Jon Moulton, long-time Tory party donor till 2012 when he absconded to UKIP, owner of the private equity company Better Capital (sic!) that controls City Link, perfectly portrays how capitalists like him, when the going gets rough, abandon all sense of responsibility towards the 2,760 workers losing their jobs because of his managerial incompetence, transfer even basic redundancy rights to be managed and funded by the taxpayers, and used a secured loan as investment to ensure that if the company collapsed he would rank ahead of staff when the proceeds from the liquidation came to be distributed. As a result he now expects to screw off £20m from the liquidation whilst leaving nearly 3,000 workers high and dry. This is a modern form of private equity asset-stripping. Read more “The scandal over City Link shows private equity at its worst” »
It is bizarre that the hated Atos, whose reputation was destroyed by its punitive mishandling of work capability assessments of the disabled, should be awarded a multi-million contract for the new personal independence payments across London and the south of England. In one sense it is not surprising because the Tories, having privatised major public services, is now over-dependent on a very small clique of semi-monopolistic private providers – largely G4S, Capita, Serco, A4E, and Atos. But there is another more sinister reason why Atos got this contract, and that is that they lied in their tender document. They claimed that 16 NHS trusts were among those who had “contractually agreed” to carry out assessments in 740 sites. In the event only 4 NHS trusts finally signed up and there were only 96 sites. That meant they were exaggerating on such a scale as to amount to a deliberate, downright falsehood. It also meant that disabled persons would be faced with having to make long, difficult journeys. Read more “How did the disgraced Atos nevertheless get a £184m disability assessment contract?” »
Why hasn’t Labour’s social team raised a huge hue and cry against Osborne’s openly declared intention to introduce a cap next year on total welfare spending covering about £100bn of benefits, irrespective of the massive increase in destitution brought about by his very own policies? Why hasn’t Labour’s economic team raised an equal cry of anger against Osborne’s plans for a £180bn deficit reduction by 2018, which would bring public spending to its lowest ebb as a share of GDP since 1948? Partly it reflects Labour’s extraordinary caution and timidity which only encourages the Tories to go even faster and further in marauding all over Labour’s territory. But partly it exposes the lack of political will in some sections of the Labour leadership which has now reached frightening levels: if they won’t baulk at the massive shrinking of the State and the steady elimination of the public sector, when will they ever turn and fight? And the real problem is that this is a view not just held by insiders, but very widely across the country, by friends and foes alike. But there is another reason too. Read more “Every Labour parliamentary selection conference should contain at least 3 working class candidates out of 5” »
With a new minister in DWP dealing with disability and a government increasingly riled by persistent reports of the mishandling of work capability assessments by ATOS, now is the time for a renewed push for fundamental changes in these two hated measures. I continue to receive dozens of letters that tell heart-rending stories about lives that have been wrecked, even destroyed, by the callousness of government regulations as administered by the French IT company, ATOS. One concerns Richard, a 62 year old blind man who was forced to take early retirement 12 years ago, now left in shock after it was ruled at an assessment that he is now fit to return to work. He has been registered blind since he was 18 months old, and his wife is also blind. He had previously received incapacity benefit for the past 10 years, but is now likely to lose that.
Even more distressing, I recently received a letter about a woman who took her own life when the stress of having to find extra money to stay in her home in the face of the bedroom tax became too much. Stephanie, 53, had the auto-immune system deficiency Myasthenia gravis, an illness that weakens muscles. On constant medication she was told she needed to pay an extra £80 a month or leave her 3-bed home after her two children moved out. Already cutting back on food – Stephanie had just tinned custard in her cupboards – and too poor to put the heating on in winter, the demands of the bedroom tax drove her to walk out in front of a lorry on the M6 in May this year. She had wanted to downsize her home in the West Midlands, but the council had nothing smaller available and the demands for extra money followed. Read more “New minister for disabled must be made to listen to ignominies & cruelty of ATOS & bedroom tax” »
What exactly is the point of the bedroom tax? Its ostensible purpose is to free up accommodation from those who don’t need it to those who do. Just about everything is wrong with that argument. If that were really the rationale, the obvious way to solve the problem would be to build more social housing when the total build last year including all tenures was just 98,000 houses, the lowest level since 1923 and less than half the average annual house build over the last 40 years. And if that were the real motive, why confine it to social housing and exclude private tenancies, let alone owner-occupied housing where surplus rooms (to use the government’s phrase) are far more prevalent? So is it to save money? If so, the bedroom tax is particularly ill-suited because if tenants are forced to move, there is nowhere near enough one-bed social housing available to accommodate them and they will be forced into private tenancies at market rents which will cost the State more in local housing allowance than the saving in housing benefit. Read more “Bedroom tax is emerging as the same hardline ideological punitive bludgeon as the poll tax” »
I must start with a confession. I really don’t like Grant Shapps who for some reason is the Tory party chairman. He comes across as a haughty up-market barrow boy who would tread on his mother’s face if he thought it would advance his career or turn in a bigger profit. You know what I mean – heartless, callous and downright nasty. However I must admit I hadn’t realised before that he’s got a very thin skin. He really doesn’t like anybody criticising him or his party. He doesn’t turn a hair at propagating a policy of social cleansing, evicting families for having a spare room when their child died, or when their son has been killed in Afghanistan (as happened to one of my constituents), or because someone’s disability required a second bedroom. But when an official UN rapporteur comes to Britain, with an agenda organised by the UK government, and uses the phrase ‘bedroom tax’ rather than the government’s gobbledigook ‘ending the spare room subsidy’, he goes ape. Strange man – obviously caught the Tory germ of overweening arrogance rather young. Read more “Raquel Rolnik has hit the government on a sore point, and it really shows” »
Yesterday’s meeting with Mark Hoban, the WCA Minister, presented him with a systematic catalogue of all the main weaknesses, faults and failures of the whole WCA process. He was told in no uncertain terms that under the Evidence-Based Review new descriptors are needed now since not one single more person should have to go through a test with descriptors biased against them. He was told he must ensure that GPs can provide evidence and are not allowed to refuse, and that this evidence must be taken fully into account before considering a WCA. He was told that there must be mental health champions in every centre (not less than half as at present), that every assessment should be recorded, that assessment phase payments must continue throughout mandatory reconsideration, and that new centres must replace the 29 centres still inaccessible. He was also told that 3-9 month reassessment periods were frankly absurd. And he was told that a person undergoing a WCA must be able to score under both physical and cognitive descriptors again since separating them was clearly unworkable. Read more “Atos Minister Hoban forced to rethink by vigorous systematic critique from Spartacus” »
Universal credit was supposed to be introduced by IDS/DWP in September, but the roll-out date continually gets postponed. The aim is to replace several in- and out-of-work benefits – job seeker’s allowance, income support, employment and support allowance, tax credits, plus housing benefit and support for childcare costs – with one single payment. However there are snags, big ones:
* The vast majority of claims are meant to be initiated and managed online, but benefit claimants are the people most likely not to have a computer or are not trained to use it,
* Payments will be made monthly rather than weekly or fortnight, which will increase the risk of rent arrears especially when support for housing costs will be paid direct to the tenant, not to the landlord as normally at present,
* A new conditionality will be imposed: recipients will be expected to look for work as soon as their youngest child reaches 5 as well as further away from home, a 90-minute commute being considered reasonable compared to 60 minutes as now.
Research published in March by the think-tank Demos and by the disability charity Scope, which my hon. Friend Mr Bain mentioned earlier, revealed that by 2017-18, 3.7 million disabled people will collectively lose £28 billion as a result of the Government’s cumulative benefit changes. If Scope and Demos can do a cumulative impact assessment, why cannot the Government? That is a staggering expropriation from arguably the most deprived and disadvantaged section of the entire population and it is perhaps worth rehearsing quickly the range of the cumulative impact: the incapacity benefit reassessment; the reassessment of the personal independence payments; the overall cap; the universal credit; the time limitation of employment support allowance; the change to local housing allowance; the bedroom tax; the abolition of the independent living fund; the 1% cap on benefit uprating; the localisation of and 10% cut in council tax benefit; and the 1% cap on various benefits and tax credits. That is the range of it.
The study found that 123,000 disabled people faced three benefit cuts that will lose them an income of £18,000 in the five years to 2018. A group of nearly 5,000 disabled people will suffer a combination of six benefit cuts, losing a total of £23,000 each over five years. That works out as £88 per week per person, which for people on the breadline is absolutely huge. Read more “The Commons debate on ATOS & government treatment of the disabled” »