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Jobseekers try to overturn law denying them benefit rebates


Lawyers say Iain Duncan Smith undermined jobseekers' rights with legislation allowing DWP to ignore court judgments


Iain Duncan Smith and parliament have conspired to undermine the basic rights of hundreds of thousands of jobseekers by enacting retrospective emergency legislation, according to the contents of a legal filing sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).


full article here -




Not long now Smithy :lol:

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Vulnerable George Rolph on 23rd day of hunger strike after being ruled fit for work

His body should be in ketosis, a starvation mode where the liver processes fat. Every day becomes much more serious


George Rolph is a ­60-year-old survivor of domestic violence and abuse.


He has acute post-traumatic stress disorder that makes his life one long waking nightmare.


He has experienced many years of flashbacks and panic attacks, barely coping with everyday life.


Yet in March 2013, Iain ­Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions found him “fit for workâ€.


For George, a vulnerable and troubled man, this was the final straw. On May 21, he began a hunger and water strike.


“I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay rent, I’m already behind with the gas and electric,†he says, quietly.


“I knew I was going to end up homeless. And I’m 60. I’m not going to make it out there.â€


His eyes fill with tears.


“Then, I thought if they’re going to put me out on the streets and make me homeless, if they’re going to kill me, well I’ll do it.


"I’ll be the one who decides where and when I die. I will go on a hunger and water strike.â€


On day seven of his strike and after desperate interventions by George’s MP Heidi Alexander, he was visited at home by an assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions.


He says: “I’d been told an appeal would take eight months to a year, but suddenly my benefits were reinstated until 2015.â€


George has now agreed to take water, but has refused to end his hunger strike.


Today is the 23rd day he has gone without food.


“I can’t end this because of all the other lives the DWP has ruined,†he says. “People are taking their own lives.â€


On Monday I went to see George with some reluctance.


The campaigners behind the WOW Petition – calling for a new deal for people with disabilities – first told me about him a fortnight ago when he began his hunger strike.


They, and I, hoped we could work behind the scenes for a better outcome.


Now, 23 days in, I also feel that this troubled, sincere man has the right to be heard.


“A doctor told me unofficially that I could last 40 to 45 days,†he says.


“He said Bobby Sands took 66 days to die because he was a young man.†He shakes his head.


“I was 18-and-a-half stone at the start, but I’m losing and gaining weight, it’s strange.â€


Twenty three days puts him into increasing danger.


George’s body should have now entered ketosis, a ­starvation mode where the liver begins processing fat. Every day becomes much more serious.


“When I wasn’t taking water I became very ill,†he says.


“I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t hold my head up. My eyesight was going. The first day after I started drinking was the worst of all.â€


George says he will continue his strike until two further demands are met.


Firstly, that people should keep their benefits while they appeal.


Secondly, he wants an independent inquiry into Atos – the French company that assesses people on benefits.


“I know that people will say I’m mad,†he says. “But these are both ­reasonable demands.â€


The Government’s own statistics reveal that between 2010 and 2011, 10,600 sick and disabled people died within six weeks of losing their claim.


Meanwhile, 37% of its decisions are overturned by appeal.


The British Medical Association has gone as far as labelling the agency “unfit for purpose†– yet Atos holds an estimated £3billion in Government contracts.


Meanwhile, the Government is winning the PR war.


The cuts to welfare are ­actually among their most popular ­policies because they make people think the only ones losing benefits are lazy scroungers, and not the thousands like George.


George is a seasoned campaigner who has carefully thought through what he is doing.


Before he was so badly abused by his girlfriend in the 1990s, he worked in a tin mine in Cornwall, as a window cleaner, on a fishing boat, and in London as a motorcycle courier.


Since the abuse, he has found it impossible to work. He suffers flashbacks and cannot be alone with a woman.


When I visited him, a male photographer had to be present throughout.


He had been through plenty of assessments in the past.


“The fourth one was exactly the same as the others,†he says. “Same questions. Same responses.


"But this time they said, ‘your benefits have been taken away, you need to have 15 points, you’ve got zero’.


“How had I gone from 15 points to zero overnight? There are so many others in my situation.â€


He warns against others following him. “I want to be very clear that I don’t want anyone else to do this, especially disabled people,†he says.


“I’m relatively fit and I know what the risks are.â€


Yesterday, Atos Healthcare said: “We recognise that the Work Capability Assessment process can be stressful, and we endeavour to treat everyone ­professionally and with respect during what we know can be a difficult process.


“Our trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists strictly follow the ­guidelines given to them and make no decisions on a person’s eligibility for benefits.


"We join others in urging Mr Rolph to end his hunger strike.â€


George is right that too many people are dying – and I don’t want him to be one of them.


Most of all he says he wants a voice, for him and others, and I hope this article offers him a chance to reach out to people.


I also hope that he will now end his hunger strike.


All those tormented by the Government’s cruel welfare reforms need his passion and campaigning spirit alive and well.

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Nowhere to hide, Mr Hoban: With advance notice of questions there’s no excuse for failure to answer


Let’s get something straight from the outset: By Parliamentary convention, if a government minister lies to MPs – or is found to have told falsehoods and does not then correct the inaccuracies, that is a resignation matter.


Until the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came into power, this convention was observed by all parties. The fact that the current administration – which, let’s remember, did not win any elections to get into office – does not observe this convention is yet another indication that it is an outlaw government.


Iain Duncan Smith is a classic case of the Coalition attitude. He has told so many porkies to Parliament and the public that he is to be dragged before the Commons Work and Pensions committee to account for them. The trouble is, even if he is forced to admit knowingly misleading us all, there is no reason to expect him to do the decent thing and fall on his sword. He’ll damn our impertinence for having the cheek to question him.


Probably the best way forward with him would be for the Work and Pensions committee to take his case to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the committee on Standards and Privileges, as this seems to be the correct route to take, in order to expel an MP.* If he won’t go willingly, he’ll have to be pushed.


Of course Mr… Smith might decide to claim he cannot answer some of the more involved questions, if he hasn’t had prior notice of them; he could say he hasn’t been able to put the facts together. Then, instead of admitting he is dishonest, he’ll just be admitting incompetence. No Coalition minister has yet been sacked for that.


One of his fellows who’ll have no such excuse is Mark Hoban, due to face questioning by Sheila Gilmore MP – who also sits on the Work and Pensions committee – in an adjournment debate on the audio recording of Atos work capability assessments at 7pm today (Wednesday, June 12).


Why not? Because she has sent him advance notice of all the questions she will be asking, in her speech, which she has published here for everyone to see.


Firstly, she attacks the government’s assertion - made by Hoban’s fellow truth-bender Chris Grayling, when he was in Hoban’s job - that there is a lack of demand for audio recording of assessments. He said a pilot scheme to test whether audio recording assessments improved their quality had produced a negative result: “We decided not to implement universal recording because, based on the trial experience, people did not want it.â€


This is – to nobody’s surprise – untrue.


The Atos pilot concluded, “68% of customers agreed to the recording when contacted by telephone prior to the appointment.â€


This total dropped to 46 per cent due to some claimants not taking the assessment. This is most likely caused by the phenomenon of ‘churn’, as discussed on this blog, and others, in previous articles – a fairly consistent number of claimants stop their claim before taking the assessment because they either get better, find a job that can accommodate their disability, or die.


As far as Atos were concerned, the result was beyond doubt: “Our recommendation would be that recording should become routine as it is in a call centre or for example – NHS direct.â€


This is the recommendation of the company running the much-criticised assessment scheme, remember. Even Atos wants better accountability and an improved quality of assessment that this may bring.


Ms Gilmore goes on to attack the government’s claim that the number of claimants requesting a copy of their recording is just one per cent. This cannot be regarded as an accurate assessment of the number who would like a copy, for two reasons, she tells us.


Firstly, the assesssors used handheld devices to make their recordings, meaning they would have to be transferred to computer and burnt to CD afterwards, preventing claimants from taking recordings away with them on the day. Instead they had to make a further request – in writing. “Unsurprisingly this suppressed uptake,†Ms Gilmore’s speech states.


Secondly, claimants were warned off applying for copies by assessors who told them recordings would only be useful to them if they appealed. The report that stated only one per cent of claimants persisted in their request was completed only days after the pilot study ended, meaning most of those involved had not received a decision on their claim and therefore did not know whether they needed to appeal. Demand may well have been higher, had the measurement been taken after a reasonable time.


This is just one example of the DWP timing processes in order to get its way. We’ll return to that topic in a moment.


Chris Grayling also stated that the DWP would offer “everyone who wants it†the opportunity to have their assessment recorded. In practice, this seems an empty promise, as Atos had around 50 audio recording machines on May 22 this year, but undertakes more than 11,000 assessments every week.


Also, the option to request recordings is not offered in any official DWP communications to claimants. As Arthur Dent points out in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s not like they’ve gone out of their way, “like actually telling anyone or anything!â€


What we’re seeing is a series of attempts to distort information and skew the facts, to create a story that supports DWP ministers’ intentions, rather than the evidence. That’s bad for the country, because it means decisions are taken on the basis of fantasy, diverting attention and effort away from where it is needed.


“Today I have taken the unusual step of emailing a copy of my speech for an upcoming debate to Mark Hoban, the Minister due to speak for the Government,†said Ms Gilmore. “Now he can have no excuse for not answering the important questions I intend to put to him…. I want to ensure the Minister can’t ignore these points, and that’s why I’ve take this action today.â€


Whatever happens this evening, it seems unlikely that anything can be done about the DWP’s latest misuse of statistics – actually withholding performance data about the Work Programme (as reported previously in Vox Political) and the Youth Contract until the day after the government’s comprehensive spending review.


This means decisions are likely to be made on ministers’ recommendations, rather than on the basis of fact – and we now know that we cannot trust those recommendations at all.


The Telegraph, reporting the delay, stated that the figures – when they arrive – “are expected to be very disappointing.


“It is hardly unreasonable to say that the Government would sooner Labour did not have these to throw at it when George Osborne gives details of the Comprehensive Spending Review in Parliament on June 26.â€


Columnist Tim Wigmore concludes – and this is in the Torygraph, remember: “The Government only has itself to blame if it’s getting harder to give it the benefit of the doubt.â€


That time is long gone.


There must be no dishonesty in Parliament.


If Mark Hoban fails to give full and frank answers to the questions Sheila Gilmore has put to him, but resorts to distortions of the figures or outright falsehoods, then he must be expelled from his job, not just as a minister but as an MP.


That goes for his boss, Iain Duncan Smith. It goes for Grant Shapps, Michael Gove (mentioned in the Telegraph article) and, above all, it also goes for David Cameron.


Liars all.


Posted by Mike Sivier



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The breadth and depth of cuts in public sector jobs, pay and frontline services might lead some to believe that austerity exists and public spending is being reduced. However, public spending is actually 4% higher today that in 2010. We are not experiencing short term disruption to balance the books, we are experiencing the controlled demolition of the welfare state – transferring the UK from a social democracy to a corporate state.


Full article here -



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Atos Contracts Cost Taxpayers Nearly £1.6 Billion


Atos, the private firm responsible for carrying out Work Capability Assessments on benefit claimants on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will cost the UK taxpayer nearly *£1.6bn in private contracts.


The eye-watering figure consists of a number of different contracts ranging from disability assessments for benefit claimants to IT services for the governments enGage Gateway; IT infrastructure which allows for secure identity management and payment transactions for things like tax returns and registrations to government websites.


Atos has come under a great deal of criticism from disability campaigners, healthcare professionals and politicians, who argue that assessments to deem whether a person is capable of some form of work are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and should be scrapped.


DWP figures show that Atos recommendations have been wrong in as many as 1 in 5 assessments and successful appeals at Social Security Tribunals have been as high as 38%. The government claim that they are continuing to make improvements following reviews of the assessments and that successful appeals are now closer to 1 in 4 (25%).


This will not satisfy critics of Atos who say that the contract between the private contractor and the DWP should be revoked and that their poor performance in carrying out disability assessments for the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, should mean that they should not be awarded a contract for carrying out assessments for the new disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance for disabled people. Both PIP and DLA are available to those both in work and out-of-work whilst ESA is only for those who are incapable of working – both can be claimed at the same time.


The medical services contract awarded to Atos to assess unemployed sick and disabled persons readiness for work will cost a total of £983 million from 1st September 2005 to 31st August 2015. The Atos contract for the new Personal Independence Payment will cost taxpayers close to £390 million, whilst their Occupational Health contract, which includes jobcentre employees, costs £12 million. Their IT contract with the DWP is worth £200 million whilst Atos involvement in back-to-work schemes (aka workfare) costs the taxpayer over £3.1 million. In total the full cost to the UK taxpayer of Atos contracts is close to £1.6 BILLION! Some believe that the total cost of these contracts could be much higher.


Atos are not alone in the windfall. Capita, which is another private firm, have held 16 contracts with the DWP worth over £586.4 million.


*Data Source: Disability Rights UK



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More Charities Abandon Work Programme As Long Term Unemployment Continues To Soar



Nothing demolishes the sham which is the welfare-to-work sector more than the soaring long term unemployment figures.


The number of people out of work for over two years has risen almost every month ever since Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled Work Programme, his magical cure for unemployment, began two years ago. Today’s unemployment figures show this number has risen yet again, to 458,000 people whilst the number of those out of work over a year has jumped by 11,000 to just below 900,000.


This is despite the fact that the Work Programme, which has already cost hundreds of millions of pounds, was specifically designed to bring down long term unemployment.


It has been a dismal failure, with recent news of yet more charities abandoning the scheme. Even Tomorrow’s People, the Tory dominated front organisation for brewing giant Diageo, announced they were leaving the Work Programme at the beginning of the month.


The Chief Executive of Tomorrow’s People is Baroness Debbie Scott, a Tory life peer who used to run Iain Duncan Smith’s think tank the Centre For Social Justice. They are most famous as the organisation who forced young people to sleep under a bridge under threat of benefit sanctions during the Queen’s Jubilee. The charity say they are leaving the Work Programme due to a lack of referrals. Coming from his own side, this is a hugely embarrassing snub to Iain Duncan Smith which shows that even if you’re a Tory you can’t trust a Tory.


They are to be joined by the Volunteer Centre Kensington & Chelsea who have also announced they are leaving the Work Programme. The charity say they are withdrawing from the scheme due to restrictions placed on how they work with service users – meaning long term unemployed people, or those claiming sickness benefit ESA in the Work Related Activity Group. According to Third Sector, the charity claim: “We thought that the best way to influence the service was to be inside it, to speak with the voice of evidence back to the primary contractor and say ‘This works and this is great, but this doesn’t and this is our suggestion’,â€


“But our experience was that they simply didn’t want to listen.â€


The primary contractors on the Work Programme are the welfare-to-work companies such as A4e, Ingeus, Working Links and G4S. These companies have fleeced the tax payer for billions over the years by feeding off the orchestrated attack on those claiming social security benefits. This multi-billion pound benefit fraud has tricked both the current and the last government into believing that unemployment can be fixed by harassing claimants with workfare and benefit sanctions.


None of the schemes these companies have leeched off have ever made the slightest difference to the unemployment figures, although the appalling performance of the Work Programme represents a new low. This is hardly surprising as these companies have been given free reign to do whatever they choose under the payment-by-results model. This has meant for those long term unemployed people who are hardest to help find work – and therefore unlikely to be profitable – they have chosen to do nothing at all.


Instead they have picked up lucrative job entry payments by claiming credit for the people who would have almost certainly got jobs under their own steam. The scrounging welfare-to-work sector have fooled the DWP into thinking that no-one unemployed has ever managed to get a job before attending an A4e CV workshop, or being forced to work in a charity shop without pay.


The end result of this has been the tax payer handing over hundreds of millions to welfare to work sharks whilst long term unemployment – the very thing they are being paid to fix – has sky rocketed.


Every modern capitalist country in the world has high unemployment. In times of economic growth unemployment comes down and when the economy stagnates unemployment rises. This has nothing to do with people suddenly becoming lazy or workshy. Unemployment is still so high because George Osborne foot-sucked the economy.


All the Work Programme has achieved is yet more profits for the welfare-to-work sector. Mass workfare has meant the number of real jobs has shrunk, whilst benefit sanctions lead to people queuing up outside foodbanks rather than trying to find work.


An individual less arrogant, or less stupid, than Iain Duncan Smith might at least acknowledge the evidence and stop spending millions of pounds forcing people into destitution. As well as being inhumane, it is gross incompetence. But with such huge sums being trousered by the private sector it appears to be full steam ahead on the welfare reform gravy train.


Posted by johnny void -



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Ex Atos Dr Greg Wood who resigned in disgust at what was going on is looking for information on your experiences with Atos if anyone is interested -




(Post was on the 8th of June)


Call For Cases 1


Maybe readers can help me?


I would like to build up a list/database of people who have done all of these things:


Received Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit


Been called for a face-to-face Atos assessment since 2010


Been put in the Support Group after the face-to-face Atos assessment OR been put in the Support Group after reconsideration by the DWP OR been put in the Support Group by a Tribunal


Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro*


*just kidding.


I would like to know:


Your first name and email address


Whether the above procedure was a good, bad or neutral experience for you.


The results might well be useful in further action involving regulatory bodies.


Please reply to dr.greg.wood.wca@gmail.com with the title 'Call For Cases 1'



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1 million more people plunged into

poverty in coalition's first year


Official DWP figures include 300,000 more children, as

charities point out that the entire increase came from

working households



A million more people were plunged into poverty during

the first year of the coalition government, including

300,000 more children, according to official figures.


Charities pointed out that the entire increase in children

counted as in poverty in 2011-12 came from working households.

Children living below the poverty line were now twice

as likely to come from working families than those without



The situation is likely to get worse, say charities, because

the statistics covered the period before a range of austerity

measures and welfare cuts – including the bedroom tax and

the abolition of council tax benefit – were introduced.

Full article here -



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1.3 million more private sector jobs across the UK in the last 3 years

Wednesday, June 12 2013

The latest employment numbers show over 1.3 million jobs have been created in the private sector in the last three years.


Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that there are 432,000 more people in work than the same time last year, and 24,000 more than the previous three months.


Unemployment has also fallen, and the fall in youth unemployment has been particularly marked, with 43,000 fewer young people unemployed between February and April than in the previous three months.


Grant Shapps, Chairman of the Conservative Party, commented:


"These numbers are a credit to British businesses, with 1.3 million new private sector jobs created in the last three years. There are now more people in work than ever before. Businesses are rising to the challenge and creating jobs for people across the country.''


"The Conservatives have cut taxes to reward work and we're fixing welfare so it always pays to work.''


"Of course there is always more to do and we are not complacent. Our priority now is to carry on getting more people into work, and to help everyone who wants to work hard and get on in life.''

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Campaign launched to secure a referendum on the EU for the British people

Wednesday, June 12 2013

David Cameron is urging people to back Conservative Stockton South MP, James Wharton, in his bid to secure the first EU referendum in 40 years.


Today, the Conservative Party Chairman, Grant Shapps, launched a new campaign website, to make it simple for people to back James Wharton's Bill


The site LetBritainDecide.com aims to "build public pressure, to give people a voice, and to urge MPs from other parties to listen to their constituents."


The whole site is based on public interaction - encouraging the public to play an active role in the campaign and get MPs from all parties to join Conservative MPs and reflect the views of constituents.


Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said:


"Britain deserves a vote. It's been nearly 40 years since the British people last had their say on Europe. People feel the EU is heading in a direction they never signed up to.


"That is why Conservatives want to give Britain a clear vote - in or out - before the end of 2017, after a full renegotiation.


"A draft Bill to make this happen will soon be debated by MPs - but, crucially, it needs the support of other political parties to pass. Britain needs everyone to build public pressure on this. That's why we are launching LetBritainDecide.com today: to give people a voice, and to urge MPs to listen to their constituents."

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