Posts Tagged ‘Fitness to Work Tests’

RT Report: 90 People a Month Dying After Being Found Fit for Work

August 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political blogged about this issue last week. In this piece from RT, the presenter interviews journalist Steve Topple over the official figures that 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work under the Work Capability Test. In one instance, a man, Lawrence Bond, collapsed and died of a heart attack right outside the jobcentre. He had been found fit for work, despite having an underlying heart problem. Topple also goes further, and cites other, highly disturbing figures that show the immense harm the tests are doing to disabled people. Oxford University found that 590 people had taken their own lives due to them. The tests are also linked to 270,000 cases of mental illness, and the prescription of 800,000 drugs for people suffering from the stress of these tests.

Topple and the present also discuss how the tests were introduced by New Labour back in 2008 as a way of redefining disability. Topple states that we do need to cut the welfare bill, but the tests are a blunt instrument that harms the disabled.

Topple also makes the point that the tests themselves are uneconomical. They’re more expensive to administer than whatever savings are produced from them. Mike and the other disability bloggers and activists have pointed out that this isn’t about saving money. It’s about penalizing and harassing the poor and disabled, simply for being poor and disabled. It is part of the principle of less eligibility, the ideology behind the workhouse, which Maggie Thatcher so enthusiastically embraced as one of her vile ‘Victorian values’.

They also make short work of another scandal – the DWP’s refusal to hand over the precise figures on the pretext that this would damage ‘commercial confidentiality’. The document being requested is Maximus’ – the company that has been administering the tests since 2015 – own internal report into the results of their tests across regions. Topple states that in refusing to publish the report, the DWP is acting directly against the orders of the Information Commissioner, who has demanded that the figures be published.

The claim of commercial confidentiality is a nonsense anyway. If a company is performing the work of a government department, then it should be open to public scrutiny in the same way a government department is. If you want to argue philology here, the Latin phrase for ‘state’ was ‘res publica’, the ‘public thing’, which became our word, ‘republic’. By implication, if a company is therefore working as part of the res publica, it should be open to inspection by the public, as free citizens.

Of course, this is all deeply abhorrent to the DWP and its heads, Iain Duncan Smith and now Damian Green. These two and their underlings and fellow ministers have been determined to cull as many of the disabled as possible in what Mike has called ‘chequebook euthanasia’, while hiding the figures from the general public. Mike has said many times on his book about the immense struggle he has had getting the true figures from the DWP, who refused, stonewalled, and challenged his requests for them. Just as they did to other disability bloggers and activists.

To see the names and biographies of some of the people, who have been killed by this vile policy, go to Mike’s blog, as well Stilloaks, Johnny Void and Another Angry Voice, and see DPAC’s website for their criticisms and campaigns against the DWP.

As for the Department itself, I fully concur with Mike: it should be broken up, and the worst offenders in it, those determined to make the lives of claimants as miserable as possible, should be sacked with no chance of a golden handshake. Frankly, if there was an real justice, Smith, Green and the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, Esther McVie, should be behind bars on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The Lying Farewells for David Cameron

June 25, 2016

One of the aspects of the immediate aftermath of the ‘Leave’ vote I found particularly nauseating was the praise the Tories heaped on their leader as he announced his resignation. Well, sort of. He’s going to go, but not for another couple of months. He says he’ll finally pack up and leave in November. So despite Cameron’s promises that he would depart the moment he lost the vote, in practice he’s in no hurry. There, and I can remember Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, getting very animated on Have I Got News For You about how Broon tried to hang to power by cutting a deal with Clegg and the Lib Dems. He would agree to a coalition, but only if he was allowed to remain in No. 10. Clegg disagreed, and the deal fell through.

Well actually, it didn’t, as Clegg had already made a deal with the Tories to enter the coalition with them. His negotiations with Broon were simply lies and verbiage. Nevertheless, it got Hislop very excited, who described as ‘Mr Limpet’ because of his way he was trying to hang on to power like a limpet sticks to rocks.

Now Cameron is doing exactly the same. It seems that there are a lot of limpets in British politics. Though it has to be said, No 10 is a very nice rock for such shellfish.

In his resignation speech – if you can call it that, when he hasn’t actually gone – Cameron of course declared that he had been determined to try to create a fair society, with success and opportunities for all. Well, he’s a PR spin merchant, and his entire political career has been based on telling the voting public these lies, while doing the exact opposite. And after he had finished trying to paint a positive picture of himself and his policies, it was left to his party colleagues to join in.

John Major turned up on the Six O’clock news to declare that Cameron had indeed been a ‘One Nation Conservative’, concerned to provide jobs, opportunities and prosperity for all. ‘One Nation Tories’ are how Conservatives describe themselves, who want to make you think that they’re in favour of the welfare state. It comes from Disraeli’s description of Britain as divided into two nations – the rich and poor, and how this decision needed to be healed. In all fairness, this did have some validity at certain points in the 19th century. Disraeli himself extended the franchise to the whole of middle class and the richer sections of the working class in the 1870s as an attempt to ‘dish the Whigs’. Much of the earliest 19th century legislation regulating factories and mine work came from the paternalist section of the Tory party.

But when this is applied to David Cameron, it’s pure rubbish. Cameron’s reforms have led to Britain becoming more divided than ever before. Social mobility had just about ceased under Blair, and this has continued under Cameron. If, in fact, he hasn’t actually made it worse. The majority of people forced to claim benefits are the working poor, whose wages no longer cover the cost of living. Rising house prices and a lack of affordable housing, and the sale of council houses have meant that there is now a generation that can never look forward to owning their own homes. Or indeed, in many cases, moving out of their parents’. Cameron and his cronies raised tuition fees, saddling even more students with massive debt, all the while proclaiming that they were keen to see more people enter higher education. Nick Robinson, one of Cameron’s cheerleaders in BBC News, went off enthusiastically about how you didn’t need to pay the debt back until you earned a certain amount, so that it was all ‘free money’. Well, as the SF writer Robert Heinlein used to lecture people in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, TANSTAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch. A debt is still a debt.

And it’s when you get to the really poor – the long term sick, unemployed and disabled that the Tories’ policies have become positively lethal. Cameron, Osborne and his crew took over the welfare-to-work ideas of Blair’s New Labour, including the system of sanctions and fitness-to-work tests. As a result, people who have been literally dying have been declared fit for work and have had their benefit stopped. About 500 people have starved to death. Over a quarter of a million more have had their mental health impaired, sometimes seriously. Depression and anxiety has increased massively.

But all this is swept under the carpet, as Cameron and John Major have claimed that Major is a ‘One Nation’ Tory concerned with working peoples’ welfare. He isn’t, and never was. Just like he’s in no hurry to leave his rock.

Chartist Woman Demand the Working Class Vote

May 14, 2016

Chartism Royle pic

I found this piece from the ‘Address of the Female Political Union of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to their Fellow-Countrywomen’, in the Chartist newspaper, Northern Star, of 9th February 1839 in Edward Royle’s Chartism 2nd Edtion (Harlow: Longman 1986). Chartism was the early 19th century movement campaigning for the vote for working men. Royle says in his introduction to the piece that

Chartism involved women as well as men as active participants, and there were many local women’s groups, like this one from Newcastle. But women’s Chartism was hardly a movement for women’s liberation. Chartism was seen as a movement for the emancipation of the poor, and was thought o fit traditional patriarchal terms. (p. 114).

I’m not sure. Other books on Chartism have said that a few of the Chartist radicals did want the vote for women, and about the same time, the Spencean Philanthropists, an early proto-Socialist group of radical democrats, did want the vote for women, as well as children. Quite apart from the first stirrings of modern feminism in the followers of Mary Wollstonecraft and her Vindication of the Rights of Women. And even if most Chartist women did their political activism in terms of getting the vote, not for themselves, but for their menfolk, nevertheless they were pioneers in that they consciously broke the social rules against women becoming involved in politics, as this piece clearly states.

Fellow-country women, – We call upon you to join us and help our fathers, husbands, and brothers, to free themselves and us from political, physical and mental bondage, and urge the following reasons as an answer to our enemies and an inducement to our friends.

We have been told that the province of woman is her home, and that the field of politics should be left to me; this we deny; the nature of things renders it impossible, and the conduct of those who give the advice is at variance with the principles they assert. Is it not true that the interests of our fathers, husbands and brothers, ought to be ours? If they are oppressed and impoverished, do we not share those evils with them? If so, ought we not to resent the infliction of those wrongs upon them?…

For years we have struggled to maintain our homes in comfort, such as our hearts told us should greet our husbands after their fatiguing labours. Year after year have passed away, and even now our wishes have no prospect of being realised, our husbands are over wrought, our houses half furnished, our families ill-fed, and our children uneducated – the fear of want hangs over our heads; the scorn of the rich is pointed towards us; the brand of slavery is on our kindred, and we feel the degradation. We are a despised caste; our oppressors are not content with despising our feelings, but demand the control of our thoughts and wants! – want’s bitter bondage binds us to their feet, we are oppressed because we are poor …

We’re seeing something of that today, with the poverty forced upon the working people of Britain by decades of Thatcherite political orthodoxy, from both the Tories and the Blairites. 590 people have starved to death or committed suicide due to the government’s savage benefit cuts. 290,000 or so have had their mental health made significantly worse through stress from the Fitness to Work tests imposed by the government. And 4.7 million people now live in ‘food poverty’ in one of the richest countries of the world.

This situation has partly come about through successive government ignoring the poor and working class. Blair and his coterie did. They concentrated on gathering middle class votes from swing voters, and pandering to the view that everyone below them was idle, and savage cuts to the welfare state were needed to force them back into work. One of the Blairite MPs in parliament even said that, in power, Labour would be harder on the unemployed than the Tories! And meanwhile, Cameron was doing his level best to strip the vote from the young, the poor, and ethnic minorities through his voter registration scheme. Just like the Republicans were doing in America. 78 per cent of MPs are millionaires, and it shows!

We need to invigorate working class politics against, to show that the working people of Britain matter, and that their poverty is literally killing this country, just like the Chartists did in the 19th century, though hopefully without their mistakes and failures.