Showing posts with label welfare state. Show all posts
Showing posts with label welfare state. Show all posts

Sunday, January 13, 2013

End of a Dream

Workers living on state benefits are well aware, it is quite impossible to put a little by for a rainy day, for every day is forecast as a downpour, and trying to keep your head above water is a constant problem. And for those who are wholly dependent on benefits as their only source of income, their whole lifestyle is dictated by their resourcefulness in eking out their pittance from one day to the next. Yet the ConDem government is planning to make things worse.

Changes to a single universal benefit – bringing together income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit, and child and working tax credits – follow the cuts in child benefit voted through at Westminster last week, aims at reducing the UK’s welfare benefits bill. The universal credit is an attempt to simplify the complex benefits system into one new single payment.

A report, by public policy expert Dr Jim McCormick, says the new universal credits system, to be introduced over the next two years, contains “serious design flaws” and will plunge far more Scots into poverty than expected. The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) warns one in four Scots will be living in poverty by the end of the decade if the coalition government forges ahead with “criminal welfare reforms”. SCVO chief executive Martin Sime said: “The UK government’s £2.5 billion cuts in benefits must be seen for what they are: an assault on families, communities and the economy of Scotland. These callous cuts masquerading as reform represent an active choice taken by the UK government, which is hurting the most disadvantaged people in Scotland.”
Universal credit is seen as an “all-or-nothing” reform, says McCormick, which means that getting payments wrong would leave people facing delays, errors or cuts to their only source of income. Women are at particular risk from the move to a single payment into households. John Dickie, head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “Time is running out for UK ministers to respond to the mounting evidence that any positive impact of the new universal credit is being fatally undermined by design flaws, underinvestment and a lack of advice and information support for the hundreds of thousands of families who will rely on the new ­benefit.”

A vision of a poverty-free capitalism was shared by many during the post-war years of steady economic growth. Some still cling to that forlorn hope. The need for an efficient system of ensuring that workers' very basic needs was one of the main motives behind the introduction of the welfare state. The return of world recessions has made the welfare state  more difficult to finance out of sustained economic growth at exactly the time the burdens of poverty and unemployment placed increasing demands on it. Demographic shifts (such as the rise in the elderly and single parents) also increased the welfare burden for governments. Hence recent years have seen cutbacks in welfare payments and services in most industrialised countries on a scale that would have been considered politically unacceptable by Tories much less Labour politicians years ago.

It is unlikely that welfare services can ever be restored to what they once were.  Capitalism runs on the profits made in the profit-seeking sector of the economy and most of the state’s income comes from these profits, either through taxation or through borrowing. The state is in this sense parasitic on the profit-seeking sector and which is presently in difficulty. The private sector's message to governments everywhere is that the proportion of national income commandeered by the state must be reduced if profits are to be restored to adequate levels. The hope of those on the Left to pay for expanding welfare services out of sustained economic growth is becoming increasingly remote. The welfare state of the future is likely to be only a shadow of what it once was.

It is another demonstration that the reforms promised by politicians in order to obtain votes, far from removing the problems that they claim to remedy, merely ameliorate them at best. The social problems that give rise to reforms—in welfare as in other spheres—are inherent to the capitalist system and can only be ended by ending capitalism. To fight the same old welfare reform battles over several decades is demoralising enough, but when previous reforms are put into reverse the case against the system is stronger than ever.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A reality check

All working-age benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, will only go up by 1% a year – less than half the rate of inflation – for the next three years. A cut, in other words, that will be worth £3.75 billion a year to the Treasury, in addition to all the previously announced cuts and freezes. The poorest 30% will be made to bear most of Osborne's budget cuts in the age of austerity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation explained that as things stand – which is to say, before the next round of cuts – out-of-work benefits cover 60% of the minimum income standard for couples with children, and 40% for single adults.  It is calculated simply by asking ordinary members of the public what they think is "an essential minimum standard of living".

28% of workers engaged in the Scottish private sector earn less than £7.20 an hour. 17% of Scots are stuck in relative poverty – defined as having a household income of less than 60% of median household income. 

Six out of 10 children in Scotland belong to families enduring the contradiction known as in-work poverty. 57% of children in poverty had at least one parent in work.

Oxfam claims, however, that four million of the 13.5 million poor in Britain are in work, of sorts. Meanwhile, the Child Poverty Action Group points out that a couple with two kids would need to find 58 hours of work a week on the minimum wage – if work could be had – simply to be out of poverty.

Zero-hours contracts are spreading. One million workers, by the latest estimate, are stuck in part-time jobs, hoping for more hours.

 In November 2011, the Trussell Trust established a food bank in the south-east of Glasgow. During the Christmas period last year, it helped 168 people, including 103 children. The Trust estimates that up to 60,000 Scots will need its help every year.

 To some, "recession" means a little more prudence when managing the monthly finances. But others, those who can least afford any further cuts in their household budgets will suffer long-term job losses and find it more difficult to feed and clothe their families. They will be much more susceptible to mental and physical ill health and another couple of years will be deducted from their life expectancy. Many will turn to alcoholism and drug misuse as a pitiful means to get to the end of the day in one piece. A particularly cold winter will carry off the vulnerable and elderly people.
The vast majority of those who rely on benefits and tax credits are either in work, have worked, or will be in work in the near future. Families are scraping by in low-paid work, or being bounced from insecure jobs to benefits and back again. The means testing is being de facto deployed by Atos, the inquisitors of the disabled with the presumption of benefit fraud before any claimant is given a single penny of welfare.

The richest 10% in Scotland have incomes equal to the earnings of the poorest 50%. The sheer greedy, corrupt and rapacious bankers and hedge fund managers who caused the recession tell us that they shouldn't be punished for their avarice because the country need their expertise too much but that we the victims should pay the price of their failures and to just knuckle under.

The poor are being blamed for being poor.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hitting the vulnerable

Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people in Scotland face being forced on to unpaid work programmes under threat of losing their benefits from tomorrow. People with a range of physical or mental health conditions could find themselves stacking shelves in high-street stores such as Tesco and Poundland, or cleaning private homes, under the new proposals. They are to be told that they must take unpaid positions or risk losing up to 70% of their employment support allowance. 

 Across the UK, some 340,000 disabled people have been placed in the work related activity group (WRAG), which means they must undertake a range of activities to help them get back to work, including training, job-hunting – and now mandatory work placements.

 Most disabled people welcome support to get into the labour market, but compulsory placements rarely work, says Richard Hamer, director of external affairs at Capability Scotland. "When disabled people get forced into jobs, they tend to be unsuccessful jobs," Hamer said. "It can be very difficult, not just because of physical difficulties, but also mental impairments – poor mental health for example – for people to adapt to the labour market. If we start simply forcing people into jobs then there's a high likelihood that the employer won't be the best solution for them."

 Susan Archibald, a disability rights campaigner based in Fife, branded the proposed plans "a disgrace" that "will put disabled workers at risk".  Archibald estimates that around 30,000 work-capacity assessments are being carried out each week on disability claimants by Atos.

 Disabled and elderly protestors plan to disrupt the showpiece relay at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, forcing up security costs, if the "fit-for-work" benefits test company Atos is not dropped as a sponsor. Campaigners plan to turn the Queen's Baton Relay, the equivalent of the Olympic Torch relay, into a public-relations disaster if Atos is involved when the Games start, with pensioners and wheelchair-users potentially being arrested for blocking the route.

 Atos Healthcare has a £110m-a-year contract with the Department for Work and Pensions to run Work Capability Assessments to see if sick and disabled people are fit to work. Critics say the tests are flawed, degrading, and meant to cut benefit spending. Next year the firm begins work on a second £400m contract to assess mobility benefits.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exposing the ethics of the Co-op

On Thursday 22nd a dozen people, including members of benefit claimants' groups Black Triangle and the Crutch Collective, Clydeside Industrial Workers Of The World, Glasgow Anarchist Federation, Glasgow Solidarity Federation as well as other individuals took part in the hour long picket of the Co-Op Bank and supermarket on the same street in central Glasgow.

They gave out leaflets to Co-Op customers and the hundreds of people going pass on their way home from work. The leaflet highlighted the Co-Op's four year occupational health contract with Atos. Atos continue to make huge profits by continuing to assess most sick and disabled benefit claimants as fit for work, ignoring contrary medical evidence, to comply with Government targets for benefit cuts. The cuts are being imposed to make the poor pay again for the latest crisis in capitalism caused by the rich. They asked people to contact the Co-Op to tell the company, that sells itself as ethical, that they will be losing their custom until they cancel their contract with Atos.

Most interest came from older women who perhaps know from experience what the Co-Op is really about. Maybe they know the reality of the Co-Op's claim that they have always been ethical, because they have always provided affordable prices to those in need. In past generations the Co-Op mostly employed women. Their exploitative employment practices are still the same as any other business. Historically the Co-Op has played a significant role in the daily lives of many working class people. But it's contribution to working class emancipation has been marginal at best and at worst has added to illusion that such an aim can be achieved within the capitalist system. Like any other business it is open to the pressures that come with the fluctuations of the marketplace and has made workers redundant when the markets are down. Like any other bosses the Co-Op management have made older workers redundant, using the excuse that they would be incapable of coping with the introduction of new technology, that was never introduced, because managers had nothing better to do than manage workers like cogs in a machine.

Co-Op management tried to placate the protesters with more empty words about ethics, rather than taking action against Atos. They have refused to rule out Atos from the bidding process for their new occupational contract, that starts next year, despite the unethical behaviour of Atos being well documented. If the Co-Op were interested in ethics they would have already publicly rejected an Atos bid. Their decision on who to award the new contract to will be based primarily on cheapness even though the profitable Co-Op do not have to do this out of economic necessity.

Atos and the police have been monitoring anti-Atos activity to try to manage dissent towards ineffectiveness. Now the Co-Op are up to it as well to help their Atos partners. The communications from Co-Op management, the hiring of extra security staff and the ludicrous number of police present for the picket show that the Co-Op are extremely worried about their ethical image, no matter how fake, even from the dent that can be caused to it by a relatively small group and one action. We must be doing something right. Just imagine what actions against the Atos contract by larger groups in more that one place could do.

From here

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Black Triangle Badge

It was a badge used by the SS guards to mark prisoners as “workshy” in Nazi concentration camps. Now the “black triangle” symbol has been adopted by a group of campaigners fighting the so-called “fit-to-work” assessments implemented by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in a bid to stamp out benefit fraud.

Set up Edinburgh campaigners 18 months ago, the Black Triangle Campaign was launched in memory of Edinburgh writer Paul Reekie, who took his own life – allegedly after having his benefits cut during a bout of serious depression. Reekie did not leave a suicide note, but he laid out two letters on his table, found after his death. One was notifying him that his housing benefit had been stopped. The other was informing him that his incapacity benefit had been stopped.

Leith GP Dr Stephen Carty stands up for his patients when he discovered many were being told they were fit for work after passing a number of tests that did not involve consulting medical experts.

“I have grave concerns about the harm that is being done to patients who are being put through this Work Capability Assessment processes” he says. “It is essentially a computer system used by Atos to assess patients. What is happening is that people are being seen by individuals with very little occupational health training – and they don’t request any meaningful information from a GP who has been treating the patient.”

Dr Carty’s list of people deemed fit to work, whom he insists are not capable of normal employment, is almost endless. Right he lists four case studies, including one man who had his benefits axed after being told he had to go out to work shortly after being sectioned in a mental hospital.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The crack-down

Under the new rules, claimants face a tougher medical test, existing claimants are being re-tested, there are new requirements to engage in work-related activity, and the entitlement to non-means tested benefit is time-limited.

115,000 Scots will lose their incapacity benefit. 65,000 people in Scotland will be pushed out of the benefits system altogether, forcing a big increase in reliance on other family members and will add 35,000 to the number of those seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Glasgow will be hit hardest. The report estimates that more than 22,000 people are likely to lose their incapacity benefits and more than 12,000 will be denied benefits entirely. Other hard-hit areas have been identified as Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Clackmannanshire.

Professor Steve Fothergill, who co-wrote the report, said: the reduction in the numbers did not mean there is currently widespread fraud or that the health problems and disabilities were “anything less than real”.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

heartless system

Deaths of people who were waiting for appeals to be heard against the loss of benefits has prompted calls for a fairer assessment system. The claimants from West Dunbartonshire, died from the conditions which caused them to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB) while waiting for appeals to be heard against cuts to their benefits.

One was deemed fit for work during a work capability assessment, despite having a deteriorating chronic illness, and lost both incapacity benefit and disability living allowance. When his support worker appeared at the appeal tribunal she had to report her client could not be present because he was dead. The appeal was upheld and the backpayment will become part of his estate.

The other had a congenital condition which caused difficulty in walking but was assessed capable of work and his incapacity benefit was withdrawn. He was waiting for a date for an appeal tribunal when he died.

A third person, again from West Dunbartonshire, died recently after winning a second appeal tribunal following three years of repeated assessments and decisions being overturned.He worked as a shop assistant in his 20s but was forced to give up due to severe heart and lung problems caused by a degenerative syndrome.An “indefinite” award of IB and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was revoked after only two months on the basis of a questionnaire he had filled in.Six months later it was reinstated by an appeal tribunal. Despite this ruling and the finding that his condition was worse than the original assessment, his case was once again referred for medical assessment. Once again, the benefit was withdrawn. He appealed again, with help from staff at the Clydebank Independent Resource Centre, and a tribunal date set for a further six months on. By that time he had been confined to bed with severe pain for several days and his extreme difficulty in reaching the chair in the tribunal room caused the chair of the panel to say the hearing would be as short as possible and that a taxi would be waiting to take him home. He won the appeal but only after three years of unrelenting anxiety over whether his benefits would be cut.

Mary Hodgson, from Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, worked from the age of 16 until she was 41, latterly as a support worker for people with learning disabilities. That ended suddenly when a lower disc cut through her spinal cord leaving her semi-paralysed. “I went from being a fit and healthy person to being unable to walk without crutches and needing a wheelchair to go any distance,” she said. “The damage to my nerves has caused other problems and I need daily care from a nurse.” She was assessed as fit to work. That decision was overturned on appeal and she now receives the higher rate of Employment and Support Allowance, but the experience has left her fearful over her future support.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Malnutrition in the UK ?

“We think we are heading towards malnutrition happening here in the UK.” - Save the Children’s Colette Marshall told the BBC. "Benefits simply haven’t been enough and with rising food costs it means that families cannot afford to give children proper decent food. "

Children are being deprived of dietary staples and instead are being raised on cheap packaged food high in fat, salt and sugar. The Grocer magazine shows food prices rising by almost a fifth over the past year, with basic essentials such as rice and milk among the worst hit.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Affluent Society ?

A single person living in Britain needs to earn at least £13,400 a year before tax to afford a basic but acceptable standard of living, research claimed

The "minimum income" is enough to cover needs like food and warmth, as well as the occasional film ticket and simple meal out.

The study found that a single person without children needed to spend £158 a week, while a couple with two children needed £370 a week, excluding rent or mortgage.To afford this budget on top of rent on a modest council home, a single person would need to earn £13,400 a year before tax and the couple with two children £26,800.

The report said families without a working adult received about two thirds of the minimum budget in state benefits.Single people without work received less than half of the minimum budget in benefits. The basic state pension gives a retired couple about three quarters of the minimum income, but claiming the means-tested Pension Credit could top their income up to just above the minimum standard, the report said.

Jonathan Bradshaw, professor of social policy at the University of York, said: "Based on these public assessments, almost everyone defined as living below the official poverty line falls short of what people judge to be adequate for their fellow citizens – sometimes by quite a long way."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A caring society ??

THE number of Scottish children in care is at its highest in two decades and youngsters are being pushed on to the streets at just 16, leaving them vulnerable to addiction, violence and homelessness a new report from Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People .

The report highlights the gulf between children brought up with their families – who are increasingly staying at home until well into their twenties – and those who are in care.Although Scottish Government policy dictates that children should leave at 18, six times as many are leaving at 16, often coerced by social services.The report found that children with "challenging behaviour" are those under most pressure to leave. More than one in 10 reported episodes of homelessness. Some were sent to bed-and-breakfasts - at least one youngster had to share accommodation with a convicted murderer. Senior social work sources said 16-year-olds were being squeezed out to make way for an army of needy children

Author of the report ,Ms Marshall, said: "In many cases children and young people in care are seen as a troublesome burden rather than a vulnerable person to be nurtured. At 16 - the time they need help to cope - many are all but completely abandoned with little, if any aftercare."

The report states that the level of 15- to 18-year-olds who are homeless "represents a shocking failure in corporate parenting".It claims authorities are either failing to keep under-18s within the care system, or not supporting them afterwards in accordance with the legal duty that extends to the age of 19. Although the laws and the policy in place supported the children and prioritised their interests, there was a gulf between that and practice.

Tam Baillie, the assistant director of Policy and Influencing at Barnardo's Scotland, said: "Nowadays, most young people stay at home well into their twenties, yet most looked-after young people leave care aged 16 or 17. We need to ask ourselves why our most vulnerable young people are expected to be fully independent at such a young age, often in very difficult circumstances..."

Elsewhere , we read more than a quarter of drug addicts due to receive treatment have been waiting for more than a year .

Friday, August 10, 2007

Old and out of the way

Just how society treats our elderly is becoming cruelly more and more apparent . We had this report , a 108 year old woman having to wait a year and half for a hearing aid to improve the quality of her short remaining life and now we read about this care home evicting an 103 year old woman because she is requiring too much care , or so they say , in a squabble over how much she has to pay for the nursing care . Abbeymoor's owner, Mark Sutters, told the Nottingham Evening Post that the home could not continue to "subsidise" Mrs Collins's care.

Local authority and care services minister Ivan Lewis said " I am deeply concerned at the attempt by the home owner to use Mrs Collins as a pawn in a funding dispute. Whatever the difficulties, such treatment of a 103-year-old cannot be tolerated in a modern care system which has dignity and respect for older people at its heart."

Esme Collins was told to leave after 10 years at Abbeymoor nursing home in Worksop, because its owners refused to back down in a dispute over funding her care.

Age Concern has campaigned for the closing of a legal loophole that left the pensioner without the protection of human rights legislation.
"Forcing an older person to leave their care home can have a devastating impact on their physical and emotional health. We urge the government to act quickly to give the protection of the Human Rights Act to people living in private care homes to help prevent such situations."

Socialist Courier fully sympathises with such sentiments but to be perfectly blunt , it is just one very small example of the heartless nature of a society where everything has a price , even life and everything is valued in prices , even people . Events such as this will not stop until capitalism is superceded by a truly caring , sharing society such as Socialism

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The State of the Welfare State

Councils in England are restricting access to social services such as home care, day services and respite care. The Commission for Social Care Inspection warned this was happening by default, and without debate.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection chairman Dame Denise Platt said many people were being left to make their own arrangements because access to services was being tightened to include only those deemed to be in the most serious need.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said the system was in crisis, and accused the government of being unwilling to provide sufficient funds to help people with serious medical conditions.

Age Concern's director general Gordon Lishman said: "This is a damning indictment of a social care system that is failing older people. Not providing services for people with so-called moderate needs causes much anguish for the individual - but can also result in much higher and more expensive care needs in the future."

Dame Denise said: "In some cases people rely on family and friends, in others they pay for their own care. Some people have no option but to do without. "
Nearly five million people are classed as carers, with 1.5 million of those providing over 20 hours of care per week.
Dame Denise said: "They are doing this without the proper infra-structure in place. It is a complex sector, but they are often given no help navigating through it."

The promise of care from the cradle to the grave was one that was boasted of by the social reformers of the Labour Party - A promise that can be broken and forgotten , as we see .
And as Dame Denise states , it is not the power of the Capitalist State but mostly actual people-power who look after family and friends . Another reason to forgo this forlorn society .