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Monday, 4 May 2015

Will Work & Pensions debate sideline abuses against benefit claimants and carers?

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

(An email from a concerned family carer got me to do this blog piece that I actually started at about 4:55 this morning.)

On Monday 12 April a contributor to CarersUK online forum about today's Daily Politics Show stated:

 I watched question time last week and the only person that mentioned the worry and concerns of people with disabilities and Carers was Natalie Bennett. It was brief and the subject wasn't continued!

Then we had William Hague, stating that their party had created jobs to get people out of poverty when questioned about the rise in food banks and the amount of people who had to use them. George Osborne stated the same recently. This is all well and good but how do people cope until they do find work and get on their feet! This party quote numbers about people who are now employed but I am led to believe that many are zero hour contracts (casual labour) and jobs with little security.(1)

I had a similar experience back in about 2008 at an Economics Conference run by the Guardian in tandem with the Trades Union Congress. As the then spokesperson for the Green Party of England & Wales on such matters, I asked the panel that included Labour's appointed 'Happiness Guru' Lord Layard how they would improve the economic conditions of family-based carers who were little supported by Carers Alllowance and the removal of their support services from local councils, etc.(2) (Family-based carers saved the UK economy more than the total NHS budget even before the 2010 General Election!) The panel chaired by the Guardian's Economics editor and including one East Midlands Member of the European Parliament were greatly relieved by the chairperson's sidelining of that question as irrelevant.

Since then we have had a harsher 'Work Capability Assessment' i(WCA) n order for people to 'qualify' for Employment & Support Allowance; that test though not piloted until 2011 was actually authorised by Labour's last Work & Pension Secretary Yvette Cooper. And Carers Allowance is being made harder to claim on account of the changes from Disability Living Allowance as gateway benefit to 'Personal Independence Payments' that is tested by the notorious Atos. And the orchestrated smear stories intimidate Labour politicians into mitigating their language against giving proper support to benefit claimants, while its MPs obviously have histories of neglect and abuse of benefit claimants and jobseekers that they would rather not allow to resurface, such as the DWP system meltdown that happed on their pre-2005 General Election watch as a result of staff cuts and a move to remote control of benefit claims.(5)

And I also recall great unease and frustration in carers campaigning colleagues at the 38 Degrees online pressure group's non-inclusion of Atos and carers-related issues before the 2010 General Election when it asked people to vote for its campaigning priorities. Of course, since then things have got much worse, including the scrapping of Independent Living Fund that Labour is not keen to reinstate.

So I would ask my readers to put pressure on the BBC Daily Politics show ahead of their Work & Pensions Debate today, by emailing dailypolitics@bbc.co.uk (6)

Do we get the governments we deserve, or merely the 'options' that even lobbyists such as 38 Degrees and ivory-towered mass media moguls such as Paul Dacre tell us are our [only] options? While I do not approve of violence, maybe it's a case of 'shoot the censors' rather than the politicians as messengers in debates? How about firing an email at them? Politicians can say they are getting support and are supporting people who email them with their concerns, and maybe the censors might feel put under pressure. (Yet I wonder how many of the frontline recipients of email to mass media outlets are themselves unpaid graduate interns?(8))

Post Script

See also:

Carer Watch blog post: Will Iain Duncan Smith turn up for Welfare Debate (9). And note that because of election impartiality rules, if one party does not turn up the debate is cancelled!
Pollsters' 'vision' excludes those offline?,(10) on opinion pollsters as hegemonic censors in the sense of "the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group". (11)

Iain Duncan Smith did turn up and was strongly challenged over 'welfare reform' related deaths by Green Party Work & Pensions Spokesperson Jonathan Bartley. The spokespersons' podia were arranged so that a ding dong between Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative could be covered via one camera position, and the camera rarely moved from that position of a discussion between those who had 'been there, done that'. The only spokesperson who mentioned the plight of family-based carers was UKIP Work & Pensions Spokesperson Suzanne Evans and she was soon marginalised. (12)


(1) http://www.carersuk.org/forum/support-and-advice/carer-and-disability-benefits/daily-politics-show-welfare-debate-may-5th-22708?p=304562
(2) http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2009/07/16/change-the-terms-of-carers-allowance-to-allow-more-carers-to-work/
(3) http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2007/09/20/carers-unpaid-support-is-worth-more-than-nhs-annual-budget/
(4) http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/showthread.php?t=568244
(5) http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2006/11/16/jobcentre-plus-poor-service-continues/
(6)  http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/5-party-welfare-debate-tuesday-5-may.html
(7) http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2013/12/man-who-hates-liberal-britain
(8) http://www.newstatesman.com/economics/2013/08/generation-jobless-worst-youth-unemployment-crisis-european-history-should-be-blam
(9) https://carerwatch.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/will-iain-duncan-smith-turn-up-for-welfare-debate/
 (10) http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/pollsters-vision-excludes-those-offline.html
(11) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hegemony
(12) This is now available on BBC iPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05tb4pz/daily-politics-2015-election-debates-welfare

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