Parked on the dole: Closing Job Centres and handing responsibility for finding work to private companies would condemn thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of people to a life on benefits (if they don’t get sanctioned and starve).
It’s incredible that allies of George Osborne are backing proposals to shut down all Job Centres and let private companies fill the void.
The proposal to let the private sector find work for Britain’s unemployed is actually being considered for inclusion in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto for 2015, according to the Huffington Post.
It quotes a ‘senior Tory’ who told The Sun: “Introducing competition into the job search market is a natural Conservative thing to do.”
This means Conservatives are naturally unimaginative, if not altogether stupid.
Have they already forgotten the lessons learnt from the way work programme provider companies treated jobseekers that were sent their way – as Vox Political reported last year?
The process is known as “creaming and parking”.
Work programme providers knew that – because they get paid on the basis of the results they achieve – they needed to concentrate on the jobseekers who were more likely to find work quickly. These people were “creamed” off and fast-tracked into work, thereby creating profit for the companies.
And the others? Those who need more time and investment? They were “parked” – left without help, to languish in the benefit system for months and years on end – in a situation that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said many times that he wanted to reverse.
In fact, his policies have perpetuated the problem.
And now George Osborne wants to spread this practice to all jobseekers, across the country.
It’s time the voting public woke up to what the Conservative Party is, and “parked” it in the history books where it belongs.
“This particular Secretary of State, along with his Department, is pushing people through [the] cracks and hoping that the rest of the country will not notice that they have disappeared.” – Glenda Jackson MP, June 30, 2014.
If the man this blog likes to call RTU (Returned To Unit) thought he would be able to show that his behaviour had improved, he was sorely mistaken – as the comment above illustrates.
It is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.
But we were discussing the debate as a trial. Let us first look at the evidence in favour of the government.
There. That was illuminating, wasn’t it?
Seriously, the government benches were unable to put up a single supportable point against the mountain of evidence put forward by Labour.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary-in-a-State, resorted yet again to his favourite tactic – and one for which he should have been sacked as an MP long ago – lying to Parliament. He accused Labour of leaving behind a “shambles” – in fact the economy had begun to improve under intelligent guidance from Alistair Darling. “The economy was at breaking point,” he said – in fact the British economy cannot break; it simply doesn’t work that way. His claim that “We were burdened with the largest deficit in peacetime history” is only supportable in money terms, and then only because inflation means the pound is worth so much less than it was in, say, the 1940s – or for the entire century between 1750 and 1850. He called yesterday’s debate “a cynical nugget of short-term policy to put to the unions,” but the evidence below renders that completely irrelevant.
He said complaints about long delivery times for benefits were “out of date” – a common excuse. He’ll do the same in a few months, when the same complaint is raised again.
“Universal Credit is rolling out to the timescale I set last year,” he insisted – but we all know that it has been ‘reset’ (whatever that means) by the government’s Major Projects Authority.
He said there had been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, with more than 50 recommendations by Sir Malcolm Harrington accepted by the government. This was a lie. We know that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his first review were not fully or successfully implemented.
He said appeals against ESA decisions “are down by just under 90 per cent” – but we know that this is because of the government’s unfair and prejudicial mandatory reconsideration scheme – and that the DWP was bringing in a new provider to carry out work capability assessments. Then he had to admit that this provider has not yet been chosen! And the backlog of claims mounts up.
He tried to justify his hugely expensive botched IT schemes by pointing at a Labour scheme for the Child Support Agency that wasted hundreds of millions less than his Universal Credit, without acknowledging the obvious flaw in his argument: If he knew about this mistake, why is he repeating it?
Conservative Mark Harper said Labour opposed the Tories’ most popular scheme – the benefit cap. That was a lie. Labour supported the cap, but would have set it at a higher level. We know that the Coalition government could not do this because it would not, then, have made the huge savings they predicted.
Now, the evidence against.
First up is Rachel Reeves, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions: “After £612 million being spent, including £131 million written off or ‘written down’, the introduction of Universal Credit is now years behind schedule with no clear plan for how, when, or whether full implementation will be achievable or represent value for money.
“Over 700,000 people are still waiting for a Work Capability Assessment, and… projected spending on Employment and Support Allowance has risen by £800 million since December… The Government [is] still not able to tell us which provider will replace Atos.
“Personal Independence Payment delays have created uncertainty, stress and financial costs for disabled people and additional budgetary pressures for Government… Desperate people, many of whom have been working and paying into the system for years or decades and are now struck by disability or illness, waiting six months or more for help from the Department for Work and Pensions.
“The Work Programme has failed to meet its targets, the unfair bedroom tax risks costing more than it saves, and other DWP programmes are performing poorly or in disarray.
“Spending on housing benefit for people who are in work has gone up by more than 60 per cent, reflecting the fact that more people are in low-paid or insecure work and are unable to make ends meet, even though they may be working all the hours God sends.
“More than five million people — 20 per cent of the workforce — are paid less than the living wage. Furthermore, 1.5 million people are on zero-hours contracts and 1.4 million people are working part time who want to work full time.
“This… is about the young woman diagnosed with a life-limiting illness who has waited six months for any help with her living costs. It is about the disabled man whose payments have been stopped because he did not attend an interview to which he was never invited.
“The Government are wasting more and more taxpayers’ money on poorly planned and disastrously managed projects, and are allowing in-work benefits to spiral because of their failure to tackle the low pay and insecurity that are adding billions of pounds to the benefits bill.
“The Government are careless with the contributions that people make to the system, callous about the consequences of their incompetence for the most vulnerable, and too arrogant to admit mistakes and engage seriously with the task of sorting out their own mess.
“What this Government have now totally failed to do is to remember the human impact, often on people in vulnerable circumstances, of this catalogue of chaos. Behind the bureaucratic language and spreadsheets showing backlogs and overspends are people in need who are being let down and mistreated, and taxpayers who can ill afford the mismanagement and waste of their money.
“To fail to deliver on one policy might be considered unfortunate; to miss one’s targets on two has to be judged careless; but to make such a complete mess of every single initiative the Secretary of State has attempted requires a special gift. It is something like a Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a total shambles.
“Meanwhile, the Secretary of State will spew out dodgy statistics, rant and rave about Labour’s record, say “on time and on budget” until he is blue in the face and, in typical Tory style, blame the staff for everything that goes wrong.”
Julie Hilling (Labour) provides this: “The Government do not know what they are talking about… They talk about the number of jobs being created, but they do not know how many of them are on zero-hours contracts or how many are on Government schemes or how many have been transferred from the public sector.”
Stephen Doughty (Labour/Co-op): “another stark indictment of their policies is the massive increase in food banks across this country.”
Helen Jones (Labour): “When I asked how many people in my constituency had been waiting more than six months or three months for medical assessments for personal independence payment, the Government told me that the figures were not available. In other words, they are not only incompetent; they do not know how incompetent they are!”
Sheila Gilmore (Labour): “Although the problems with Atos were known about—and it is now being suggested that they had been known about for some time—a contract was given to that organisation for PIP. Was due diligence carried out before the new contract was issued?”
Gordon Marsden (Labour): “Many of my constituents have been caught by the double whammy of delays involving, first, the disability living allowance and now PIP. They have waited long periods for a resolution, but because a decision is being reconsidered, their Motability — the lifeline that has enabled them to get out of their homes — has been taken away before that decision has been made. Is that not a horrendous indictment of the Government?”
Emily Thornberry (Labour): “I have been making freedom of information requests.. in relation to mandatory reconsiderations. When people get their work capability assessment, and it has failed, before they can appeal there has to be a mandatory reconsideration. The Department does not know how many cases have been overturned, how many claimants have been left without any money and how long the longest period is for reconsideration. It cannot answer a single one of those questions under a freedom of information request.”
Natascha Engel (Labour): “The welfare state is designed as a safety net to catch people who absolutely cannot help themselves… That safety net is being withdrawn under this government, which is certainly pushing some of my constituents into destitution.”
There was much more, including the devastating speech by Glenda Jackson, partly in response to Natascha Engels’ comments, that is reproduced in the video clip above.
The vote – for the House of Commons to recognise that the DWP was in chaos and disarray – was lost (of course). A government with a majority will never lose such a vote.
But once again, the debate was won by the opposition. They had all the facts; all the government had were lies and fantasies.
By now, one suspects we all know somebody who has died as a result of Coalition government polices on welfare (or, preferably, social security). Two such deaths have been reported in the Comment columns of Vox Political since the weekend, and it is only Tuesday.
That is why it is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.
Share it with your friends, use parts of it in letters to your local papers or radio stations, even mentioning it in conversation will help if the other person isn’t aware of the facts.
Don’t let it be suppressed.
You don’t want to do Iain Duncan Smith’s work for him, do you?
The numbers speak for themselves: Under ‘Adequacy of safety-net benefits’, EVERY SINGLE INCOME GROUP has lost out. While others have suffered a great percentage drop, single working-age people remain the least able to make ends meet.
“How much money do you need for an adequate standard of living?”
That is the question posed every year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – and every year the organisation calculates how much people have to earn – taking into account their family circumstances, the changing cost of these essentials and changes to the tax and benefit system – to reach this benchmark.
A lone parent with one child now needs to earn more than £27,100 per year – up from £12,000 in 2008. A couple with two children need to earn more than £20,200 each, compared to £13,900 each in 2008. Single working-age people must now earn more than £16,200, up from £13,500 in 2008;
Despite social and economic change, the list of goods and services different families need to live to an adequate level is very similar to that of the original study in 2008 – but people’s ability to afford them has declined. Overall the cost of a basket of essential items has risen by a massive 28 per cent over six years – much higher than the 19 per cent rise claimed by the official Consumer Price Index – while average wages have increased by just nine per cent and the minimum wage 14 per cent;
Increased tax allowances have eased the pressure somewhat for some households, but the freeze to child benefit and ongoing cuts in tax credits have outweighed this for low-earning families with children.
Out-of-work benefits have fallen further and now provide just 39 per cent of what single, working-age people need to reach a Minimum Income Standard.
On the other hand, pensioner couples who claim all their allowances receive 95 per cent of the amount required.
The bottom line is that the Conservative-led government has been hammering the working poor and people on benefits, while claiming to be helping them. The minimum income necessary for an adequate living standard, according to JRF research, is no less than two-and-a-half-times what people on benefits receive. That is an appalling disparity in the sixth-richest country in the world.
It also creates a danger that more people will look to loan suppliers like the government’s favourite (Wonga) for short-term help – at the cost of going into disastrous long-term debt.
Slow earnings growth and price increases have made all households worse off on average, relative to the MIS, the report has found.
The conclusion is a disaster for the Coalition’s “hardworking” people: “In the past six years the more important determinants of whether low-income households can afford the minimum budget have been the increasing cost of living relative to earnings and benefit cuts for households in and out of work.
“For working families with children, if these cuts continue, the opportunity to reach an acceptable living standard may not improve, even as wages start rising again in real terms.”
Ignorance is most definitely not bliss for Dr Paul Litchfield.
The man was hand-picked by the Coalition government to review its hated Work Capability Assessment system of handling Employment and Support Allowance claims, amid rumours that previous incumbent Professor Malcolm Harrington had been unhappy with political decisions that ran against his findings. But he delivered a woeful performance to the House of Commons’ Work and Pensions committee last month.
He claimed to have no information about the staggering number of people who have died after going through the assessment system he is being paid to review, totalling 10,600 between January and November 2011 – that’s 220 per week or three every four hours. “I don’t have any information of that type; I haven’t seen numbers on that. Clearly every case would be a tragedy,” he said.
Clearly this expert has yet to gain access to some very important information!
In advance of the fifth and final review of the WCA, lead researcher and disabled veteran Mo Stewart has written to offer him the benefit of four years’ detailed research evidence.
“The lacklustre 4th review of the WCA left a great deal to be desired,” she told Vox Political. “Now, with the news that Litchfield worked with Unum Insurance on the Technical and Consultative Working Group involved with the creation of the WCA, it can’t be too much of a surprise that Litchfield claims that the WCA had been designed ‘…with considerable rigour’.”
Mo Stewart’s lengthy letter to Litchfield has been distributed to a long list of distinguished experts and professionals, and it will be interesting to see if Dr Litchfield takes the time to respond and to react to the detailed research evidence Mo exposed – evidence that has been frequently quoted during welfare debates in the House of Lords and the House of Commons over the past three years.
You can read her letter for yourself, because Mo has sent Vox Political a copy. Just click on the link here.
Fraud: This man wants you to believe DWP austerity measures are succeeding, in order to win votes at next year’s general election. They aren’t. He is a liar.
The Department for Work and Pensions is merrily claiming that more than £13 million allocated to help people who have been hit be the government’s unfair ‘welfare reforms’ via Discretionary Housing Payments has gone unclaimed. Lord Freud wants you to think “recent scare stories about councils running out of money were grossly exaggerated”.
He was – of course – lying through his teeth.
A quick look at the facts reveals that Discretionary Housing Payment was overspent by £3,505,582 during the 2013-14 financial year. That’s two per cent more than the government allocated.
The £13,285,430 underspend quoted in the press release refers to just 240 out of the 380 councils that distribute DHPs. It completely ignores the £16,791,012 overspent by 127 other councils, in order to provide a false figure. The remaining 13 councils spent all of their allocated amounts.
Focus on the regions and the picture gets worse: In Scotland, DHP was overspent by 76 per cent of the amount allocated – £28,700,215 against an allocation of £16,269,675 from the DWP. Scottish councils had to foot the bill for the extra amounts.
Wales spent an extra six per cent – £7,724,176 against an allocation of £7,274,829. Here in Powys, 1,200 of the county’s 8,300 social dwellings were affected by the bedroom tax, with a total annual loss of housing benefit of £800,000. The total DHP funding available was £154,975.
Looking at those figures, it’s amazing the overspend was so small.
It is only in England that a net underspend is recorded – of around £9 million.
So let’s have a look at Lord Fraud’s – sorry, Freud’s – statement that “today’s figures also show that recent scare stories about councils running out of money were grossly exaggerated.”
Grossly exaggerated? The fact is that 127 councils did run out of money – that’s more than one-third of the total.
It would be fairer to say that the scare stories came true.
The press release also states that “around three-quarters of councils also did not apply for a £20 million government top-up fund to help claimants adjust to welfare changes, leaving a further £7.1 million unspent”.
No figures are provided to support this statement.
People will be angry about this – and rightly so.
The BBC has just brought massed complaints down on itself after it chose to ignore a 50,000-strong demonstration against the government’s austerity measures that started outside the Corporation’s front door. Many incensed callers and emailers said they feared the BBC was participating in a conspiracy of silence about the harm being caused to ordinary people.
Now we see the DWP is lying to us about the harm its bedroom tax is doing to ordinary people – including hardworking employees, who make up more than 90 per cent of new housing benefit claimants.
Tory leader David Cameron has been banging the drum for Britishness recently – good for him. It gives us an opportunity to point out that, if there’s one British value that stands out above all the rest, it’s this:
We hate people in authority who try to mislead us.
Finger-jabbing protest: Iain Duncan Smith talked over Owen Jones in his last Question Time appearance; this time the other panellists didn’t give him the chance.
Around three-quarters of the way through tonight’s Question Time, I was ready to believe the BBC had pulled a fast one on us and we weren’t going to see Iain Duncan Smith get the well-deserved comeuppance that he has managed to avoid for so long in Parliament and media interviews.
There was plausible deniability for the BBC – the Isis crisis that has blown up in Iraq is extremely topical and feeds into nationwide feeling about the possibility of Britain going to war again in the Middle East. The debate on extremism in Birmingham schools is similarly of public interest – to a great degree because it caused an argument between Tory cabinet ministers. Those are big issues at the moment and the BBC can justifiably claim that it was making best use of the time and the panellists (for example Salma Yaqoob is a Muslim, from Birmingham, who is a member of ‘Hands Off Our Schools’).
But Auntie shouldn’t think for a moment that we didn’t notice the glaring omission on tonight’s agenda. With the Work and Pensions Secretary as the major politician on the panel, we should have had a question about his job but were fobbed off instead with non-items about ‘British values’ and whether parents should be arrested for allowing their children to become obese. That’s enough for some of us to read a right-wing agenda between the lines – an aim to avoid embarrassing Iain Duncan Smith.
It seems that, even if Auntie’s twin-set is pink, her bloomers are blue. Blue-mers, if you like.
By the time the fourth question came up, it seemed there would be no opportunity to analyse RTU (we call him Returned To Unit after his failed Army career) and his disastrous ministerial career.
This question was: “After the Newark by-election, are we looking at the destruction of the Liberal Democrats?” Thank goodness some of the panellists realised this was their chance.
Chris Bryant leapt at the opportunity to bypass the Lib Dems altogether. “The real enemy is over there,” he said, indicating the Secretary-in-a-State. “The Conservatives have made this country a place where two million people need food bank handouts.”
Salma Yaqoob pointed out that, thanks to the Conservative-led coalition (and, because he’s the Work and Pensions secretary, Duncan Smith’s policies), “13 million people are now below the poverty line and one million are suffering the indignity of having to use food banks.
“People are suicidal,” she pointed out – a very pertinent claim to make, as the most common cause of death for people going through Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit system appears to be suicide (due to the stress created by Department for Work and Pensions officers who work very hard to push them off-benefit). “They don’t want to be a burden to their families because their support has been taken away.”
She said: “People have been called scroungers… Iain Duncan Smith quite happily labels poor people as scroungers, when he claimed £39 on expenses for his own breakfast.”
Duncan Smith was interrupting from the background to claim that he had never called benefit claimants scroungers. Feel free to go to your favourite search engine right now, type in “Iain Duncan Smith scroungers”, and see for yourself whether his name has ever been associated with the word.
And, thank goodness, a member of the public spoke up to say: “Iain Duncan Smith is systematically taking down public services in this country and destroying people’s lives.”
He went on to invite anybody who cares about this issue to the demonstration in London by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, on June 21.
(I have since discovered that he was David Peel, press officer for the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. In my opinion, the fact that he was a political representative, planted in the audience to make a point, diminishes what he had to say – but I am still glad that somebody said what he did.)
It was sad that the great satirist Ian Hislop did not take an opportunity to make a few sharp observations – especially as commenters to this site have made it clear that they contacted him to request this action. He addressed himself to the question he had been asked and I make no comment about that; you can draw your own conclusions.
It didn’t happen the way this writer would have wanted, but the job got done anyway.
Expect multiple attempts by the right-wing press to salvage the situation – all doomed to failure.
Last week, Vox Political stated that there was an opportunity here to show the public the homicidal – if not genocidal – nature of the changes to the benefit system this man mockingly describes as “welfare reforms”.
It seems that food bank charity The Trussell Trust has been making too many waves around the Conservative-led Coalition government’s policies regarding benefits, social security and welfare.
Readers may recall how the charity warned that Coalition policies had created a need for a huge expansion in the number of food banks across the UK. The Tories countered this by accusing the trust of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking”, and also of “aggressively marketing [its] services”.
After this failed to make a dent in public opinion, the Daily Mail tried to discredit the trust by claiming it was handing out food parcels without checking whether the people claiming them were bona fide.
But it turned out that the paper’s claim of “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed” was not true. The reporter in fact committed fraud by telling a string of lies in order to falsely claim his food parcel in a flagrant abuse of the system.
The public response was immediate – donations to the Trussell Trust’s fundraising appeal shot through the roof.
Now the government has tried a different tack: blackmail. Instead of trying to justify the government’s position or undermine that taken by the trust in public, it has been revealed that, recently, “someone in power” told trust bosses that the government “might try to shut you down” if the trust continued to cause it embarrassment.
This detail was revealed while Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector this week.
The Trussell Trust is in a fairly robust position with regard to government interference; a 2005 decision by the charity’s trustees to avoid seeking government funding means it is in a better position to resist pressure.
But the trust has to consider the worst-case scenario. If the government did manage to shut it down, hundreds of thousands of people would starve.
That is the real threat posed by the Conservative-led government. Shutting down the Trussell Trust won’t hurt anybody who runs the charity or volunteers for it.
But it could kill food bank users across the country.
It is exactly the kind of covert, backstabbing move we have come to expect from the likes of Iain Duncan Smith.
Oh, come on! You knew RTU (it means Returned To Unit and is our tribute to his Army career) would figure in this article somewhere.
According to Mr Mould, he received a phone call from “someone” in the office of the Secretary-in-a-State about Work and Pensions, back in 2011. He said it was “basically to tell me that the boss was very angry with us because we were publicising the concerns we have over the rising number of people who were struggling as a consequence of delays and inefficiences in the benefits system”.
Unfortunately – for sly abusers like Duncan Smith – the kind of threats recorded above are really only useful when they are kept secret. The idea is always to present the victim with a double-bind – in this case, not only would food bank users suffer, but the Trussell Trust would get the blame for having withdrawn the service (whether voluntarily or not).
Now that we all know the government itself is putting the screws on – and is doing so in retaliation against the Trussell Trust’s entirely legitimate attempts to raise awareness of government policies’ disastrous effects – it would be electoral suicide.
That being said, watch Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time today.
He’s probably stupid enough to go through with it anyway.
His situation is exactly as Vox Political predicted in September 2012. Following up on previous warnings that the Coalition government had launched a campaign of hate against ordinary people who had been claiming incapacity or disability benefits, the article stated: “We knew that, once the chance for profile-boosting photo opportunities were over… the disability pogrom would be extended to paralympians.”
How true those words were.
On the website Inside the Games, Mr Pollock said: “”I retired after London and since then I’m not entitled to benefits because lottery funding isn’t taxable.
“So when I go and apply for a job, the woman in the job centre said I should do charity work. But that doesn’t pay the bills. “The job centre have been absolutely useless.”
Mr Pollock, who has spina bifida, said: “I’ve given everything I have to my career and now I just feel like I’ve been tossed on the scrap heap. If I’d given two decades of service to anything else, I’d be fine but disability sport is just not recognised as a career it seems.”
British Wheelchair Basketball says Mr Pollock declined support that was available, but this seems questionable. If you have a choice between spending two years looking fruitlessly for work and accepting help to plan a career after sport, you’d take the help – unless it wasn’t worth having, which would be par for the course with our useless unelected government.
Why aren’t ministers queueing up to tell us how well the UK treats disabled people who could have had normal careers but chose to represent their country instead?
They’re nowhere to be seen – because there isn’t a photo opportunity involved.
There’s more than a little of the piscine about the fact that our Conservative-led has set debt collection agencies onto poor families who have been overpaid tax credit due to errors made by HM Revenue and Customs.
Firstly, the move undermines the principle behind the tax credit system – that it is there to ensure that poorly-paid families may still enjoy a reasonable living standard. Tax credits are paid on an estimate of a person’s – or family’s – income over a tax year and the last Labour government, knowing that small variances could cause problems for Britain’s poorest, set a wide buffer of £25,000 before households had to pay anything back.
By cutting this buffer back to £5,000, the Conservatives have turned this safety net into a trap. Suddenly the tiniest overpayment can push households into a debt spiral, because their low incomes mean it is impossible to pay back what the government has arbitrarily decided they now owe.
And the sharks are circling. Instead of collecting the debt on its own behalf, HMRC has sold it on to around a dozen debt collection agencies who are harassing the families involved with constant telephone calls, mobile phone messages and letters to their homes.
In total, HMRC made 215,144 referrals to debt collectors in 2013-14. Of the working families involved, 118,000 earned less than £5,000 per year.
This takes us to our second area of concern. Remember how the Department for Work and Pensions has been encouraging people – particularly the disabled – to declare themselves as self-employed in order to avoid the hassle and harassment that now go hand in hand with any benefit claim? You know – the refusal of benefits based on arbitrary ‘descriptors’ that were originally devised by a criminal insurance company as a means to minimise payouts, and the constant threat of sanctions that would cut off access to benefits for up to three years unless claimants manage to clear increasingly difficult obstacles.
Both of these circumstances are likely to lead to a verdict of overpayment by HMRC, as the self-employment reported by these people is likely to be fictional, or to provide less than required by the rules – either in terms of hours worked or income earned.
Suddenly their debt is sold to a collection agency and they are suffering government-sponsored harassment, alarm and distress (which is in fact illegal) far beyond anything they received from the DWP; debt collection agencies are not part of the government and, as Dame Anne Begg pointed out in the Independent article on this subject, “The tactics they use to collect the debt are not tactics a government should use.”
Maybe not. So why employ such tactics?
Let’s move on to our third, and final, worry. By setting sharks on the hundreds of thousands of minnows caught in the government’s trawler-net (that was formerly a safety net – and I apologise for the mixed metaphor), the Tory-led administration is creating a handy distraction from the huge, bloated, offshore-banking whales who donate heavily into Conservative Party funds and who are therefore never likely to be pursued for the billions of pounds in unpaid taxes that they owe.
The government has promised to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance, but ministers would have to be out of their minds to attack the bankers and businesspeople who pay for their bread and butter.
Dr Paul Litchfield, here pictured giving evidence at another committee meeting – so it’s probably another load of tripe.
An evidence session on Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments was held by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday – and was notable for the fact that the ‘expert’ hired to review the system claimed to know nothing about the thousands of deaths taking place because of the current system.
Dr Paul Litchfield OBE was hired to take over from Professor Malcolm Harrington to carry out the fourth annual independent review of the assessment process. It seems Prof Harrington was replaced amicably, but evidence has come to light that he was not happy with political decisions that ran against his findings.
A claim that the government was taking “appropriate steps” in areas singled out for improvement by Prof Harrington was disproved when it was revealed that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his year one review were not fully and successfully implemented.
The government also claimed, repeatedly, that Prof Harrington had supported the migration of Incapacity Benefit claimants to ESA. When fellow blogger Sue Marsh contacted him for confirmation, he responded: “I NEVER—repeat–NEVER agreed to the IB migration. I would have preferred that it be delayed but by the time I said that, the political die had been cast. I then said that I would review progress of that during my reviews. The decision was political. I could not influence it. IS THAT CRYSTAL CLEAR?”
The vehemence of his response suggests some friction with his former employers at the very least – and over “political” decisions.
Now we have Dr Litchfield, who claims to have no information about the staggering number of people who have died after going through the assessment system he is being paid to review. Doesn’t that seem – at the very least – a little odd?
He could have, at least, looked up the government’s own statistical release ‘Incapacity Benefits – Deaths of Recipients’ from July 2012. It is long out-of-date and pressure on the government for fresh figures has been stonewalled for two years, but it does show that 10,600 people died between January and November 2011 – including an average of 73 people every week, when the system claimed they were still being assessed or should be getting better. These figures are believed to be inaccurate measures as the government does not monitor deaths of people who have been refused the benefit – the vast majority of claimants.
It seems we are dealing with another Tory yes-man, hired not to improve ESA, but to make it and the government look good.
Dr Litchfield’s attitude is revealed on the video record of the meeting, which is available on the Parliament UK website, starting two hours, 11 minutes and 41 seconds into the recording.
Committee member Debbie Abrahams (Labour) had just received a Tweet stating: “Litchfield doesn’t want to come out and say scrap WCA because 10,600 dead or he’ll be out of a job, slime bag.”
Turning to Litchfield, she said: “I’ve just been contacted by someone who is commenting on the number of people that are dying every week as a result of being found fit for work after an assessment. I don’t know if you’d like to comment on that?”
The response – from the man who is supposed to have every scrap of information about ESA, let us remember – was as follows: “I don’t have any information of that type; I haven’t seen numbers on that. Clearly every case would be a tragedy.”
That is infuriating for campaigners – one of whom contacted Vox Political and stated: “The wicked toad said he had no knowledge of the deaths. What a lie, how evil – it’s common knowledge, it’s DWP’s own figure, it’s been brought up many times in House of Commons debates… They should sack him and not believe a word he says… no impartiality whatsoever.”
It seems the tragedy, in this case, is the hiring of Dr Litchfield.