Shortly after the 2016 amendments to the assessment of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a cartoon scolding the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) began doing the rounds on social media. In it, a figure sits behind a desk declaring: “If they drown, they need PIP. If they float, they weren’t ill.” whilst a woman is dragged out of the office by her hair. Accompanied by the caption “Conservatives Disability Policy”, the illustration caught a lot of online attention for this comparison of the DWP’s practices to those of the elementally evil Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins. Some found it an absurdly distasteful comparison; others deemed it a justified piece of satirical exaggeration. But as Amie M Marie deftly exposes in her new play Scrounge, the cartoon was barely hyperbolic in its analogy.
by Jonathan Lee
“New pension plans to work till you die are no cause for alarm” says arch-Tory overlord Ian Duncan Smith. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Tory think-tank which brought us Universal Credit, has recommended the government raise the retirement age from 65 to 70 by 2028, and to 75 by 2035.
The Tories are not content to simply make workers’ lives as miserable as possible through underfunding schools, unaffordable housing, food poverty, and the greatest devaluation of wages in modern history. They now seek to steal the last golden years of life from the majority of working class people who cannot afford a private pension in order to retire early.Continue Reading
By Robyn Banks
Last week’s Conservative Party conference in Birmingham was met with sizeable protests, as you’d expect given the party’s actions in its eight years in power. Groups such as the People’s Assembly opened the weekend with their usual rally and march against the continued austerity measures being implemented across the country, to the detriment of many in society. I was lucky enough to witness and be involved in one of the most powerful protests, on the final day of the conference, when Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) led action against the continued rollout of the failing universal credit system and the ongoing cuts to benefits by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
by Toby Gill
‘The most dangerous time for a bad government is when it begins to reform itself.’ – Alexis de Toqueville.
Give people an inch, and they will take a mile. This is what de Toqueville hinted at in his Ancien Regime et la Revolution, his celebrated account of the French Revolution. It was just as Louis XVI’s regime began to reform that the masses could take no more. Just as the promise of real change was made, the guillotine fell.Continue Reading
by Gunnar Eigener
Content warning: mentions violence, execution, massacre, abortion, domestic violence
‘For example, what does the billboard say,
Come and play, come and play
Forget about the movement’
Freedom – Rage Against The Machine
A UN-declared famine is threatening the lives of over a million people in South Sudan, with 100,000 of those facing immediate starvation. It has been six years since a famine was last declared, but the difference is that this famine is the result of structural violence.Continue Reading
by Gunnar Eigener
“Whenever governments adopt a moral tone- as opposed to an ethical one – you know something is wrong.”
John Ralston Saul
MPs and politicians talk about getting people off benefits and out of the welfare culture. Perhaps they should lead by example and get off the gravy train, courtesy of the taxpayer.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has claimed around £31,000 in London hotel stays despite owning a home in Essex. Andrew Lansley, MP for South Cambridgeshire, has previously claimed £5950 in London hotel stays despite owning a flat about 1 mile from Parliament. Speaker John Bercow claimed £367 for travelling to Luton – to talk about the MPs expenses scandal. Richard Benyon MP, worth £110 million, received about £120,000 in housing benefits, largely from immigrant tenants in his properties. Yet he stated: “Labour want benefits to go up to more than the earnings of people in work. It isn’t fair and we will not let them bring back their something for nothing culture.”Continue Reading
by Natasha Senior
This is the message that Iain Duncan Smith and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been espousing over the last five years as benefits sanctions become ever more stringent. And now we are starting to get closer to understanding just how far they’re willing to go. After mounting public pressure and many Freedom of Information requests, the DWP have been forced to publish statistics showing that over 2,300 people have died after losing their benefits following fit for work assessments.Continue Reading
by Robyn Banks
Over the past few months, a lot has been made of the apparently soon to be released DWP statistics on the number of people who have died after their benefits were stopped. Over 235,000 people signed a petition asking for them to be released, but the government has been accused of constant stalling in an effort to keep the real number hidden. The DWP claims they are stalling because they plan to release the statistics in a more contextual and understandable fashion, arguing that the statistics alone “. . . were likely to be misinterpreted. Specifically, incorrect conclusions were likely to be drawn as to causal links between assessment outcomes and mortality. Such misinterpretations would be contrary to the public interest, particularly given the emotive and sensitive context of mortality statistics”.
This makes sense, especially given the ability of statistics to be misinterpreted and used for one’s own ends. It might not be clear, for example, how many of those people would have died anyway from terminal illness, as benefits are stopped when a person enters hospital, or how many of those benefits were stopped for legitimate reasons. The well-known 10,600 figure which circulated earlier in the year turned out to include not only those who had their benefits stopped 6 weeks before their death, but those who had them stopped 6 weeks after. Far from having a hand in the deaths of 10,600 people, the government may have simply stopped the benefits of 10,600 people who were already dead. But to my mind, we don’t need to use an impersonal number to criticise our benefits system.