Category Archives: Government policy

Proof, If You Needed Any, That The Government Are Lost Up Their Own Backsides, At Least IDS Is

In a week that saw that nice man Iain Duncan Smith bully through his cuts to some benefits by up to £30 per week he has come under attack from an erstwhile ally.

The Social Market Foundation Thinktank have published a report claiming that the current disability benefits system is “broken” and must be comprehensively overhauled.  I’m sure nobody here would argue with that and it represents a significant government failure and yet more government wastage.

The (surely unwelcome) report recommends scrapping entirely the work capability assessment which is the somewhat discredited test used by the Department for Work and Pensions  to determine who is eligible for out-of-work sickness benefits and who should be classed as “fit for work”.

The report recommends tha the government should devise a properly funded system which would identify those disabled people closest to being able to get a job, while those too ill or disabled to work should have a “level of benefit provided … sufficient to allow them to live comfortably and engage fully in society”.

Also recommended in the report is the proposal that the government should abandon the failing, and hugely unpopular, benefit sanction system for people with chronic illness or a disability – instead putting an emphasis on support meetings and financial incentives through a “steps to work wage” on top of their unemployment benefit.

The bit that amuses me no end is the identity of the author. The report was written by Matthew Oakley – a former Treasury adviser who until 2013 was head of economics at the right-of-centre Policy Exchange thinktank. He’s on Iain Duncan Smith’s own social security advisory committee.

This shambolic Tory government has been responsible for what are the most disastrous social policy reforms in living memory.

There is some evidence that government policies will actually reduce disabled people’s chance of finding work and that many on the current rate are already struggling to afford to eat, typical of the current government approach: a disdain for both facts and people’s lives.

When even the government’s own advisers can no longer pretend this system is anything but rotten and their own side is turning against them it might just be time to listen, not that their track record on listening is terribly good.

‘No one should die penniless and alone’: the victims of Britain’s harsh welfare sanctions

I’m not going to say a huge amount about this, this awful, tragic story speaks for itself.

 

David Clapson was found dead last year after his benefits were stopped on the grounds that he wasn’t taking the search for work seriously. He had an empty stomach, and just £3.44 to his name.

We know that David Clapson was actively searching for work when he died because a pile of CVs he had just printed out was found a few metres from his body.

But officials at the Jobcentre believed he was not taking his search for work seriously enough, and early last July, they sanctioned him – cutting off his benefit payments entirely, as a punishment for his failure to attend two appointments.

Clapson, 59, who had diabetes, died in his flat in Stevenage on 20 July 2013, from diabetic ketoacidosis (caused by an acute lack of insulin). When Gill Thompson, his younger sister, discovered his body, she found his electricity had been cut off (meaning that the fridge where he kept his insulin was no longer working). There was very little left to eat in the flat – six tea bags, an out-of-date tin of sardines and a can of tomato soup. His pay-as-you-go mobile phone had just 5p credit left on it and he had only £3.44 in his bank account

Thank you very much to the Guardian, their full story on this tragedy can be found here.

I don’t think I can possibly comment further, and keep my temper, but what I do want to know is this

  • Iain Duncan Smith – do you really think that was a Proportionate response by DWP to a failure to attend two meetings?
  • Does Her Majesty’s Government truly have so little regard for life that they can allow this to happen in their name?
  • David Cameron – What sanctions do you envisage against the Civil Servant  who stopped this poor man’s benefits TOTALLY, and with so little regard for his life?
  • Can Her Majesty’s Government assure us that this will NEVER be allowed to happen again?

If you are as appalled as I was about this story (and let’s be honest, even if only some of it is 100% accurate, it’s still appalling) please consider signing Mr Clapson’s sister’s petition here

Finally, is this really the sort of Government Policy that Great Britain wants or deserves?  I’m not in favour of Benefits Scroungers in any way, shape or form, but I AM totally opposed to the State acting in such a high-handed manner as to lead to the death of anyone, let alone an ex-serviceman.

What Exactly Is The Point Of Trading Standards Any More?

I recently had occasion to contact Trading Standards due to an unsatisfactory transaction.  Naively I thought they dealt with things like that.  Indeed, DeadBadgerShire Council has a Public Protection Department, which seems to have taken over from Trading Standards.  So I emailed them and asked them for some advice and whether or not they were interested in pursuing the offending company, who seem to excel in ignoring their customers.

Today I got the following response back from Public Protection;

“Thank you for contacting DeadBAdgerShire Council with regard to your purchase of …………. from the internet.

Initial consumer advice and information in DeadBadgerShire is now provided by the Citizens Advice consumer service.  This service provides free, confidential and impartial consumer advice on consumer issues.

To access the advice service, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 (Welsh language service – 08454 04 05 05).  Opening hours are 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.  Textphone users should dial 18001 then the full consumer helpline number.

Call charges for the national 0845 number are around 6p per minute from a BT landline (depending on your package).  Charges from other networks may vary and mobiles may cost considerably more.  Consequently, you may wish to use 0208 1850 710 (Welsh language service – 0208 1850 717), which is charged at your local rate.  Charges for calls to this number may be lower, depending on your supplier.

Alternatively visit www.adviceguide.org.uk where you will find a wide range of self-help advice and information, which is available all day every day.

Local Authorities, including DeadBadgerShire Council, are working and developing partnerships with the Citizens Advice consumer service to deliver effective consumer advice and enforcement both locally, in DeadBadgerShire, and across the UK.

Please note that your message has not been forwarded to the Citizens Advice consumer service.”

So I can only assume that Camoron’s Cuts have cut deep, I know Councils have had their funding cut back by Central Government, and now they have to rely on a charity to fulfil their obligations.  What an utterly disgraceful state of affairs, I hope you’re proud of yourself Dave, no votes here, don’t come knocking.

Social Investigations: NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests.

Social Investigations: NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests..

 

This list represents the dire state of our democracy. The financial and vested interests of our MPs and Lords in private healthcare.

Over 200 parliamentarians have recent past or present financial links to companies involved in healthcare and all were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care bill, turning it into an Act.

Who cares that they have put it in the register of interests. This doesn’t excuse their interests, it merely highlights clearly why they should have no part in voting for what is fast becoming the dismantling of the NHS. It is privatisation, despite the media’s continued use of the word ‘reforms’. The question must be asked. Are they public servants or corporate servants?

 

If you care about the NHS et al, please read the full blog at the above link

I’m So Furious I Can’t Even Think of a Title

I wasn’t going to write a blog today.

Got too much plumbing and gardening that need seeing to.

Then I was going to have a rest.

Then I saw this headline in the on-line Daily Mirror (at least it wasn’t the #Fail)

Iain Duncan Bloody Smith has excelled himself AGAIN.

‘He’ paid his staff bonuses totalling more than £44million last year while slashing benefits for countless needy and vulnerable people.

The top Tory’s department is in chaos with delays to flagship benefit reforms, a huge benefit tests backlog, botched work capability assessments and an IT crisis.

But senior civil service fatcats based in Whitehall were still paid bonuses of up to £17,500, based on performance the previous year.

In all, just 62 of them shared £671,000 on top of hefty salaries that often run to six figures.

And more junior Department for Work and Pensions staff were paid bonuses of up to £2,710 to top up their wages.

The average payment to rank-and-file employees was £515.

In all, 97,701 of the department’s 99,739 staff – a staggering 98% – shared more than £43.8million.

Quite apart from the fact that this is morally bankrupt, what on earth is the Bonus System doing in the Public Sector anyway?  This means that we, Mr and Mrs Taxpayer, have paid these bonuses.
Did you want to pay DWP bullies a bonus?  I didn’t.  When I worked in the Public Sector I didn’t get paid a bonus, nor did I even expect one or think that I SHOULD be paid one.
Where does this bonus money originate from? Savings from the ATOS Experience?  What, exactly does one have to achieve in DWP to qualify for a bonus?
I feel an #FOI coming on.
Have a good weekend
Rant over.

The Crucifixion Cycle

And so it has started.

In truth it probably started a year or two ago, but various distractions have kept our blinkers in place.

The Crucifixion Cycle

Stage 1

Slash Resources

Government slashes the resources of the public body in question.  Be it NHS, Armed Forces, Police, Education, Coastguard, Fire Service, Probation…..the list just goes on and on.  They have all had their resources slashed to the bone (and possibly deeper) by this failing coalition government in the name of Austerity. Be under NO illusions, more cuts are coming, Gideon says so.

Stage 2

Highlight The Failings

Next Step is to commission a report highlighting the failings of said public body. Policy Exchange (other Think Tanks are widely available) are normally good at issuing reports that seem to support government’s plan of action.

Stage 3

Get the Press to Crucify the Public Body for Their Failings

Certain sectors of the British Press seem only too willing to publish articles, splashed across their front pages, or 1st item on the 10 o’clock news etc, crucifying the public body for their failings. They never seem to mention slashed resources at this stage, just how serious and awful the failings have been, whip up some public backlash, and launch a “heads should roll” theme to move it forward.

Police and NHS are currently suffering at the hands of Stage 3.  Whose turn next?

Stage 4

Privatisation.

These public bodies can’t be trusted to organise a beer-drinking event in a brewery.  Just look at the headlines at Stage 3. I know how to sort this out, we’ll privatise them.  We’ve got some Lords with interests in suitable private companies, let’s give them a shot at sorting it all out, perfect solution.

Am I wrong?

Is this NOT how it happens?

Where are you on the Wheel of Fortune?

Have you been crucified yet?

2015

“What’s so special about 2015?”  you may ask. It’s just a number, just another year, a bit like 1984 maybe.

2015 is the proposed date for the next General Election, but 2015 is so much more than that.  The next election is almost an irrelevance, no-one knows who to vote for any more any way.

In April 2015 the Civil Service Pension Scheme will change;

For those civil servants who move to the new 2015 scheme, the main features are:

  • A move to a ‘career average’ scheme, rather than ‘final salary’ for those currently in classicclassic plus and premium schemes. This means your benefits earned after April 2015 will be calculated in a different way. They will be based on an average of your earnings for each year you work until you leave or retire rather than the last salary you are on. nuvos is already a career average scheme.
  • A new ‘accrual rate’ of 2.32%. An ‘accrual rate’ is the percentage of your salary that the scheme puts aside each year towards your pension. The current rate for nuvos is 2.3%.
  • A new ‘Scheme Pension Age’ in line with your ‘State Pension Age’ (due to increase to 68 over time). This is the age at which you can draw your new scheme benefits in full. You would be able to retire earlier but your Civil Service pension would be reduced to reflect that it would be paid out for longer. The current Scheme Pension Age for nuvos is 65.

The current final salary police pension schemes will close from April 2015, with future accrual based on the new CARE model.

In a final salary scheme, your pension is typically worked out as a fraction of your final salary for each year of service. The ‘final salary’ used is generally the highest paid level of your last few years. For instance:

  • if you are in the Police Pension Scheme 1987, you receive a pension calculated as ((1/60th x the number of years up to 20) + (2/60 x the number of years served between 20 and 30 years)) x final pensionable pay
  • if you are in the New Police Pension Scheme 2006, you receive a pension calculated as 1/70th x final pensionable pay x years (up to a maximum of 35 years)

In a career average scheme, each year you build up a ‘slice’ of pension based on your salary in that year. At the end of each year, the slice is increased in line with the revaluation rate used for that scheme – typically either prices or earnings increases – to maintain the value of the pension earned. When a member finally retires, their total pension is calculated by adding up the slices of pension they have built up each year throughout their career.

April 2015 was also scheduled to be the date for implementing the new State Pension Scheme, of a Flat Rate Pension of £140 per week.  Reforms were expected to be introduced in 2015, however Prime Minister David Cameron has called for the reforms to be re-examined, according to the Financial Times, calling the expected deadline into question.

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme is also scheduled to change (not for the better perhaps) on 1st April 2015.

April 2015 also sees changes to the Firefighters Pension Scheme; another Career Average Scheme, much along the same lines as other Public Service Pensions.

David Cameron originally assured us that Coastguard Stations would begin to close in 2015, but now seems to have forgotten that promise and the closures have already begun. Rest assured though, I’m sure all scheduled closures will have happened by 2015.

The existing 35 local probation trusts are to be scrapped and replaced by a single, smaller, national probation service. They will also be replaced by 21 “government-owned companies” covering England and Wales that will invite bids from the private and voluntary sectors, including G4S and Serco, to take over existing probation work as well as the new rehabilitation programme for released short-sentenced prisoners. The plans are to be in place by the next general election in 2015.

From 2015 GCSE’s will be graded eight to one, instead of A* to G, and the pass mark will be higher.

There’ll be a move towards essay-based exams at the end of two years, instead of coursework and assessments during the course.

The content will be harder too – for example, English will require studying a 19th-Century novel and a whole Shakespeare play.

The armed forces budget is not safe from cuts after 2015, David Cameron has publicly admitted for the first time.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, is preparing a Spending Review for 2015/16 that has raised the prospect of more cuts in the Ministry of Defence budget, on top of those made by the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

Mr Cameron has previously insisted that “defence can’t be exempt all together from difficult decisions”.

Citizens Advice Bureaux may be forced to close if plans to change the system of civil legal aid go ahead. The Government’s proposals are intended to cut the legal aid bill by £350 million a year by 2015. Funding for a wide range of disputes – including some divorce, clinical negligence, and immigration where the person is not detained – would be axed.

Independent Living Fund

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) – which provides money to help people with disabilities live an independent life in the community – is to close in 2015.

Funding will be incorporated into local social care arrangements – through local councils in England and the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.

People who already have ILF care packages will have to transfer to new local arrangements.

October 2015, Personal Independence Payment, Claimants aged 16-64 still receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will start to be contacted to claim Personal Independence Payment instead.

NHS Reform, to be completed by 2015, the reforms are partly designed to encourage greater involvement from the private sector and charities. In total, £1 of every £20 spent in the NHS goes to a non-NHS provider. The cost of the reform programme is £1.4bn.

Most of that will come in the next two years as more than 20,000 management and administration staff are made redundant from health authorities, PCTs and the Department of Health.

It could cost as much as £1bn to make redundancies. Another £400m will be spent on things such as IT and property in setting up the new consortia.

But the government claims the cost will be more than offset by savings.

The reduction in staff alone will save £5bn by 2015, according to the government’s own costings.

So, do you still think that 2015 is just a number like any other, or could it be that our wonderful ConDem Coalition government have completely lost sight of ethics and principles, and are in an indecent haste to reform everything in sight prior to the next election in 2015.  Bring on the Monster Raving Loony Party I say.