Tag: Debbie Abrahams

Techniques of neutralisation: David Cameron’s excuses for Iain Duncan Smith

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I wrote earlier about the way the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) heavily micro-managed the recent Mortality Statistics release, and how the Government are using an excessively bureaucratic approach to ensure that no inferences are drawn from the data published, insisting that it’s “wrong” to link the mortality rates of sick and disabled people with punitive, Conservative austerity policies.

However, the accounts and experiences of sick and disabled people and their families (recorded in the media, in parliamentary inquiries, Commons debates – all preserved on the Hansard record) inform us that there is a clear correlation between the Tory “reforms” and increased distress, a loss of dignity and autonomy, financial insecurity and insolvency, increasing ill health, and sometimes, the death, of disabled people.

When confronted in the Commons, Iain Duncan Smith and other ministers dispensed with civilised debate, and simply blocked any discussion regarding concerns raised by the opposition about the negative impact of the Tory welfare cuts on sick and disabled people.  Values of decency and legitimate concerns about the welfare of sick and disabled citizens were depreciated as mere matters of “subjective interpretation” and not as worthy subjects of political, rational or objective discussion.

The Mortality Statistics release from Department of Work and Pension “provides further commentary on the appropriate use of this information” – in other words, it informs us what we may and may not do with the “data”, and carries this pre-emptive caution:

“Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics. Additionally, these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment.”

Bearing in mind that the information in the release came about because of many Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from many of us, and the rulings of the Information Commissioner and a tribunal (Mike Sivier from Vox Political appealed against the original decision by the Information Commissioner and the DWP to refuse the Freedom of Information requests), it’s difficult to see why the Government have been so determined, firstly, to withhold the information requested, secondly, when forced to make the release, to present the information in a decontextualized way that renders it virtually meaningless, thirdly, to go to such extraordinary lengths to instruct us how we may and may not analyse the data and fourthly, to respond to any interpretive reference to the data as “wrong”, refusing to engage in any further discussion.

Unless of course it’s a Government that doesn’t want open and democratic accountability and public scrutiny of the often devastating impact of its policies.

Debbie Abrahams, the new shadow minister for disabled people, has long been an outstanding campaigner and spokesperson for disabled people. Earlier this month, she asked David Cameron:

“Two weeks ago, the Work and Pensions Secretary’s Department not only admitted to falsifying testimonies in leaflets, but published data on the deaths of people on sickness benefit, which showed that they are four times more likely to die than the general population. That was after the Secretary of State told the House that these data did not exist. Given that, and his offensive remarks earlier this week—referring to people without disabilities as “normal”—when will the Prime Minister take control and respond to my call for the Work and Pensions Secretary to be investigated for breaching the ministerial code?”

Here is the Ministerial code. Ministers are also expected to observe the seven Nolan Principles, which are the basis of the ethical standards of conduct that is expected of all holders of public office. 

Last year, I sent David Cameron a reminder of the established standards and ethics of Public Office, as the Coalition had exempted themselves, but he didn’t respond and it didn’t make any difference.

It’s true that the Department of Work Pensions (DWP) has admitted falsifying testimonies in leaflets. The DWP’s own data does indicate that people on incapacity benefits are four times more likely to die than other people in the general population. Iain Duncan Smith did tell MPs that this data did not even exist. Then he told them it did.

Let’s be frank here, Iain Duncan Smith has established a culture where it’s acceptable to lie, even his Curriculum Vitae is comprised of  Machiavellian, narcissistic-inspired confabulations – he’s qualified only in absolute and utter tosh, he graduated without Honour. Or a degree.

And it’s truly priceless that Iain Duncan Smith or David Cameron can accuse anyone of misrepresenting statistics with a straight face, given the large number of official rebukes the Tories have had from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for manipulating or  misrepresenting statistics and telling lies.

Today, Debbie received the following written response to her question from the Prime sinister Minister:

Cameron letter on claimant deaths

Cameron letter on claimant deaths

I’ve already addressed a lot of the content above, however I couldn’t help but note the apparent “policing” of Debbie’s tweets. The response isn’t a rational or reasonable one, and certainly not of a standard that is expected of a prime minister.

How can the use of fake statements from fake characters about fictitious “benefits” of harsh sanctions – the arbitrary and punitive removal of lifeline income to support people in meeting basic survival needs – ever “help claimants and advisers to understand the benefit system”?

How is telling lies about the impact of policy and constructing fake positive testimonies ever “illustrative”? That was no “error”: it was an intentional, deceitful act designed solely to mislead the public and to justify the Conservative’s crass and primitive behaviourist approach to what was once our social security.

As is the insistence that “the statistics showed it is quite wrong to suggest any causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim.” Tosh. The statistics showed no such thing,  they did not demonstrate that there is no existing causal link – but the data was presented in a way that intentionally obscures such a link. That does not mean we can conclude there’s no connection between increased mortality and the Conservative “reforms” at all.

Whilst we are warned not to draw inferences of causal links from the statistics, the prime minister thinks that it’s perfectly appropriate to do just that himself. Yet there is no empirical evidence whatsoever to support his denial of a causal link.  The statistical data does not falsify or refute the proposition that such a link exists. We have plenty of recorded evidence, however, to support our proposition that Tory policies are actually harming people.

Tory policies do. Margaret Thatcher’s policies caused premature deaths, too, and her Cabinet were far less harsh towards sick and disabled people than Cameron’s government. A research report which looked at over 70 existing research papers, concludes that as a result of unnecessary unemployment, welfare cuts and damaging housing policies, the former prime minister’s legacy includes the unnecessary and unjust premature death of many British citizens, together with a substantial and continuing burden of suffering and loss of well-being.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you inflict stress and harm on people who are already ill, by withholding their lifeline support, by constantly reassessing them and telling them they are fit for work when they clearly are not, by invalidating their experiences, by forcing them to fight for the means of survival – without the means of survival, it will probably exacerbate any illness and quite possibly this will kill them.

As I discussed earlier today, Cameron and his government have consistently displayed an absolute lack of concern for sick and disabled people, who have borne the brunt of Tory austerity cuts. Yet it’s inconceivable that Conservatives don’t grasp the fact that their policies are at least potentially very harmful, and certainly very punitive in nature.

I’ve discussed many times before that Tory ideology is founded on toxic subterranean values and principles, which are anachronistic and incompatible with a society that has evolved to value democracy, human rights and the socio-economic gains from our post-war settlement.

Conservatives have always seen inequality as a necessary and beneficial element to a market driven economy, for example, and their policies tend to assemble a steeply hierarchical society, especially given their small state fetishism, which involves removing socio-economic support services and civilising mechanisms such as welfare, free healthcare and access to legal aid.

Beneath the familiar minarchist, class contingent Conservative policies and neoliberal schema is a tacit acceptance of socioeconomic Darwinism, and a leaning towards eugenicist principles, expressed most clearly recently in the withdrawal of tax credit support for low paid families with more than two children, in order to “change behaviours” as Iain Duncan Smith put it. The reasoning behind this is the government believe they can “nudge” poor people into “breeding” less. Such a class contingent policy reflects a deep prejudice and also demonstrates an authoritarianism that is certainly incompatible with democracy and human rights.

(See also David Freud was made to apologise for being a true Tory in public, Paternalistic Libertarianism and Freud’s comments in context and What will the Tories suggest next. “Compassionate” eugenics?)

The Tories employ techniques of neutralization which are used to rationalise or justify acts that contravene social norms or that are illegal.  There are five basic techniques of neutralization; denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of victims, condemnation of the condemners, and an appeal to higher loyalties.

The recognition of techniques of neutralisation by David Matza and Gresham Sykes happened during their work on Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association in the 1950s. Matza and Sykes were working on juvenile delinquency at the time, and they theorised that the same techniques could be found throughout society and published their ideas in Delinquency and Drift, 1964.

It was Alexander Alverez who identified that these techniques were used more broadly at a socio-political level in Nazi Germany to “justify” the Holocaust. He added a sixth technique – Disengagement and Dehumanisation.

Such techniques allow people to neutralise and temporarily suspend their commitment to societal and moral values, and to switch off their own “inner protests”, providing them with the freedom to commit deviant acts. Some people don’t have such inner protests – psychopaths, for example – but they may employ techniques of neutralization to manipulate, and switch off the conscience protests of others.

It’s clear that this is a method frequently employed by the government. The Tories systematically attempt to to distort meanings, to withhold,  or deny any evidence that may expose the impact of their draconian policies on targeted social groups.

For example, when they habitually use the word “reform”, when   referring to is cutting funding or support. and “help” and “support” is Tory-speak that means to coerce and punish. The claim that the bedroom tax ishelping” people into workorhelping child poverty– when empirical research shows that 96% of those affected by the bedroom tax can NOT downsize due to a lack of available homes in their area – is a completely outrageous lie. People can’t move as there is a housing crisis, which is due to a lack of affordable homes and appropriately sized accommodation.

How can policies that further impoverish the poorest ever “help them to into work” or alleviate poverty? It’s glib, irrational tosh from a Government that can’t do coherent, joined up thinking, and even worse, thinks that we can’t either.

Forms of social prejudice are normalised gradually, almost inscrutably and incrementally – in stages. Allport describes the political, social and psychological processes, and how techniques of persuasion – propaganda – are used to facilitate stigmatising and dehumanisation of targeted groups to justify discrimination, until the unthinkable becomes acceptable, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries.

The prejudice happens on a symbolic level first – via language – and it starts with subtlety, such as the use of divisive and stigmatising phrases like “scroungers and strivers” in the media and political rhetoric, referring to people who need support and social security as “stock”, suggesting that disabled people are not worth a minimum wage and so on.

These comments and strategies are not “mistakes”, this is how Conservatives really think. People who are prejudiced very seldom own up, and nor do bullies. They employ linguistic strategies, deceitful, diversionary and irrational responses that makes challenging them very difficult.

But as history has taught us, we really must challenge them.

36626_217452248405831_532419169_nPictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

Related reading:

This is an excellent, substantial collection of evidenced lies, deceits and more lies from Ian Duncan Smith, collated by Bob Ellard, researcher for DPAC The IDS Files: the truth is out there 

The DWP mortality statistics: facts, values and Conservative concept control

rich keep millons


I wrote
last week about the exchange in the Commons between Debbie Abrahams and Iain Duncan Smith regarding the Mortality Statistics Report released by Department of Work and Pensions. Debbie Abrahams asked a very reasonable question:

“The Government’s own data show that people in the work-related activity group are twice as likely to die than the general population. How can the Secretary of State justify £30-a-week cuts for people in that category?”

Duncan Smith gave a petty, vindictive and unqualified retort to avoid answering the question:

“The hon. Lady put out a series of blogs on the mortality stats last week that were fundamentally wrong. Her use of figures is therefore quite often incorrect. I simply say to her—[Interruption.] She has had an offer to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), time and again, but she just wants to sit in the bitter corner screaming abuse.”

Adversarial style over meaningful content every time.

It’s certainly true that Conservatives advocate a limited ambition in politics, especially when it comes to maintaining the state support of even basic levels of human welfare. Small state fetishist Duncan Smith failed to provide a rational and evidenced response to a very reasonable question. He didn’t qualify why he thought that the blogs on the mortality statistics release last week were “fundamentally wrong,” either.

It has to be said that in light of the many official public rebukes that the Tories have faced for telling lies and using misrepresentations of statistics to justify their own value-laden, ideologically driven policies, and given the fact that the Government face a United Nations inquiry regarding the fact that their welfare “reforms” are incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it’s truly remarkable that Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith have the cheek to call disability campaigners “thugs” and state that all other accounts of the mortality statistics are “wrong”, or to imply that opposition MPs are “liars”, when they are faced with valid concerns and founded criticisms regarding the consequences of their draconian policies.

Moreover, being civilised, values of decency and legitimate concerns about the welfare of sick and disabled citizens were depreciated as mere matters of “subjective interpretation” and not as worthy subjects of political, rational or objective discussion.

The Mortality Statistics release from Department of Work and Pension “provides further commentary on the appropriate use of this information” – in other words, it informs us what we may and may not do with the “data”, and carries this pre-emptive caution:

“Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics.

Additionally, these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment.”

The way that the statistical data was intentionally presented without context, clarification or meaning, but with a warning that we may not draw any inferences from it lends a whole new layer of meaning to the phrase “the disappeared”.

The question we ought to ask is why? Firstly, why is it the case that we are being told that there is no reliable data regarding the impact of the Government’s policies, including their reformed Work Capability Assessment?

And of course, what is being hidden beneath the excessively  bureacratic management of information?

What kind of Government doesn’t concern itself with the well-being of citizens that it is meant to represent? A basic expectation surely ought to be that Governments monitor the effects of policy, especially the sort of policies that are, by their very design, likely to have a negative impact on sick and disabled people.

Cutting lifeline benefits, and using punishment in the form of sanctions to leave people without money to meet basic survival needs is never going to have a positive, or, to use a toryism, “incentivising” impact on people who are deemed medically unfit for work. The Government know this. And everyone who claims Employment Support Allowance may only do so because a qualified doctor has provided an evidenced statement that those people are unfit for work.

And what justification can there possibly be for a Government that is persistently refusing to carry out a cumulative impact assessment on such extensive, far-reaching welfare “reforms”?

When it comes to “knowledge” and “evidence,” the most significant struggle in what passes for Conservative epistemology is simply nothing more than wrestling with a grasping and malicious stranglehold over control of the terms of discourse. Those who can frame a controversial issue or concept in terms they prefer have the advantage in shaping and controlling public opinion.

There is existing empirical evidence (“data” if you prefer) of the correlation between the Government’s punitive policy regime and its negative effects, including increased mortality. As I argued with the Telegraph journalist Tom Chivers last year, the media have presented a record of evidence of tragic, individual cases where Government policy has clearly been correlated with deaths.

Though Chivers questioned the inferences and experiences of disabled people and disability campaigners back then, and though he stated how abysmally “unclear” the previous mortality statistics release was, remarkably, he didn’t once question that or investigate why.

Many studies have also clearly linked Tory policies with evidence of extremely adverse consequences of Tory policies. But Conservatives don’t take kindly to challenge, preferring to discredit those who criticise policy, and threaten them rather than stepping up to adopt a dialogic, democratic, transparent and accountable approach to Government.

Additionally, MPs, including Dennis Skinner, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Debbie Abrahams, Sheila Gilmore, Anne Begg, and Glenda Jackson, amongst many others, have raised concerns regarding people’s awful experiences of the negative impact of the Tory “reforms” as well as the mortality statistics, meticulously citing the evidence of case studies, often from their own constituencies. Those cited cases are recorded on the parliamentary Hansard site.

As well as via the use of early day motions (EDM) and adjournment debate, the many problems concerning the consequences of the welfare “reforms” are also addressed rigorously by the Work and Pensions Committee, through formal inquiries, (again, see Hansard record,) which are also informed by witnesses and empirical evidence.

I’ve also gathered some evidence here: Suicides reach a ten-year high and are linked with welfare “reforms” and here: Remembering the Victims of the Government’s Welfare “Reforms”

The Tories have dismissed such collective accounts of individual cases as “anecdotal evidence,” whilst also dismissing any attempt to cite quantitative data – statistics – as “wrong” simply to divert criticism of their policies and diminish public sympathy and concern.

I’m wondering where the empirical evidence is for Tory notions, such as a “culture of worklessness” or the “something for nothing culture”. Or for “making work pay”. The Tories tend to adopt a pseudo-positivist stance, claiming credibility via their ideological assumptions and by making invalid inferences from statistics when it suits them, and dismissing other accounts as merely “subjective”, yet no-one conflates the fact-value distinction more than the rigidly ideologically bound, staunchly neoliberal Conservatives, who produce every discussion as if there are no alternatives to Conservatism at all.

Statistics tend to dehumanise, and exclude people’s own validating  accounts of experiences of the social phenomena they measure. In a democratic society, qualitative accounts – “the people’s voice” – ought to matter to the Government. The impact of such draconian, punitive policies cannot be reduced to abstract speculation regarding what inferences may and may not be drawn from statistics: this is about very real experiences, real lives and real people being damaged and some, destroyed, in a real world of real and brutal Tory policies.

I’ve argued elsewhere that the point-blank refusal to enter into open debate and to allow an independent inquiry into the deaths that are most likely correlated with Tory policy reflects a callous, irrational and undemocratic government that draws on an underpinning toxic social Darwinist ideology and presents a distinctly anti-enlightenment, impervious epistemological fascism from which to formulate justification narratives for their draconian policies, in order to avoid democratic accountability and to deflect well-reasoned and justified criticism.

The lack of rational responses from Iain Duncan Smith, or concern about the welfare of the sick and disabled people that he tellingly differentiates from “normal” people, and the message from his Department, urging us not to make inferences about the deaths of sick and disabled people is an oblique reference to the fact/value distinction. It’s a method called “framing”. Such concept control is a way of rigging the debate: You must talk about this controversial issue using our categories, terms, and definitions only.

Or a way of avoiding debate altogether.

 The fact/value distinction is the alleged difference between descriptive statements (about what is) and prescriptive or normative statements (about what ought to be). Facts are one sort of thing, values another sort of thing, and the former never determine the latter. That’s the idea, anyway. But it isn’t considered to be very clear-cut when it comes to the “social sciences” such as politics and economics. I go further than the critics of logical positivism, and propose that it’s a false dichotomy anyway, especially where politics and policy-making are concerned, as these are invariably value-laden activities.

Whenever the Conservatives talk about “difficult decisions” or “tough choices”, they are in fact reflecting their own subjectivity and indulging Tory values, demonstrating their intentionality – and the capacity for a degree of free-will. Those “difficult decisions” have included the wilful handing out of £107,000 each per year to millionaires, in the form of a tax-break, and the intentional cutting of our social security down to the bone, the purposeful cutting of crucial public support services.

Sick and disabled people in this country have borne the brunt of the Tory directed austerity cuts. These cuts were the “tough choice” that the Tories freely made, ignoring less cruel and harmful alternative choices that could have been made. The Tories are masters at foreclosing possibilities.

Would you like to see some empirical data about Tory decision-making? Statistics? Facts and figures?  Here they are: Briefing on How Cuts Are Targeted – Dr Simon Duffy and here: Follow the Money: Tory Ideology is all about handouts to the wealthy that are funded by the poor.

tough choices

Government policies are expressed political intentions, regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated social and economic aims and consequences.

How policies are justified is increasingly being detached from their aims and consequences, partly because democratic processes and basic human rights are being disassembled or side-stepped, and partly because the government employs the widespread use of propaganda to intentionally divert us from their aims and the consequences of their ideologically (rather than rationally) driven policies. Furthermore, policies have become increasingly detached from public interests and needs.

Regardless of what kind of epistemology you may subscribe to, there are no “facts” that can ever justify the targeted political persecution of social groups in democratic societies. And the Tories know exactly what the impacts of their policies are likely to be. The level and extent of the stigmatisation and scapegoating of sick and disabled people in the media, coming from the Conservative camp to justify punitive cuts informs us of that.

Politics is invariably about values. That’s not a bad thing in itself. However, being open and honest about those values is crucial, and expected behaviour from a democratically elected government.

Human societies are not shaped by unchanging natural laws, despite what the Tories try and tell you. They are shaped by ideas of what ought to be. We make moral judgements about how to live and be. We have potential, intention and we make collective, cooperative decisions about how best to organise society. We progress, we change and evolve. 

Well, except during those times that we have regressive, authoritarian Right-wing Governments. 

Governments ought to face their moral obligations towards the well-being and interests of all citizens, to take responsibility for their ethical decisions and own their value-judgements. Rather than disguise them as shallow and meaningless “facts” to hide behind, as the pseudo-positivist Tories frequently do.

It’s truly remarkable that Tories loudly attribute the capacity for moral agency to people claiming benefits, for example, formulating punitive sanctions and “assessments” to both shape and question the morality of the poor constantly, yet stand outside of any obligation to morality and ethical behaviour themselves. It’s always someone else’s responsibility, never theirs.

Any claim to “value-freedom” in political decision-making does not and cannot exempt ministers from moral responsibility, or justify moral indifference.

A genuinely rational and morally responsible Government would hold an independent investigation into the reasons why people have died after being told they are “fit for work” when they clearly were not, and  commit to keeping data that effectively monitors and accurately reflects the impact of policy changes on citizens. A genuinely rational and morally responsible Government would be concerned about the possibility that their policies are harming people and causing deaths.

After all, this is a first-world liberal democracy, isn’t it?

430847_149933881824335_1645102229_n (1)Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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It’s truly priceless that Iain Duncan Smith can accuse anyone of misrepresenting statistics with a straight face.

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I’m not well at the moment and supposed to be resting, but I must make some comment on record regarding the disgraceful behaviour yesterday in parliament of Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith, such is my utter disbelief, disgust and outrage.

For example, Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Labour) asked the very reasonable question:

“The Government’s own data show that people in the work-related activity group are twice as likely to die than the general population. How can the Secretary of State justify £30-a-week cuts for people in that category?”

Duncan Smith made a petty and vindictive retort to avoid answering the question:

“The hon. Lady put out a series of blogs on the mortality stats last week that were fundamentally wrong. Her use of figures is therefore quite often incorrect. I simply say to her—[Interruption.] She has had an offer to meet the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), time and again, but she just wants to sit in the bitter corner screaming abuse.”

Hardly a reasonable and adult response to a very reasonable question, which wasn’t anything remotely like “screaming abuse” as claimed. In light of the many official public rebukes that the Tories have faced for telling lies and using fake statistics, and given the fact that the Government face a United Nations inquiry regarding the fact that their welfare “reforms” are incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it’s truly remarkable that Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith have the cheek to call disability campaigners “thugs” and imply the opposition MPs are “liars”, when they are faced with valid concerns and founded criticisms regarding the consequences of their draconian policies.

This said, a well-known bullying tactic is projection of the bully’s own inadequacies and nasty traits onto their victims to cover their tracks. Scapegoating is used to divert public attention, to discredit the victims and invalidate their experience of bullying and to justify the bully’s own vicious actions towards their targets. It’s so telling that bullies always accuse others of the very things that they themselves are guilty of.

Rather than do the decent, democratic thing and organise an independent inquiry into the Work Capability Assessment related deaths of sick and disabled people, and carry out a legally required cumulative impact assessment of their nasty, punitive and cruel welfare “reforms”, the Tories prefer to simply loudly and repeatedly deny that there is any correlation between their policies and the increased mortality statistics, released recently by the Department of Work and Pensions, following the order of the Information commissioner and a tribunal ruling.

Debbie Abrahams, amongst others, had raised concerns regarding the  recent mortality statistics release, as well as calling for an inquiry into the cruel sanctions regime that is leaving people without their lifeline benefits, and too often, without the means of meeting basic survival needs. The aggression, malice, defensive diversionary tactics and lack of capacity for rational response that Patel and Duncan Smith demonstrated was frankly far beyond disgusting: it was frightening.

These ministers are sneering, dishonourable, dishonest and callous Social Darwinist stains in British political history and they need removing from the position of power that they occupy, simply on the grounds that they are formulating and continually justifying policies that cause harm, distress, and sometimes, terrible and tragic consequences for sick and disabled people. That they demonstrate such a fundamental lack of concern for the welfare of UK citizens and persist in their refusal to accept that there is even a possibility that Tory policies may be causing harm to ill and disabled people is a very damning indictment.

Yet these ministers have no grounds whatsoever for their claims that there is no provable causal link between their policies and the increase in mortality, because the correlation is shown by their own record of statistics. The same statistics that they fought very hard to withhold.

Denial, sneering and directing malice at anyone who raises concerns and by accusing everyone else of being liars does not constitute a reasoned debate, as is expected of a government, nor does it count as empirical evidence of the claims being made by Tory ministers.

So it’s absolutely priceless comment from Patel and Duncan Smith that opposition ministers, who have raised concerns and cited cases of extreme hardship and tragic deaths many times – all recorded on the Hansard record, as well as in the media – that are clearly correlated with the welfare “reforms,” are “liars” and are “misrepresenting statistics” by the despicable liar Iain Duncan Smith.

It’s very reasonable to raise concerns about policies that are damaging people. It’s unreasonable of the government to deny those concerns have any legitimacy, despite evidence to the contrary. Many of us have gone through the Tory-reformed Work Capability Assessment more than once and know only too well what a dreadfully stressful experience it is, and how the strain tends to exacerbate illness, only to be dismissed by the Tories and told that the accounts we have provided and the cases we present as evidence of the urgent need for investigation are merely “anecdotal”.

Yet when the government talk of “scroungers”, the “workshy”, “generations of ‘worklessness’”, a “culture of entitlement”, a “something for nothing culture”, we are expected to accept that at face value as “empirical evidence”. With no offer of reasoned discussion.

The Tories are masters at closing down crucial open and democratic debate, which worries me greatly. This is not a government that models responsible and accountable behaviours towards UK citizens, or the opposition parties, for that matter.

With further debate about the assisted dying Bill due in parliament, one Tory minister said: “ We have to legislate on behalf of the weak and vulnerable”. However, the Tories’ track record on policies aimed at the weak and vulnerable is hardly shining with compassion and good intention.

This is a government that doesn’t provide adequate support for many sick and disabled people to live, so I doubt it has the capacity for the compassionate administration of assisted dying. It’s a government that prefers to simply scapegoat rather than support social groups and dismiss them as some kind of “burden on the state”. How could we be sure that “euthanasia” won’t simply become another Tory method of reducing welfare and healthcare costs?

Yet most sick and disabled people have worked and paid for their own support provision. And for those that have been unable to work, any civilised country would choose to support them, rather than direct malice at them. I don’t think this is a good context to debate euthanasia – with such an untrustworthy and unreasonable government in power and with their history of draconian policies, and rationing of health care and welfare for those most in need of support. Such class-directed rationing of services and the systematic closing down of access to support is very clearly underpinned by Social Darwinist ideology.

In fact I am very worried because history has taught us that there’s a very steep, slippery slope from euthanasia to eugenics.

As I have discussed elsewhere, the point-blank refusal to enter into an open debate and allow an open, independent inquiry into the deaths that are correlated with Tory policy is extremely worrying and reflects a callous, irrational and undemocratic government that draws on a toxic and implicit eugenicist ideology and presents a distinctly anti-enlightenment, impervious epistemological fascism from which to formulate justification narratives for their draconian policies, in order to avoid democratic accountability and to deflect well-reasoned and justified criticism.

This is not the conduct expected of a government of a very wealthy, so-called first-world liberal democracy. It’s not the behaviour of accountable, responsible, decent, moral, rational and reasonable people, either.

See also:

Black Propaganda

Iain Duncan Smith used false statistics again to justify disability benefit cuts again

A list of official rebukes for Tory lies

Department of Department of Work and Pensions officials admit to using fake claimant’s comments to justify benefit sanctions

The Department of Whopping Porkies is rebuked as claimants suddenly develop mysterious superpowers after being sanctioned

A distillation of thoughts on Tory policies aimed at the vulnerable

We can reduce the Welfare Budget by billions: simply get rid of Iain Duncan Smith

UN officials to visit UK over coming months to investigate whether Iain Duncan Smith’s “reforms” to disability benefits are compatible with Human Rights

The Daily Mail is a far-right rag and an utter disgrace for meddling in the Human Rights of sick and disabled people

Techniques of neutralisation – a framework of prejudice

UK becomes the first country to face a UN inquiry into disability rights violations

385294_195107567306966_1850351962_nPictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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Debbie Abrahams MP Calls Slow Disability Payments “Unjust And Inhumane”

536738_306169162785952_999031084_nOldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams is calling for an end to the ‘injustice of delayed payments to disabled and terminally ill people’.

Mrs Abrahams has spoken in a Westminster debate detailing her concerns about the quality of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), how assessments are processed, and the huge toll slow payments are putting on thousands of disabled people and their families.

In her speech, the Labour MP said: “Along with other Labour MPs I welcome welfare reforms where we can see there will be genuine benefit.

“But the PIP process has been beset with problems since it was introduced – the toll of process cannot be overestimated.”

The National Audit Office report, which came out in February last year, described it as a ‘poor early operational performance’ with ‘long uncertain delays’ for new PIP claimants.

At that time, the average wait was 107 days – for terminally ill claimants, claims were taking 28 days on average.

Mrs Abrahams added: “I heard from a woman whose partner has cancer and is waiting for radiotherapy – they have been living on £113 a week since they applied at the beginning of April.

“There is also an effect on passported benefits such as a carer’s allowance, disability premiums and concessionary travel.”

It is estimated that 602,000 people currently receiving Disability Living Allowance will not be eligible for PIP, by 2018 – £24billion will have been cut from 3.7million disabled people.

Mrs Abrahams noted that about a third of respondents to a survey of more than 4,000 Parkinson’s suffers said they are ‘financially worse off’ since being diagnosed.

She said: “For more than a quarter of them money concerns are having a negative impact on their Parkinson’s.

“Some 42,000 people are waiting more than 42 weeks, and four out of 10 people are still waiting for their PIP claim to be processed.”

After the debate Debbie said: “How the government expects people to manage with no money for so long is a complete mystery to me.

“It was clear from this debate that there is no remorse from the government. I still find it hard to comprehend their injustice and inhumanity.

“There is evidence of a culture of intimidation and general hassling of claimants on JSA, ESA and DLA/PIP – the delays are just another way of making people ‘give up’.

“If there is one message I would like to get across it is that this could be you or me!

“We could become ill, or have an accident and become disabled, or lose our jobs and then we’d rely on our welfare system.

“We should be proud not just of our NHS but of all parts of our welfare system. This is what a wealthy, humane society such as the UK should do for its citizens. 

“Yes, there will always be people who misuse the system but they are a tiny, tiny minority and not as the government always tries to imply the majority. The evidence just doesn’t support them.”

Thanks to Neil Athey.

10177255_710935002309364_996655242459079802_nPictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone.

A letter of complaint to Andrew Dilnot regarding Coalition lies about employment statistics

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I’ve written the following to Andrew Dilnot:

Dear Sir,

I write in response to the government claims made recently regarding employment. During Prime Minister’s questions in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Cameron said that the number of people in full-time employment had risen. Other ministers, such as Esther McVey have echoed these claims.

We are growing the economy and we’ve got more people in work,”  Mr Cameron said.

And: The number of people out of work in the UK fell by 133,000 to a fresh five-year low of 2.2 million in the three months to March, official figures show.The jobless rate also fell to a five-year low of 6.8%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said”.

I am very concerned about the accuracy of these claims, and should like to challenge both the validity and reliability of them, given the current methodological problems with measurement, which the ONS have acknowledged in part, previously.

To count as unemployed, people have to say they are not working, are available for work and have either looked for work in the past four weeks or are waiting to start a new job they have already obtained. Someone who is out of work but doesn’t meet these criteria counts as “economically inactive”. The results from a selected sample, based on narrow criteria, are then weighted to give an estimate that reflects the entire population.

The other measure of joblessness – the claimant count – is published for each single month. It doesn’t suffer from the limitations of sample size and sampling frame, because it derives from the numbers of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants recorded by Jobcentre Plus, so a monthly figure is possible right down to local level. But because many people who are out of work won’t be eligible for JSA, it’s an  even narrower measure.

I draw your attention to the following, taken from the Summary of recommendations: Response from the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into Jobcentre Plus, dated May, 2013:

Jobcentre Plus performance metrics:

  • The effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus (JCP) should be measured by sustained job outcomes rather than off-benefit flows to create greater incentives to support jobseekers into employment and provide a more accurate picture of success rates. This would address potential perverse incentives to sanction claimants inappropriately, plus ensure greater comparability between JCP provision and contracted out provision.
  •   Such a change could help to provide greater transparency in order to identify those who would benefit from intensive employment support. Such a performance metric would prevent the phenomenon of ‘cycling’, jobseekers moving between short term jobs and unemployment for many years, but not building up the length of time of continual unemployment to qualify them for specialist support.

In particular, I wish to draw your attention to this from the same document – Response from ERSA to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into JCP, 2013:

4.1. JCP is measured by off-benefit flows rather than sustained job outcomes. This can create perverse incentives to move jobseekers into short term employment outcomes, rather than refer them to long term contracted out support. It can also create a perverse incentive to sanction claimants as discussed below.

ERSA recommends that whilst off-benefit checks are monitored for national statistical purposes, job outcome and sustainment measure, comparable to the Work Programme, should be introduced for Jobcentre Plus. This would enable analysis between the performance of JCP and contracted out provision and provide accurate value for money comparisons.

5.1. DWP point to off-benefit flows as an indication of the effectiveness of pre-Work Programme support. However, analysis undertaken by Policy Exchange calls into question the validity of off-benefit figures as a success measure given that many do not go into sustainable employment or simply move on to another type of benefit.

8.1 As identified by the Committee in its report into the experience of different user groups on the Work Programme, the use of sanctions is inconsistent. 

Providers are obliged to notify Jobcentre Plus if a jobseeker fails to undertake an activity, for example if they miss an appointment. The decision as to whether to actually enact sanctions rests with Jobcentre Plus though. This means that sanctions are not applied even though a provider may think there is a clear case to do so. Conversely, a provider may be satisfied with the progress made by a participant but may be overruled by Jobcentre Plus who have a case for applying conditionality.

For example, one ERSA member reported that Jobcentre Plus decided to sanction a Work Programme participant for insufficient use of the Universal Jobmatch website, despite the fact that the provider had explicitly asked the participant to focus on resolving some other issues ahead of any formal job search activity. Sanctioning represented a great setback in the trust and progress made up to that point. ERSA agrees with the recommendation put forward by the Committee in its most recent report into the Work Programme for DWP to conduct a review of sanctioning activity with a view to ensuring that the processes are clearly understood by participants and consistently applied.

8.2 Part of the problem lies in the fact that Jobcentre Plus is measured by off-benefit flows rather than sustained job outcomes. This therefore means that a situation in which a Personal Advisor applies a sanction that may in fact damage an individual’s progress to employment, would register as a success according to the off-benefit flow measure. ERSA believes that measuring Jobcentre Plus success by sustained job outcomes would remove any perverse incentives to sanction individuals.

So, in summary, simply measuring how many people end their claims for benefits does not reveal the true impact of jobcentre services, nor does it accurately reflect the numbers of those moving into employment.

Let’s not forget that in 1996, the Conservative government introduced the jobseeker’s allowance that cut benefits to young people up to 18 years old – the new allowance was designed to replace unemployment benefit and income support. Young people excluded from eligibility for benefit are therefore absent from unemployment statistics.

The Department has simplified its performance measures and now primarily targets the move by claimants away from benefits, or “off-flow”, as a simple and intuitive measure of performance. However, this gives no information about how individual jobcentres perform in supporting claimants to work. Some may have found work but, in more than 40 per cent of cases, the reason for moving off benefits is not actually recorded.

I am also concerned that underemployment continues to remain very high, despite a small fall of 7,000 in the number in involuntary part time work, the total still stands at 1.42m. This is an increase of a 100 per cent beyond the pre-recession level of 701,000. The rise in employment also continued to be driven by self-employment, which is extraordinary as self-employment is a relatively small part of the UK jobs market. But although just one in seven workers are self-employed, over half of all jobs growth over the year has been in this type of employment. The TUC share this concern, and have said that some people have been forced in to self-employment as they have no alternative.

Previous TUC’s analysis  suggests that rising self-employment is part of a wider shift towards insecure employment, rather than as a result of a growing number of people starting up new companies as ministers have claimed. Analysis shows that self-employed workers are often earning less, underemployed, and have less job security than employees.

One very important issue not currently considered is that since the government does not track or follow up the destination of all those leaving the benefit system, as discussed, the off-flow figures will inevitably include many having their claim ended for reasons other than securing employment, including sanctions, awaiting mandatory review, appeal, death, hospitalisation, imprisonment, on a government “training scheme” (see consent.me.uk  and the Telegraph – those on workfare are counted as employed by the Labour Force Survey.)

Furthermore, last week Iain Duncan Smith met a whistle-blower who has worked for his Department for Work and Pensions for more than 20 years. Giving the Secretary of State a dossier of evidence, the former Jobcentre Plus adviser told him of a “brutal and bullying” culture of “setting claimants up to fail”.

“The pressure to sanction customers was constant,” he said. “It led to people being stitched-up on a daily basis.”

The whistle-blower wishes to be anonymous but gave his details to Iain Duncan Smith, DWP minister Esther McVey and Neil Couling, Head of Jobcentre Plus, who also attended the meeting. He said:

“We were constantly told ‘agitate the customer’ and that ‘any engagement with the customer is an opportunity to ­sanction.”

Iain Duncan Smith and his department have repeatedly denied there are targets for sanctions. However, the whistle-blower says:

“They don’t always call them targets, they call them ‘expectations’ that you will refer people’s benefits to the decision maker. It’s the same thing.”

He claimed managers fraudulently altered claimants’ records, adding: “Managers would change people’s appointments without telling them. The appointment wouldn’t arrive in time in the post so they would miss it and have to be sanctioned. That’s fraud. The customer fails to attend. Their claim is closed. It’s called ‘off-flow’ – they come off the statistics. Unemployment has dropped. They are being stitched up.”

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, the member of the DWP Select Committee who set up the meeting, has renewed her call for an inquiry into inappropriate sanctioning. Debbie said:

“I am deeply concerned that sanctions are being used to create the illusion the Government is bringing down unemployment.

It is my belief that the claims made by David Cameron and his ministers are an unwarranted, far-fetched inferential leap from methodological premises that don’t stand up to scrutiny, for all of the reasons I have outlined. I felt obliged to draw your attention to this matter, not least because I am not alone in my concerns, and I feel very strongly that it is immoral of any government to mislead the public to which it is meant to be accountable.

Yours sincerely
Ms Susan Jones.

Related article: Austerity, socio-economic entropy and being conservative with the truth

Petition to Stop DWP Minsters Spinning Statistics 

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Thanks to  Robert Livingstone for the pictures.