointing out where the blame really lies: IDS. I reblogged it, and so did Mike over at Vox Political. The I’s piece, ‘Malcolm Burge: Lessons from a Claimant’s Suicide’, quotes first from Mike’s Vox Political and then from Guardian. The quote from Vox Political is actually from Mike’s reblog of Tom Pride’s post on Mr Burge’s death from Pride’s Purge, and duly credited to Tom:

Note that housing benefit is now run by the Department for Work and Pensions, so the responsibility for Mr Burge’s death belongs with Iain Duncan Smith.

Bravo and congrats to both Tom and Mike for getting quoted in the I along with the big boys like the Daily Mail, Financial Times, New York Times, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Channel 4, Evening Standard, the Telegraph, the Groaniad.

Let’s hope this is by no means the last time they get quoted and taken up by the legacy media. And the next time they do, I hope they work out that Tom has his own site separate from Mike.

Vox Political on Tories Trying to Bribe Doctors to Sign the Sick Back to Work Early

November 11, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has this article, Will GPs be bribed to put you back to work?. It begins

Doctors could ask for funding from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure patients go back to work quickly, a top NHS England official has suggested, according to GP Online. Is this the next stage in Iain Duncan Smith’s war on the sick?

Addressing the annual conference of the out-of-hours provider body Urgent Health UK, Professor Keith Willett, national director for acute episodes of care, said getting a patient in to see a GP quickly and issued with a return to work certificate could save the government two weeks of benefits payments. Oh really? And what if the patient isn’t better by then?

This seems to be a massively bad idea, as it encourages doctors to try to get their patients back to work regardless of whether they are truly well. One of the complaints I heard about a local GP, who was less than popular with many of the patients at the local practice, was that he had this attitude. People felt that he was less concerned with actually curing them, than in simply getting them back to work as quickly as possible. Willetts clearly seems to think it would be a good idea, as GPs would get to make more money. It’s notable that he was addressing a conference for one of the private medical contractors the Tories have brought in, so obviously he sees the marketisation of the health service and dismantlement of the NHS as an opportunity for personal enrichment. The Tories have also attempted to sweeten this very bitter pill by saying that it would allow some patients to see their doctors quicker. It seems to me that this will simply result in more sick people denied the time and treatment they need to properly get well, and a further breakdown in the relationship between patient and doctor. If this comes in, patients will believe, quite rightly, that they are being denied proper care by their doctors just to make the GP himself richer.

Guy Standing on IDS’ Personal Welfare Dependency

April 29, 2014

140428IDSshrug

I found this description of Iain Duncan Smith’s hypocrisy in orchestrating a reduction in state support for the poor, while doing all he personally can to gain as much of it himself in Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (London: Bloomsbury 2014):

Iain Duncan Smith, UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has led a robust campaign against benefits for the poor and precariat, saying he is determined to reduce state dependency and end the ‘something for nothing’ culture. Meanwhile, his own state dependency dwarfs that of any of his targets. A trust run by members of his family has received over £1 million in EU agricultural subsidies in the past decade, in addition to the various tax breaks farmers receives, courtesy of an estate of 1,500 acres inherited by his wife. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is regressive, since the primary beneficiaries are large landowners. While the UK government was capping benefits for the poor, claiming that nobody should receive more in benefits than the average wage, it vetoed a European Commission plan to cap the amount of money going in farm subsidies to the wealthy. (p. 312).

Which bears out what a friend of mine said about the Tories: ‘The Conservatives are an organised hypocrisy’. I think he was quoting Oscar Wilde, who was certainly right there.

So now you know: IDS is a benefit scrounger. Let’s have him sanctioned.

From 2012: Private Eye on Official Reprimand to Atos for Misleading Advertising

April 12, 2014

atoskillsgraf

This was in the Eye’s edition for 20th April – 3rd may 2012.

Fit To Advertise?

Atos, the French outsourcing giant, is probably too busy counting the profit from its £108m-a-year contract to carry out health and disability fitness-to-work assessments for the government to worry whether the advertising on its website is legal, decent, honest or true.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has just ordered the company to clean up its Atos Healthcare website, which boasts that each year it processes more than 1.2m referrals for medical advice and complete 800,000 face-to–face medical assessments, and that it has 1,700 healthcare professionals.

The authority had received a complaint from a disability campaigner5 that the claims were misleading and could not be substantiated (they differed from figure provided by the Department for Work and Pensions) and when it asked Atos to respond, reply came there none-despite being reminded of its duty to comply.

The ASA duly found Atos’ claims weren’t proven and that its website was indeed misleading. That was two weeks ago;. As the Eye went to press the offending words were still up there as Atos clearly doesn’t give a toss.

I’m not surprised that Atos lied on the website, as the company lies and falsifies the results of its medical assessments in order to get the required number of claimants thrown off benefits. Cases like this, however, are having a cumulative effect and the people is increasingly sick of the company, its lies and its cruelty. Which is no doubt why they’re trying to get out of doing the Work Capability Assessments. They’re going before the public makes the decision for them.

From 2011: Private Eye on Atos Throwing the Severely Disabled Off Benefits

April 11, 2014

This is from Private Eye’s edition for the 9th – 22nd December 2011.

ATOS

Unfit For Purpose

The government’s proposal to stop GPs writing sick notes for long-term illness and hand the work to “independent assessors” has private companies rubbing their hands. Bit it has alarmed those who far that patients will have to endure the same type of tick-box assessments as those needing benefits, as carried out by Atos.

The huge French service company has been slated by MPs and charities over its health and capability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, leading to wrong decisions in up to 40 percent of cases and causing “fear, anxiety and distress” to many disabled people.

Now an Atos insider tells the Eye that, under pressure from government to produce figures showing the number of claimants coming off benefits, coupled with competition to run the multi-million-pound contract, the situation may get worse. In the past 12 months a number of experienced doctors have left the company because they no longer want to part of a “target-driven” system that they say is unfair to the claimants and compromises their professionalism. One said it was “immoral”.

They have not apparently been replaced, and most medical assessments are now carried out by n8urses, who are less expensive – but would have fewer skills in musculo-skeletal disorders or mental illness, two of the main causes of disability.

For those who have been assessed by Atos, the result can be devastating. Secretary Debbie, 44, has been unable to work since a brain haemorrhage 14 years ago left her needing regular nerve-blocking injections into the head and intravenous drug treatment. She suffers from excruciating headaches and is partially sighted.

Her consultant detailed in a letter how her “excruciating” chronic cluster headaches and migraine were rated by the World Health Organisation as “one of the most disabling chronic disorders”. In August she saw an Atos assessor – a doctor, not a nurse – who appeared sympathetic. However, Debbie and her partner say the assessor then made false statements about the examination, saying an eye had been carried out when it hadn’t and bizarrely alleging that she self-harms, which she says she has never done.

The DWP then told Debbie her incapacity benefit would be replaced by employment support allowance (ESA) and that she must attend work-related activity group meetings (WRAG) seven miles from her home. If she fails to attend she will lose her benefits. She told the Eye: “my consultant, my GP, everyone says there’s no way I can work. I can’t see very well, I bang into things, I can’t even make a cup of tea without spilling boiling water. I can’t travel unattended … Yet according to Atos I’m able to work.” Having lost her appeal against having to attend the activity group, Debbie is to file a formal complaint about the Atos doctor to the General Medical Council.

Similarly, in April 2009, Mike, a 52-year-old academic, was found to have a brain tumour the size of a squash ball after he collapsed and had a massive seizure. Six weeks of radiotherapy reduced its size, and Mike has remained stable – although he relies on strong anti-convulsants to keep epilepsy, seizures and focal fits at bay – and is exhausted after short periods of mental or physical activity. Two months after the diagnosis he was ordered to attend an Atos assessment and was found to be capable of work.

Mike has found that the DWP had hidden information showing that people with terminal illness, like him, should not have had to undergo such an assessment, and that any assessment that does take place should be by an expert. But it took him two years of appeals to obtain his entitlements. His battle for compensation continues.

This confirms the other reports that Atos are instructed to find a certain percentage as fit for work, in order for them to be thrown off benefits. I’d also come across elsewhere the information that some of the doctors initially involved in the assessments had left because of its immorality and unprofessionalism. And from my own experience and those of some of the commenters here, and the reports of other bloggers like Jayne Linney I know that Atos lies and falsifies its medical reports to get the results it desires.

There is some useful information here for those seeking to challenge Atos. The article’s statement that terminally ill people should not have to undergo assessment may be of some help to some of the others challenging their assessments. Atos has a long history of declaring medically capable of finding work people so tragically afflicted. Jayne Linney has suggested that as many as 55,000 people a year may have died after being assessed by Atos. If only a small proportion of these were diagnosed as terminally ill by their doctors, then it means that Atos has been massively in breach of regulations. Which is probably why bloggers such as Mike over at Vox Political have been refused this information, and denounced as ‘vexatious’ by the DWP for daring to do so.

Atos Accused of Misleading MPs to Get Government Contract

March 22, 2014

atoskillsgraf

Atos were in the I newspaper again yesterday following accusations by MPs that the company got the contract through deliberately misleading statements about providing access for disabled claimants in the tender document it submitted to the Department of Work and Pensions. Atos claimed that over 700 healthcare providers, including 56 NHS hospitals, had agreed to provide accommodation to claimants at the place of assessment. This would create a ‘hyper-local’ network, which would mean that no claimant would be more than an hour’s journey away from the assessment centre.

The Public Accounts Committee, however, were told that in fact Atos had contracted less than 100 hundred healthcare providers to provide claimants with the accommodation they needed. As a result, since the scheme was launched, 40 per cent of all claimants had been forced to travel for more than an hour to get to an assessment centre.

The company, naturally, claimed that they had done nothing wrong, and said that they had the written agreement of all the trusts referred to in the document that they could be named.

The last statement does not refute the point made by the Public Accounts Committee. They may have had the agreement of the trusts they mentioned that they could be named, but Atos has not said that the trusts had contracted to provide accommodation. So, more lies by a company now notorious for its mendacity and deliberate deceit in throwing claimants off benefits.

And they’ve won yet another government contract, this time to provide the childcare support vouchers. Yet another example of how nothing exceeds like failure, corruption and incompetence in modern Tory Britain.

Stalin, Ian Duncan Smith and Terror as Corporate Management Technique

January 28, 2014

Stalin

Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili, aka Stalin: Thuggish Dictator of the Soviet Union

Ian Duncan Smith pic

Ian Duncan Smith: Thuggish Dictator of the Department of Work and Pensions

One of the other books I’ve been reading lately is Alex De Jonge’s biography of Stalin, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1986). During his career Stalin is estimated to have killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens – though the real figure may be a high as 45 million or over – through a series of purges and artificial famines as he transformed the Soviet Union into the military and industrial superpower that was to dominate half of Europe and challenge America for world mastery for the next fifty years. From his boyhood Stalin was a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

The son of a drunken, abusive father, who used to challenge his son to knife him when beating him and a hard mother, Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili, grew up dirty poor in the village of Gori in Georgia, one of the countries in the Caucasus that had been absorbed into the Russian Empire. The family lived in one room of a two-room house. The other was occupied by their landlord. He was short, only 5’4” tall, with an elbow left permanently stiff through a childhood accident. The second and third toes on one of his feet were conjoined from birth, and his faced had been left pockmarked through smallpox. This and his family’s poverty gave him strong feelings of inferiority. He soon developed a deep hatred of anyone in authority above him, and his need to dominate and utter lack of any feeling for others were commented on by his fellow students at the Orthodox Christian seminary in Tiflis, in which his parents had enrolled him. One of them remarked on how he was never known to cry, and greeted the joys and misfortunes of his fellow students alike with a sarcastic smile. Most of all, the young Stalin already was alien to basic human altruism. He could not understand how anyone could act kindly or generously to another out of the sheer goodness of their heart, without some ulterior motive. At the seminary he joined a secret Marxist discussion circle set up by some of the other students. He managed to split this between his supporters and opponents through his absolute insistence that only his interpretation of Marx’s doctrine could ever be correct.

He was also already an advocate of absolute, ruthless personal government. One of the stories about Stalin’s time at the seminary is about an essay he wrote on the fall of Julius Caesar. The history teacher had set them the question ‘Why did Caesar fall?’ Stalin’s essay looked at the question from the perspective of the organs of state power, identifying weaknesses and filling in the gaps where these could be strengthened. He stated that Rome’s greatest dictator fell, because he had allowed another source of authority and resistance, the Senate, to continue uninterrupted. The provincial governors opposed him, because they feared his power more than that of the Senate. He also made the mistake of relying on the support of friends, rather than managers, who depended on him for power and who could be relied on to do his bidding. As a result, he was assassinated by his two friends, Brutus and Cassius. When he was asked if his essay was recommending absolute monarchy, he responded by saying that it did not. Absolute monarchy was the control of the state by a single personality. In Stalin’s view, his recommendations were the exact opposite: the strengthening of state power through a single personality.

Stalin was eventually thrown out of the seminary for reading forbidden
books, like Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Marx. He demanded that the other members of the Marxist discussion circle should likewise resign, so that they could concentrate on revolutionary activities and propaganda amongst the people. They refused, offering the excuse that they didn’t want to disappoint their parents. So Stalin denounced them all to the seminary authorities, who threw them out anyway. On their expulsion, Djugashvili told them that they were now free to pursue their revolutionary activities amongst the people. After this, the young revolutionary became a kinto, the Georgian term for a semi-criminal street hustler. His revolutionary activities included a series of bank robberies used to fund the Russian Social Democratic Party, the parent Marxist organisation which produced the Bolshevik faction, that later became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

So the pattern of Stalin’s personality and rule were present from his childhood: feelings of inferiority, hatred of authority, utter ruthlessness and a need to dominate others, with a predilection for absolute power and the willingness to use violence to obtain it.

I can’t remember if it was De Jonge’s book, but I do remember that in the 1980s the Sunday Express reviewed one of the biographies of the monster. This was done as yet another of the ‘real truth about an icon of the Left’ that the Right-wing press runs every now and again in order to discredit anyone, whose views are to the left of Maggie Thatcher. In fact, Stalin had been discredited long before the 1980s. He had been out of favour in the Soviet Union ever since the ‘Secret Speech’ of 1953, in which Khruschev denounced his ‘cult of personality’. Moreover, the old thug’s fiercest critics included not only non-Communist democrats, but also dissident Marxists like Roy Medvedev, an historian and author of Let History Judge, which exposed not only Stalin and his crimes, but also his henchmen. The book’s Russian title is, if I can remember correctly, B Dvortse Istorii, which literally translated means In History’s Court, which might have a slightly different shade of meaning. Medvedev was a democrat. He presented to Brezhnev a 12-point plan drawn up by himself and other leading Soviet dissidents like Andrei Sakharov. Nevertheless, he was a Marxist, who founded the Socialist Party of Russian Working People in 1991 in opposition to the banning of the Russian Communist party after the coup against Gorbachev.

At first sight, there appears to be very little in common between Ian Duncan Smith and Stalin. Stalin was, after all, essentially a poor street thug, who cleverly manipulated others to make his way to the very top of Soviet hierarchy. IDS is like the rest of the cabinet, a creature of privilege, who owes his position to the British class system. Nevertheless, the two share certain psychological traits in common and their management styles are very similar. In the introduction De Jonge discusses Stalin’s style of government, and rebuts the suggestion that it is somehow strange or unusual in the West. It is in the traditions of democratic government. However, it is much less unusual, and even common, when it is compared with the aggressive and ruthless management style of some company directors. These also rule by fear, though this is simply that of being sacked, rather than being sent to a forced labour camp or shot in the back of the head by the NKVD. Such chairmen are also unwilling to take advice, capricious, and surround themselves with sycophants willing to do and say anything to gain promotion, including stabbing each other in the back. And like Stalin, these company directors can turn their corporations into highly efficient, successful companies. De Jonge states

‘At first sight the country over which he and they ruled strikes Western observers as alien, as indeed it is when judged by the standards and practices of Western political democracy. However, when considered from a different point of view, much that may seem strange at first sight will strike the reader as surprisingly familiar. My interest in Stalin began many years ago, when I was in a position to compare what I knew of him with the atmosphere in a large British corporation, ruled by a chief executive who believed in management by terror. Everyone, fr4om the board of directors to the lift man, existed under the continuing threat of dismissal without warning, while sackings appeared to occur on a virtually random basis. The chairman set ambitious targets based on his intuitions, seldom listened to advice and never admitted he had made a mistake. He was surrounded by an entourage of sycophants who passed his management style down the line, subjecting their own subordinates to the same kind of bullying, with the result that the corporation operated in a terror-laden miasma of politicking, backstabbing, misrepresentation of personal achievement and the sophisticated ‘management’ of company news. Nevertheless, the technique got results, and while the chairman’s intuitive methods produced some spectacular failures, they could also be spectacularly successful. It was a world in which the dangers were colossal, but in which the rewards were commensurate with the risks.

For many years I had supposed this style of management to be unique and that those who had had the misfortune to know it were exceptionally unfortunate. However, I have come to understand that in the world of the nontenured, administration by fear, with the firing squad replaced by instant dismissal, is closer to the rule than the exception. Indeed, it appears to be the norm for any organization in which the administrators are not accountable to those under their authority and in which there is no job security. Academics tend to tr4eat STalin’s Russia as a savage and alien society that requires sophisticated analytic techniques to understand it, because tenure protects them from that perpetual threat of job loss that, with all its attendant office politics, drawn daggers and smoking guns, is part of the fabric of most peoples’ daily lives. They fail to appreciate that Soviet reality ‘begins at home’.

Now this reminds very strongly of IDS’ DWP. Let’s see, run by a bully, who governs by his own intuitions untrammelled by facts? Check. An atmosphere of fear of dismissal, with the subordinates passing this down the line to those under them? Check. Carefully managed news? Definitely check. Backstabbing? Absolutely. Furthermore, like Stalin the ultimate use of terror is the benefit sanction, in which the victim is denied state support. You can compare this to the artificial famines Stalin and his subordinates created during collectivisation, and which devastated the Ukraine in what has become known as the Holodomor. And people are similarly starving in Britain through Smith’s policies, and have died as a result. See the blog entries by Stilloaks, Mike, The Void, DEAP and Jayne Linney for this.

As for the personal psychology of the two, like Stalin IDS also appears to have an inferiority complex. There is, after all, considerable doubt whether he was actually an officer in the British army. IDS also seems to share Stalin’s intellectual vanity. Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party as the other Bolsheviks thought that he was too thick to present much of a threat. They believed that a Napoleonic dictator would arise after the Revolution to rule by fear. Unfortunately, they looked in completely the opposite direction, and thought it was Trotsky. Trotsky was, after all, the head of the Red Army during the Civil War, and was a far more sophisticated thinker than Stalin. And so they were looking in completely the wrong direction, while Stalin was under their noses carefully using his position to throw out anyone, who was not absolutely loyal to him. From being a thicko, who didn’t properly understand the niceties of Marxist doctrine – in the 1930s he was still supposed to be taking lessons in Dialectal Materialism – Stalin suddenly became the greatest genius of all time and all humanity, who not only understood Marx thoroughly, but had also personally solved certain problems in Plato. IDS similarly claims an intellectual ability he doesn’t possess. He has, after all, claimed to have a degree from an Italian institute of higher education, which actually doesn’t issue them.

As for spin and backbiting, it was IDS, who appears to have blamed one of his subordinates for his own mistakes. He regularly refuses to release the figures on how many people have died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS, and delayed appearing before the Work and Pensions Committee for as long as possible. Like Iosip Vissarionovich from Georgia, he also believes himself to be above the law.

And like Stalin, IDS personally likes to appear surrounded by armed thugs. When he appeared before the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee, he was surrounded by bodyguards and armed policemen, who kept their guns trained on the public gallery, including disabled visitors and their carers. So IDS also has the old brute’s absolute contempt for the poor and most vulnerable in spades.

There are, however, some differences between the two. So far, Ian Duncan Smith and Cameron are not following Stalin in demanding mass arrests, and deportations to forced labour camps, although there are extremely ominous signs of something like them in Osborne’s plans to expand workfare. But the main difference is in success. Stalin was ruthless, but he turned the Soviet Union into the world’s second superpower. During the 1930s the country had an economic growth rate of something like 30 per cent. Vast industrial combines, such as those in the Donbass, virtually appeared overnight. The Tories, on the other hand, have consistently wrecked Britain’s industrial, manufacturing base. Osborne is claiming that we are well on the way to recovery, but this is only through a very clever manipulation of the statistics.

So IDS and his Tory party comrades have all of Stalin’s defects – the murderous ruthlessness, with absolutely none of the old psychopath’s capacity for turning the country into an industrial giant. And this is the man, who, as head of the Department for Work and Pensions, is in charge of the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable.

Way back in the 19th century liberal Russians cried ‘Who can be happy in Russia?’ Under Cameron, the question can be put this side of the Baltic. ‘Who can be happy in Britain?’

The Thurrock Heckler on Zero Hours Contracts

July 28, 2013

I found an excellent post on the insecurity, poverty and fear generated by zero hours contracts over at the blog The Thurrock Heckler. It begins

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of workers on zero hours contracts doubled during the last year to 200,000. A zero hours contract is a way that legally allows employers to take on staff without any guarantee of actual work or income. In 2005, there were 55,000 workers on zero hours contracts. This rose to 110,000 between April and June last year. That nearly doubled to 200,000 between October and December last year. As it is now April and the trend appears to be going upwards, it would be a reasonably safe bet to assume that there are way more than 200,000 on these contracts. Over a quarter of major employers in Britain now use zero hours contracts. We need to do a bit of digging around to see how many small to medium companies also use these contracts as the figure of 200,000 seems very much on the low side to us.

This is all part of the ‘flexible’ labour force that is heralded as keeping unemployment numbers lower than they would be in the depths of an economic crisis. Supporters of zero hours contracts claim they allow employers greater flexibility in planning their workflow as they can use and discard staff as demand rises and falls. Sure it’s great for employers but it’s utter crap for workers who have no choice but to accept a zero hours contract or have no work at all.

I’ve friends, who were placed on zero hours contracts, and all of this is true. The article does not mention the problems they had with their local jobcentre. They tried claiming benefits for the period they were not working. The DWP demands that you provide a payslip indicating that that week you were not paid. At the time, however, they were working for the Post Office, who only gave you a payslip for the days you worked. My friend was thus placed in the position where he was unable to claim unemployment benefit, because of the payroll system used by the Post Office. I’m sure he wasn’t the only person in this position, or that it was confined to the Royal Mail.

Zero Hours Contracts are a nasty way of providing employers with a cheap labour force, in which those on the contracts are trapped going from one day to another. It’s the return of casual labour of a type that the Labour party made illegal earlier in the century for dockworkers. Now it’s come back, and is being used in wider industry. I’ve also no doubt that the Heckler is right when he says that if Labour comes to power, they will be under increasing pressure to maintain or expand Zero Hours Contracts in order to increase competitiveness.

The articles at http://thurrockheckler.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/zero-hours-contracts-total-insecurity/. It needs to be read.

The Creative Incompetence of the Benefits Agency and DWP

July 27, 2013

I was reading the grimly fascinating piece on Benefit Tales about the way Disability Benefit claimants have not been told Atos’ decision on their benefits, in order, it would seem, to prevent them from appealing against it. It shows the bizarre world that Atos inhabits, and is all too eager to inflict on the most vulnerable members of society. I’ve compared it to Kafkaesque’s novels, particularly The Trial and The Castle, where the heroes are arrested and condemned without knowing the evidence against them, nor the charges on which they have been arrested. These novels have, with more than a degree of justification, been viewed as ominous prefiguring the gross miscarriages of justice committed by the later totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. Their more immediate inspiration in humdrum reality is just as relevant here. Kafka was an insurance clerk, and he based his novels on his experience of the bureaucracy in dealing with compensation claims for injuries. And a cold bureaucracy that does not tell its claimants why they are being persecuted, nor present the evidence on which they could make an appeal sounds very much like Atos and the current DWP.

Reading some of the comments to the post also revealed another tactic used by the DWP: that of notifying claimants of the decision to deny them benefits just in time for them to miss the appeal deadline. I’ve also heard about that from some of the my own friends on Jobseekers’ Allowance. This has happened repeatedly. Friends have also told me of repeated instances where the centre dealing with their claims has repeatedly lost their details, or claimed it never received them. This has happened to the same people not once, or twice but several times.

This suggests that it is not an accident, nor incompetence, but government policy.

The DWP has been caught acting like this before. A few years ago under New Labour one of the centres was revealed as having a secret policy by which they were to remove a certain percentage of their claimants from Jobseekers’ Allowance through similar manipulation of the claims system. Something very similar appears to be going on here. And it’s disgusting.