Friday, 4 October 2013

Welfare Dependent - who isn't?

If you're anything like me you'll be climbing the walls by now with that over-used phrase so loved by the ConDems and the media: welfare dependency.  We need to challenge and expose some of these nonsense soundbites for what they are.  

Think about that expression 'welfare dependency' for a moment.  When you analyse it you realize it's the most ridiculous expression on earth. I mean what is normally meant by welfare?  What do you understand by it?  I understand it to mean looking after the health and well-being of my fellow human beings.  Dictionary definitions will say 'the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group' and 'statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.'

So being dependent on that or at least that concept is a good thing, isn't it?  Of course, successive governments are using it to mean 'benefit dependency' but again, put this phrase under scrutiny and its absurdity is all too evident.  Benefits are only, after all, the means to living, eating, clothing, shelter, warmth. Show me a person who isn't dependent on these things. Are MPs, CEOs, bankers or any other wealthy idividuals you care to mention somehow immune from this sort of dependency?  Of course not. 

Successive governments are using the phrase 'dependency' in the sense of addiction, with all its negative connotations.  If you think about it, it is actually the wealthiest in society who are more 'addicted to a culture of dependency' - a phrase governments, and especially the Coalition, like to bandy about a lot. Can it be called dependency at all when it is essential for living?  

Let's face it, if we substitute the word 'welfare' for the one of 'oxygen' - (we're all oxygen-dependent ) - we expose the phrase for its utter stupidity.   

Friday, 7 June 2013

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Over two years ago Broken Of Britain were asking for people to comment on their blog – it may have been in relation to the now infamous consultation aka government whitewash ahead of reforming Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

If I am recalling it correctly I took one of the questions from the consultation and submitted my answer to the Broken Of Britain blog which they liked and used on their blog.

This was the question I picked and (roughly) the answer I gave:

The Question: “How do we prioritise support to those people least able to live full and active lives? Which activities are most essential for everyday life?”

My answer: 

“Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point:

At the bottom of the hierarchy it’s essential to meet the basic needs such as food, warmth (disabled people are often more inactive and are more likely to be spending long amounts of time at home and therefore are going to incur more heating costs), and shelter (housing needs must be met and adapted).

 This would also include things like toilet needs/access to toilets – this is important when disabled people are out.  If there are no toilets nearby or easily accessible, this can prevent or ruin an outing.  It would also include things like eg being able to bathe and wash hair.

Moving up the hierarchy after the basic needs are met, come things like protection, security and stability. This is where legislation would be made to protect vulnerable people.  Health protection would be another example eg being able to access doctors and dentists, and being able to have free prescriptions and support when having routine medical procedures.  
It’s only when the essential needs are met that a person, disabled or otherwise, can try and engage with the wider society eg being able to participate in social activities without it being assumed that a person is able to work. Both work and social activities can take it out of the disabled and vulnerable but social life can be tailored to an individual’s needs without being pressured by government departments.  An allowance could be the difference between a disabled person participating or not eg an allowance can help with transport or the accompaniment of another person.

Being able to particpate in creative activities can lift the spirits and feelings of well-being of a disabled person, providing fulfillment and a sense of worth in the way some work can do. Again this can be tailored to an individual’s needs without being pressured by government departments. An allowance could be the difference between a disabled person participating or not eg an allowance can help with transport or the accompaniment of another person.  

Feelings of achievement, self-worth and fulfillment can only be achieved when the essential needs are met.”

So in a nutshell, Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will be able to focus on the secondary or higher level needs.

You can learn more about Maslow's theory on Google but here I will summarize from a Wiki source.

Basically, physiological needs are the physical requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body cannot function properly, and will ultimately fail. Air, water, and food are requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. Clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements.

With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual's safety needs take precedence and dominate Safety and Security needs include, personal and financial security, health and well-being
According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless if these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams etc. Some examples of small social connections include family members, relationships, colleagues, and peer groups.

All humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect and to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Maslow distinguished between two versions of esteem needs: a "lower" version and a "higher" version. The "lower" version of esteem is the need for respect from others. This may include a need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The "higher" version manifests itself as the need for self-respect. For example, the person may have a need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom. This "higher" version takes precedence over the "lower" version because it relies on an inner competence established through experience.
Maslow states that while he originally thought the needs of humans had strict guidelines, the "hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated”. This means that esteem and the subsequent levels are not strictly separated; instead, the levels are closely related.

At the top of the hierarchy is self-actualization. "What a man can be, he must be.” This quotation forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. For example, one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent. In another, the desire may be expressed athletically. For others, it may be expressed in paintings, pictures, or inventions. As previously mentioned, Maslow believed that to understand this level of need, the person must not only achieve the previous needs, but master them.”

Monday, 6 May 2013

Nothing For Something, more like.

Successive governments have used many a mantra to get the public onside regarding welfare reform but for me one of the most pernicious is the ‘something for nothing’ one. The language is designed to rubbish people and dismiss those who are unable to earn enough to live on.  In reality, the reverse of 'something for nothing' can be found in every nook and cranny in society. There are untold numbers of people who receive nothing for something. That is, they give something and expect nothing or very little in return. This generosity of  spirit is particularly prevalent in the creative arts. Think of all the e-pictures, e-books and music downloads that are given away daily on the internet. Think of all the wonderful photos, the satirical blogs and cartoons you enjoy on Facebook and other social media. The Big Society is alive and kicking on the internet. People give and share their creative endeavours for free or for little remuneration. A government that really cared about the creative talent of its people would invest in its artists, and would subsidise those unable to be economically self-sufficient. They would encourage the long term sick and disabled who spend their time creatively and beneficially, instead of seeing them as only economic units to be beaten, bullied, controlled, disempowered and erased.

It might be an alien concept to politicians and those steeped in greed and corruption that there is a generous and giving community out there which they could be encouraging and valuing.

But alas successive governments don’t value the arts unless they are economically productive. They only value people as economic units, hence all the ‘something for nothing’ rhetoric. People are worth nothing to them unless they are economically self-reliant and when governments refer to hard-working people, when did you last hear this in relation to artists? When did you last hear them mention the 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration that is the driving power of artists? In an aggressive Capitalist society, artists – and I use this in the widest sense of the word -  are dispensable if they can’t be self-reliant. Governments talk about the creative industries and the creative talent of our society but they are withdrawing tax credits for self-employed disabled people.

There are countless others those who give their time and expertise to others freely out of kindness and altruism, those who care for their fellow human beings, family members and animals, those who help others get legal or benefits advice, or help others get access to justice. Many of these people offering such expertise are unwell or disabled. Again, these are flourishing online in the form of  blogs and websites. Surely it is time to value and celebrate that which is ‘given away’ for the benefit of all instead of devaluing people as economic units?

Isn’t it high time we had a real and intelligent debate about work in the wider sense of ‘using one’s time valuably’ for the benefit of the whole community? 

If you are interested in sharing your creations or just hanging out with like-minded creatives, please join our Facebook group  to find out more. Although it was set up for those with long term health problems and disabilities, all those who agree with this ethos will be very welcome.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Notes On The Spirit Level - why more equal societies always fare better

Last summer I read The Spirit Level and took notes from it. I can highly recommend it. There are a lot of graphs and so probably not best for bedtime reading. That's why I decided to write a blog about some of the highlights.  At the end of the book the authors have added a chapter to answer their critics.

The writers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett outline extensive research in their book to show that more equal societies always do better than unequal ones.  Not only do smaller income differences help the poor, they also help everyone in society.

They looked at all the wealthiest societies and found that it isn't so much inequalities between different societies that do so much harm as inequalities within societies.

Both Japan and Sweden do well on equality. ‘Sweden does it through redistributive taxes and benefits and a large welfare state. As a proportion of national income, public social expenditure in Japan is, in contrast to Sweden, among the lowest of the developed countries. Japan gets its high degree of equality of market incomes, of earnings before taxes and benefits.' 


‘Greater equality can be gained either by using taxes and benefits to redistribute very unequal incomes or by greater equality in gross incomes before taxes and benefits, which leaves less need for redistribution.’

Wilkinson and Pickett, looked at a variety of measures such as: the number of teenage pregnancies, health factors including mental health, friendship and trust,  violence and the consequences of crime eg the prevalence of prisons etc.

Obesity is an interesting one. ‘…In poorer societies both obesity and heart disease are more common among the rich, but as societies get richer they tend to reverse that social distribution and become more common among the poor.’

They found that ‘Friendship and involvement in social life are highly protective of good health, while low social status or…more inequality, are harmful.’  They found that social status and friendship represent the two opposite ways in which human beings can come together. On the one hand, social status stratification is ‘fundamentally ordering based on power and coercion, on privileged access to resources, regardless of others’ needs’.  Friendship on the other hand is ‘about reciprocity, mutuality, sharing, social obligations, co-operation and recognition of each other’s need’.

‘Less hierarchical societies are less male-dominated…and the position of women is better. Similarly the quality of social relations in more equal societies is less hostile. People trust each other more and community life is stronger, there is less violence and punishment is less harsh.’

Wilkinson and Pickett found that ‘dominance strategies are almost certainly pre-human in origin. They would not have been appropriate to life in the predominantly egalitarian socities of Stone Age human hunters and gatherers’ and that 'the current highly unequal societies are exceptional. For over 90% of our existence as human beings we highly egalitarian societies…modern inequality arose and spread with the development of agriculture’.

‘Hunter-gatherer societies maintained equality through food sharing and reciprocal gift exchange and counter-dominance strategies’ 

'Dominance hierarchies are about self-advancement and status competition. Individuals have to be self-reliant and other people are encountered mainly as rivals for food and mates. At the other extreme is mutual interdependence and co-operation…sense of self-worth comes… from the contribution made to the wellbeing of others.’  Ring any bells?  This government's whole Welfare strategy is based on the survival of the fittest.

The authors compare eg Cuba and the States: Cuba, despite its much lower income levels, has life expectancy and infant mortality rate almost identical to those in the United States.

Closer to home, egalitarian policies were implemented by Britain during the Second World War. ‘To gain public co-operation in the war effort, the burden had to be seen to be fairly shared.’ 
 The economist Herman Daly first proposed 'the steady-state economy'.

The authors claim that ‘It would be a mistake to think that a steady-state economy would mean stagnation and lack of change. Parodoxically the transition to a sustainable steady-state economy would create huge demands of innovation and change.’ 

It’s often suggested that invention and innovation go with inequality however evidence shows that more equal societies tend to be more creative. More patents are granted per head in more equal societies.  ‘Whether this is because talent goes undeveloped or wasted in more unequal societies, or whether hierarchy breeds conformity is anyone’s guess.’  

'Working hours vary in relation to inequality.  More unequal countries tend to have longer working hours and also differences in working hours changed in line with changes in inequality over several decades…people in more unequal countries do the equivalent of 2 or 3 months’ extra work a year.’  

The authors also show that ‘inequality weakens community life…the weakening of community life and the growth of consumerism are related.’ 

‘…more equal countries tend to pay a higher proportion of their national income in foreign aid…more unequal societies also seem to be more belligerent internationally.  Inequality is related to worse scores on the Global Peace Index which combines measure of militarization with measures of domestic and international conflict, and measures of security, human rights and stability.’  

‘Politics was once seen as a way of improving people’s social and emotional wellbeing by changing their economic circumstances. But over the last few decades the bigger picture has been lost.’ 

In Britain & US, inequality increases peaked in the early 1990s and have changed little since then. ‘In both countries inequality remains at levels almost unprecedented since records began…' Indeed income differences are now ‘not far short of 40% greater than they were in the mid-1970s’.

Widening of income differences occurred particularly during 1980s and early 1990s in Britain and the USA. Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist, analyses reasons for rising inequality in the USA…one of the main features was runaway income at the top eg CEOs. Krugman argues that  rising inequality was driven by “changes in institutions, norms and political power”. He emphasises 'the weakening of trade unions, the abandonment of productivity sharing agreements, the influence of the political right, and government changes in taxes and benefits. He could also have added the failure to maintain adequate minimum wage legislation.'

'In USA inequalities rose to a peak just before the Great Crash of 1929, then narrowed so dramatically in the late 1930s and early 40s that the period is sometimes referred to as the ‘Great Compression’. Income differences then remained narrower until the late 1970s or mid 1980s. Then they started to widen rapidly again until just before the recent financial crash where they reached levels of inequality not seen since just before the 1929 crash.'

‘If “market forces” were the real drivers of inequality, it is unlikely that the post-war settlement would have remained intact for 3 or 4 decades…the ending of that consensus was very clearly related to a rightward shift in political opinion. The triumph of the new right extolling the benefits of the free market and the dominance of monetarist economics were enshrined in the political leadership of Reagan in the USA and Thatcher in Britain. Communism had ceased to be a realistic threat and many governments privatised what had been state owner public utilities’

'In Japan there is often a much closer relationship between management and unions…the Japanese Federation of Employers Association found that 15% of the directors of large companies were former trade union officials. In the countries of the European Union the earnings of some 70% of employees are covered by collective agreements, compared to 15% in US. At 35% the UK is among the lowest in the EU.'

‘If you fail to avoid high inequality, you will need more prisons and police, have higher rates of mental illness, drug abuse and every other level of problem…if keeping taxes and benefits down leads to wider income differences, the need to deal with the ensuing social ills may force you to raise public expenditure to cope’. It is perhaps telling that since 1980, in the US, public expenditure on prisons increased six times as fast as education.

In Britain over the last 20 years polls have shown that around 80% of the population has thought that income differences are too big (rarely dipping below 75%) even though most people underestimate how big income differences actually are. 

'It is in institutions where we are employed that we are most explicitly placed in a rank-ordered hierarchy, superior and inferiors, bosses and subordinates.'

'In 2007 chief executives and the largest US companies received well over 500 times the pay of their average employee and these differences were getting bigger. In many of the top companies, the chief executive is paid more each day than the average worker is in a year.’ 

'Denationalization of major industries and the privatization of large numbers of friendly societies, mutuals, building societies, provident societies and credit unions, which had been controlled by their members, may have made a substantial contribution to widening income differences.'

Here is a sobering thought: ‘Numerous corporations are now bigger than many nation states....Other estimates suggest that half the world’s largest economies are multinationals, and that General Motors is bigger than Denmark, that Daimler Chrysler is bigger than Poland; Royal Dutch/Shell bigger than Venezuala, and Sony bigger than Pakistan…these productive assets remain effectively in the hands of a very few, very rich people..’

‘Democratic employee-ownership not only avoids concentrating power in the hands of the state but evaluations suggest it has major economic and social advantages over organizations owned and controlled by outside investors in whose interests they act.’

Studies of how work affects health show that …'people seem to thrive when they have more control over their work. Having control at work was the most successful single factor explaining threefold differences in death rates between senior and junior civil servants working in the same government offices in Britain..probably to do with a sense of autonomy and not feeling so directly subordinated…there is growing evidence that a sense of unfairness at work is an important risk factor for poor health.'

'Employee-ownership increases equality – it is bottom-up rather than top-down…employees might agree that the CEO of the company could be paid a salary several times as big as their own – maybe three or perhaps even ten times as big as their own. But unlikely that they would say several hundred times as big… such huge differences can only be maintained by denying any measure of economic democracy .'

‘Who, apart from the super-rich would vote for multi-million dollar bonuses for the corporate and financial elite while denying adequate incomes to people who undertake so many essential and sometimes unpleasant tasks – such as caring for the elderly, collecting the trash, or working in emergency services?…Modern inequality exists because democracy is excluded from the economicsphere..’ 

'If Britain became as equal as the four most equal rich countries: Japan, Norway, Sweden and Finland, levels of trust might be expected to be two thirds as high again as they are now, mental illness might be halved, everyone might get an additional year of life, teenage birth rates could fall to one third of what they are now, homicide rates could fall by 75%, everyone could get the equivalent of 7 weeks extra holiday a year and the government could be closing prisons all over the country.'

But this has to take the biscuit:

In a major speech at the end of 2009 David Cameron said ‘The Spirit Level’ showed ‘that among the richest countries it’s the more unequal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator…per capita GDP is much less significant for a country’s life expectancy, crime levels, literacy and health than the size of the gap between the richest and poorest in the population…we all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches we all remain the poorer for it.’ 

So what happened, Dave?


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Fibromyalgia - Warning DWP Malingering Alert

If you have Fibromyalgia and are due to be assessed for Employment & Support Allowance via the Work Capability Assessment - beware.

Fibromyalgia (along with ME) is one of those conditions that UNUM Provident (parent company of Atos and advisers to the government over Welfare Reform) tried to discredit in the United States so that they didn't have to pay out insurance claims.  The same model is being used over here and if you have any doubt just read the PDF on the matter by following the link further down. It is entitled 'Fibromyalgia - Guidelines For The Disability Analyst'.  I tried to Google other conditions to see if they too were targeted in this way but couldn't find any other conditions that are subject to this derisory treatment. It may be that Fibromyalgia was subject to a Freedom of Information Request which is still ongoing.

Under Section 9 of the pdf you will find this statement:

9.6.1 Malingering

"Although apparent inconsistencies between the clinical findings and the claimed degree of disability are an intrinsic feature of these disorders, we must be alert for any areas where such inconsistencies are so unusual or conflicting as to suggest that the claimant is making an intentional attempt to simulate disability in the pursuit of gain.  The use of  “malingering” and other pejorative terms should be avoided but it is possible to describe outstanding contradictions in a way that is fair, overt and yet non-judgemental."

So there you have it here in black and white.  This is what Disability Analysts think about people with fibromyalgia (consistent with the disability denial that swept the States and resulting in UNUM Provident being sued and banned in many states there).  The DWP knows this but doesn't care.

If you have fibromyalgia you will suffer from some if not all of the following and more:

Widepsread pain, tenderness and sore points
Debilitating Fatigue
Sleep Problems
Irritable Bladder Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Vitamin D Deficiency
Sjogren's Syndrome
Myofascial Pain
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Epstein Barr Virus
Body Temperature Problems
Sensitivity to Humidity, Weather Changes, Smells, Noise, Light and Touch

Saturday, 23 February 2013

James O'Brien 8 IDS 0

James O’Brien interviews Iain Duncan Smith on LBC 97.3, Wednesday 20th February 2013.

I am including the highlights (most of the interview) as a result of the Court of Appeal's ruling in the case of Cait Reilly (and the other appellant), though you will miss out on the condescending sneers  and irritation in Iain Duncan Smith’s timbre. You will also miss out on James O’Brien’s perceptiveness and wonderful technique for demolishing the meaningless waffle espoused from the mouth of IDS.

JO: ...You think that they think shelf-stacking is beneath them…

IDS: ..That’s a ridiculous point if you don’t mind me saying so. Because I didn’t say that. What I said was -

JO: I've got the transcript in front of me.

IDS: People who are doing work experience which is us allowing people to continue to earn their Job Seeker’s Allowance…they will learn all sorts of different skills…going into a business and involving yourself in a supermarket stacking shelves is as vital as any other job that you might have to do and particularly as all of us go to shop in supermarkets the point I was making - which is more important in life if your shelves have not got food on them, doesn’t the shelf-stacker have some particularly strong position in society?

JO: Yes, but you were talking about a woman who had no problem with stacking shelves, she merely wanted to be paid for it.

IDS: She was paid for it…what do you think the taxpayer was paying for God’s sake? That’;s what we are paying her to do (shouting down James O’Brien)

JO: I’m glad you’ve said that …(repeats it several times)

IDS: So what, you’d rather -

JO: If you let me, I’ll tell you -

IDS: - that the taxpayer allows her to sit on unemployment not getting work experience?

JO: If you let me I’ll tell you…let me read to you the official Department of Work & Pensions response to a petition to abolish Workfare and I quote from your own department: ‘We do not have Work For Your Benefits or Workfare Schemes in this country.” A further response to a Freedom of Information request for your own department states -

IDS: We don’t have a Workfare Programme.

JO:  “…Benefit is not paid to the claimant as a remuneration for the activity”  so explain to me how she can earn her Job Seekers Allowance in a country where benefit is not paid as a remuneration ?

IDS: Because the Work Experience Programme is one which you can volunteer to do…once you volunteer to do it’s made clear to you

JO: But the Court of Appeal has just found -

IDS: (Getting worked up): Listen, you’ve asked me a question, why don’t you let me answer it?

JO: I am letting you answer it but you’re not answering the question I asked.

IDS: Let me finish OK?  If you just want to make a mess of this that’s fine …

JO: That’s your prerogative, Mr Iain Duncan Smith

IDS: We do not have a Workfare Programme…

JO: Aren’t they forced to do it? The Court of Appeal has just found that they are.

IDS: You don’t understand what the Court of Appeal has just found.

JO: I’m afraid that I do.

IDS: You don’t, with respect.

JO: Why don’t you explain.

IDS: I will, thank you. What the Court of Appeal found was that it was not against their Human Rights to do it which was -

JO: I haven’t mentioned Human Rights.

IDS: That’s what they did – they brought that case on the basis of Human Rights…

JO: I haven’t mentioned Human Rights

IDS: …the Court found that the regulations around this should have been more specific to each individual scheme. We deliberately set them general around all work schemes and they’ve asked us to set them more specifically, we have done that…

JO: I need to clarify this point. You used the word ‘earn’ to describe the payment of Jobseekers Allowance to somebody working for a highly profitable company like Poundland.  That is your phrase. You used it on this programme and you used it on the Andrew -

IDS: That’s because -

JO: You don’t like being interrupted yourself, Mr Duncan Smith.

IDS: OK, fire away.

JO: And then we learn from your own department that benefit is not paid to the claimant as a remuneration for the activity. Those two positions are completely irreconcilable.

IDS: No, they’re not. Listen. They volunteer to do this. Wehave allowed them to continue to receive Jobseekers Allowance for the time they’re doing Work Experience. What she was saying is ‘we’re not paid, we don’t receive any money.’ My answer is you do – the taxpayer is paying you Jobseekers Allowance. We’ve allowed you to do Work Experience and not lose your Jobseekers Allowance.

JO: So it’s remuneration for working

IDS: In the past she would have lost her Jobseekers Allowance.

JO: So the benefit is payment for the work.

IDS: I don’t quite understand what you’re getting concerned about.

JO: If you concentrated on what I’m saying instead of telling me to listen all the time you would. She’s getting paid for doing the work at Poundland with her Jobseekers Allowance.

IDS: It’s Work Experience.

JO: It’s a pay packet.

IDS: It’s Work Experience. She’s benefiting from the Work Experience but then she’ll go on and be more likely to be employed in the future. I think that’s a positive. I think it’s ludicrous to assume this is some kind of negative -

JO: You know that this woman had actually secured voluntary work experience and you also know that to describe as somehow sneering or looking down at shelf-stacking is absurd.

IDS: But she volunteered to go on the Work Experience Programme.

JO: Because she’d been lied to about what it would involve as the Court of Appeal found last week.

IDS: They did not find that she was lied to.

JO: I’m sorry you just said that they needed to clarify exactly what the regulations were.

IDS: The regulations were around the withdrawal of benefit if she failed to comply with what she’d agreed to do. 

JO: Which only works if the benefit is a reward for doing the Work Experience.

IDS: With respect, if you’d read what the judgement was –

JO: I’ve read every word of the judgement, Mr Duncan Smith.

IDS: Then you need to understand it, with respect.

JO: Well with respect to you I do and insulting me doesn’t advance the argument in any way.

IDS: I’m not insulting you. This debate is going nowhere because you’ve made your mind up before you gave this interview.

JO: Au Contraire. This debate is incredibly illuminating.

IDS: Are you saying to me that these kids shouldn’t be doing Work Experience - ?

JO: I’m saying if they’re working they should get paid.  It’s quite straightforward.  You are. Why shouldn’t they be?

IDS: They’re on Jobseekers Allowance. The taxpayer is paying them. They’re getting Work Experience -

JO: So what is the minimum wage for?

IDS: This is Work Experience. They are doing up to two months Work Experience. I don’t quite understand why you think they shouldn’t be doing that, that they should be paid a full wage because the companies aren’t committed to taking them on…many of them do…

JO: Hang on, remind me of the companies that have pulled out of the scheme?

IDS: There are more companies that have joined the scheme than have even pulled out.

JO: I don’t think that’s an answer to my question.

IDS (Starts singing the praises of the schemes and benefits to young kids etc)

JO: It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, it doesn’t sound any more plausible or convincing that the bottom line is you’re using benefits to pay an incredibly cheap workforce to subsidize incredibly profitable companies and passing it off as some sort of assault on a fictional feckless generation.

IDS: I don’t agree with you.

JO: Of course you don’t…1700 people in Nottingham applying for 8 jobs.

IDS: Look, there are more people in work today than at any time on record.

JO: There are more people alive today than any point since records began. What a strange observation!

IDS: OK, this is turning into a bit of a political diatribe on your part…I’ve come on here to talk quite rightly about the fact that even in quite difficult times the British Labour market is doing better than we would have expected, that long-term unemployment is falling, that the reality is that employment is improving and that unemployment is falling as well and I believe that the Programmes we’ve set about this…that Work Experience is critical to that to help young people get the experience of the world of work. We simply won’t agree about that…

JO: I’m terribly sorry, I agree with you entirely. People need an awful lot of help to get back into work as has been proved by the fact that 1700 people are applying for 8 jobs in a coffee shop in Nottingham today, What would you say to the 1692 who failed?

IDS: The reality is that even in that area there are 15,000 vacancies and the reality is that the claimant count in that area is falling.

JO: That’s really what you’d say to them? The reality is -

IDS: Let me finish…what I’d say is actually this.  You have to keep looking for jobs, there are jobs there, it’s not easy, I’m not saying there’s a magic wand around to wave, with the reality that people are looking for those jobs is a positive point to make for young people’s determination to find work, our job is to make sure we make the circumstances right around those companies so they can actually create more work -

JO: Sorry you’ve lost me.

IDS: - Which is what they’re doing

JO: Sorry you’ve lost me.

IDS: Come back to the figures. Overall -

JO: Yeah 1962 people

IDS: - there are 15,000 vacancies in the same area

JO: So it’s a positive

IDS: I don’t quite know what your point is here.

JO: I’m not surprised. You’re not listening to a word I’m saying. To the 1692 people who failed to get one of these jobs in a coffee shop you’d say that’s a positive.

IDS: I didn’t say that at all.

JO: I think you did.

IDS:  But if you want to keep trying to indicate what I say when I said quite clearly, look all of them will be deeply disappointed but the reality is there are jobs, there is work there and people will have to keep on looking for it, this is not easy times. You know, if you were sitting in France or Italy or Spain-

JO: Yes, but we’re not.

IDS: - you’d find these positions much more positive.

JO: OK, so I understand now.  You say to them, be grateful you don’t live in France.

IDS: No, I’m not saying that. I said, the positive figures today are a good indication that the private sector is creating jobs, there are more people in work, there are more jobs, the claimant count is falling, these are positives, I’m not saying they’re brilliant, they’re positive…there are half a million vacancies on a daily basis in the UK -

JO: - For two and half million Job Seekers.

IDS: …more people are entering the work force, more people are being employed and long term unemployed people are being found work and the programmes we’re putting around them including Work Experience which you don’t seem to think much of –

JO: No, I just think people should be paid.

IDS: They are being paid, the tax-payer is paying for them.

JO: Yes, that’s the astonishing element of this whole exchange, isn’t it?

IDS: There’s nothing astonishing about it –

JO: - that you think a benefit is a payment for work done.

IDS: No what I think is, Work Experience gives people a chance to see the world of work, it gives a chance for the company to see them, I think the taxpayer is making an investment in that because for 2 months that gives them now a much better chance of getting into work. I don’t agree with you at all. I think the Work Experience Programme is a huge success –

JO: Apart from the little wobble in the Court of Appeal last week.

IDS: - It is a strong and good programme and I’m very proud of it

JO: What happens finally if your challenge to the Court of Appeal findings last week fails?

IDS: We’ve already said we’ve changed the regulations going forward –

JO: So the thing you’re proud of has been changed.

IDS: No, the programmes themselves are exactly the same.

JO: But the regulations have changed…the programme is exactly the same but the regulations have changed.

IDS: The regulations around the programme they said should be tightened up and we’ve tightened them up.

I think the interview says it all.  To hear it in its entirety go to:

Monday, 28 January 2013

My MPs Reply re 1% Cap on Benefits Rise

This was my MPs response regarding my email to her regarding the freezing of benefits rise to one per cent, bearing in mind I have communicated with her on many matters regarding my concerns over welfare reform particularly in relation to people with disabilities:

  Thank you for taking the time to email me with regard to the government’s decision to only increase certain benefits by 1 per cent as part of the Welfare Up-Rating Bill. I realise that there is little I can say that will be of reassurance. The following seeks to explain the reasons for this difficult decision. 

 I do understand that this cap will make life more difficult for many people already on low incomes. However the fact is that since 2007, out of work benefits have increased by 20 per cent, while average earnings have only risen by 10 per cent. In other words over this time period, those on out of work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as many of those in work. 

 It is important to ensure that our welfare system is seen to be fair but also to make sure that work always pays more. The other measures taken to boost incomes for working families include the biggest ever increase to the personal allowance, help with fuel costs and freezing council tax bills for the third year running. 

 It is estimated that the average working household is £125 better off as a result of announcements made in the Autumn Statement including the uprating decisions. 

 Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. 

To which I have replied:

 Thank you for your letter 25th January in reply to our email expressing our dismay with the benefits cap of 1 %. 

 You state that 'it is important to ensure that our welfare system is seen to be fair but also to make sure that work always pays more.' But it is grossly unfair and people aren't believing that mantra any more.  

Further more you state "the fact is that since 2007, out of work benefits have increased by 20 per cent, while average earnings have only risen by 10 per cent. In other words over this time period, those on out of work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as many of those in work." It is meaningless talking in percentages when we are talking 20 per cent of £71. I can't express it any better than Michael Meacher did in his blog of 10th January in which he completely demolishes that argument and demonstrates that percentages are meaningless compared to absolute values... (blog copied and pasted for MPs benefit).

I wish I'd also mentioned that disability benefits were supposed to be protected from this cap.  I also wish I'd asked her to take a one per cent freeze in her salary in the name of fairness - but of course, when it comes to fairness, they are immune, aren't they, MPs? A law unto themselves.