Stop shaming your out-of-work friends and neighbours.

It only exposes your own ignorance when you do.

The UK is currently experiencing high levels of unemployment as a result of the damage to the economy caused by the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. The country slipped into a recession that resulted in countless businesses going under, and many jobs being lost. Due to the austerity measures enacted by the current government, the UK’s economy has barely lifted from this slump and the current level of unemployment is 7.8%, an over 50% increase from its pre-recession level of just over 5%.

austerity

The austerity measures of the current government have not resulted in an increase in work vacancies, and a shaky Eurozone has enabled the incumbent government to attempt write off the double dip recession that occurred under the watchful eye of Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. The stubborn fact remains however that there are simply far more unemployed people than jobs available in this country. Click this link to see how your area fares ratio-wise; and notice that the only area in the country with more job vacancies than unemployed people residing there is the City of London. Fortunately for the predominantly very well-heeled residents of the City of London and immediately surrounding boroughs, the housing benefit cap of £500 maximum a week ensures that those jobs remain available only for those who can either afford the inordinately expensive city rents even while out of work, or are able to afford the time and money to commute from the outer zones. Everyone else in the country, apart from those who can afford to work in the City of London, is having to face the grim reality of there not being anywhere nearly as many jobs available as there are people who are unemployed.

Why, then, are the ranks of those being expected to be out and looking for work rising day by day? Why the media narratives suggesting that the high unemployment figures are somehow in any way related to the attitude of people who are unemployed? If every single unemployed person decided next week to spend every waking hour applying for jobs, handing CVs out, writing to employers, joining agencies etc; jobs for them would not magically appear. More and more disabled people are being ruled “fit-to-work” by the much-maligned Atos-administered Work Capability Assessment. Lone parents with children aged between 5 and 13 are also for the first time being expected to find work. In an environment where there may be (as in my local area) 8 unemployed people for every 1 job vacancy posted, more people are being sent out to compete, even though the latest additions (disabled people and lone parents) have existing disadvantages that mean realistically that they have very low chances of securing employment compared to people who are able-bodied and/or don’t have care commitments.

There is a massive industry built around the existence of unemployed people. If enough people believe that unemployment exists because unemployed people don’t know how to get jobs, or don’t want to get jobs; then businesses can, instead of offering job vacancies at minimum wage or higher, simply get people on the dole to do it for their benefits. They are supplied these unfortunate unemployed people by Jobcentres and Work Programme providers. The Work Programme itself is founded on the idea that the people who are most struggling to find a job (i.e. those who have been unemployed for 9-12 months) would be able to find nonexistent work if they went to more frequent weekly sessions teaching them about how to look for the nonexistent work. It costs the taxpayer, and has no quantifiable results insofar as getting its clients back into work goes; the December 2012 report strongly suggests what everybody who is actually going through this recession as an unemployed person already knows – that you are just as likely (or even more likely) to find a paid job without any specialist taxpayer-funded Work Programme help as you are if you’re on their books and being dragged in for pointless make-work every other day.

So, we have a situation where the dominant ideology regarding unemployed people is that if they “try hard enough”, they’ll certainly find something. People who have not been able to find work in this current environment of there being far more unemployed people than there are work vacancies are being told by everyone – friends, family, media and the government, that they aren’t trying hard enough. Paid work has become the only sort of “work” that a person does that is to be considered of any real value to society in general. Reject this toxic notion.

Society is built not only by people going out to work for money, but also by the people who work by helping others out for free. When we devalue the latter form of work, when we tell people who are not in paid work that they are “useless” and a “drain” on society, they can start to focus and obsess about finding paid work and their care commitments can be viewed as being a useless waste of time, keeping them down and stopping them from ever becoming valuable in the eyes of society. Who the hell wants to live in a society where a person who is good at caring for a vulnerable person is being told they aren’t valuable enough yet, and have to go and look for nonexistent jobs that fit around their care commitment – when there are currently many people without care commitments who are applying for the same jobs? Who wants to live in a society where despite there being scores of able-bodied people having to compete for the scant amount of paid work available, disabled people are being labelled “workshy” and forced out to find jobs? Despite over 50% of the people in this country being net beneficiaries of the tax system, an alarmingly large amount of that same percentage of people believe that because they work and pay tax, they’re paying for other people’s households while they’re out of work, not realising that they haven’t even covered their own household’s cost to the state yet, nevermind the cost of anybody else’s. This group is responsible for a lot of the daily misery suffered by jobseekers, as they are often part of their peer network; and through ignorance of the facts make life very difficult for those around them unable to find paid work.

Society needs to return to a belief in the value of unpaid work and the work of those with caring responsibilities. If you are a person who currently cannot find paid work, but you do unpaid work and/or have caring responsibilities that you do well with, you are just as much of value as the citizen who is fortunate enough in the current economic climate to secure a salary that is taxed and redistributed. The only citizen without value is one who does not help to rally people together, or support them, in these tough times. The liar who knowingly blames innocent people for the failures of himself and his cronies. The person who has plenty to give, but hoards and keeps everything for herself and people she believes to be just like her instead.

This doesn’t sound like any decent person I know, in paid work or not. I want unemployed people who feel as though they are struggling to stay strong. Remember that as long as you contribute daily, it’s only a ballsed-up narrative telling ignorant people otherwise that is bringing you down. This won’t stop those ignorant people, but it will help you to stop believing in them and their value judgments, and to focus on improving your quality of life without the strain of feeling as though you can’t be useful if you’re not currently in paid work.

Respect and solidarity.

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Bedroom Tax: Beating the “Living Together as Husband and Wife” Snoops from the Council

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When the Bedroom Tax comes into force next month, many people will be forced to take on lodgers in order to make up the shortfall in their rent. Local Councils administering housing and council tax benefit, always looking for any way to cut costs from their end, may very well try to investigate your household if they suspect that there is any way they can prove that you and your new lodger are actually “living together as husband and wife”.

Their screening processes almost always flag any household containing a new lodger in the spare room, if the new lodger is of the opposite sex to the person making the claim for Housing Benefit, and not a blood, step or adoptive relative. They investigate with the aim to prove that you “live together as husband and wife”, and thus they will be justified in demanding that you claim jointly or not at all. This saves them money, and means that you will still be liable for your extra “spare room”; because for as long as you are deemed to be “living together as husband and wife”, you are also expected to share a bedroom as well as benefit payments.

It is obviously very important then for the household looking to take on a lodger to be aware of this term, and what you should do to ensure that it is not wrongfully applied to your situation.

As far as I’m concerned, the only people who “live together as husband and wife” are those who are married and afforded the legal protections of marriage. However, that won’t get you very far with the powers-that-be at the DWP and the Council. Their definition – well there’s no official one but this is about as good as you’ll get:

There is no single factor on which the LTAHAW/CP decision can be based. It has to be made on
the relationship of the couple as a whole. When deciding whether two people are
LTAHAW/CP, use your knowledge and experience to apply legislation, including case law, to
make a fair and reasoned decision based on the evidence of the individual circumstances of a
case.

The following ‘admirable signposts’ as outlined in a Social Security Commissioner’s decision,
must also be taken into account
• existence of a shared household
• stability of the relationship
• financial arrangements
• responsibility for children
• sexual relationship
• public recognition of the relationship

This was taken from “Living together as husband and wife or as civil partners – decisions relating to unmarried couples”, a document published by the DWP for their decision makers, and well worth a glance if you have five minutes or so.

The Process

The first step is to make sure that you are not accidentally omitting any traceable information about who is living in your household. Inform the council as soon as it can be proved that your lodger has taken up residence in your home. So, for instance, if they are using your home as their main postal address; and if they are staying for over four nights a week at the residence, inform the council that your household has either a new lodger (if the arrangement is commercial) or a new non-dependent adult taking up residence in the premises.

My experience is with the more informal “non-dependent adult” type of casual lodger, the sort that is more likely to be jumped on as potentially a person who may be “living together as husband and wife” with the person claiming Housing Benefit. From what I can gather, sub-letting or profiting off Social Housing is not usually allowed, so the person claiming Housing Benefit likely as not have no choice but to go down the non-dependent adult route. It’s not too difficult though, so don’t panic!

-Make sure to refer to this person as “non-dependent adult” in any paperwork that is sent out asking to describe the relationship between yourself and your new lodger.

-The paperwork may ask how who has use of what rooms in the household. Make it clear that your lodger has access to only their own room, and permission to use communal rooms – kitchen, bathroom etc from yourself.

-Answer the questions on the form as fully as common sense allows. Never give any more information than is absolutely required on forms that will be flying around through the postal system.

If you fill out all the forms, send them back and hear nothing further, then goodtimes citizens, continue with your lives…

However, you may receive communication from a Customer Compliance Officer requesting that you, or your new lodger, or both of you submit to interview or even domestic inspection in order to remain eligible for benefit. I wouldn’t bother with being interviewed at their offices, as although the interview can be recorded, they provide the equipment and you have to write to get your recording released – they keep your copy you see. In line with the advice that I would normally give to people about allowing possibly hostile representatives of the state into your home (just don’t, unless it provides a clear tactical advantage), inviting the representative from the Council to your home can actually be a tactical advantage in this situation, if you can stomach the intrusion. You can record in your own home, and (in my opinion) it’s vital in cases like this that you do, because the written word of the Council employee is otherwise the only recorded version of events.

Record the telephone call you make to them inviting them to the home and informing them that the interview will be recorded. This is for your own personal use obviously and not for any redistribution, if one wishes to remain on the virtuous side of the law. It will also help you to remain calm and confident asserting your right to record in your own home. I have heard recordings where people have been flat-out lied to and told they can’t do that, but when the caller calmly perseveres, they get their home visit and the right to record it.

When the Customer Compliance Officer comes round, they will be looking for certain “red flags” around the home, and may either ask questions about your home and how you live in it during the interview, or request to view the house as well as simply asking the questions. According to this section of the Decision Maker’s Guide; they are to examine the following:

Common factors associated with the existence of a household

11055 The DM must consider all the circumstances of a case in deciding whether two people are members of the same household. In addition to DMG 11053, there are other factors commonly associated with a household which should be explored.

These factors have been identified in cases dealing with whether married couples, who claim to be estranged, are still living in the same household, but they may also indicate the existence of a shared household occupied by an unmarried couple or a same sex couple who are not civil partners of each other. The DM should consider evidence relating to the following when making a finding as to whether a household exists

1. the circumstances in which the claimant and their partner came to be living in
the same house;
2. the arrangements for payment for the accommodation;
3. the arrangements for the storage and cooking of food;
4. the eating arrangements (whether separate or not);
5. the domestic arrangements such as cooking, cleaning, gardening and minor
household maintenance;
6. the financial arrangements;
7. evidence of family life

Obviously the more it looks like you “live on top of one another”, the more this information can be construed as evidence that you’re in some sort of common law marriage that would save their department money. I have heard of some cases where even the shared purchase of a large container of milk, or shared laundry loads would be questioned. Point out that we are in a recession, there are austerity measures being meted out across the country, and it is only practical and reasonable to pool together in some areas when appropriate. If you wouldn’t let the other person wash your smalls though, no harm in pointing that out, too.

Basically if your lifestyle isn’t any different to how students sharing a house would live, there’s not much they can say about the day-to-day practicalities and appearances of the home.

The Interview

Here is a FOI request regarding Customer Compliance Officer. The sender of the request has usefully distilled the main points of the downloadable pdf into a helpful list of twenty points that help to cast light on your rights in regards to visits by CCOs.

Remember that you absolutely have the right to record. Make sure that all parties involved identify themselves on record, and do so every time they reconvene after a break. These appointments are supposed to take less than an hour, but can in reality be up to three once the spotlight’s on and they can’t just write what they like and skip out the front door.

The interview is run off a CP2(lt) form, which – according to the DWP – customers should not be allowed to see. If they did have prior access, perhaps people could just have the considered answers to the questions in front of them, and the element of surprise would be lost.

Expect to hear questions designed to figure out whether you knew each other prior to your lodger moving into your spare room, the nature of any pre-existing acquaintance and how long your lodger expects to be staying in your spare room. They may ask whether you do jobs around the home or outside the home for each other, how bills are paid, whether you spend any time together socialising. They will be interested to know the extent of the lodger’s involvement in day-to-day family life, and whether you make joint purchases on household items. They may be interested as to the extent the lodger is permitted to use household facilities such as the phone or internet, ironing board, washing machine, fridge space etc. If you have children in the household, the CCOs will be interested in hearing about the relationship (if any) the lodger has with them.

The CCO will write your answers down, and you will be expected to sign them. A request to fill in the CP2(lt) yourself as it is meant to be your signed account of circumstances will be denied. It is therefore in your best interest to go through the answers the CCO has written down and correct any errors they have made with your phrasing along the way. This is why it can take over an hour longer than expected to do the interview, but it’s important, as CCOs merely collect the information – they have no decision making power – and the Decision Maker is presented with simply the signed written account of the CCO in order to make her decision.

Upon signing your declaration, the CCO will typically leave as quickly as they can – be gracious as they exit, you did it your way, and they know it.

Hopefully the information contained within this article will help to prevent already tightly-squeezed families from feeling the further outrage of having the lodger they took in to avoid the Bedroom Tax be labelled, potentially, their pretend husband or wife; and leaving them back at square one but with a possible fraud allegation to contend with.

Solidarity.

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.

cb10

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?

cb12

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…

Iain Duncan Smith Cares About Drug Addicts, Tesco

There is an interesting snippet tucked away at the end of this Telegraph piece regarding Iain Duncan Smith’s decision that use of the Universal Jobmatch site will now indeed be mandatory for Jobseekers from the New Year (the title, incidentally, was changed from the original “Government to Spy on Computers of the Jobless” to “Jobless to Be Remotely Monitored by Government” by the internet fairies at some point between the publishing date of the 20th December and now, with the original showing on Google and linking to the same piece with the new title).

"We’ll just switch the subject and object around. We’ll just blatantly do that.”

“We’ll just switch the subject and object around. We’ll just blatantly do that.”

Iain Duncan Smith has confirmed that he and his pals have been taking some more time off to don sackcloth and ashes; to pray and fast around the clock until the problem of Drugs and Poor People Using Them is solved. Reports that the giant, golden, jewel encrusted calf that they had been prostrating themselves before actually came to life – eyes blasting out laser beams – and bellowed “SMART CARDS!” as its nostrils belched out pure sulphur and baby screams are as of yet unconfirmed; but it has been confirmed that these jokey little scraps of plastic (“smart” cards preloaded with an allowance to spend on specific essentials from specific stores only, replacing existing JSA cash payments to benefits recipients who happen to also be addicted to drugs) are exactly what the pious parliamentarian and his chums have offered as a solution to the complex and multi-layered issue of drug addiction on the breadline.

As he mentions himself, they can’t actually do any of this, but the very fact that he could bring himself to shamelessly attempt to sell such a thoroughly stupid idea to the public is breathtakingly insulting. People who are dependent on drugs (including alcohol) will not magically “get better” and stop feeling like they need to take drugs just because their bank balance says “zero”. Without additional measures such as decent rehabilitation programs for those who’d take them, medical support for those suffering the acute physical and mental illnesses brought on by abrupt cessation, and increased police numbers to deal with the subsection of people who will in their desperation turn to theft and violent crime; the overall impact on society would be very obviously negative. The social burden of supporting these cashless addicts would fall on the surrounding community – likely as not a less prosperous one – through increased council tax charges or reduced council tax benefit to cover the cost of increased social services, while more prosperous communities would be shielded from the impact due to not many dirty smackheads being able to afford to live in nice houses, in nice towns.

This approach shifts the eventual cost of dealing with drug addicts onto the people in the local community anyway. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be saner to at least allow them cash that could be spent in any local business as opposed to cards that are only allowed in a tiny selection of big chain stores? If the Azure cards, currently being issued to failed asylum seekers temporarily unable to leave the country – are any indication of what Iain Duncan Smith would have to offer, then frankly, as an at least somewhat responsible member of my community, I’d respond with a great big “piss off, Dunky”.

The free market is for citizens, not foreign scum, get it right guise.

The free market is for citizens, not foreign scum, get it right.

As far as Iain Duncan Smith is concerned, he’s not going to be affected either way by the results of his crazy schemes, he’s far too far above us to ever have to consider actually coming face-to-face with a stupid useless junkie anyway. This is the cynical scapegoating and proposed tormenting of a group of vulnerable people, in order to satiate a public simply salivating over the prospect of seeing yet another group of disempowered individuals kicked to the gutter, and gleefully stamped all over in the name of “tough love”. And it wouldn’t even do a damn thing to fix the problem for anybody. Fortunately, as mentioned before, they can’t do it yet, and won’t be able to for a while.

Don’t buy into the bullshit. Drug addiction and poverty, especially when happening simultaneously, are serious and terrible, and the right sorts of confidential support should be in place. The invasive, expensive and humiliating ideological experiments of a handful of chinless wonders are not, I expect, what the doctor would order.

Unless you're me, lol.

Unless you’re me, lol.