Apologies for not having posted for so long.
A combination of events including burning out from trying to write too much in too short a time combined with my back problems having reached the point where I’m in hospital two or three times a week now left me mentally unable to write more than short Facebook posts.
I’ll try to post something more often from now on.
Anyway while a lot has been happening over the last few months, a long list of musicians, actors and important people I grew up with dying in droves, floods, politics, corruption and war I’m going to cover something close to me today. That being the ongoing campaign by the Tory government and the DWP to make the poor suffer for the crime of being poor.
Over the last few days we have seen a court ruling against the cruelty of the so called bedroom tax, this was where benefits were cut if the household had an extra room that could be classed as a bedroom, note the ‘could be classed as’. If you live in what an estate agent would call a three bed house and only had enough people living there to use two bedrooms the third would be justification for a benefits cut, even if it was the cupboard sized rooms many estate agents laughingly call a third bedroom.
So secure panic rooms, store rooms for vital medical equipment, the room the stay over carer sleeps in, all were classed as unused bedrooms despite the loud claims that they would be excluded.
Now we have a judge’s ruling against the DWP and its deliberate policy of persecuting the poor and ill but I expect that to be about as effective as every other court case the DWP has ignored over the years.
At the same time we have interesting studies that show that the costs of the various private sector corporations who carry out the disability tests is actually higher that the money saved by kicking needy people out of the system and leaving them at risk of going hungry or losing their homes.
Still it’s just the little people suffering, at least those corporate shareholders (friends, families and old school chums) are making a tidy profit out of it.
For some years now the DWP has been waving it’s new flagship scheme in the wind. Universal credit. A streamlined single system that covers all benefits in one, centralised databases, more efficient, faster to respond.
Now aside from the fact that it’s a government IT project and therefore over budget, years late, oh and coded by a handful of chimps hitting random keys on the keyboards it also has a few major problems which have been pointed out.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a group fairly well known for getting it’s sums right have concluded that while less than two million people will be better off with the single system over two million will be worse off, and those who are worse off will lose more than the better off gain. So overall two million people suffering significant cuts while less than two million gained somewhat.
Over a million people losing over two thousand pounds a year, £200 a month may not seem like much to people earning a decent wage, but it’s a harsh cut to the minimum wage, low hours or zero hours workers who are being exploited by their employers and by the government as well.
The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee said this on Universal Credit:
"The lack of transparency surrounding a programme with such wide-reaching implications for so many people is completely unacceptable. The Department for Work and Pensions appears either unable or unwilling to level with Parliament and the public about universal credit."
Then we have recently seen the house of Lords voting against a cut to ESA, the benefit paid to people who are unable to work due to illness or injury. ESA divides into two groups, those who would like to find work but are significantly restricted due to their condition and those who for whatever reason cannot work again.
The Dave, Osborne and IDS show rolled into town and decided that those people on ESA who were part of the ‘could work’ lot should have their benefits cut down to the same as jobseekers. Some say that’s only fair since they are considered able to do some work, but until you have been in such a condition or worked with people who are you don’t see just how much more difficult it is to find work while struggling with physical or mental conditions that are often debilitating.
Still it’s the trinity of oppression so expecting them to care about the 95% is a waste of time.
Now the Lords have blocked this and it’s heading back to parliament and on this subject ‘Call me Dave’ was challenged in the house today.
His reply was typical. He assured the house that the changes will not affect those already on ESA and, instead, will affect only new cases. So those already on such support will not have it cut (though it can still be cut by £14 or £28 a week if you fail to meet certain activity requirements). So only new claimants will be affected by the cut.
Exactly how are people being diagnosed with physical or mental issues this year rather than last year less in need of support, how exactly are new cases better able to survive on less money that those already receiving such support.
Or is this another of those magic marks where on one side things are somehow different to the other side even when both sides are exactly the same. Disabled last year different to disabled this year, under 25, over 25.
Finally we have this snippet of news.
Amazon is a well known UK and global company, they are the online seller of choice for tens of millions and deliver quickly and cheaply to your door. But they are also a company with something of a reputation for the way it treats its staff in those huge hub locations, long hours, low pay, hard conditions and the like. There have been many reports on how people are treated in the big regional centres Amazon uses to get our buys to us so quickly.
China is a large and well known nation, interesting history and the home of much of the items we buy from Amazon. As a country they have something of a reputation of low wages, long hours, harsh conditions and the like.
Amazon has a Chinese subsidiary which not only sells across the far east but also buys in a lot of the stock made in China for the rest of Amazon worldwide.
Doug Gurr is, or was, a senior executive at Amazon who was head of Amazons Chinese operations, one would think that he therefore knows a thing or two about overworked, underpaid staff and doesn't have much of a reputation for liveable wages, friendly working conditions and caring for the staff.
So when I see this bit of news I understandably expect the worst:
"Doug Gurr The head of Amazon's Chinese operations is joining the board of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as part of the drive by the DWP to benefit from corporate knowledge and experience"
As they say in the Tango adds, what’s the worst that could happen?