Tag Archives: Government

The Health Problem Behind Those Tight-Fitting Leeds United Replica Shirts – by Rob Atkinson

One home, one away and one keeper's, please. All XXXL

One home, one away and one keeper’s, please. All XXXL

The new Leeds United home and away replica shirts are now available in the club shops, at an only mildly extortionate price, resplendent in traditional white and yellow respectively, innocent of any tacky sponsors logo and – apparently – quite the most desirable things since Felicity Kendal’s late 70s vintage derrière. I’ve had my say on the home shirt – I wasn’t keen, but I was clearly in the minority as far as that went. The away shirt, though, is undeniably sexy.

The only real peeps of protest have come from those chaps of “more generous proportions”, who are finding difficulties with the “snugness” of the design. It’s proving difficult, it seems, for the more portly gent to squeeze his avoirdupois into his shiny new shirt – unless he’s invested in a couple or three additional X’s on top of the standard XL. As the owner of a somewhat rounded physique myself, it’s got me thinking and, slowly but surely, a rant has developed.

It’s a rant that has its roots in a news item from a couple of years back, when BBC Radio Five Live were in crusading mode, their plan of campaign as usual heavily reliant upon taking a lazy sound-bite and stimulating a heated debate around it. On this occasion, the sound-bite was a distinctly unprofessorial (not to say yobbish) statement by one Professor Craig Currie of Cardiff University, who had given it as his august opinion that we in the UK are “a nation of lazy porkers”. Now, the good professor may have expressed himself like a lout – but, now as then, he does rather have a point.

I must reiterate here that I am something of a porker myself though not, I hope, a lazy one – but it should be clear from the outset that I’m not here to have a go at hapless fellow fatties. I’m all too well aware that we chubsters have more than enough to put up with in terms of slings and arrows and brickbats from insensitive skinny types, bad cess to them. I myself suffer from Type II Diabetes, a condition occurring typically with old age but also probable in earlier years where weight is a factor influencing health. And yet as a younger man, I was extremely fit, active and sporty – so the question arises: what other factors are at play? Why are those Leeds United shirts so tight?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I believe that, as a nation, we have failed to address this public health issue in a number of important respects. In a nutshell, I blame the parents – but also educational institutions for their control-freak attitude to school dinners, and successive governments who have taken an alarmingly short-term and complacent approach to investment in measures to preserve the fitness and health of the population.

Let’s look at parents first. How many times have you heard of a 1960’s mum or dad, themselves brought up in an atmosphere of post-war austerity, telling their already full-up offspring “Clean your plate now – I won’t have you wasting good wholesome food.  That would feed a family for two weeks in Biafra.” That’s what I used to hear as a kid, and, although I always had to bite back a snapped “Well, send it to Biafra, then”, it was considered sound child psychology. I even relayed a watered-down version of it to my own child. But this one phrase, or variants thereof, can be held at least partly responsible for a pattern being set in childhood whereby many people feel actual guilt if they’re in danger of leaving food uneaten on a plate.

At my primary school in the sixties, those of more delicate appetites were always in danger of being sent to “stand at the wall” in the big dining room when the dreaded school dinners were being served. Leaving food on your plate was a disciplinary issue, and offenders were subjected to this diluted form of public humiliation. Looking back, it seems barbaric – a kind of child abuse. And all the time, the insidious process of habit-formation was going on, with young bodies and developing digestive systems being routinely overloaded as those plates got laboriously, reluctantly cleared. It was a mental process as well as a physical one – the feeling of guilt at any waste was ingrained early. Even now, in restaurants, we of a certain age make the old joke: finish up now, or you’ll get stood at the wall. It’s the product of misguided brainwashing 50 years ago, by parents, by teachers, by the formidable army of “dinner ladies”.

So the errant notions of childhood nutrition, arising out of an historical and hysterical “post-rationing” culture that spawned the baby-boomers, may be one factor that is now reaping an unwelcome harvest in the proliferation of Type II Diabetes in younger age-groups such as the 40-somethings. What else might be at play? Hand-in-hand with the issue of nutrition goes the equally thorny one of exercise. When I was a child, most recreation was out of doors, and nearly every patch of public land had its games of football going on whenever the players weren’t required in the classroom or at home. It was jumpers for goalposts over the length and breadth of the country, and kids ran and ran after a ball, or whatever other sporting object and, by and large, they were lean and fit as whippets as a result.

All that started to change with the advent of videos and computer games and, latterly, the Internet. Each advance of technology has had the effect of dragging the youngsters indoors to become fat and pasty as they pursue their virtual preoccupations. It was a clear, unmistakeable signal for the authorities to do something, something urgent and effective, to promote exercise and the outdoors as essential to health and development. Investment was necessary in exercise facilities, and the crucial importance of this had to become a much more up-front feature of the national curriculum. This much, surely, was self-evident.

So what have our various political persuasions of government done? Failed, utterly, that’s what. Cut back on investment. Sold off playing fields. Allowed the private sector to hire out exercise facilities at a premium price to make a fat profit and cause a problem of fat people who can’t afford to get fit. This failure to invest is a classic illustration of the wisdom of the old saw “A stitch in time saves nine”.

My own spiral downwards from fitness began with a cruciate knee ligament injury – and by the time I’d recovered, I was saving up to get married. I couldn’t afford gym fees etc – so it was too expensive to get fit again. My current health problems can be traced back to that time, and I’m sure the story is similar for many thousands of others. If misfortune strikes, part of the healing process has to be an active and healthy lifestyle, with exercise restoring the body as far as possible from an event like my knee injury. If that’s made too difficult due to financial circumstances, you pay a price in later life and declining health.

Now, the government is wailing and gnashing its teeth at the cost to the NHS of this Diabetes explosion, and other health issues that seem set fair to bankrupt our health service. It’s a bit like a householder bemoaning a £350 plumbers’ bill which has come about because they failed to invest £2.95 in lagging the pipes. Just consider the massive folly of what has happened. Selling off the playing fields, only to reap the harvest of a nation of lazy porkers. Flogging exercise facilities and then pointing the finger at the victims of obesity-related illness is comparable to raffling off the lifeboats on the Titanic, and then blaming the iceberg for the death toll.

If we’re to reverse this helter-skelter decline in the nation’s health, we need to stop whinging and shouting “Why, oh why” from the rooftops – and actually do something. Austerity only compounds the problem; investment, investment, investment is the way forward. If it’s possible to spend a pound on exercise and thereby save a fiver later on in healthcare costs – and it demonstrably is – then that is the road we must go down, and on a macro scale.

It may be that we’d only be shutting the stable door after the lazy porkers have bolted – but we have to act now. Exercise facilities must be made available, they must be made attractive and they must be made cheap or free. Public awareness must be raised. Full-time posts must be established for professionals who will then have the responsibility of changing lifestyles and encouraging the nation to get off its backside and do something. That will create jobs, it will have a positive effect on the health of many who simply can’t afford to take advantage of what’s currently on offer – and that, in turn, would have an incalculable effect on the mental health of the population, which right now and for some time past has been crying out for a good healthy kick of endorphins; the feel-good factor.

The cost of all this? Vast. Really, humongously enormous. But the benefits down the line, the savings to be made by the nipping in the bud of all these dire health issues, would be immeasurably greater still. That’s the whole point of investment – you grit your teeth and pay up, hoping for and trusting in a positive return later. The return on the billions spent now, though, should be many more billions, possibly trillions saved in the future. This is an investment we can’t afford not to make.

Just as we now look back at the sixties and remember the influence of our parents, products of late-forties austerity, so in fifty years time our descendants might look back on the current austerity-obsession, shake their heads sadly, and wonder what might have been if we’d only shown the foresight to invest in the future, and to educate our population about the wisdom of staying as fit as possible for as long as possible. At the moment, with our short-sighted insistence on short-term savings we’re storing up trouble in the shape of a vast medical bill which will come due when our next generation grows up flabby and unhealthy, and starts keeling over in rows from the effects of cardiac disease, diabetes, strokes, and other fat-related nasties.

We simply have to pay a few bob to lag those pipes now, if we’re to have any real hope of avoiding that gargantuan plumbing bill in the future. Take it from a deeply concerned porker – a stitch in time really does save nine.

Snouts In The Trough – But It’s Time Those Living High On The Hog Picked Up The Tab

The Three-Party System

The Three-Party System

The thing about politicians is – if they’re not talking, or furiously thinking of a way out of their latest web of deceit, or maybe sleeping (a swift forty winks on the backbenches, the ultimate power nap), then they’re most likely at some or other official function, stuffing their faces with the finest of freebie food and drink.

Now, I’m not making a party political point here. I said “politicians”, and I meant the whole unsavoury crew of them, be they high-powered cabinet members, lobby fodder rank-and-file MP’s, or even your humble Joe Bloggs, Mavis Dogood or Tarquin FitzHerbert-Smythe in the local Council chambers. They all have the same basic bodily need for nourishment as us mere mortals. The difference is, they will quite often fill up to the Plimsoll line at the taxpayer’s expense. Is this fair or appropriate in these straitened times?

At a veritable crisis point of global financial meltdown, when our national debt is so high that even Wayne Rooney would need to ask for an extra week or two to pay it off, I find myself wondering: what’s the accumulated value of all the state and civic banquets, dinners, receptions, working lunches and other freebie jamborees that take place every day, all over the country? It must come to a good few bob. We’re not, after all, talking a few limp ham sandwiches, curling up at the edges and accompanied by motley shreds of anaemic lettuce. No, Sir. These people do not skimp; they do themselves well, very well indeed. There’s proper, grown-up, posh food on heavily-laden and groaning tables – and it must be highly debatable how much productive thinking is left in those bloated plutocrats, after the desserts have been and gone, and the port, nuts and cigars are passed around.

Of course, piling into the snap at the highest levels of power is nothing new. It’s been pretty much de rigueur ever since Henry I wolfed down half-a-dozen too many eels, and expired before he could gasp “surfeit of lampreys”. Kings, Queens, and assorted courtiers and other hangers-on have always been notable for their over-indulgence on rich food and fine wine. It sort of went with the territory in those far-off times, but it strikes a more discordant note these days when essential services – the culmination of the whole process of civilisation and enlightenment since before Henry I – are being cut left, right and centre. And yet still the state and political chomping goes on apace.

It’s only a matter of a few weeks since MP’s of all parties were calling for a 32% pay rise, despite their broad consensus that the rest of us should be grinning bravely and tightening our belts. Just what sort of message does that send out, when so much of their weekly calorific intake is provided and paid for, as part of their remit as legislators of our country? And the same applies at least in some degree to our business leaders – no subsidised canteen serving scrummy beans on toast with a poached egg on top for them – it’s Marco-Pierre White catering at the very least – and waiter, send that bill to Accounts, there’s a good chap.

What if – bear with me here – what if MP’s, ponderous boardroom types, and indeed power-brokers everywhere were to embrace a novel concept, and actually pay for some of the scrumptious fare that comes their way so often, and gratis at that? If this were the general principle, multiplied across all the many thousands of vastly expensive official meals and banquets that take place in this over-stretched nation every week, what would be the saving to the national purse? I’m struggling to work that out on my fingers and in my head, but it’s a big, big number, make no mistake. It’s not as if the people we’re talking about are exactly impoverished – are they now? And what do the rest of us do when it’s time for lunch at work? Not everyone has even the subsidised canteen; many of us are away down to the high street for a cheese roll, which we’re – quite reasonably – expected to fund out of our own pockets.

It’s about time we all woke up to the fact that – on a grand scale – we’re being made right mugs out of, you and me. Every time there’s a new cost-cutting measure, or another idea for a wage freeze, you can bet your life it’s been hatched over the smoked-salmon canapés and the pâté de foie gras. And what’s more, we’re the simple souls paying for it. Could that money not be used much more productively, elsewhere?

Just think about that, the next time you’re counting the pennies at the end of the month, and wondering whether you can delay the big shop till after the weekend. Then again, it might even act as an appetite suppressant. Just thinking of all those banquets, all that luxury food, and above all, where the bill’s heading – might just actually make you sick.

Tories Need to Learn That Carrots Sometimes Work Better Than Sticks

Peter Lilley

Ex-Cabinet minister Peter Lilley has unwittingly put his finger on a possible answer to the “spare bedrooms” issue, which has been used to justify the iniquitous Bedroom Tax. Interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live, the former Social Security Secretary attempted to defend savage cuts to Housing Benefit by remarking that his constituents are always complaining that they’re overcrowded in their one-bedroom social housing units. Why then, argued Lilley, is it fair for other tenants to “under-occupy”, and have one or two “spare bedrooms”?

The problem is, of course, that as in all its dealings with the poorer end of society, the Coalition has decided that the bludgeon is the most effective instrument of Government. Hence the rightly-hated Bedroom Tax; ill-conceived, improperly thought-out, poorly presented and unfair to the nth degree. No account is taken of whether there is a genuine option for people affected to move to smaller properties, nor of whether the cost of this undertaking is feasible for them. Any consideration of the distinct needs of the disabled, which may medically justify the use of separate bedrooms for couples, has been specifically ruled out.

A possible answer – a fair, practicable answer at that – lies within the rhetoric of Lilley’s attempted justification of the unjustifiable. If, as he says, there is still a big problem of people suffering from overcrowding, and being in need of larger properties currently under-occupied by smaller families – then why not simply engineer some means whereby these two groups can be made aware of each other and thereby facilitate property swaps? A large part of the reason why the “under-occupiers” won’t be moving is the lack of availability of smaller properties. If “swaps” could be facilitated, on a large enough scale, then we could have a mutually satisfactory solution to the problems of both groups. It would be necessary of course to incentivise such a plan – perhaps a transitional payment and/or financial assistance with removal costs and other formalities. It’s a question of square pegs in square holes – the solution should be neat and simple. But the Government don’t see it that way, because they’re instinctively suspicious of the motives of the poor, who they see as wishing to hang on to their “something for nothing” at all costs, and they are therefore determined to hammer these unfortunates who have no scope to either move on, or pay the rent arising out of the imposed cuts in Housing Benefit.

The whole issue comes down to this Government’s pathological preference for the stick over the carrot. They are bolstered in this instinct by the leanings of their natural supporters, Mail readers and the like, who wish to see “the smack of firm government” applied to anyone who has been sufficiently demonised by a press that seems intent on disseminating Tory propaganda. The ultimate aims of the Bedroom Tax haven’t been all that well clarified either. We hear about the “unfairness” of under-occupation, but it’s being acknowledged that a primary goal is to save on the Housing Benefit bill, with half a billion pounds being mooted as a first year economy. How does this help get larger families into larger properties? Cutting the income of the “under-occupiers” is hardly the best way of persuading them to incur removal costs to move to a smaller property, possibly in the private sector at a higher rent – because all the over-crowded families are in the one-bedroom social housing properties. It’s a real mess, round pegs in square holes, square pegs in round holes, and no strategy to facilitate any sort of reversal to mutual advantage.

Iain Duncan-Smith

Ministers right now are in a full state of alert, ready at the drop of a hat to respond to annoying and inconvenient criticism from the likes of church organisations, fully primed to do their best to defend the indefensible, as Peter Lilley was clumsily attempting to do. To this end, they are prepared to come out, bare-faced with the most unconscionable rubbish. Iain Duncan-Smith, a man who recently claimed £39 expenses for one breakfast, has asserted that he would be able to live on benefit subsistence levels of £53 weekly. Utter nonsense, of course, but this is a symptom of desperation in the face of a tidal wave of opposition, for a government that will brook no alternative. The problem these ministers have is that they are increasingly aware the measures they’re being asked to speak up for are bad policies, and – much, much worse for any mid-term government – bad politics. The current administration are wide-open to charges of callousness, misrepresenting salient facts about poverty and an abject failure, indeed refusal, to listen to any source – however well-informed – that doesn’t unswervingly endorse their chosen path. That’s the kind of leadership that got Thatcher removed – and David Cameron, if he hasn’t already given up hope of winning the next election, increasingly looks in dire need of a Plan B.

Practically, I believe that what I might be tempted to term “The Lilley Plan”, allied to sensible investment in the construction industry, could go a long way towards solving the conflicting issues of over-crowding and under-occupancy – as long as it would be properly funded and incentivised. It’s still a matter of trying to get people to move out of homes they may have lived in for years after all; which is still uncomfortably close to social engineering. But if carrots are tried, for once – instead of the endless battalions of Tories wielding sticks – then maybe some progress could be made, and there would be benefits too for the wider economy of more investment in construction; jobs, taxes raised, housing options created, growth – that sort of thing. They’re all distant and unattainable dreams for the Coalition at the moment, but maybe, just maybe, a little more of an imaginative approach to government might reap some reward.

But it is the Tories we’re dealing with here, and they’re brought up from the nursery to think they know best so – you know – don’t hold your breath.

Please Support This Blog and Get The Truth Out There

I’d like to invite and entreat any WordPress users who feel that the current government of the United Kingdom are acting in a callous manner towards the poor and vulnerable in society to read, follow, share and otherwise support this blog.  I ask this respectfully, but in the hope of gaining your support, because I need your help – or I’m just whistling in the dark.  I believe that, from small beginnings, I can help to make a difference – but not on my own.

In among all the Leeds United and other light-hearted football rubbish within these pages, I’m trying to get a serious message out there as to what this despicable Tory-led Coalition government is doing to people who are being unjustly targeted, and are extremely ill-equipped to fight back.

I’m talking about people driven to suicide by vicious cuts to what is already poverty-level income.  People in extreme stages of ill-health being found fit for work, and dying mere days afterwards.  People who are almost blind, suffering from paralysis, multiple amputations, cancer, cardiac failure and other distressing, limiting and life-threatening conditions, being told that they’re fit for work, being accused – in effect – of shirking.

Meanwhile, the lucky ones earning in excess of £1 million a year will shortly benefit from a £100,000 a year tax-cut – an amount EXTRA for each of them every year that might otherwise fund four newly-qualified teacher posts – or more nurses, better healthcare, less child poverty.  But no, these vast amounts of money are going straight into the back pockets of those who are already fat cats, creaming off the resources so desperately needed elsewhere.

Do you think this is right?

Do you think this is fair?

Do you think this is just?

Or do you think that the truth about our government’s policies should be told, and then spread as far and wide as possible, so that people sit up and take notice of what’s actually going on?  Sharing a blog is the modern-day equivalent of shouting from the rooftops.  So – let’s shout a little.  Please.

It will be June at least before I can hope to gain endorsement by the News Now platform, and so gain a wider audience. In the meantime it would be extremely helpful if WordPress readers/users could help me to expand my readership, with a view to spreading that truth where currently we seem to see mostly lies and malicious propaganda. You may well, if you’re the type of person I’m aiming at, who hates injustice and stands up for the disadvantaged, find some stuff that you can agree with!

Please take a minute to have a read, and then share with your like-minded contacts.

Thank you in advance.

Fox In The Running?

Q: When is a Fox not a fox?

A: When it’s a sacrificial lamb.


Liam Fox

The Fox in question – Liam of that ilk – is due to make a speech containing radical proposals exceeding in scope and intent anything the Coalition Government has so far contemplated. His true motives for this are unclear. He may just possibly be unaware of his potential status as patsy-in-waiting for the Tory Party’s increasingly Machiavellian convolutions, as it attempts to portray itself as a party of government beyond the next election. Then again, perhaps the cunning Fox genuinely feels that he really can rally the Conservative right wing with a view to becoming the anointed leader if and when David Cameron falls on his sword, or is stabbed in the back by the Men in Grey Suits, depending on how the last scene of the Coalition melodrama plays out.

Whatever the case, the scenario of an increasingly unpopular political party showing determination to plough its chosen furrow – despite a radical call-to-arms from the loony fringes – is hardly new. Labour gave us a glimpse of a few left-wing skeletons in their briefly-opened closet of horrors in the early eighties, and some feel that this paved the way for that party’s subsequent re-branding of itself as New Labour and the eventual Blair-Brown axis. Liam Fox might of course be entirely serious about making an early move to be seen as prospective leader material – if the reaction of the Tories, post coalition break-up, were to be a lurch to the Right. But it’s also tiresomely probable that he’s simply providing the necessary scare story, which can then be shot down by the incumbent PM, so that Cameron’s rigid position on his chosen course of austerity might be seen as more palatable relative to What Might Have Been.

Fox has in fact found it necessary to push back the boundaries of what is really credible, in his attempts to find depths of draconian savagery which even the Tory party might not plumb. Against a background of the demonisation of a whole sector of society – encompassing the poor, low-paid workers and the disabled – with swingeing cuts to the disposable income of all these people justified by portraying them as society-sapping freeloaders, it’s not easy to contemplate even more vindictive measures. Add to that the fact that tax changes in April will see a group of previously impoverished millionaires benefiting from tax reductions of £100,000 a year, and one can easily understand how difficult it is these days to appear truly loony in the context of all things Conservative. But Liam, bless him, appears to have managed it.

In point of fact, Mr Fox’s speech to the Institute of Economic Affairs next Monday is likely to break new ground right in the heart of right wing Tory dreamland “Rob the Poor to Feed the Rich” territory. Voicing what other extreme Conservatives hardly dare think – save only in their most secret and grandiose fantasies – Fox is tipped to call for a five year freeze on public spending, with no protective ring-fencing for schools, foreign aid or the NHS. That’s the poor robbed, but on an even more lavish scale than the current government are managing. And Fox will, according to the Times, also propose that there should be a thorough rethink of earnings and savings taxation, including a Capital Gains Tax holiday “to breathe life into the ailing economy”. The Times also reports that the former Defence secretary will say:

“I believe that in leaving money in people’s pockets, economic activity will follow. People will buy houses, invest for their future or just go shopping.

“Whichever is the case, it’s creating a society that is sustainable for the future in the way that our current – welfare-dependent and debt-ridden – economy is not.

“We should gradually move towards the reduction – or even abolition – of the taxes where the state not only taxes the same money on multiple occasions but discourages the very behaviour that would lead to a more responsible society.”

So that’s the rich fed, and there is likely to be much salivating in the Tory Shires at the prospect – however unlikely it is to actually materialise – of such a juicy package. It is of course a fact that, in order to leave money in people’s pockets, that money has to be there in the first place. But the poor are incidental to this speech, whether it’s a serious attempt to influence policy, or just a scare tactic to deflect criticism of the current programme. The poor are unlikely to vote Tory (although it’s increasingly probable they might vote UKIP), and they are perceived, as a body, to be more of an unwanted expense than any potential source of economic growth. It is the already rich to whom Liam Fox is seeking to appeal; those on the right of the parliamentary party and of the Conservative movement nationally. It is there that he will find his natural support if any ambitions of leadership are ever to come to fruition.

Whatever the thinking behind Fox’s forthcoming speech, he is not the only predatory scavenger circling the beleaguered Prime Minister. MP Sarah Wollaston has warned the Premier, in a series of tweets, about the need to tackle problems with his inner circle of immediate colleagues, consisting as it does of the “posh, male & white”. Wollaston is a known Cameron acolyte, but her words will be encouraging to Home Secretary Theresa May, who has recently broken cover with her own finely-drafted proposals covering a number of governmental departments, and – again – tailored to appeal to the Tory right.

Most worrying of all perhaps, is a vote of confidence from Baroness Warsi, who stated that Cameron has the support of “large parts” of his party, and that “he is doing a very difficult job in very difficult circumstances.” Such a very qualified endorsement is likely to be cold comfort to the Prime Minister as he studies the minute details of the Liam Fox speech, and Cameron may well reflect on the experience of football managers since time immemorial; that the vote of confidence is frequently a precursor to a frogmarch up the scaffold steps and the ceremonial fall of the axe. Unless, of course, friend Liam does the merciful thing, and slides the knife into his ribs before any organised coup.

Et tu, Foxy.

Ferkin-Scheidt Speaks Out On “Dining Room Tax”

In the wake of revelations that Local Authorities will be allowed to classify dining rooms as “bedrooms” for the purposes of the so-called “Bedroom Tax”, the Coalition has moved to clarify the position still further.

A Government spokesman who wished to remain anonymous, but who is in fact Iain Ferkin-Scheidt (pictured below) was quoted today as saying:


Iain Ferkin-Scheidt yesterday

“Social housing tenants need to be clear about this. Any room that can be deemed superfluous to the requirements of a Housing Benefit claimant should be counted as a “bedroom” for these purposes – for example a dining-room, conservatory and so forth. I believe that some of you people still have what they used to call “parlours” – and yes, they can be defined as bedrooms too. This will be a matter for Local Authorities’ discretion, but they will need to justify their decisions to High Command.” Going a little purple around the jowls, Mr Ferkin-Scheidt went on: “We have to be very, very careful about terminology here. This is not a “bedroom tax”, it is a Spare Room Subsidy. The Prime Minister himself, long may he reign, has stated this. We want to make it quite clear that this is a measure aimed at shirkers, not workers. Lame excuses such as disability – if you’ll pardon the pun – simply will not wash; much as is the case with most of the frightful common types we’re aiming at here.”

When asked about the fact that many Housing Benefit claimants are actually workers in low-paid employment, Mr Ferkin-Scheidt remained bullish in his defence of policy. “It’s quite simple,” he explained kindly. “Those people on Housing Benefit cannot expect the rest of us to subsidise luxuries for them such as spare bedrooms and parlours and dining rooms or what-have-you, out of our taxes – particularly as many of us will actually be paying up to £100,000 a year less tax from April. As you can see from that figure alone, the country simply cannot sustain extravagance on this scale.

“Those who have failed to provide for themselves and their families, by obtaining only part-time or low-paid employment will have to accept that they are not deserving of the same privileges as good, honest, hard-working, tax-evading, Tory-voting people who bought their own Council Houses in the 80’s when St Margaret was Queen. We shall be taking further measures to ensure that this distinction is recognised, and to remove the burden of financial responsibility from the over-stretched rich. The fact is that the poor, the disabled and the long-term sick have had it easy for far, far too long now. I am currently studying proposals for what some are already calling a “Hot Tap Tax”, although it is in fact a heated water subsidy. Some of us feel – in all compassion and sincerity – that it is an unconscionable luxury for the Shirking Classes to have hot water on tap, and it may well be that Housing Benefit claimants who live in homes with hot running water, showers, flush toilets and so on and so forth, will at some point in the future be subjected to a further cut of 30% in their Benefit, unless they take up the option of moving to a smaller property, with a stand-pipe, and outdoor privy and a well. We are determined to bring the good old days back to this great country.”

Pressed further on the matter of future proposals along these lines, Mr Ferkin-Scheidt refused to reveal any more concrete details, but promised a fuller statement after the second reading of the new “Workhouses & Treadmills Bill” currently proceeding through the House of Lords.

“This Government is pledged to firm, decisive action,” he confirmed. “Did your great-great-great grandmother have hot running water? No, of course she didn’t, and neither did mine – although she did have staff to carry heated water up eight flights of stairs for her – but that’s to become tied up in detail. There’s fridges, too, and all those nasty wide-screen TV’s. Did Sir Winston’s mother have a fridge? Or a 42” LCD TV? And, look – let’s be totally honest here. Ice can be chipped from a frozen well, and allowed to melt. Cold water can then be heated for all the simpler needs of the sub-strata of society, and a short walk down the street to a shared privy never killed anybody, except a few disease-ridden ne’er-do-wells who were never going to become economically productive units anyway. Hot water and indoor flush toilets are privileges, not rights – and we are determined that the Party of Privilege shall live up to its traditions and ensure that people are once again well aware of their place in life.”

Mr. Ferkin-Scheidt is 104.

Will the New ‘Personal Independence Payment’ Actually Deprive Disabled People of Their Independence?

As a former Welfare Rights Worker with C.A.B. in Pontefract and Wakefield in West Yorkshire, I’ve retained an interest in social policy developments in general, and Welfare Benefits legislation in particular. You may take the boy out of advice work, but you can never quite take advice work out of the boy – and the Citizens Advice Bureau ethos of aiming to ensure that people are not disadvantaged for a lack of help and representation still means a lot to me.

This is particularly so now, at a time when a lot of vulnerable and helpless people are being targeted by a government apparently determined to make budget savings at the sharp and painful end of life. With the intention of keeping myself up-to-date, I do plenty of reading – and this includes a lot of anecdotal experiences. The feeling out there right now appears to be one of near panic, and a hideous insecurity over what plans are being drawn up to dump the chronically sick and disabled on the scrapheap of dependence upon others, in the name, ostensibly, of prudent public spending.

One of the major worries is the forthcoming replacement of Disability Living Allowance by the new “Personal Independence Payment” (PIP). It’s a snazzy new name for a misleading product, conjuring up, as it does, an image of a newly-liberated individual, spreading metaphorical wings and savouring the new-found freedom liberally bestowed by a benevolent government. Sadly, the reality is likely to be somewhat different, as Linda Cox explains in an article – quoted in full below – which was originally posted on the Facebook page “The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos“. Linda is a carer, and she sets out in graphic terms some likely consequences of these benefit changes, which will be taking effect in a phased introduction from April of this year:

The musings of a pissed off madwoman/wife-of-a-wheelchair-user

Say someone applying for PIP has a made to measure, lightweight wheelchair, which they paid for out of their DLA, so they can self propel, as opposed to the wheelchair clinic issue, which is a really heavy, cumbersome, monstrosity of a wheelchair, which has to be pushed by a carer.

If you can propel your lightweight wheelchair 20 metres, you fail to qualify for PIP.

So, you will need to use this chair as your only transport, as you have no benefit for a travel budget. Your chair gets used over all kinds of terrain (gravel and cobbles are the most fun), for miles as in losing your PIP, you can’t pay for your car and it is taken away. Wait… you can’t self propel as far as the local shop (and it’s uphill), let alone for over a mile into town. But as long as you can propel for 20 metres (the length of two buses)… the world is your oyster… apparently.

How do you pay for the maintenance of said wheelchair? £200 for a replacement seat, £100 for a new set of front wheels, £40 for new tyres…. all needing more frequent replacement, because of the extra usage. Where does this money come from?

I guess you could always use the hospital issue chair.. then you would need a carer to push all the time, but wait… your carer has lost their allowance, because you lost your PIP… in fact, your carer is on workfare now…. or if lucky enough, in full time employment.

Damn… this is getting complicated.

So, a wheelchair accessible cab is rare and has to be booked well in advance in order to get one…after all… there are so many wheelchair users no longer qualifying for PIP, so lots of competition for cabs now. A return trip for town is £15, that’s a lot of money to find out of well… nothing.

Let’s grab a bus… yes; buses have ramps and wheelchair spaces now! Great. Except the wheelchair spaces are all full of pushchairs. Damn… wait for the next bus. Oh dear, the next bus isn’t accessible. No point in going home in between because just getting to the bus stop has knackered you out… it’s further than 20m away and you had to keep stopping and resting on the way.

It’s pouring down with rain… not unusual in the UK… you can’t self propel in heavy rain as your tyres get slippery. Damn. Stranded. Just sit here and get soaked then and hope it stops… which it doesn’t sometimes.

Sod it. Just stay in. Who needs to see a doctor or a dentist or go to a hospital appointment… or shop for food (you can’t carry much in a wheelchair anyway – it makes it too heavy to self propel on the back and it slides off your lap…. especially on cobbles… I mentioned cobbles already, didn’t I?)

Can anyone explain to me, how when you have kept your independence, because you had DLA, the assessment for Personal Independence Payments penalises that very independence and you end up penniless and housebound?

Don’t tell me this is unintentional.

Thank you for reading.
~ Linda ~

That accusation of a new benefit, actually containing the word “Independence” in its title, yet having such a devastating effect on the hard-won independence of disabled people, who have hitherto managed alright for themselves due to their current DLA entitlement – that is deeply ironic. It’s also scandalously wrong, and potentially tragic – but sadly it remains a fact that people will believe what they are told, if they are told it often enough, no matter how outrageous the deception – as I’ve mentioned before, it’s The Big Lie in action.

These changes will happen; the determination of Cameron’s Coalition to follow their chosen course has seen to that. But this doesn’t absolve us as citizens from our responsibility for those unfortunates who will be most severely affected.

Should the disabled pay the highest price? I really don’t think so.

Surely, it’s time to stand up and be counted.