Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Anonymous Commenter on Forcing the Disabled Back to Work

February 22, 2014

atos-banner

An anonymous commenter posted these interesting remarks on my piece on Atos’ lies and doubletalk. They make the very good point that the disabled have already been examined by their doctors and declared that they cannot work. He also points out, as I did in the original article, that the previous benefits to help the sick and disabled back into work have all been removed or cut. They say:

The nation-wide protests against Atos on Wednesday were covered ITV Meridian. They reported on demonstrations at Brighton and …

” ‘It’s right to see what work people can do with the right support, rather than write people off on out-of-work sickness benefits as sometimes happened in the past.’

“Well yes, absolutely. It’s a statement with which no-one can reasonably disagree.”

Sorry, I think I can reasonably disagree. Above all with the paternalism, the compulsion (and of course the lack of any jobs out there).

The decision whether to attempt to work should be made by the disabled individual, taking into account the advice of the physicians treating them. And since every claimant for disability benefits will already be the holder of a sick/fit note certifying that their doctors have advised them to refrain from work. NHS doctors are not fraudsters, and NO further inquistions should be required.

The WCA is not vocational guidance counselling, and that is what people need if an accident or illness leaves them capable of a return to some form of work, but needing to change direction.

There again, every useful form of support for recovering individuals attempting to resume work – such as access to quality training/retraining – have been CUT.

Under the previous government recovering workers could ‘try out’ a return to the workplace. If, during the first six months they needed to throw in the towel, their former benefits were reinstated, with no questions asked. This pragmatic and compassionate policy is another to have been replaced with bullying and compulsion.

And until it was dismantled, there used to be legislation requiring organisations with over 20 employees to employ a quota of 3% disabled workers. If Cameron wanted to get disabled people into jobs, he could start by reinstating such quotas for all governemnt departments and local authorities.

Notice also Camoron’s switcheroo from the “stopping fraud!” excuse, to bogus paternalistic ideology, now that the fraud figures have been widely exposed as negligible. (If you worked for the IR, you should know all about writing off small sums of money because it is not cost-effective to pursue them. Atos costs over twice as much as the tiny loss from fraud. And most such fraud is from identity theft scams of one kind or another, not faked sickness).

However the bottom line is that the UK has NO shortage of ‘available for work’ able-bodied unemployed individuals. Cameron is maintaining the neoliberal economic policy of trapping a vast standing army of able bodied workers in unemployment, there is no excuse for this propaganda farce of pretending to ‘help’ people return to work against their doctors’ advice.

An interesting research paper examining sick and disabled peoples’ right NOT to work is here:
http://www.uppress.co.uk/SocialPublicPolicy2013/Grover.pdf

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Tories Planning Nazi-Style Work Camps to Build HS2?

February 12, 2014

Aidan Burley

Aidan Burley – Tory who organised Nazi-themed stag party. As Tory belongs to a party that supports compulsory voluntary work.

Reichsarbeitsdienst

Workers in the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the Nazi organisation of compulsory voluntary work. At least those on workfare don’t have to wear a uniform. Yet.

I found this piece of information on Guy Debord’s Cat discussing the possible reasons why Aidan Burley was treated so leniently by the Tories. Burley was the Tory politico, you will remember, who was prosecuted by the French authorities for holding a Nazi-themed stag party in France. The Cat points out in the article that Holocaust denial, the wearing of Nazi uniforms and toasting the Third Reich are all illegal in La Patrie. This is what you’d expect in a country that was defeated and occupied by the Nazis. After an investigation, an inquiry found that Burley’s decision to hold the party was ‘stupid and offensive’ but ‘not anti-Semitic’. Possibly not. There are all manner of people, who decide that dressing up as storm-troopers is great fun, who aren’t racist or anti-Semitic. I’ve known people, who play German soldiers in Second World War re-enactment groups, who very definitely aren’t Nazis in real life. Nevertheless, there are real questions of taste, quite apart from the fact that Fascist groups like the NF did use to dress up in Nazi uniform. Burley’s own lapse of taste can be compared with the scandal that erupted a few years ago, when senior students at Gloucestershire University in Cheltenham were vidoed abusing freshers and making them perform stupid and humiliating tasks while dressed as Nazis. In this case, dressing up and acting like Nazis seems to appear to a certain kind of bully, even if they aren’t actually racists.

The Cat, however, discusses the similarity between Burley’s others views and that of the Nazis, particularly regarding trade unions:

So what is so special about Burley that Cameron and the leadership of the party feel such a desperate need to protect him? Is he being groomed for the Home Office or Works and Pensions portfolio? We already know that when the Tories took office in 2010, Burley hit the ground running with his guaranteed-to-please-David Cameron venture, the Trade Union Reform Campaign. Like Burley, the Nazis didn’t care much for trade unions either and banned them outright. In their place, Hitler created the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF), headed by Robert Ley, to organize workers along nationalist and militaristic lines. DAF subgroups like Strength Through Joy and Beauty Through Work were also added to provide diversions.

The Cat ends by noting the way the Reichsarbeitsdienst used conscripted labour from the unemployed, and suggests that there are plans to use a similar scheme to build the HS2 railway link:

The Reichsarbeitsdienst was created with the purpose of providing cheap (often forced) labour that exploited unemployed men, who were used for work on major infrastructure projects like the autobahn network. Is this what the Tories have in mind for trade unionists and the unemployed if they win the next General Election? There is already talk about creating work camps for the HS2 project.

This links to a post at the Independent reporting a plan for 12 per cent of the labour used to build the link to come from the ‘disadvantaged’, which comprises the disabled and the unemployed. The article is here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/let-disabled-workers-build-the-43bn-hs2-9069578.html.

I’ve already blogged on the similarity between the compulsory ‘voluntary’ work of the Reichsarbeitsdienst under the Nazis and the compulsory ‘voluntary’ work of the Coalition’s Workfare and Welfare to Work policies. The Void and other bloggers have also reported on the strong similarity between the Tories plan to set up compulsory work and training centres for the disabled and the workhouses of Victorian Britain. Now it seems that similarity between the Nazis and the Tory party is growing stronger every day.

Guy Debord’s website itself is well-worth a look. It has some excellent critiques of the propaganda from the New Right, including some people with truly terrifying news, such as those, who seem to wish to rehabilitate American slavery. See the post Telegraph Comment of the Week (#26) for the 9th February 2014 attacking one of the Telegraph’s pet columnists. Guy Debord’s Cat can be found at http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/

Reichsarbeitsdients flag

Flag for the Nazi Reichsarbeitsdienst. They don’t have one at the moment, but it’s probably only a matter of time before the Coalition decides on one.

Sue Marsh on TV Bias against Covering Welfare Issues

February 5, 2014

I’ve reblogged Mike’s article and links to Sue Marsh’s post, over at Diary of Benefits Scrounger, on her experience of being downgraded from panel member to a simply member of the audience for Channel 5’s The Big Benefits Row. It’s entitled, ‘The Big Benefits Row’. Like Mike, I can’t reblog her post, but it is definitely worth spreading. All of it is well-worth reading for the insight it gives into the values of ‘medjar’ folk from a woman who has appeared and tried to present the experiences of the disabled themselves on a long line of shows. As a result, she has seen herself side-lined and her views silenced in favour of the usual right-wing ignorant loudmouths. The piece begins

As many of you may know by now, last night was the Big Benefits Row on Channel 5. “Roll up! Roll up for the spectacliar sight! Real life poor people for your viewing delight!”

I was contacted by the show’s producers early. Would I be on a panel to discuss welfare changes? They assured me it would be balanced and to their credit, I do think they worked very hard to make sure a range of views were represented in a way that shows like Benefit Street and On Benefits and Proud neglected entirely. Had I been a beleaguered austerity-junkie audience person, I think I would have had a rare taste of how it feels to find oneself outnumbered.

As the days passed before the show, I got that sneaking feeling I was being downgraded. Perhaps I should explain. I’ve done a lot of media now. Newsnight, BBC News, Sky, Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, LBC and many, many more. The pattern is almost always the same. I’ve learnt never to tweet about bookings until I’m in the actual studio getting miked up. For every 5 approaches, I suppose one might actually come to something.

Initially, the plan is always for real a debate, or a full feature on welfare cuts or a hard hitting doumentary. As the producers of the shows try to get guests to appear to discuss disability welfare cuts in any serious kind of way, they realise the task is almost impossible.

For some time now, the DWP and No.10 have refused to put anyone up against me. (and presumably other campaigners) at all. At first, 3 (all BBC) went ahead, but the various researchers were all genuinely shocked at the lack of government engagement. All said they’d never known such blanket refusals to debate an issue.

Perhaps more sinisterly, they were shocked that invariably the DWP refused to take part unless the stories were edited their way. Iain Duncan-Smith has written repeatedly and furiously to the BBC about their lack of balance in reporting welfare issues. Anyone who follows the debate with even a flutter of fleeting interest will know just how ironic that is. If ever there has been an issue so poorly reported, with so much ignorance and so many lies, the current “welfare” debate must be it.

But it’s clever isn’t it? Refuse to debate at all and generally it will mean there can be no debate. You can shut down any and all opposition simply by saying nothing at all.

Later in the article she describes her experience of selective editing, having her piece cancelled without anyone ever telling her, and finding the show’s format changed to allow the usual media loudmouths to present a diatribe of abuse against her and the disabled in general.

I’ve been edited to make me look like a “shirker”, I’ve hauled my crohn’s riddled butt all the way to London only to be told “Oh, sorry, it’s not happening now, did no-one let you know?” I’ve been booked for shows under the pretence that a particular subject-du-jour is the subject only to be ambushed scrounger bashing vitriol the moment we go live. (Yes Nick Ferrari, I do mean you.) I’ve been made to walk to locations, despite pointing out repeatedly that I can’t walk far or stand for very long. “If you could just manage…..”

I’ve uncovered vast and shocking welfare stories only to find I can’t get them published anywhere. Bumped for Egypt. Bumped for Syria. Bumped for chickens in cat outfits. (That last one’s not even sarcasm!?!) Repeatedly I hear in a loop “But welfare isn’t a story.”

Well no, why would it be? The current social security cuts are stripping away an eye-watering £28 BILLION from the support and services sick and disabled people rely on just to get through the day. That’s a full FIFTH of the entire deficit reduction plan falling on those who often have no voice to defend themselves. One pound in every five!!!

She also notes the problem she and four other wheelchair users experience just getting into the building, and then the highly patronising attitude of the studio staff over where they should be put. Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been on a course at M Shed, one of the Museum’s in Bristol. When you volunteer to help them, they give you training on how to talk and interact with members of the public. Much of this is simple common courtesy. The guidelines state that when a disabled person turns up with a carer or non-disabled person, you talk to both of them. As I said, just common courtesy, and hardly rocket science. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have occurred to the TV professionals charged with presenting these issues to the great British public.

Having only needed to use a wheelchair for just under a year, the reality of disabled access has shocked and appalled me too. Did you know for instance that most trains only have ONE disabled space and so can only take one wheelchair user? No, I had no idea either. And did you know that you can’t get in to most restaurants and shops despite access being a legal responsibility? Nope, nor me. Or that supermaket aisles often make it impossible to get around a shop independently? Or that you can’t use almost any of the London Underground?I didn’t know any of that stuff

When we got to the Channel 5 studio an epic confuddle broke out. As I’ve also learnt, they often do when some people are faced with several people on wheels all at once. They could only take 3 wheelchairs. 4 would apparently tip the building over into a dangerous and unforgivable fire risk. They couldn’t evacuate four of us!

I’d been trying not to cry for about two hours by this point and the only way we were all going to get in was if I left my wheelchair in the foyer and hobbled down to the basement studio. I was the only one who could walk at all.

Once on the set, even bigger confuddlement broke out. “You can’t put them here, they’re in the way of the cameraman” (I thought the “them” was a nice little dehumanizing detail eh?) “You can’t let them sit at the front, it makes them look too important” (I precis) etc etc. After at least 10 minutes of this infathomable conundrum, Mik shouted to the audience who were now in their seats ready for the show to begin. “Get a job they say?? Are you watching this? Most of the time, we can’t even get a bloody seat!”

She states she found the show remarkably unbiased, but was naturally intensely disappointed about not being allowed to speak about the problems faced by the disabled. She includes some of the facts that you won’t see on the news anytime soon.

However, I could barely breathe with pent up frustration. As each part of the show went live again following an ad break, I’d pray that something would be said about disability and every time it wasn’t, I deflated further and further (DON’T be a crybaby on national TV…DON’T be a crybaby on national TV….DON’T be a crybaby on national TV, repeat) How are you suppoed to have a debate about social security and not include sick and disabled people? We rely on it more than any other group! Here’s a few facts, just in case you’ve never read this blog before

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being cut by 20%
The criteria to qualify for DLA slashed has been by 60%
1 MILLION people are to be stripped of Employment and Support Allowance
The Independent Living Fund has bee scrapped**
1500 people lost their jobs as Remploy factories were all closed
Just 3% of the entire welfare budget goes to unemployed people
Social security fraud is around £1.2 Billion per year – less than half of 1%, or 0.15% of total welfare budget. That’s just £1.50 lost for every thousand or 0.15% of the total welfare
The DWP pay out much more in their own errors – 2.2 Billion
A whopping £16 BILLION goes unclaimed, generally to avoid the stigma of “welfare”
We have some of the toughest criteria for claiming social security in the developed world.
Is our UK social security systemn too generous? No again. In international terms we come just 46th out of 51, paying some of the lowest benefits anwhere
440,000 sick or disabled people will be hit by the Bedroom Tax. That’s over 2 thirds.

She concludes her post by saying that she believes the neglect of disabled issues and the effects of the government cuts is simply due to the fact that most media people simply don’t see it as an issue, rather than anything similar. She does, however, ask her readers to publicise and retweet her article to spread awareness of it and the intensely harmful effects of the Coalition’s cuts.

‘And yet again my friends, we shall have to make our own news. If you’ve read to this point, PLEASE don’t close the page until you’ve shared it with your networks. You can use the buttons just below to retweet or post it to Facebook. But PLEASE, if you can support us in any way, sharing this article can show producers of shows like the Big Benefits Row that we DO have a voice, we DO matter.

As campaigners we’ve often reminded ourselves that “Alone we whisper, but together we shout.”

I imagine that the producers of last nights BBR got a better offer than me. Someone with a higher profile who they thought might attract more viewers. Some suggested it could be more sinister than that, but I’m convinced that for most affluent, white, able-bodied producers, long term ilness or disability simply doesn’t come on to their radar. Another genetically-programmed response means we simply cannot believe in our own mortality or believe that any harm can ever cast shadows over our lives.

We can show them – and the public – that on social media if nowhere else, sick and disabled people can -and will – be heard.’

The whole article needs to be read. It’s at http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-big-benefits-row.html.

As an aside, regarding her comments on Nick Ferrari, I’ve got a feeling that, like Kelvin MacKenzie, he’s another escapee from the Sun or similar tabloid. They’re too of the reasons why my parents no longer watch Alan Titchmarsh’s chat show in the afternoons. There’s only so much prejudice, ignorance and bile you can take at that time of day.

Explaining the Coalition’s War on the Poor and Disabled

February 4, 2014

Stow Rich Poor

A rich man ignoring a beggar’s cries for charity, from Bateman’s Chrystal Glass of Christian Reformation of 1569

The Coalition is responsible for some of the harshest and punitive legislation directed at the poor, the unemployed and the disabled in recent years. Under the pretext of trying to pay off the immense debt created by the bank bailout, Cameron and Clegg have together passed highly illiberal legislation intended to pare down the welfare state to its barest minimum. The result has seen as massive resurgence in poverty in the UK, with thousands now reduced to relying of food banks or scavenging in skips for food. This has been accompanied by a concerted campaign of vilification and demonization directed at the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. The middle market tabloids, the Daily Mail and Express, are notorious for their attacks on single mothers, unemployed ‘scroungers’ and immigrants, whom they scream – one cannot, in all decency, describe their shrill headlines with anything as mild as ‘allege’ or ‘contend’ are here to claim Britain’s generous welfare payments. The BBC and Channel 4 have both screened documentaries purporting to show the reality behind those claiming job seekers allowance. The most recent of these was ‘Benefits Street’ on Channel 4. These have singled out and portrayed the unemployed as, at best, idle scroungers, and at worst a criminal or semi-criminal underclass living by fraud and theft in an underworld of drug taking and violence.

This viciousness even extends to the disabled. The pseudoscientific assessment practised by ATOS on behalf of the government is designed to declare as many of the disabled to be as fit for work as possible. The result has seen severely and terminally ill people thrown off benefit. Thousands have taken their lives in despair as a result. Stilloaks has compiled a list over that his site, and the Void and Mike over a Vox Political, and many, many other have also blogged on this. As many as 38,000 people may have died as a result of benefit sanctions inflicted by the Department of Work and Pensions and the policies of Ian Duncan ‘Matilda’ Smith and Esther ‘McLie’ McVey. These are just guesses, however, as the DWP will not release the figures for the years after 2011. This indicates that the statistics are truly shaming, even for a department run by those two callous incompetents.

I know a number of disabled people and their families, who believe that society is now much less considerate in its treatment of the disabled personally. One man I know, whose wife is sadly confined to a wheelchair, told me that he and his wife have, at times, experienced rudeness and sometimes abuse from members of the public. He initially put this down to the influence of Little Britain, where one character only feigns his disability and is, when his brother’s back’s turned, perfectly fit, well and active. My own feeling is that things are rather more complicated, and that such attitudes probably spring as well from media reports exposing some of those who have notoriously feigned disability in order to collect benefits. The reporting of such crimes is out of all proportion to the amount of fraud that actually goes on. In reality, it’s negligible – less than 1 per cent. nevertheless, this has formed another pretext for cutting and ending benefits and services to the disabled.

This situation needs explanation. Almost everyone would agree that a truly civilised society is one that extends help to its poorest, most disadvantaged citizens. Why, then, does this government, and the right-wing media that back it, support such severe attacks on the very poorest members of society.

There appear to be several causes to this. They are

1. An attitude towards poverty, derived from the Victorian, but dating from the Middle Ages, that sees poverty as the fault of the poor themselves through their own immorality.

2. A fear that the poor somehow represent a dangerous drain on public resources and a threat to the social order. State support must be limited in order to prevent them increasing.

3. An appeal to popular selfishness, by which government ministers and their media supporters present taxes levied to support the poor as being an unwelcome imposition on the good, self-sufficient moral public. These in turn are described as being somehow penalised for their sturdy self-sufficiency. Hence the comments by politicians of capping benefits so that ‘strivers’ are not upset by the sight of their unemployed neighbours living well on benefits.

Behind these attitudes are the class interests of the upper and upper middle classes. The Coalition’s administration has marked one of the most extreme shifts of wealth from the poorest to the richest since that of Margaret Thatcher. The Tories in particular have enacted a series of policies designed to break organised working class resistance and open the poor up to further exploitation by the multinational firms, who constitute their paymasters. The tax breaks enacted by the Coalition have benefitted the very richest the most. Furthermore, the denial of state support to the poor and the privatisation of the NHS is designed to open them up as a potential market for private health care and insurance. In this, provoking hatred by the insecure but working towards the unemployed and disabled is a useful tool, as it prevents the two groups developing a solidarity that could challenge and potentially overturn such policies.

The punitive attitude to the unemployed can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Then as now there was a debate between theologians and political writers on whether charitable support should be given to the unemployed. The outbreaks of mass poverty caused by the Enclosures and depressions in 16th century England also created the fear amongst the ruling class of the threat to social order posed by roving bands of masterless men. Hence the harsh legislation against vagabonds and the general unemployed. One law, which became a dead letter, state that if an employer offered a job to an unemployed man, he had to take it. If he did not, the prospective employer could seize him and force him to work for free. These days, it’s simply called workfare. Under George Osborne, the unemployed can now be forced to work for big business in order to get their benefits. A further piece of legislation dreamed up by Gideon, sorry, George, means that even those, whose benefits have been stopped by sanctions, must perform workfare for free.

Vlad Dracula

Vlad Dracula of Wallachia, the model for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He had all the beggars in his principality burned to death at a banquet. IDS and McVie haven’t done anything that obvious yet, but they’re trying their best to match his killing of the poor and unemployed.

This fear of the threat posed by unemployed and disabled beggars was taken to its most brutal extreme by Prince Vlad Dracul of Wallachia, the Romanian prince, who provided Bram Stoker with the historical model for Count Dracula. Concerned by the increase in beggars in his principality, Vlad organised a feast to which they were all invited. When all the beggars had entered the hall in which it was to be held, Vlad ordered the doors closed and barred, and had the place burnt down. The Coalition haven’t done anything as blatant as that, but with the poor and disabled dying of despair and starvation by the tens of thousands at their hands, the effect is the same.

Medieval ideas of the deserving and undeserving poor, and the fear of the political dangers posed by them, also underlie the Victorian ideas about respectability and its opposite. The historian Eric J. Evans describes these ideas in The Forging of the Modern State, 1783-1870

‘An important distinction in mid-Victorian Britain was between respectability and non-respectability. Respectability consisted in earning a degree of independence by one’s own efforts, in self-discipline (especially in sexual and bibulous matters), and in veneration for home and family as the basic social organism from which all other virtues flowed. The non-respectable could not provide for their families without State or charitable aid, were sexually promiscuous, regularly drunk, failed to put enough aside for rainy days and flitted from one rented tenement to another, as often as not to avoid paying their dues…

… Moral imperatives were necessary not just for reasons of ostentatiously sanctimonious piety (though the Victorians had their full share of such qualities) but to prevent a grand explosion. The Victorians dubbed those who did not live by their rules ‘the dangerous classes’ and they meant the phrase to be taken literally. The idle, drunken, rootless lower orders represented more than a moral affront; they threatened progress.’ (p. 280).

Thomas Malthus believed that state assistance to the poor was wrong, as if they were given such aid, their numbers would only increase to be a further burden on society. Hence the principle of ‘less eligibility’ in the Liberals New Poor Law of 1833 that established the Workhouses. The Angry Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice has covered this particularly well. This was the view that conditions in the workhouses should be so harsh, that the poor would not take up such assistance unless they were driven by absolute necessity.

This attitude also extended to private charity. Margaret Thatcher the rest of the transatlantic New Right extolled the virtues of private charity over state aid, as they felt it was more effective than state benefit. It also had the advantage of being purely voluntary. The Victorians had a slightly different view. They were worried about the extent of the provision of charity in terms that are strikingly similar to Conservative American criticisms of ‘cradle to grave’ socialism. Dr Stallard declared at a meeting of the National Association for the promotion of Social Science in 1868 that ‘There is not a want, or form of human wretchedness, for which provision is not made in more or less degree … from the cradle to the grave, benevolence steps in to offer aid’. The year after he made this speech, the Charity Organization Society was set up to rationalise the amount of money given away to the poor. The ‘vicarious and indolent charity’ targeted by the Society was that which simply did not benefit the recipient. The Society therefore distinguished between the deserving and undeserving poor, and attempted to ensure that the donations given were both uplifting and actually improved those who received it. These were frequently taught the error of their ways, so that they did not return to relying on charity.

These policies have re-entered British politics through the influence of the American sociologist Michael Harrington and the welfare policies of Richard M. Nixon. Harrington was concerned about the existence of extreme poverty in America’s Black ghettos. His classic study of them, The Other America, was designed to stimulate discussion of the roots of such poverty and persuade the government and charities to act. Unlike left-wing critics of poverty, he did not trace the causes of such deprivation in the wider structure of American society and its economy, but believed the fault lay in the poor themselves. They were kept poor by a ‘culture of poverty’ that made them Other from the moral, industrious and prosperous rest of America. This attitude in turn influence the expansion of the welfare state constructed by Tricky Dicky. These were designed to combat poverty by providing state assistance, but this was to be made so humiliating that the poor would try to get off them as soon as possible.

This bourgeois ethic of respectability and hard work was also shared by the working class, and was seen by them and their rulers as they key to prosperity. Just before his death in 1865, Palmerston told a meeting of artisans that ‘Wealth is, to a certain extent, within the reach of all … you are competitors for prizes .. you will by systematic industry, raise yourselves in the social system of the country – you will acquire honour and respect for yourselves and your families. you will have, too, the constant satisfaction of feeling that you have materially contributed to the dignity of your country’. It sounds exactly like something Cameron or Gove would say today.

Despite a rising class consciousness amongst some working class radicals, there was considerable disunity amongst the British working class, which had strong feelings about the proper place each part had in the social hierarchy. One working class author stated in 1873 that

‘Between the artisan and the unskilled labourer a gulf is fixed. While the former resents the spirit in which he believes the followers of genteel occupations look down upon him, he in turn looks down upon the labourer. The artisan creed with regard to the labourer is, that they are an inferior class, and that they should be made to know, and kept in their place’.

This sounds very much like the ‘aristocracy of labour’, which Marx developed to explain why, contrary to his earlier expectations, the workers in Britain did not form a homogenous class ready to revolt against their masters and exploiters. Evans in the above book considers that this disunity arose through ‘the heterogeneity of Britain’s industrial base’ which ‘worked against the transmission of shared feelings of deprivation or exploitation despite the endeavours of bourgeois intellectuals to conceptualise economic development in terms of inevitable class struggle.’ (p. 173).

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and their supporters in the press have attempted to play on the variety and disunity of common feelings of solidarity in the working and lower middle classes by stoking fears of the unearned privileges experienced by certain groups of employees. Last year, for example, the Daily Mail followed American Conservatives in stoking resentment of state employees, by starting a campaign against the larger pensions civil servants supposedly enjoyed over those in the private sector. This was evidence of civil servant’s greed, rather than the result of the repressive wage structures of private industry. It served to distract attention away from the economic and political causes of deteriorating wages in the private sector by stirring up resentment of better paid employees.

Hence, too, the demonization of the poor and disabled as feckless scroungers, as this prevents the development of dangerous sympathies to them that would also upset the system of unfettered private industry loudly demanded and promoted by Cameron, Clegg and their lackeys.

And the attack on the welfare state has opened some very lucrative, captive markets for private welfare provision. Private Eye a little while ago produced an in-depth pull-out section demonstrating that the ludicrously expensive and exploitative ‘Private Finance Initiative’ was first proposed under Margaret Thatcher by, I believe, Peter Lilley, as a way of opening up the NHS to private industry. Mike over at Vox Political and Another Angry Voice have blogged repeatedly and provided a wealth of details about the connections the Tories and Lib Dems have to the firms seeking to profit from the NHS’ privatisation. This includes, no surprise! – Ian Duncan Smith. Other policies that seek to transfer state benefits to the private sector include the Workplace Pensions now being lauded by Nick Hewer in the government’s ads. A little while ago there was also talk about introducing private ‘unemployment insurance’ for those worried about the state provision they would receive if laid off. I don’t think that got very far, but it’s symptomatic of the way the private financial sector sought to exploit the increasing gaps in state welfare provision.

The Coalition’s vitriolic war on the unemployed, the poor, sick and disabled draws on notions of the deserving and undeserving poor in order to further bolster and expand the wealth and power of the extremely rich, and create a divided and powerless workforce oblivious to its exploitation and resentful of its more successful, and apparently less deserving neighbours. It opens the poor further up for commercial exploitation by insurance companies and private health care providers, like Unum. In this war to expand and entrench their own class interests, those now forced to scavenge from bins or die in poverty and despair are the true victims of an increasingly harsh and exploitative upper class, which needs their demonization to force their reforms through.

Atos’ Lies about Claimants: Commenters’ Stories

January 8, 2014

I’ve blogged about the sad death of Jacqueline Harris, the Bristol lady who took her own life after being declared fit by ATOS. I mentioned in this post that it was my experience that ATOS will lie about the examination in order to have the claimant declared fit for work. Two people have commented on this piece, describing their own experiences where ATOS did the same to them. I’m reposting their accounts here, as I feel that more people should be made aware about this. If their stories, and those of people like them, are simply kept in the comments column, then I’m afraid they will be overlooked. More people will just carry on with their head in the sand, convinced that their is nothing wrong with the current benefits’ system, and uncritically accepting government-sponsored propaganda that paints everyone on welfare as feckless scroungers.

Here is Mmarkus’ experience:

‘Great read with many things most people don’t even know or probably just don’t care….. I had ATOS medical professional (a GP) come to my house then lie. It took three pages to correct all his errors when telling HM Court’s & Tribunal Service. A couple of examples were he said “I could walk 800 meters without any pain or discomfort. That I had no problem with spinal function. That my back pain was unlikely to be a problem in the future & that I had to get a relative to take me to the bank”.
The facts are I have had three surgeries on my back the surgeon & specialist from the pain management clinic tell me there is nothing more they can do to help me anymore & the pain will get worse. So one ATOS medical professional contradicting two specialists my GP & the mental health professionals I have contact with (worryingly none of those who know my background care that their credibility is being questioned, my GP saying “don’t worry they are saying that about everybody!!!!! Sorry but that is shameful).
The ATOS doc told me NOT to lean forward & never asked ANY questions about walking. I CAN’T go to the bank & rely on the internet for most things like shopping & paying bills.I have NOT been inside my bank for over SIX years. I told him that but it disappeared from his report. This system has to be stopped.
Help me deal with my health problems that’s what should be looked at not just ignoring people’s health. I can’t speak for everyone but I would love to be able to work.
One last thing I have been kept on DLA low rate care (more than most I guess I should just shut up & accept it). I see the lowest rate PIP is £32 a week more than DLA. I think that is the real reason the changing to PIP is being put back.’

Joseph Smith had a similar experience:

‘I had an Atos examination at my home. My wife witnessed the entire time the doctor was in the house, timed his visit and recorded various questions and my answers. Some weeks later I received a copy of the Atos medical report, a tissue of lies from start to finish to much to list here. When challenged about the lies Atos said there was no independent witness, in effect calling my wife a liar. At a later tribunal I was NOT allowed to discuss the medical, which begs the question just how independent are these tribunals? I’m now considering asking my Solicitor write to this Doctor for his liability insurance details pending a claim. In the hope that it really ruins his week.’

This last is particularly disturbing, as he states that he was not allowed to discuss his medical examination at the tribunal. As he says, it begs the question just how independent they are.

Reading these it is clear just how malign and pernicious ATOS are. They and their wretched assessment form should be thrown off the government contract and actively prosecuted and fined for everyone they have wrongly assessed, and forced to pay compensation. The benefits system should also be amended to prevent similar companies being employed, and the government formulating a similar disability welfare policy that denies help and benefit payments to those who are unable to work.

Resisting the Tories War on the Disabled: Revive the Spirit of Ian Dury

December 21, 2013

One of the many problems confronting Left-wing campaigners against the Coalition’s war on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled is how to get our message across. The mainstream, mass-media are dominated by the Right, and the government has shown itself prepared to push through legislation stifling political debate and criticism of its policies through its Lobbying and Transparency Bill and attempt to censor the internet under the pretext of protecting children from pornography. There is also the perennial problem of public apathy. Many people in this country have no interest or awareness of political issues, and are seemingly all too content to accept blandly what they read in the papers.

It occurred to me, however, that one way of getting the message across about the government’s absolute and murderous contempt for the disabled was to bring back some of the combative spirit of Ian Dury, and in particular his use of music to challenge the condescension and complacency towards the disabled and their problems shown by Mrs Thatcher’s government. In 1981 Dury caused a massive controversy with the release of his record, Spasticus Autisticus. This had the refrain ‘I’m Spasticus! Autisticus!’ Many disabled people and organistions were outraged at what they felt was him mocking their condition. The Spastics Society were particularly angry, and strongly objected to what they saw as an insulting reference to the disease. Faced with such strong and angry objections to the song, the BBC banned it, thus ending Dury’s chart career.

It may have looked to some that Drury was sneering at the disabled, but the reality was the complete opposite. Dury himself was disabled, and had a withered arm and leg due to contracting polio from his local swimming pool as a child. In a TV interview Dury stated that he was prompted to write the song after the government declared that 1981 would be the Year of the Disabled. He was angry at the possibility that this would mean that there would be an official celebration of the disabled and much talk and debate about how to help them, after which everything would remain exactly the same. He therefore released Spasticus Autisticus as a protest. Despite opposition from some, many more understood what he was trying to do and fully supported him.

Here’s the section on the controversy from Channel 4’s Top Ten X-Rated. It has comments from the great man himself, as well as Tim Yeo, the former head of the Spastics Society, amongst others. Whovians will spot amongst them Nabil Shaban, who played the horribly slimy and oleaginous galactic yuppy Sil in the Colin Baker Dr Who stories ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Mindwarp’. Shaban himself is a disabled with brittle bone disease. He’s part of disabled theatre company, and has appeared in, amongst other things, Ben Jonson’s Volpone. A few years ago he also presented a programme on Channel 4 putting forward his theory that the great Viking warlord, Ivar the Boneless, also suffered from the disease. Warning: Shaban makes some very earthy comments about certain biological functions during the show, which probably aren’t particularly shocking unless you’re a Tory MP wishing to ban everything. Nevertheless, as they say, viewer discretion is advised.

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Here’s a piece from Granada TV at the time reporting the controversy with an interview with Dury himself. Apart from talking about the song, he also recites the ‘Busman’s Prayer’. This is a funny, inoffensive parody of the Lord’s Prayer, in which certain words and phrases are replaced by some of the place names in London that sound a bit similar.

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Now I certainly don’t blame the Spastics Society for so vehemently objecting to the song. ‘Spastic’, and its various forms was a very nasty playground insult, as Dury himself states in one of the interview. It was one of the reasons why he went into music and formed the band, so he could confront people with the reality of physical disability and challenge their attitudes simply by appearing on stage as their frontman. The 1980s were a decade in which several protest songs appeared by musicians and performers angry at what Thatcher was doing to the country. Now that the Coalition is intent on copying her, and even trying to outdo her in the harshness of their policies, I think it would be extremely good indeed if a few bands took up the cause and released a few tracks attacking Cameron, Clegg and the rest of them in their turn. This certainly does include following Dury in particular and savagely criticising the government for its policies towards the disabled, that have resulted in enormous, degrading poverty and despair, which has horrifically led some to end their lives.

‘Spasticus Autisticus’ is a song that should only really be performed by disabled people themselves, just to be absolutely clear that it’s the condition that’s being attacked, not the sufferers, and to avoid patronising them. Apart from this, I think the time is right for anyone, whether they’re disabled themselves, or have friends or relatives that are, to follow in Dury’s footsteps and release a track tackling the government for its vile policies towards the poor and disabled. If there are any bands out there doing so, please let me know, and I’ll be glad to publicise you here in my own small way. Especially if you’re performing in the Bristol, Gloucestershire, or Somerset are, or anywhere in Wales.

On a more cheerful note, one of Dury’s best-known songs was ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’. Here it is, also taken from Youtube.

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IDS and his Armed Bodyguards: Are the Police Arming themselves against the People

December 13, 2013

My blog post on the reports that IDS appeared before the Work and Pensions committed surrounded with bodyguards and armed policemen, who intimidated members of the public, including a group of disabled people and their carers, has attracted a lot of attention and comments. Some of the most significant and ominous have been made by Slugabed, Joseph Jesus and CAS.

Regarding the legality of police officers raising the guns at innocent civilians, CAS commented:

‘Police officers broke regulations if they pointed the guns at you and their fire-arms licenses should be revoked. They are trained to never aim a weapon at anyone, even one that is not loaded, unless those people pose an imminent threat and are being arrested. You should never aim a weapon at anyone unless you are willing to shoot them; this is basic firearms practice. Such a weapon may fire accidentally, even with the safety pin in place. Unless you threatened violence, then the police officers should not have raised their weapons. The police complaints commission must be informed as this is a very serious breach and a clear case of misconduct.’

Slugabed stated that if it occurred within the House of Commons, a complaint should be made to the Master-at-Arms, Lawrence Ward. This was confirmed another commenter, Pedanticgeek.

More ominously, he stated:

‘Not long ago I happened to be in the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers’ Proof House in Commercial Road.The cage there was filled with hundreds of semi-automatic rifles in their crates waiting to be proofed. “Police job.Never had so many to be done” said the man working there,”We’ve had to take on extra staff”’.

His report of the police stocking up on weapons was confirmed by Joseph Jesus, who said:

‘I think you will find that the police are tooling up they have also purchased vast numbers of Tasers.

According to gunpolicydotorg

Police in the United Kingdom are reported to have 272,88417 firearms

BBC – Full-time equivalent (FTE) officers in the 43 forces stood at 134,101

So thats a semi-automatic carbine plus a side arm for each officer.

The question is come the crunch whether the rank & file coppers will turn their weapons upon us or their treasonous corrupt political masters, equally the military.

Our best defence it would seem is to inform every member of the above as to the crimes currently being committed by those that rule over us.

This tooling up scenario is echoed in the USA and no doubt the rest of the OECD and EU nations.’

Lallygag said of IDS and his armed guards that ‘If anyone still had any doubt about whether we still live in a democracy, surely the image of IDS surrounded by armed guards ‘protecting’ him from a group of disability campaigners will finally dispel that doubt. We live in a plutocracy. By the rich, for the rich. And they will protect themselves at all costs. Don’t doubt that.’

Indeed. Looking around the bookshelves in Waterstones on Monday I found a book in the politics section arguing that Britain was developing an oligarchy of the super-rich and powerful. This is overwhelmingly, obviously correct. When Blair was in power the gap between rich and poor in this country was wider than at any time since 1832, I believe. Now it is even wider. Never mind Scottish devolution, Britain is rapidly becoming two nations: the poor, including those in work, and the rich, who have never had it so good and are becoming even richer. And the Coalition is governing on their behalf.

The increased stockpiling of weapons by the police forces is extremely alarming, as it shows that they and the Coalition are alarmed at a violent public backlash against their corruption and misgovernment. I am also not surprised that this is in line with other police forces in the Developed World. Neo-Liberalism has been promoted throughout the globe as the solution to the world’s economic and political problems. It’s been foisted on the world’s nations through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And throughout the world the results have been the same: grinding poverty and deteriorating conditions for the many, obscene amounts of wealth for the very few. Britain is no different to what is being forced on the poor in places as far apart as continental Europe and India, although at the moment our living standards are still much higher than those in the latter. And as the few fear that the poverty and despair they have forced onto their fellow citizens has provoked anger, resentment and the possibility of violence and chaos, so they are arming the police to protect them. This is a return to the worst aspects of the Victorian era, when ‘special constables’ were recruited to deal with the possibility of working class violence, rioting and insurrection, and the infamous ‘Peterloo Massacre’ when the cavalry massacred a peaceful demonstration camped out to protest high prices and poor wages.

It is also profoundly against the best British traditions. George Orwell, in his book, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the British, celebrated British uniqueness. England felt different, not just because of its warm beer, pre-decimal coinage and its people’s bad teeth, but also because their gentleman manners. His book is a polemic arguing for a uniquely British brand of Socialism that would be at once radical, and so traditional that foreign observers would wonder whether a revolution had actually occurred at all. This would, he believed, be brought about by the growing classlessness of British society. He noted that there was now a growing class of people, who were now neither obviously Middle or Lower class. Undoubtedly what has saved this country from violent revolution in the past was the doctrine of class reconciliation. This was expressed in Disraeli’s ‘One Nation’ Toryism, and also Fabian Socialism and the Labour Party. The Fabians believed that Socialism would ultimately benefit everyone in society, and rejected class warfare in order to win the support of the middle classes. I have also mentioned several times that to many British radicals, the presence of standing armies in peacetime was an institution foreign despots used to oppress their peoples, something profoundly at odds with traditional British liberty. I think it’s significant and telling that when Sir Robert Peel founded the metropolitan police force, he deliberately made the unarmed. The police forces on the Continent were armed as part of the fundamental view that they were to be a force actively fighting crime. The British police, on the other hand, were unarmed to show that they were there to assist the victim. I also wonder if an additional reason was also to reassure the British public that our police would not be like that of absolutist monarchies or dictatorships, which were there to suppress political dissent and opposition, but instead simply to protect the citizen, his property and his freedom. Since then the police have been extremely keen to gain the support of the public. One chief constable has even remarked on how they were used politically under Margaret Thatcher to destroy the Miners’ Strike. He even described them then as being ‘Maggie’s army’.

This now seems threatened by the Coalition and their war on the poor, the marginalised and the disabled. It cannot be allowed to continue. If it does, then the police force will turn into exactly oppressive, political force its founders sought to avoid, and the gentleness of British society that Orwell praised will have been destroyed. The growing gulf between rich and poor in this country and an increasingly armed police, distant and contemptuous of the people they are sworn to protect are a far more profound threat than Tory rants about ‘political correctness’ and the louche behaviour of pop stars and TV and sports celebrities.

Minister Mike Penning’s Contempt for the Disabled, and Paula Peter’s Response

December 12, 2013

In the comments section to his post on the duplicitous comments of Mike Penning, the current minister for the disabled, which I’ve reblogged here, my brother has also posted Paula Peters description of her meeting with the Rt. Hon. gentleman in a lift during her recent visit to parliament. Penning has told the press that he intends to cut down the time it takes to process claims for DLA and other benefits to stop cancer patients dying before they have received their due benefits payments. On the other hand, he has also told the Labour Party and the disabled themselves that it’s all the disabled’s own fault their disabled, and that diabetes is a life-style choice(!). I can remember the storm of protest that bust out way back in the 1990s when the current England manager said something similar. He was into various New Age philosophies, and announced that the reason disabled people were so afflicted was because of the bad karma they had brought upon themselves for sins and misdeeds they had committed in a previous life. The disabled and the British public in general were massively unimpressed, and the aforementioned Ron Manager had to do some very quick talking. Penning should similarly be taken to account for this unpleasant and simply wrong comments.

Here is Paula Peter’s account of her meeting with Penning. It’s ultimately taken from her facebook page. I’m not on Facebook, however, so I’ve taken it from Mike’s comments column to his piece on Penning. My apologies if any of this is inaccurate.

‘Hi all, got home literally 10 minutes ago. I got to Portcullis House by 8.50 this morning, and someone had my back to me in the lift, it was the Mike Penning the minister for disabled people! He was grinning away, So, i asked for 5-10 minutes of his time, and I said this to him. Mr Penning, please do not say that we are all frauding the benefits system, because we are not. Benefit fraud is 0..5 per cent and fraud is very very low. I said you need to check the official error within your department at the dwp which was at 70 per cent in 2011 (source social security advisory meeting 07.12.11)

Said, please do not say that disability and illness is our fault, BECAUSE IT IS NOT no one deserves to be born with a disbability, be struck down with a terrible physical or mental illness, no one, and said to him, Mr Penning you too, could develop an illness or disability, no one is immune from having an illness.

Please do not say diabetes is a life style choice, if you do not know anything about it educate yourself on it as ignorance can cost people ignoring symptoms of diabetes and getting checked and ignorance with illness costs lives. I said Mr Penning Type 2 diabetes is hereditary in families if one member has type 2 the chances of another member getting the disease is higher, and then had a dig, by your waistline Mr Penning, you had better check your sugar levels, too many meals in the subsided restuarant there eh?

Then said two weeks ago on 25th November you said to the labour party during DWP questions when they raised the issues about the welfare death statistics and the W.C.A that they should stop scaremongering. Well I have lost 18 friends, thousands have died because the stress and fear has made thier health detoriate and many have died by their own hands I know poeple who have lost loved ones, care to comment to them about that as the goverenmental polices are devastating many lives?

My last comment was this. in april 2013, my six year old niece abigail with type 1 diabetes was denied DLA as they said she had no care needs at night, she is 6, has constant hypos and toilet accidents at night, and has a canular attached to a stomach pump and needs constant care day and night at school and at home. That she and the family were put through the ordeal of an appeall and were one week away from a tribunial when DM overturned decision and upgraded her care needs. I said my brother heard from me about your remarks about Diabetes being a life style choice. He has written to you a letter how diabetes affects his children of 6 and 9 his wife who is 37 and him who is 39 all type 1 diabetics. They would like a response from you about the ordeal they had with DLA over their daughter and the DWP and a response to the anger and upset you have caused by your remarks about diabetes. I placed my brother letter in his hands.

He stared at me I stared back, down the corridor the smile was wiped off his face. He looked at me, and the one finger salute was what he got from me. He was then surrounded by his staff 15 minutes before the meeting and he was clearly rattled. The armed cops came by and what happened on Monday happened again, three cops for me. Not nice to have a nosel of a gun pointed at you, with their hands resting on their guns, but then with security alerts as high as it is (i can be anyone) it was still frightening though especially as they could see i had my tri rollerator with me and in a great deal of pain.’

Paula’s comments are a very sobering corrective to the image of diabetes that can be inadvertently given by the news. The coverage of the ‘obesity epidemic’ naturally refers to the increase in diabetes as a consequence of modern excessive eating and the consumption of foods with an extremely high calory content. This seems to have given the impression that if people are diabetic, it’s because they are somehow ‘fat slobs’. Paula’s comments to Penning are a clear refutation of that. It is particularly heartbreaking to hear of children as young as six and nine with such severe disabilities. I hope that despite such horrific disability, they still manage to lead a full life, however. One of the chaps I met when I was a re-enactor was a young lad, who was similarly fitted with an intravenous tube. I think it was because he had severe kidney condition. Nevertheless, despite the danger to his health, he had a girlfriend, an active social life with many friends and fought on the battlefield with the best of them. I hope Paula’s relatives are similarly able to overcome their difficulties.

In the meantime, however, Penning deserves to be kicked up and down the Houses of Parliament for his ignorant and extremely insensitive comments.

IDS and Armed Bodyguards: No-One Trusts the Man who Trusts No-One

December 11, 2013

Mike and several of the commenters over at Vox Political have commented on IDS’ evident paranoia and fear of the public as he appeared before the parliamentary Work and Pension’s Committee. Not only did he have a bodyguard, but was also surrounded by several armed policemen. Martha, one of the people in the public gallery, describes the scene:

‘ Hi Mike, I attended the DWP hearing on Monday, IDS didn’t just have a body guard he had several ‘policemen’ with machine guns, maybe 3 or 4 at least. I didn’t dare to count them as it was frightening and it seemed best to ignore them for obvious reasons. The machine guns were raised and pointed at our group which included 3 people in wheelchairs and about 8 disabled and mentally ill people with their carers. We had all been security checked, bags searched and x-rayed, frisked and had walked through an airport style metal detector. We posed no risk or threat and it is quite normal for the general public to attend debates and hearings in the House of Commons, in fact MPs generally like our presence and encourage us, often coming over to meet us and shake our hands. Is it now acceptable to point guns at the general public when they attend the House of Commons? Who do we complain to?’

As several of the other commenters, including myself, have remarked, such paranoia clearly shows that IDS knows the immense suffering his policies are causing, and fears the rage and possible reprisals from the general public. Even so, such behaviour is still bizarre coming from an MP. I can quite believe Martha when she says that most MPs generally welcome the public to the Houses of Parliament. Politicians across the political divide are worried about increasing electoral apathy and the falling turn-out at elections. Hence the many campaigns by politicos to appeal to the ‘Yoof’ vote. They are also, by and large, conscious that for democracy to work, it has to be seen to work and have the active interest of the people on whose behalf they govern. And finally, like any enthusiastic follower of a particular career or vocation, they, or at least the good ones, try to communicate their enthusiasm for politics to the general public. hence the appearance of politicians and political writers and journalists at the various literary festivals up and down the country. It also has to be said that even politicians, who have advocated some terrible policies towards the poor, could actually be very kind and courteous in person.

IDS, by contrast, seems deeply suspicious and mean-spirited. And you have to wonder what he thought he had to fear from people, who’d gone through the usual security searches. Did he get some kind of craven, bullying pleasure by having armed goons point guns at the mentally and physically disabled and vulnerable? And what on Earth were the police doing, if they were pointing their guns at people? There has been considerable criticism of our armed officers before, most notably after the horrific shooting of Charles Menezes. I can remember reading comments from officers in the British army, who had served in Northern Ireland. They were very definitely not impressed by the coppers’ trigger-happy attitude and the way they carried their weapons. In Ulster it was standard practice to carry guns sloping down, with the squaddies’ hands in a posture so they could be immediately ready to bring the gun up if attacked. This was intended to prevent provoking confrontation through the public reacting to a raised weapon as a deadly threat. If the British army, which really did face deadly attacks from terrorist groups in Northern Ireland, is capable of carrying its arms in order to reassure the public and avoid conflict, then the question must be asked why IDS thought he was so important and so threatened that he had guns raised? It gives another clue as to why the man probably failed his officers’ exams. Clearly his judgement when it was appropriate to use deadly force, and when not, was lacking, with the result that he would place himself and the men under his command in serious danger.

Someone once said that ‘No-one trusts the man, who trusts no-one’. Smith has shown himself deeply untrustworthy through this show of excessive force. The attitude behind it is one of suspicion and contempt for the general public and especially the poor, unemployed and disabled he has penalised and victimised with his policies. Going into the Committee chamber surrounded by armed guards like the Fascist generalissimo of a banana republic, he is a contemptible petty tyrant, who has therefore shown himself totally unsuited for public office.

ATOS Lies: Part Two

November 30, 2013

In an earlier post this past week, I stated that from my own personal experience ATOS lies and will falsify the answers a claimant gives in their assessment in order to have that person thrown off benefit. Others have had the same experience. Last week Johnny Void post another piece reporting the death of Victor Cuff. Mr Cuff was yet another tragic addition to the rising number of people, who have killed themselves after being declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS. He was the second person to have killed himself in despair that week, following the death of Jacqueline Harris in Bristol. Commenting on the post, TM (@cedawnow) describes his own experience of the ATOS assessment. He states that the nurse administering the test was angry that he did not give simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. He also states that ‘She lied, let me say that again she lied about my responses said she performed physical assessments that she did not and recommended a return to work in three months. Oh and not forgetting that she completely omitted to include my main condition in her report.’ Here is TM (@Cedawnow)’s comment in full:

‘Agreed it is the system that has been instituted by IDS and his cohorts of ministers and civil servants at the DWP who are ultimately responsible for these deaths and many more. But, I was just following orders is not good enough. Atossers are complicit in the current torture of the sick and disabled. It is their so called health professionals who write the report that the DWP uses to make a decision. How can the correct decision be reached when these people omit relevant information, out right lie and try and trick you into proving that you are actually fit for work. How about the old dropping your meds on the floor thing or asking you how you managed to get to the assessment.

In my own case the nurse who I saw was incredibly angry that I couldn’t just give her a yes or or no answer for her tick box computer programme and badgered me throughout to only give yes or no answers. She was the one who suggested that I was actually socialising when I went to the supermarket and leapt on the idea that if I had my dead mothers elderly dog living with me then I was somehow fit to work.

When the brown envelope dropped through my door I could barely believe that the nurses report was actually about me. She lied, let me say that again she lied about my responses said she performed physical assessments that she did not and recommended a return to work in three months. Oh and not forgetting that she completely omitted to include my main condition in her report.

Even the DWP disagreed with her and stated a return to work in a year and a half. Obviously I appealed with all the resultant stress which negatively impacts on my health and now I am in the support group waiting in fear for my next assessment to check if my degenerative conditions have somehow miraculously improved.

I refuse to excuse Atos as just carrying out their job as per DWP instructions. The nurse that I had the misfortune to see was actively trying to deny me sickness benefits not assessing my ability to work and she did not care how she did it whether that be a direct lie or omission of relevant information. Therefore as far as I am concerned Atos are complicit in the harassment of sick and disabled people and not just doing their job.’

His comment and those of many others as well as Johnny Void’s post on Victor Cuff’s death, are at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/second-suicide-linked-to-welfare-reform-reported-this-week/#comments. The post is entitled ‘Second Suicide Linked To Welfare Reform Reported This Week: RIP Victor Cuff’.

I strongly advise everyone taking the test to take someone else with them into the interview as a witness to the questions and their answers to them. I also recommend recording the interview, although, as Mr Void, Mike Sivier and other bloggers have pointed out, ATOS have had people thrown out or even prosecuted for attempting to do this. Which to me shows very clearly that ATOS know they are in the wrong, and are extremely worried.