Tag Archives: benefits

Pre-distribution: The future of capitalism?

In September, Ed Milliband spoke out about Labour’s vision for ‘Pre-distribtion’. I have been considering what PREDISTRIBUTION means (and if there is indeed a better way to express what is meant by it.) There are echo’s of thoughts, maybe just questions that need investigating, that I’ve had for some time.

One being, why give working people ‘tax back’ instead of just not taking it away in the first instance? Collection and RE-distribution is surely costly? Could PRE-distribution (or a more accurate named equivalent) save administration costs?

Why the former? Is it this idea of ‘deserving causes’? Perceived ‘need’ and various ‘justifications’? Not taking the money means that it becomes universal regardless of need, so some will spend on their needs, other on just their leisure. This leads us to parallels with modern arguments amongst some groups about how benefits are spent by their recipients anyway.

But is this line of reason justifiable, is it EVEN reasonable? No one tells a more wealthy person what they can or cant spend money on, each makes their own decisions according to the needs, desires and perceptions thereof.

In essence RE-distribution, in the form of welfare, benefits and tax credits, precipitates political and social control, the subjugation of an economic class of people. Rebalancing the capitalist system to a PRE-dsitributive model would contain the out-of-balance problems of ‘rampant capitalism’ before they occurs, which the current redistributive system attempts to constantly intervene and correct-balance, and thereby reduce the administrative cost borne collectively.

Are people really better of on benefits than working?

One big lie has dominated the Tory debate on welfare: the claim that both young people or families are “better off on benefits than they would be in work.” And, from what I can work out anyway, it’s not true.

Let’s take an example. Examples are indeed a form of generalisation, but it’s far better using so-called “use cases” rather than vague overarching and faceless generalisations.

A person under 25 working for the minimum wage for 37 hours a week receives a net salary of £204.36. Job Seekers Allowance for those under 25 is £56.25. The maximum available Housing Benefit for someone under 25 in Birmingham (for example) is £55.

This means that a young person in work, in almost all areas of the UK, is almost twice as well off as someone on unemployment benefits.

Even in expensive Kensington & Chelsea the maximum Housing Benefit payment to those under 25 without children is £123.50. This is an exception due to the staggering cost of properties in a London borough which also has its share of children growing up in poverty. However a young person working in this borough (on minimum wage) is entitled to £30.49 a week in Housing Benefit. Or at least they were. George Osborne plans to change this.

The situation for working families with children is equally clear. Sadly even many workers at the lower end of the pay scale have bought into the relentless lies and bemoaned how they would be better off on benefits. They wouldn’t. No-one is. This is another lie and it’s time to nail it once and for all.

A single parent with two children living in Birmingham and renting in the private sector would receive maximum possible benefits of £348.14 (over a third of this in Housing Benefit payments which go to landlords). A single parent working on minimum wage for 37 hours a week, in otherwise the same circumstances would receive a total of £445.86 in net wages and in work benefits.

It’s important to note both these calculation are based on the minimum wage. As wages rise Housing Benefit is reduced at a tapered rate, meaning the difference between a better off earner and someone on benefits becomes even greater.

The idea that these cases I have noted are not the norm, is not sustainable. You cannot claim more benefits than there are available. Only people who have never claimed benefits can make those kind of statements.

As for “having another baby to get more money”, every parent / family gets child allowance. It doesn’t go up or down dependant on benefit income (unless now you earn over £60,000 pa). Every parent knows that this money is hardly a lottery win, the cost of feeding and clothing a child far outweighs the sums you get in this support allowance. Sure someone out of work would be entitled to a 2 bedroom rate as opposed to a 1 bedroom or shared rate, but as rents exceed benefits in most cases, this is no profit at all.

It’s far too easy to tell these kind of lies without ever looking up the details. When the figures are on a screen on official government websites and a spreadsheet tells you the real evidence, a life on benefits looks lame, even on the highest levels of income.

I would recommend that if you doubt me, do a check for yourself: go to Direct Gov website and find out the benefit rates for your area. Oh, and remember under 35s only get the shared rate. 

Atos Healthcare: Still profiting from misery

By Nathan Akehurst and Amy Dunne
Original article published:

Whilst the Olympic opening ceremony, quite fairly, glorified our National Health Service, it is nonetheless worth remembering the real state of affairs for a significant number of Britain’s sick. In April of this year, around 3400 people in Oxford and 10,000 in the county of Oxfordshire were subsisting on Incapacity Benefit (the allowance for those physically unable to work, which ranges within the modest bounds of £88-£105 weekly. Of that number, roughly two in three were told they were fit to engage in some sort of work. Employment Minister Chris Grayling would hail the figures, calling the current system ‘a waste of human life’- supremely ironic given that an average of thirty-two people nationally died every week after failing the new incapacity benefit tests in 2011. Between January and August 2011, 1,100 claimants in the ‘work-related activity group’ alone died. Clearly, mistakes are being made (and have been made since New Labour let the likes of assessors Atos Healthcare loose on the disabled community). In Oxfordshire, when the cases finally reach a full appeal, around nine out of ten benefit removals have been rejected. Nationally, the figure is 40% (hitting 70% when advocacy groups are representing the claimants.)

The question then remains, why on earth do Atos continue to be able to handle vulnerable people, with a failure rate of almost forty per cent? Why do Atos assessors have to complete courses in disability healthcare a mere eight or seventeen days long, and are not required to have any prior experience in that field? What’s more, they are actively encouraged by government to aggressively remove people from the benefits system, along with a program of direct assaults from the state. Their tests are based on ticking boxes (a frequent complaint is the refusal of assessors to make eye contact with claimants) that distil complex issues into black and white statements, and the experience even for those who do not lose the money they subsist on is degrading and disablist. For instance, the Department of Work and Pensions are appealing against a court ruling which stated (from the June edition of Inside Housing) that ‘The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which restrict housing benefit for private renters according to property size, were found to be discriminatory because they do not allow benefit for an extra room where two children cannot share because of disabilities.’ In short, they are defying the courts for the right to make vulnerable people homeless.

In April, I was involved in a flash occupation of the Atos assessment centre on St Aldate’s in Oxford. Despite making every effort possible to minimise distress to those undergoing Atos’ draconian ‘assessments’, the administrator there had the gall to accuse us of potentially causing harm to the disabled people in the office- as if that is not what their organisation exists to do. Extensive criticism of the role of assessors has originated from the medical community, with doctors claiming (quite correctly) that the position is one incompatible with the medical duty of prioritising the patient. Meanwhile Atos made £102m in profit in the first half of 2012, and their poor decisions turned over at appeal, leaving aside physical distress to patients, has cost the British taxpayer £60m. Yet statistics and the national picture, whilst gritty and relevant, somewhat obscure the personal stories, and the impact they have on real people. Thus I present the story of one victim of Atos, told by the patient’s niece (Amy, a nineteen-year old woman due to start at Ruskin College in Oxford in 2012.)

“I’m going to begin this story with a question. There’s a person with severe dyscalculia, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, arthritis and a club foot: what job could this person possibly do? Neither manual labour nor service or administration work would be viable. I came to the conclusion that there were absolutely no jobs available that could be suited to her- however, this is not what that Atos decided at their assessment.

After the examination to assess her claim, Atos declared my aunt perfectly fit for work, despite the fact she can’t count, read, write and can barely look after herself without support. She was informed that if she had not found a job within the next year, her Incapacity Benefit would be stopped and she would be forced to go on Jobseeker’s Allowance (starting at £55/wk) or be put on a ‘welfare-to-work’ course- the courses have been next to useless thus far. In any case, because my aunt was in no fit state to even understand how to challenge this decision, she would have been forced to accept it- she was only able to make the challenge because unlike others, she had supportive family members willing to fight the case.

When she told my father that her claim had been revoked, he immediately wrote to the Atos headquarters in Belfast to explain that his sister wished to appeal against her placement in the ‘working group’ –as it was called –and that she was indeed completely unfit to work. However, within six days of the letter being sent, a response from Atos came through saying that her appeal had failed. Whilst processing thousands of decisions, and taking into account mail from London to Belfast, this seems a ludicrously small amount of time (the subsequent tribunal wait took six months) and casts doubt upon whether the case was even read by Atos.) It fell upon her brother and sister to appeal through the courts and the case came to tribunal. During this time, she was expected to collect large amounts of evidence to prove she was indeed unfit to work, and this involved calling the relevant clinics at the relevant hospitals, a letter from her GP and numerous reports on her health and wellbeing from specialists. How, in her condition –a woman who cannot even spell her own niece’s name –is she expected to achieve all this when she can barely look after herself? The answer is, if she did not have the support of her brother and sister who were willing to take time out of their own busy lives and dedicate the time to making sure their sister had the relevant information to challenge this disgusting claim that she was perfectly fit to work from Atos, then she would be languishing on an insecure and tiny Jobseeker’s Allowance right now. During the time between the failure of the appeal to Atos and the tribunal, the mere stress of it caused my aunt to develop alopecia (symptoms include extreme hair loss). Perhaps due to the restructuring of the NHS under Lansley, the medical reports took some time to come through. Meanwhile my father had to dedicate considerable time going through the bureaucracy of chasing them up (since he wasn’t the claimant, stringent approvals and checks were involved, despite the fact my aunt had given express permission for her brother and sister to talk about her medical conditions on her behalf). Within a few hours of the deadline, the GP still had not written a letter backing up the claim that she was indeed entitled to incapacity benefits, and the letter had to be hand delivered to the court by my dad on his way to work.

The judge and attending physician at the tribunal was apparently fairly convinced that the Atos ruling was incorrect even before proceedings had begun, but they were nonetheless obliged to question my aunt, her twin and my dad in order to make sure they were right. Her responses during the tribunal made her unfitness to work patently clear –when asked a question, she answered what would seem to be a completely different question, and my dad and other aunt had to take over. My aunt was acquitted, and allowed the maximum period (24 months) on Incapacity Benefit before reassessment (six months of stress, illness, time-wasting and taxpayers’-money wasting later).”

It is shocking as a society to think that ordeals like this not only happen, but are a regular occurrence, and indeed even one of the milder ones. It compares (in 2011) 5,300 deaths of people who were put in the “support group” – which accounts for 22% of claimants – for the most unwell, who get the full, no-strings benefit of up to £99.85 a week. 1,600 people died before the completion of their assessment. Meanwhile repeated delays have led to claims the system is in “meltdown”, and in the largest twist of horrible irony, Atos are sponsors of the Paralympic Games. In 2010, Atos’ boss drew a salary of £800,000. This is nothing short of profiting from misery. The scandal of Atos, and the criminality of other firms which the government has outsourced welfare claimants to, has been allowed to exist not by chance but by the long-running structural demonization of benefit claimants. Decades of slander from the tabloids and politicians in all the main parties has led to the impoverished and disabled being stripped of their humanity, and led to a climate in which the behaviour of Atos’ assessors has become the mundane and commonplace. Britain should be thoroughly ashamed of itself.

Image credit: Socialist Worker

Is WorkFare making unemployment worse?

I said the work programme aka WorkFare wasn’t working, yesterday we had proof. 

Yesterday’s report by the Welfare to Work industry [the actual people running these programmes] reveals that only 22% of long term unemployed people put onto the Work Programme have got jobs. Of those many will be in temporary work.

Chris Grayling claimed that 36% of people on the Work Programme would gain sustainable long term employment. However the Telegraph today revealed officials would have expected 28% of long term unemployed people to have found work anyway without any help at all.

This means that the Government’s flagship Work Programme is not just under-performing, it appears to be making the problem of long term unemployment worse! The government are spending multiple-billions of pounds on a scheme carried out by experts in the Welfare to Work field like A4e, with less success than if you just left people to their own devices!!!


It just beggars belief that they can waste so much money on private companies providing such awful service. The Sun said £5bn could pay for a lot of things, like nurses and teachers, shame they were targeting the legitimate benefit and muddying the waters with talk of fraud. However, I digress.

They consider £13,000 just about enough incentive for a company to help “find” someone a job (yes, they get that per person they find work for). Yet at the other end of the scale, a cut to the just over £60 a week Job Seekers Benefit is considered the acceptable incentive to get people to follow these ridiculous schemes.

They take £12m away from Legal Aid for benefit appeals, but pay billions to a profit making sector without even requiring how it is spend or what quality of service they expect. Yet qualified and experienced teachers and dictated to constantly about how they should teaching adding and multiplication!

If I knew the answer I’d offer one, but what ever the answer is, the government are still asking the wrong questions.

Workfare isn’t Working

There is growing evidence, from the governments own departments, that the various workfare schemes (there are 5 different ones) are actually harming employment growth, and leading to people being ON JSA for longer.

On the 1st of April 2011, following a review of the evidence, the Social Security Advisory Committee’s report was damning. It advised the government not to introduce Mandatory Work Activity, and observed the following:

  • “Published evidence is at best ambivalent about the chances of ‘workfare’ type activity improving outcomes for people who are out of work.”
  • “We are concerned that mandating an individual to this scheme could also have the opposite effect to the one intended.”
  • “This seems to us to signal that being mandated to mandatory work activity is regarded as a punishment…”

This graph shows that the statistics currently available demonstrate that workfare makes no difference to employment outcomes. As Ben Goldacre concluded: “Bottom line: it turns out people leave JSA at roughly the same rate, whether they’re doing workfare or not.”

Source: Boycott Workfare and other references.

The success rate of getting employed is little better than without the schemes, as the jobs offered would have been created anyway. In the mean time companies who’s profits are in the multi millions or even billions are getting hundreds of thousands of hours of subsidised labour. The government said the something for nothing culture must end, time to start with its self and big business first I feel.

Over all, I agree that people need experience, help, training etc. But the way it has been put in to action is what really annoys so many people. And now they are moving to force disabled and people with long term chronic conditions on to these schemes too. Most people are unaware of the draconian nature – the true picture – of the outworking of these policies. A few hours, people says, doing something useful, bolstering their chances, etc etc they are all laudable, however in reality rather than being helped to find work that is sustainable (over used term imho but useful in this context), they are being hounded in to working for weeks, months and in some cases on 2 year rolling cycles on these scheme, within which time the person is not being helped to find work that is capable of taking them off state supported and subsidised work schemes.

The injustice is that this is effecting not only the people on the schemes, but also the people who are in the work place right now, as it is effectively eroding things we take for granted these days, such as minimum wages, protection, other pay and conditions, because over all it easier for employers to use this subsidised unregulated labour.

Don’t take my word for it. Here are some very well researched and referenced facts about the workfare schemes: Click here to visit the Boycott Workfare website.