Tag Archives: poverty

Welfare Reform Blamed For Soaring Malnutrition

Are the ConDem coalition overseeing a return to widespread malnutrition in one of the world’s richest countries?

Is it fair that pensioners and the disabled should have to face the “heat or eat” dilemma when the country’s billionaires have seen their wealth DOUBLE since the so-called global financial crisis??

Is it remotely just that the poor, the sick and the downtrodden should pay the price – some with their lives – for the mistakes of fat cat bankers who will never know the meaning of the words “cold” and “hungry”?

This excellent blog from “the void” sheds some light on such burning questions – and delivers a damning verdict on a government which will go down as the most callous and incompetent in living memory.

the void

IDS-malnutritionCuts to social security, stagnating wages and high fuel bills have been blamed for a trebling of hospital admissions due to malnutrition in Leeds.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, 93 people needed hospital treatment for malnutrition in 2012, compared to just 30 in 2008. These tragic cases could represent the tip of the iceberg says Councillor Lisa Mulherin, warning that the number of hospital admissions: “tells us something about the changes to the welfare system, wage stagnation and the way fuel prices have gone up out of all proportion with people’s pay.”

A shocking 27,000 people across Leeds were estimated to be suffering from or at risk of clinical nutrition said health professionals in the city last year.

Appalling the situation is likely to become far worse as a wave of cuts to benefits begins to bite.  The Bedroom Tax is just a few months old and 9000…

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‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets?

The latest symptom of this country’s inexorable slide back into the dark times of squalor, chronic ill-health, poverty and deprivation for a despised underclass of hopeless, neglected and helpless people: the poor, the sick, the disabled. Rickets has made a return much to the shame of one of the richest countries in the world.

For the Tories – rejoice! The Good Old Days are coming back!!

Vox Political

David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.

The announcement brings to fruition a prediction made by Vox Political almost a year ago, when we said: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase.”

According to the NHS Choices website, rickets “is a condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and malformed, which can lead to bone deformities.

“The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D comes from foods…

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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.

How to Wage a War Upon the Poor

This is taken from a “Guardian” comments page – I reproduce it here without comment, as I believe it speaks for itself and needs to be shared as widely as possible – particularly after Gideon Osborne’s attempted snow-job yesterday, and Anne Widdecombe’s appalling hypocrisy and opportunism in her linking of the foul deeds of Mick Philpott to the Welfare State – so please try to get it out there:

Probably the most disgusting thing about this coalition has been their propaganda war against the most disadvantaged people in society. By the deliberate spreading of lies, they have facilitated a systematic assault upon the poor, the sick and the disabled. And they have knowingly misled the public for one simple reason, to enable them to totally dismantle the welfare state.
There are lies, damned lies, and then there are lying Tory bastards.
The welfare state has led to a ‘something for nothing’ culture?
It may be utterly repugnant to hear millionaire politicians who have never worked a day in their life telling us that they are ending the ‘something for nothing culture’, but it’s also utter bollocks. Only 2.5% of the total welfare budget of £200 billion actually goes on unemployment, whilst the vast majority of unemployed claimants have worked, and paid taxes, for years and are now on benefits due to redundancy, sickness, disability or having to care for someone. Millions more are receiving benefits due to poverty wages. The Welfare state is actually a massive state subsidy to business which enables it to pay poverty wages and charge exorbitant rents.
Living on benefits is a lifestyle choice?
Only 0.1% of benefit claimants who have claimed for 10 years or more are actually unemployed. Less than 5,000 people, out of over 9 million 16-64 year olds who don’t work, have been on Job Seekers Allowance for more than 5 years. Less than 0.1% of the 20 million working age households have 2 generations that have never had a permanent job. Despite strenuous efforts, researchers have been unable to find any families where three generations have never worked.
People won’t work because benefits are too high?
In 1971, JSA equalled 20.9% of the average wage. Today, it is worth 10.9%. These people are living in poverty. There are 8.5 million people receiving benefits in this country. There are more people IN WORK who get benefits than not working. The majority of all housing benefit claimants are IN WORK. 6.1 million people classed as living in poverty are from households IN WORK.
People on housing benefit live in mansions?
Our newspapers continuously bombard us with these stories. There are around five million claimants of Housing Benefit; of which there were five families who received over £100,000 per year, all living in central London. The average award of Housing Benefit is approximately £85 a week. Only 3% of families received more than £10,000 a year support, and 0.04% received more than £30,000 a year. And no-one ever mentions that housing benefit goes straight to the Landlord and not the claimant.
And those large families screwing the taxpayer? There are around 130 families with 10 children and only 10 families with 12 children IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY who are on benefits.
Benefit cheats are bankrupting the country?
Benefit fraud amounts to about £1.5 billion a year, less than 1% of the entire budget. To put this in perspective, the bank bailout equalled 1,000 years of benefit fraud. Meanwhile, £1.3 billion gets underpaid each year and a further £16 billion goes UNCLAIMED every year.
We can no longer afford the welfare state?
So who is really bankrupting the country? Well, the richest 1,000 people now possess £414 billion between them, a sum more than three times the size of the entire UK budget deficit. The richest 1% of the population are estimated to possess wealth of about £1 trillion. The richest 10% control wealth of about £4 trillion. The Quantitative Easing programme has increased the personal wealth of the UK’s richest 20% by enough to pay for Job Seeker’s Allowance for the next 100 years.
The people of this country are being shafted, but instead of the blame being directed at the real culprits, the rich, it is being aimed at the most vulnerable, the poor, with our own Government shamelessly leading the way.
And every one who believes their bullshit should hang their heads in shame.”

There’s a storm coming…

Rich Hammond 01/04/13

Guest blogspot: Bring on Those Funny Money Woes! by Kate Atkinson

I’m not normally one to voice my political opinion – this being a matter very close to my heart, I tend to get angry and upset very easily when met with the same meaningless, patronising, verbatim Daily-Mail-headline retorts I’ve been hearing for years. However, it occasionally gets too heated and (usually after bursting into furious tears) I want to add my two pennies’ worth.

Edwina Currie

This morning, I was listening to the debate on Five Live about Iain Duncan-Smith’s recent claim that he could (and would) live on £54 per week. I listened as Edwina Currie declared this a reasonable amount with which to get by; I listened as Stephen Nolan ‘challenged’ her to put her money where her outspoken mouth is; I listened as they suggested going for it together. What a lot of people heard was a very hesitant deal being made, and then backtracked upon as Tories do so very well. People saying, ‘there’s no way she’ll do that, there’s no way – it’d be too hard…’ I heard, however, a highly condescending offer being made to the poor, dumb masses, by these two very generous and philanthropic rich people.

Here, you little insects! Guess what we’re going to do? We’re going to have a go at living your peculiar little impoverished lifestyles for seven whole days! I mean, we’ll probably still be living in our mansions with our central heating and our cleaners and our freezers full of food, not to mention that we’ll still be perfectly mentally healthy due to our previously untroubled lives… and it is, of course, quite beside the point that we personally would no doubt be able to live on just what we have now, and absolutely nothing extra for a number of years if we were to be so daring, but a week should be fun enough, don’t you think? What larks!

Besides this, though, there’s the fact that these two will return to their respective lifestyles feeling that they’ve had a ‘fun experience’, as Currie referred to it live on the radio, and that they’ve actually made a point or done some good. And still there will be people living on even less than that. People that have no choice, no get-out clause – and yet Currie still stands by her principle that we can only pay ‘what we can afford’ to poor people. Oh, really Edwina? So it’s okay to cut their resources even further – to tighten the noose and see just how much more it’s possible to bleed out of them? Two words: bankers’ bonuses. We can afford those, apparently. And there are the other discrepancies: Currie suggesting that her having to live on less than £54 per week in the 60s being comparable to living on the same now. Nolan not actually giving a damn about the state of living people have to put up with, as long as his show is listened to and his wage delivered at the end of each month. I could bring up everything, and would, if I didn’t know it would get shot down with whines of ‘but Edwina says’, and ‘let’s agree to disagree’.

Just wanted to have a small attempt at fighting against this supercilious effort to pour oil on troubled waters – we’re not falling for it and we will never be on your side.

Iain Duncan-Smith: Anyone Can Live On £7 A Day

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Iain Duncan-Git

Iain Duncan-Smith could live on £53 a week I reckon, just as most of us could feel quite excited about the prospect of going on a survival course or boot camp or something similar. He’d think of it as a change, something exciting, a sort of toff’s challenge. It’d be a thing for him to do, and something he’d be able to drone on about having done at his club, or whilst having a snifter at the 19th or whatever. He could do it – say for a week or a fortnight, or even a month, and then write a book about it and we’d never hear the last of it.

So make the bastard do it for a year with no get-outs, cut him off from his well-stocked freezer and cocktail cabinet and his fat wallet and bank account, and dump him in a three-bedroomed flat on a sink estate, complete with 25% bedroom tax. See how he fancies that.

Not one little bit, is my guess.  But I’d love to see him try.

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.

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:

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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.