2013: Year of the Working Dead

Government officials at the DWP confirmed yesterday that Atos Healthcare had secured yet another lucrative “Fitness to Work” assessment contract; a program to be administered in a joint effort with local Jobcentre teams across the UK, and one that critics are describing punningly as being “beyond the pale”.

Under the new scheme, necromancers employed by private firm Atos will have access to the personal data of all current Jobseekers, who will be as of April 1st required to disclose to the DWP all details of family members who have died and been buried in the UK within the last five years.

Workshy?

Workshy?

“Necromancy has been underused by previous administrations,” said Iain Duncan Smith when asked for comment, “but when David and George brought my awful career back from the grave, it got me to thinking. All these people out there who have died instead of going to work… I just thought, come on Iain, we can support these people back into jobs. Then I spoke to Jeremy who knows all sorts about science and medicine, and he recommended this necromancy stuff if we couldn’t fix the economy with applied astrology – which, as we found out last year, simply cannot work in the UK for as long as beaurocratic red tape from Brussells keeps the immigrants in, and all chances of innovative economic change firmly out. The idea here is that we’re all in this together, and you don’t simply get to opt out of a society that is tending your grave and feeding your family simply because you fancy a massive lie-in.”

The scheme will entail corpses found to be “fit for work” by Atos necromancers being placed on one-year mandatory work activity placements in exchange for their Jobseekers allowance. Mandy Spud, a local Jobcentre manager based in Rusholme, South Manchester, explains how the placements would work:

“Basically the corpses will have been out of work for a period of time, and will be likely to present as slow, shuffling, caked in clods of earth and stinking of the grave. These presentational barriers to work will automatically trigger our computer software to refer them for mandatory work activity in order that they can re-acquaint themselves with the work environment, and with our support go on to bigger and brighter things.”

However, an alleged leaked memo from the DWP has cast doubt in the minds of some when it comes to the prospects of these corpses once their year of MWA is up. Available for a short while online before being taken down, it is rumoured to contain information that appears to point towards the secretive construction of multiple crematoriums across the country, as well as references to “irreversible corpse-rot”, “sexually transmitted flesh eating bacteria” and a coded list of possible paedophiles serving in Parliament this very day. As part of a speedy coordinated public response, Anti-Zombie-Workfare campaigners are occupying cemetries along the length and breadth of the land today, while a “Thriller”-style flashmob in Leicester Square McDonalds this lunchtime hit newsfeeds and streaming sites accross the globe.

A representative from the Royal Institution of Great Britain has advised that according to science, the entire situation cannot possibly happen, and all that the proposed scheme can possibly achieve is a further massive drain on the public purse:

“How can I put this delicately, they’re talking out of their arses. You can’t bring dead people back to life, and you can’t send them to work in Tesco’s. Please stop churning out this irrersponsible journalism that does nothing but cause unnecessary panic,” he fumed, scientifically.

Whatever your opinion may happen to be, the “Coffin Dodgers” vs. “Coffin Lodgers” debate looks set up to sizzle on for quite some time!

More Daily Mail Disability Deception

On 12/01/12 The Daily Mail edited the story they published on the 10th January about Nina Charbecks – who they were calling Ms Friday until Sunday, stellar bit of journalism there – the lady with rheumatoid arthritis who, depending on which day you read the Mail’s piece, is allegedly either £300 or £400 a month worse off for going back to work either four or five jobs; after spending ten or twelve years receiving benefit and choosing not to take up paid employment during that time.

Nina Charbecks

Nina Charbecks

The Mail still refers to Ms Charbecks as a “mother of two” despite their earlier version of the same piece detailing that Ms Charbecks’ children are actually grown adults in their twenties. This is to misdirect people into thinking that Ms Charbecks situation is analagous to that of a disabled parent who has legal responsibility for their children. Ms Charbecks’ two daughters are in fact both engaged with children of their own. I know this because when The Mail printed two different names for the same woman, I had to run my own attempt at a fact-check, and stumbled upon Ms Charbecks’ suprisingly public Facebook profile (as of 14/01/12 it has been made private).

Ms Charbecks in in a long term relationship with her live-in partner Charley. A Facebook picture uploaded for public view in December 2012 by Ms Charbecks shows a lady’s left hand with an engagement ring on it. This would indicate that Ms Charbecks is in a stable relationship.

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The Daily Mail has stated that Ms Charbecks had, at points during her ten year history of continuous unemployment, been the recipient of sums of benefit money totalling up to £1,260 per month; and now her personal income is “just over £800 per month”, and she doesn’t claim income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit or any disability-related benefits.

The Mail has not however bothered to explain that when a couple is considered to be living together as common-law husband and wife, they are treated by the DWP as one unit, and calculations for entitlements take into consideration the earnings and assets of both partners. My sister, for example, didn’t qualify for any benefits when she moved in with her partner last year and was unemployed, as his salary is too high and it is assumed by the powers-that-be that he will be subsidising her lifestyle to the extent that basics will be covered. This same reasoning would be applied to Ms Charbecks’ entitlement calculations now that she lives with Charley.

Nobody with a live-in partner receives out-of-work benefits as a single entity. The £1,260 sum paid directly to Ms Charbecks could only have been paid to her when she was claiming as a single person. If Ms Charbecks’ and Charley’s combined income is lower than £18,023 then they are entitled to working tax credits to make up the sum to a living wage. As they appear to be maintaining a home and several well-groomed dogs in the heart of sleepy rural Norfolk, I hardly think that Charley’s on the breadline forcing Ms Charbecks out to do four jobs while she’s in constant pain, and telling her they’re not going to be on the dole because it’s embarrassing.

This, according to Ms Charbeck, is not her home, it's a holiday home. £800 a month stretches far in Norfolk, eh?

This, according to Ms Charbeck, is not her home, it’s a holiday home. £800 a month stretches quite far in Norfolk, eh?

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So we have a couple now earning enough between them that they aren’t entitled to out-of-work benefits; with one partner in the couple complaining that she used to have more money in her pocket when she was single and getting benefits. The real story here seems to be that since moving in with her partner, Ms Charbecks now has to work through constant agony in order to get any money of her own to spend – so if the couple aren’t earning over £18k between themselves a year, we certainly know whose bank account the tax credits are going into.

If Ms Charbecks stops working now, she will not receive that £1,260 for as long as she remains part of a couple. The Mail knows this. They’re banking on their readers being too uninformed to realise that they’re really comparing apples to oranges. As I wrote previously, this misdirection is a lazy effort to prime the readers of the Tory Tabloids into accepting the new Personal Independence Payment to replace Disability Living Allowance this coming April. Perpetual fudger-uppers Atos and TV License enforcers Capita have been tasked by the Tories with cutting the PIP/DLA budget 20% by 2015/16, by putting claimants through the universally maligned “fitness to work” assessments run by “healthcare professionals” (read, not necessarily a doctor/specialist, more likely a physiotherapist or a nurse of some description) whose literal job is to attempt to discredit every GP in the country who has stated that their patient qualifies medically for extra financial assistance in the form of DLA/PIP.

We know this to be true because at the end of veritable streams of bullshit and jobseeker-shaming attributed to Ms Charbecks, this little snippet is crudely bludgeoned in:

“…This put her among the 3.2million Britons who claim the benefit each year, at a cost of £13billion. Around 500,000 claimants are expected to lose the handout in a crackdown.”

They haven’t mentioned which specific benefit they are talking about; but seeing as it’s only DLA that faces a reform and prospective “crackdown” later in the year, I can’t think what else on earth they could be referring to. If we look at the structure of the piece; we can see that they have given us a list of out-of-work benefits Ms Charbecks claimed as a single claimant and given a total sum of the maximum received, talked about how she has less money in her pocket now that she’s part of a couple that doesn’t claim benefits, and then mentioned that one of the set of benefits she received as a single claimant would be facing a crackdown this year.

They would like people to believe that the DLA formed a substantial part of the money Ms Charbecks received whilst unemployed, so that people will feel happier about a “crackdown” occuring. They would like people to think that the DLA contributed to a workshy, “scrounger” mentality. In reality, everybody in the country who is deemed to have the requisite medical symptoms is entitled to DLA. Princes, paupers, Paralympians and even politicians.

DLA/PIP does not contribute to a “workshy” attitude. It is claimed by some of the highest achievers in Britain. And even politicians. Don’t let The Daily Mail get away with these sorts of grotesque and slimy manipulations. Support a fair approach to the discourse about social security.

Disabled people are very fucking valuable!

Pass it on.

UPDATE 14/01/12 – Ms Charbecks has made contact to insist that the story be taken down lest her solicitor get involved. Lulzors. I have changed the article to reflect the reality that the photo taken of a living room is from a holiday home, and is not Ms Charbecks’ usual abode.

UPDATE 15/01/12Nina Charbecks reported to be working as pub landlady in 2011.

Daily Mail Begins Priming Middle England for Next ATOS Onslaught

The Daily Mail published a less-than-responsible piece of journalism yesterday, detailing the apparent struggles of Norfolk resident Nina Friday, a lady with rheumatoid arthritis, who – according to the story published – is working 35 hours a week and is £300 per month worse-off financially than if she were on the disability benefits she was receiving previously.

Nina Friday - disabled, doesn't claim benefits.

Nina Friday – disabled, doesn’t claim benefits.

The Mail is more than happy to describe Ms Friday as being “disabled”; whilst simulataneously showing pictures of her apparently working her poor sore fingers to the bone all the hours God sends her – photographs that would instantly result in Ms Friday being found “fit-for-work” if brought before the WCA team for means-tested disability payments. The Daily Mail has repeatedly insinuated that people found “fit-to-work” by these deeply flawed assessments are not genuinely disabled at all, and are in fact liars and scroungers of the most irksome ilk (though we know that not to be the case).

They also bring Ms Friday’s status as a mother into prominent position, right in the headline – “Disabled Mother” – right after “Putting others to shame” – the clear implication being that Ms Friday puts other disabled mothers to shame somehow. This is just strange, as Ms Friday’s children (at least the ones mentioned) are adults in their early 20s. While it is certainly true that a mother’s work is never done, science would probably agree that generally the bulk of the hard work is when your offspring aren’t legal adults yet. Ms Friday, according to The Mail, was a long-term, out-of-work, benefits claimant for the twelve years between 2000-2012 – for most of the latter part of her daughters’ lives.

One could start to wonder why the Daily Mail is lionising a mother who spent 12 years out of work claiming disability benefit for a degenerative disease, then promptly within a year of ceasing to claim, found herself fit to work 35 hours a week. They would have to look very closely through the mess of half-truths and outright lies scattered about the piece before they found the key to this particular puzzle. It’s in there, unhelpfully uncapitalised, but it’s in there:


Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Ms Friday, according to article, is in a relationship with her partner Charley. One can effectively deduce that Charley’s earnings are too high for the couple to qualify for means-tested disability benefits, as The Mail is referring solely to Ms Friday’s money; whereas couples in receipt of means-tested benefits receive those particular benefits jointly, so the Mail would be inaccurate to refer to it as just Ms Friday’s money if that were the case.

But it isn’t. DLA is not means-tested. Millionaires can claim it. Full time students can claim it. A person can claim it irrespective of their partner’s earnings, as long as they have a medically established disability that qualifies them for the extra support. Ms Friday would have qualified for DLA as a person who suffers from rheumatiod arthritis – a condition that can fluctuate and go into remission, but is ultimately a systemic autoimmune disease with a generally not-so-cheery long-term prognosis. With the information The Mail has provided however, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Charley and Ms Friday are too well-off as a couple to be able to receive any further top-ups, as the kids and all possible related benefits (universal or not) have flown the nest.

The maximum amount that a person receiving DLA alone can receive per month is £569. Ms Friday would not currently be entitled to any more benefit for her disability than that, if the Mail’s description of her current financial circumstances is correct. The Mail claims that Ms Friday gets £300 less than that per month – £269, or, £62.07 for… 35 hours of work per week?

This is where the irresponsibilty and misdirection become especially pernicious. The Mail quotes Ms Friday as saying that she has “been told” that she does about 35 hours of work a week. I believe that she does. I don’t however believe that Ms Friday does 35 hours of paid work per week, because the sums do not add up. They have included a website that she runs herself on the list of her five jobs; with no mention as to the time spent on that personal project, and how much it contributes to the 35 hour total given for her worked hours per week. They have not detailed how much of the remaining work (all good, useful stuff) is paid or unpaid. This is important, not because only paid work counts, but because only paid work counts when figuring out whether it is cheaper to be on benefits than in paid work.

This isn’t about any genuine concern for Ms Friday, who could work and claim DLA if she liked, thus rendering the whole dilemma pointless.

This is a very poorly written piece of propaganda designed to prime the readers of the Tory Tabloids into accepting the new, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as a replacement for DLA – rolling out this April across the country. Now Atos and Capita will be running the same ridiculous, highly contested, maligned-by-medical-professionals-everywhere assessments to see who does and doesn’t qualify – and before a single test has been run by one of their “healthcare professionals”, they’re already aiming for a 20% reduction in the DLA/PIP funding by 2015/16. At least 20% of people found by their GP to have the requisite medical symptoms that should qualify them for DLA/PIP will, the Tories hope, have this extra support cut during this horrible time of economic crisis that disabled people did not cause.

The writer of this piece has used gross misdirection in order to have us believe that DLA payments are higher than the wages a person would earn by working a 35 hour work week, in order to spark the resentment necessary for the public to swallow another round of Atos purges on the sick and disabled. They have tried to make Ms Friday’s story sound as though it is analogous to the stories of those disabled mothers still legally responsible for their children, many of whom are in receipt of means-tested benefits such as ESA, and a substantial proportion of whom do not have resident partners in full time work. Ms Friday’s symptoms clearly do not make active work too much of a problem at this point in time, but it would be dangerous to assume that ‘most cases’ are similar in severity to hers when discussing the overall issue. The Mail has made no nods to such sensitivity, and in doing so has merely shown yet again that its editorial slant lacks social conscience; and that the paper is entirely deserving of the sneers that it so rightfully receives in educated circles.

It’s lies, bollocks and bullshit. Don’t buy it.

UPDATE 13/01/12 – . This piece was taken down by the Mail staff without comment, rewritten and republished on the 12/01/12 The link at the start of my piece has been updated, and will take you to the archived original.

UPDATE 2 13/01/12 – The saga continues…