Freedom of Information tribunal on benefit deaths – April 23

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Vox Political may seem a little quiet over the next 30 hours or so. This is because the site’s owner, Mike Sivier (that’s me), will be travelling to Cardiff to take the Information Commissioner and the Department for Work and Pensions to a tribunal.

The aim is to secure the release of mortality figures – death statistics – covering people who were claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance during 2012.

Figures for later dates were not part of the Freedom of Information request that forms the basis of this action (submitted back in June 2013, nearly a year ago), so it is unlikely that these will be forthcoming. The hope is that the tribunal will judge in favour of the information being released, ensuring that further requests cannot be blocked by the DWP.

The government’s claim is that a single-sentence, off-the-cuff line at the end of a Vox Political article about the FoI request constitutes a co-ordinated, protracted and obsessive campaign of harassment against the DWP, and for that reason the request is vexatious.

It is utterly ridiculous. It brings the DWP and the Freedom of Information Act into disrepute. Yet it is enough to prevent this valuable information from being published.

It is important to have the data in the public domain, as a yardstick by which the government’s so-called ‘reforms’ to the benefit system may be judged. Between January and November 2011, 73 deaths were recorded every week, just among people in the work-related activity group of ESA and those going through the assessment process. The government does not monitor the progress of people it has marked ‘fit for work’ and thrown off-benefit altogether, and this group is four times as large as the WRAG, meaning the death toll could be anything up to five times larger than we understand at the moment.

The government has claimed that it has been implementing changes designed to make ESA serve its claimants better. An increased death rate will disprove that. Of course, a lowered death rate would support the government’s position but, if this were the case, it is logical to expect the government to have publicised it widely without any prompting.

This is why tomorrow’s tribunal is important.

People are dying every day and nothing will be done to stop it unless the severity of the situation is made clear.

Let’s all hope we get the result we need.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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The Current Nonsense About Religion


Mike Sivier:

“The brazen hypocisy, and possible blasphemy, of trying to co opt a figure such as Jesus for political posture from a bloke who, for just one example, presides over large amounts of disabled people being driven to suicidal despair, is not something that needs underlining. ”
Well I’m underlining it because I’m off to find out how many disabled people have been driven to suicidal despair (and other deaths) soon.

Originally posted on Bilgewatch:

When Cameron, or a PR flunkie in his name, spooned out some stuff last week about how all Christian he is, the first assumption might’ve have been that it was seasonal padding: “Easter’s on it’s way Dave, lets knock together a few hundred words on how you like Jesus.”

The surface result – headlines about Jesus “Inventing” the so called “Big Society” was risible.

There are 2 main meanings to that stupid BS soundbite, one giving surface cover to the other. The first is a vapid, wooly message that can’t boil down to much specific beyond “Let’s all be nice”.

Jesus, for all his qualities, didn’t invent being nice.

The second function is an insulting blag for government not doing nearly as much as it used to in return for all the money we give them, not least because lots of that money is destined for banks and other vast…

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Cameron’s office calls police on Bishop trying to deliver letter on poverty (not satire!)


Mike Sivier:

Cameron loves Christianity. He loves it so much he tries to have its leaders arrested.
Brilliant. Another triumph of idiocy for Britain’s worst-ever political leader.

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s David Cameron)

Amazingly, David Cameron’s constituency office in Witney called the police when the Bishop of Oxford tried to hand in a letter about food poverty signed by church figures.

Anglican priest the Reverend Keith Hebden - who accompanied the Bishop on his visit to Cameron’s office – had this to say about the encounter:

Summoning the police like that illustrates the sense of panic in this government about rising food poverty levels because they are in such denial about this problem.”

Here’s the full story from Al Jazeera:

UK row over Christian values and food poverty

This happened last week. So why has this not been reported in the UK media, I wonder?

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Big thanks to Richard Bowyer for the heads up on this.

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

Cameron’s morality resigns after being declared bankrupt

Scientists Claim Tiny Sub-Atomic Traces of Ethics Discovered in Barclays

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Revealed: How Francis Maude and Chris Grayling are actively working to remove jobs from Britain to terrorist destinations


Mike Sivier:

At first this seems shocking but, if you think about it for just a little while, it also seems obvious. It’s also a betrayal. Read, share, discuss, let them know we know – and we’re not happy about it.

Originally posted on David Hencke:

Francis Maude: Actively encouraging off shoring Whitehall jobs

Francis Maude: Actively encouraging off shoring Whitehall jobs

David Cameron and George Osborne have been boasting how many new jobs their new economic recovery has created.

What they haven’t told you is that their Cabinet colleagues are actively working to strip Britain of existing jobs and replace them with new cheap skate jobs overseas, including some countries which have high risks of riots and terrorist attacks. And further the new jobs will mean the transfer of personal data on staff, possibly police and criminal records and the transfer of patient details from GP to GP to a foreign country.

I have written about this in Tribune magazine this weekend. But the two ministers are being very crafty – they are leaving it to a private company to sack the former civil servants and transfer your records and appointing a man who can hold both a Whitehall job and a private…

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Food banks and the replacement of ‘social security’ with ‘charity’


Originally posted on alittleecon:

Two things over the weekend reminded me of a chapter from Robert Tressell’s “Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” called “Facing the ‘Problem’. Both are related to the increasing proliferation of food banks. Firstly, t here was a varying reaction to the news that the Trussell Trust had given an emergency food parcel to almost a million people over the last year. The DWP reacted quite angrily, accusing the Trussell Trust of being “publicity-seeking” and that the increase was purely a result of them “aggressively marketing their services”, but David Cameron actually seems quite pleased with the expansion of food banks, saying he wanted them to expand. Secondly, The Mail on Sunday decided to do a hatchet job on food banks in an article entitled “No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims” . The article gives the strong impression that most food bank uses…

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An open letter to the Daily Mail…


Mike Sivier:

You might not agree with the religious aspects of this but, even if you don’t, it deserves to go viral. Please share it wherever you can and show up the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday for what it is.

Originally posted on squidgetsmum:

The Daily Mail chose today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, champion of the oppressed, by publishing this article today.  Here’s my response.

 

Dear Daily Mail,

I’ve got a little boy.  His name is Isaac, and he’s nearly three.  Like any little boy, he loves cars, balls, and running around.  He’s barely ever still.

A few days ago though, he was.  I took him to the supermarket to spend his pocket money, and we passed the donation basket for our local food bank.  It was about half full – nothing spectacular, in fact, mostly prunes and pasta – and he asked what it was.  As simply as possible, I tried to explain that it was for people to give food for other people who couldn’t afford it.

This affected his two year old brain fairly deeply.  After a lot of thought, he decided to spend a little bit of…

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Real Issues with Welfare reform – Part II


Originally posted on jaynelinney:

On April 8 I wrote my first official DEAEP Blog, regarding the support we offer, this week Alex & I attended his Tribunal. we arrived at the venue, in a central hotel, to find the tribunal receptionist was extremely chatty; he happily informed the room that there were people from all over the UK, booked to attend, he went on to state every one of the claimants had waited for well over a year to get a hearing! He also informed us that for the day the Tribunal service had paid for 6 meeting rooms –  for hearings, waiting rooms and a room for the court clerks; add the expense for this to the salaries of at least 6 panellists (possibly 8), 3 clerks and the receptionist; and I shudder to think how much this must have cost?!

We were called in on time and given that the DWP had already agreed that Alex should be in the Support…

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Daily Mail: how our reporter dialled 999 and got an ambulance – no questions asked!


School pupils’ details are being sold by the government

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Selling their future: Michael Gove's Department for Education has put pupils' confidential information up for sale.

Selling their future: Michael Gove’s Department for Education has put pupils’ confidential information up for sale.

Thanks are due to the Vox Political reader who flagged up the fact that, while plans to sell British citizens’ health records and tax details are currently delayed or in consideration, confidential information about our children is already being sold on to private companies.

Researchers and third-party organisations can apply for detailed information from the national pupil database (NPD), covering pupils at schools and colleges in England.

This includes test and exam results, details of prior attainment and progression at different key stages for pupils in the state sector, attainment data for students in non-maintained special schools, sixth-form and further education colleges, and information on pupils in independent schools, where available.

The database also includes information about pupils’ characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, first language, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs (SEN), and pupil absence and exclusions.

Why would anyone want to use such information commercially?

Extracts of this data are available for use by any organisation or person who, “for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of children in England”, are conducting research or analysis, producing statistics, or providing information, advice or guidance. To whom?

The available data is arranged into ‘tiers’, as follows:

  • Tier 1 – the most sensitive personal information
  • Tier 2 – other sensitive personal information, including less sensitive versions of tier 1 data
  • Tier 3 – school-level data
  • Tier 4 – other pupil-level data, for example, attainment, absence and exclusions

Users can even request bespoke extracts, with a member of the NPD Data Request team on hand to advise on the approvals process, and whether the information requested is available.

The NPD is also linked to the further and higher education sectors, using data from the individualised learner record (ILR) and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) student record.

Users can request linked information in the following combinations:

  • NPD linked to ILR data
  • NPD linked to HESA student record
  • NPD linked to both ILR and HESA
  • Individualised learner record linked to HESA student record

You will not be consulted on whether you wish to allow your child’s information to be sold.

This means a huge amount of information about your children is now available to third parties and – considering the government press release from which this information is drawn is almost a month old – may already have been sold.

Confidential information on – for example – exam and test results, special educational needs, absence and exclusions, and eligibility for free school meals could have a serious impact on a pupil’s prospects in adult life, if used to inform organisations that are hiring school leavers, for example.

There are safeguards. Organisations requesting information need to demonstrate that they comply with all relevant requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, including proving that they are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office to process personal data or fall within an exemption, have appropriate security arrangements in place to process the data, intend to use the data only for a specified purpose, will keep the data only for a specified length of time, and will not share the data without our prior written approval.

Considering this government’s track record, how safe does that make you feel?

If you want to read the press release yourself, it may be found here.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

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This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
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You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

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Jess on Say’s Law and the Tory Denial that Increase in Food Banks Represents Genuine Demand


Mike Sivier:

If you think I’m reblogging this just because it says nice things about a commenter on MY blog, then read the comment from Jess at the end. It expands on the comment and clarifies that what’s been said in the Mail and the mainstream media is based on a garbled misquotation – and only the social media have challenged it.
The good news is that nobody – at all – seems to have been fooled and donations to the Trussell Trust were up to £35,000+ by 11.30pm yesterday, according to a meme I just shared on Facebook.

Originally posted on Beastrabban\'s Weblog:

Jess, one of the commenters on this blog has posted a detailed critique of the economic law behind the Tories’ refusal to admit that the rise in food banks is due to a massive increase in poverty. The Tories cannot admit that there is mass starvation in this country due to their austerity campaign. They therefore claim instead that food banks are increasing simply because there are more food banks, and their mere existence attracts more customers.

In her comment to Mike’s post on Vox Political, ‘Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday’, Jess attacks this assertion, and shows that it is based on Say’s Law, an economic doctrine that has now been comprehensively refuted in the form it has been adopted under Lord Freud to justify the attacks food banks. She states

“Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks…

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