Posts Tagged ‘WRAG’

Remembering the Victims of Cameron’s Benefit Cuts

December 6, 2014

Mike has an excellent post up over on Vox Political, urging us to remember the poor, disabled and vulnerable this Christmas. It ain’t an original message. Indeed, it’s been at the moral centre of Christmas, whether or not you are a Christian or merely keep it as a secular festival, ever since Charles Dickens effectively re-invented the holiday in A Christmas Carol.

Mike’s piece, however, gives it added urgency, because of the hidden cost in human lives of the government’s disastrous cuts to welfare benefits. These have meant that the poor, destitute and disabled are dying of their infirmities after being found ‘fit for work’ by ATOS, soon to be replaced by the equally scabrous and excremental Maximus. However, the government is determined to cover up these statistics. The official reason is that the statistics alone won’t tell you if the person dying would have passed away naturally from their illness, regardless of what help was given. Mike’s article shows exactly how this claim is sheer nonsense.

He also points out that another set of victims, whose deaths will also go unrecorded, will be those, who have taken their lives in desperation. He states

Some claimants take their own lives while on the benefit. This could be due to many reasons including the hopelessness of a situation where they foresee themselves being pushed off-benefit (this goes for people in both the WRAG and the Support Group because they are all under the threat of continual reassessment), or suffering more and more cuts to the amount received (in comparison with inflation) that their quality of life will suffer, or they’ll be kicked out of their homes, or they won’t be able to afford the necessities of their lives. The government does not record the number of people who do this and pays no attention to the verdicts of coroners performing inquests on them.

Apart from the well-known statistic that most suicides occur at Christmas, which is fine if you’re affluent, in good health and surrounded by friends and family, but terribly lone and depressing if you aren’t, Mike also reports the appalling statistic that more people decide to end their lives under Tory than Labour governments.

Hence the article strongly recommends that we all look out for people we know, who may be vulnerable and in danger this Christmas.

The article’s This Christmas, remember the hidden casualties of the Coalition years, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/04/this-christmas-remember-the-hidden-casualties-of-the-coalition-years/.

One of the most fascinating pieces in the article is Mike’s statement that he recently had the pleasure of talking to a journalist from Russia Today about the problems of the poor in Britain, and the way the British government does not report the true extent of the suffering. He states that is truly something when a foreign news corporation takes more of an interest in this issue than the British press.

Absolutely. And it’s a complete reversal of the BBC’s boast that it is somehow a more trusted source of information than foreign news agencies, tightly controlled by the state.

You’ve probably seen the Beeb’s advert for itself, in which someone from the foreign service or an activist from a repressive regime talks about how they and their fellows used to listen to the BBC World Service as the only source of objective news about their country.

Now the tables have been turned. In the West, the Soviet Union and its satellites were the archetypal repressive dictatorships after the Fascist states of the Second World War. The news media in those nations were looked down upon – rightly – as just instruments of state propaganda. There was an old Soviet joke about the names of the two major Soviet papers, Izvestia, ‘News’, and the Communist Party paper, Pravda. The joke went that there was no Truth in the News, and no news in the Truth.

Even now, after the fall of Communism, there are still extremely strict limits on press reporting in Russia. Journalists have been beaten and murdered for reporting facts the authorities find inconvenient. Yet with all the restrictions, their media may be a more trustworthy source of news about the true state of our own society than the Beeb, which so proudly boasts of its impartiality and objectivity.

In which case, all I can say is ‘Slava Rossiskii zhurnali’ – Glory to the Russian newspapers. And apologies for my poor schoolboy Russian.

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Neil Kinnock in 1987 on Tory Cuts to Apprenticeships and Vocational Training

June 1, 2014

Kinnock Book

I found Neil Kinnock’s book, Making Our Way (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1986) in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday. It was written by the former leader of the Labour party, now an EU commissioner in Brussels, to make the case for the Labour party and genuinely socialist policies against the Thatcher administration. Unfortunately, after losing the election the following year, in 1987, Kinnock and the party’s leadership gradually rejected these, and turned from promoting manufacturing industry to courting and promoting the financial sector instead. This was done by Mo Mowlam and Gordon Brown in the party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, which eventually produced Blair and New Labour. The book’s arguments are still sound, however, and in many ways similar to those in Socialist Enterprise: Reclaiming the Economy by Diana Gilhespy, Ken Jones, Tony Manwaring, Henry Neuburger and Adam Sharples (Nottingham: Spokesman 1986).

One of the areas of government policy criticised by Kinnock is the attack and cuts to vocational training and education. The red-headed leader points to the fact that Britain’s industrial competitors, such as German and Japan, placed a very high emphasis on creating a skilled workforce that could serve their manufacturing economy. This was reflected in their school systems, which also included vocational, technical education. Science and engineering were also much more respected and promoted, so that these countries had many more of these to work in industry. Advocates of greater support and promotion of engineering in British education, for example, have for a long time pointed out that while in Britain the term ‘engineer’ may refer simply to metal-worker – a skilled or semi-skilled worker, for example, in Germany it’s status is much higher, and will denote professors of engineering and highly skilled technicians on a level with scientists. Kinnock also points out that Germany also has a far higher number of apprenticeships, designed to provide young workers with the skills they need. Yet in England, the number of apprenticeships was not only smaller, but actually declining. Kinnock describes this, and criticises the Youth Training Scheme, the government scheme that was introduced to combat unemployment by teaching young workers industrial skills. He writes

When the impact of government policies on training is examined an equally alarming picture emerges. The traditional method of vocational education and training for the 16-19 age group – or, at least, boys in that age group – has been the apprenticeship. But during the last few years the numbers of apprentices starting in British industry has declined drastically, from 120,000 in 1979 to 40,000 in 1983, while in the latter year in GErmany 620,000 young people were beginning high-quality apprenticeships. The decline in the number of apprenticeships has been due partly to the massive contraction of manufacturing industry and partly to cuts in government support for local government. Little of the reduction has come as a result of the modernization or reform of initial training. And while government economic policies were wiping out apprenticeship opportunities, the government was also closing Skillcentres, abolishing 16 Industry Training Boards and withdrawing Exchequer support for industrial training and retraining. Apologists for the government insist, of course, that the operations of the Manpower Services Commission and the Youth Training Scheme in particular are more than making up for these losses. It is true that the efforts of people in the MSC, the YTS and the associated activities can produce training of high quality. But the scale of that standard of provision is simply not great enough to compensate for the losses, let alone meet modern training and retraining needs in a country where mass unemployment adds to the crises causes by a history of undertraining.

The apprenticeship system, the Training Boards, the Skill-centres all fell short of perfection. But they have not been replaced by a superior system meeting the comprehensive training skill supply of the nation. They have been replaced by forms of mass provision which beautify the unemployment figures but too frequently fail to enhance either the employment prospects of individuals or the strength of the economy.

The YTS has the advantage that it is universal and, at long last, is being extended to two-year duration. But that extension, the facility for qualification, the opportunities for continuing education and the resources for instruction and for payment to trainees have been grudgingly granted. As a result, Tory politicians have not met the requirements identified by those experienced in education and training. The arguments of the latter should be heeded. They are not empire-building and they do not make the case for greater quality or quantity of support and improved programme content and opportunity out of selfishness. Rather, they recognise that half-hearted provision means downhearted trainees, incomplete and devalued training and, in many cases, a cynicism which overwhelms youthful and parental hopes.

Given the history of deficiency in British training and the division in attitudes and therefore expectations between ‘education’ and ‘training’ in our country, it was not surprising that the approach to change should be faltering, cautious and prone to the errors of snobbery, conservatism and complacency. In many ways, change on the scale that has been needed for decades would amount to a cultural, educational and industrial revolution against ignorance, short-sightedness, convention and vested interests. The decades have certainly passed; and some of the change has come – but slowly, and circumstances now require urgency. That urgency is simply not manifested by the government, and industry, with a few honourable exceptions, has neither the will nor the feeling of obligation to meet large-scale additional provision spontaneously.

Trained and educated human abilities, the incomparable requirement of resilient economic recovery and advance for the Britain of the 1990s and beyond are not being developed to anything like the extent necessary to meet national needs. The seed corn is either being devoured, as education and training are cut or constrained, or not even being planted. The consequences for the harvest are clear and awful. (pp. 140-2).

The situation has changes since then. Higher education has been massively expanded to the point where about 45 per cent of school leavers go on to university and there was an attempt, back in the 1990s, to reintroduce apprenticeships. The main argument, however, is as true as ever. Britain’s industrial base was deliberately decimated by Thatcher to break the back of the unions and produce a prostrate, servile workforce ready for exploitation. The various workfare and WRAG schemes are the result of this. This is intended to give the impression that the government is actively trying to give new skills to the workforce and maintain the illusion that there are still jobs out there, for anyone willing to make an effort. The reality is that simply the opposite. There are few jobs, with a vast number of candidates competing for them. And this is precisely what is demanded by the Chicago school of economists, like von Hayek and Milton Friedman, who inspired Thatcher. Their theories demand an unemployment rate of 6 per cent to keep wages down. All the while, of course, giving cheap, publicly subsidised labour to business, including big firms like Tesco’s that definitely don’t need it.

And so what Kinnock said about the YTS applies in spades to them. Workfare is indeed a form of mass provision which beautifies the unemployment figures but too frequently fails to enhance either the employment prospects of individuals or the strength of the economy. They are a ‘half-hearted provision’ which has produced downhearted trainees, incomplete and devalued training and, in many cases, a cynicism which overwhelms youthful and parental hopes.

It’s time workfare, and the whole benighted Tory approach to manufacturing industry and a genuinely skilled workforce was thrown out with them and the other Thatcherite ideological rubbish, before another thirty years goes past.

Jeffrey Davies on the Death of a Friend while on the WRAG

February 25, 2014

atoskillsgraf

Jeffrey Davies is a frequent commenter to this blog. Here he describes how one of his friends died after being placed on the WRAG.

yet my mate died a Richard Thomas who we were lifelong friends only to find that hed been placed into the wrag by the atossers well he thought he sort it all out Thursday this was a sunday and I had shouted at him why o why hadn’t you told me about it weds ttime came he died at his kitchen table around 15 hrs before his jcp visit to see whot work he could do yes there are many who died and this il take to my grave the anger at how and why they treated us so jeff3

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case in which someone has died after having been declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos. They run into the tens of thousands, though the true figure is unknown, as the DWP refuses to release them. The Coalition have justified their refusal to do so by saying that it would create public opposition to their policy of getting people back into work, and prevent that policy from being implemented. In other words, they know it would be massively unpopular and that the British people would oppose it, and they just don’t care. As for requests for the information to be released under the Freedom of Information Act, this has been repeatedly turned down. When one blogger requested it, it was too much for the Department to do and did not justify the cost. When several other bloggers, including my brother, Mike, over at Vox Political, made the same request, it was also turned down. This time the excuse was that the request was ‘vexatious’. When Mike appealed against the decision, it was upheld, partly because Mike had been critical about the government on his blog.

This shows you just how far this government is opposed to open government and transparency. I’ve compared IDS’ workfare several times to the system of forced labour used in Stalin’s USSR. The government’s concerted refusal to allow any opposing scrutiny of its policies by opposing groups or individuals is also very much like that of the former Communist dictatorship. The lecturer in Russian history at my old college told us t5hat if you placed a request to examine sensitive documents in the state archives, you would find when you turned up that they were all out. Which is better than having a visit from the KGB, but still a blank refusal from the Soviet authorities to permit any kind of critical examination. The same mentality exists in the Coalition.

Millions were killed in the artificial famines in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1950s, but you never heard about it due to the complete control of the Soviet media. This show Western visitors only staged propaganda of happy, prosperous peasants living in a land flowing with food of every kind. IDS’ polices are resulting in the deaths of as many as 38,000 people per year, but you’d never know from the consistent refusal of much of the major media to report this, and the government’s own rejection of any demands to do so.

No wonder Khruschev said, when he was faced with criticism from members of the Labour party for his imprisonment of Soviet Socialists, ‘If I was an Englishman, I would be a Conservative’.