Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dispatches: Street Kids

 I'd say Robyn's actualising tendency is working overtime:

"I used to sleep in bed at night with a massive blade under my pillow when I was a little girl!" Robyn tells us, "And the funny thing was, all sorts of stuff went on in that bed and I never used the knife. I don't know why!"

One of the truly Great things about Britain is that if you're 15 years old, shoving heroin in your arm seven times daily, living in a graveyard, well, someone has to help. You probably don't want the bloody help: the outreach worker, the benefit clerk, the children's home – they can all quite literally "do one". As Robyn in Dispatches: Street Kids (Mon, 8pm, C4) proves, by the time you're a pile of bones, covered in scabs, carrying everything you own in a small Superdrug carrier bag, you're not in the mood for another grown-up and their "good ideas". You don't want to be in their system. But this is what we do.

Monday, 11 October 2010

How Fair Is Britain?

"A landmark report released today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission paints a picture of a largely tolerant and open-minded society, in which some equality gaps have closed over the past generation.

"But How fair Is Britain?, the most comprehensive compilation of evidence on discrimination and disadvantage ever compiled in Britain, also shows that other long-standing inequalities remain undiminished; and that new social and economic fault-lines are emerging as Britain becomes older and more ethnically and religiously diverse.
  • Men and women from the highest social class can expect to live up to seven years longer, on average, than those from lower socio-economic groups (based on life expectancy at birth). 
  • Black Caribbean and Pakistani babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as Bangladeshi or White British babies.
  • At age five, 35 per cent of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals achieved a good level of development, compared to 55 per cent of pupils not eligible for free school meals.
  • The mean gender pay gap for women and men working full-time in 2009 was 16.4 per cent; and progress today appears to be grinding to a halt. Women aged 40 earn on average 27 per cent less than men of the same age. Women with degrees are estimated to face only a four per cent loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with no qualifications face a 58 per cent loss."

From Feckless Oiks To Malingering Liars.

As the focus shifts from feckless oiks to malingering liars take a look at Bendy Girl’s blog

Note the title.

There are a lot of excellent links to other disability pages on Bendy Girl’s page, in particular But You Don’t Look Sick offers one persons first hand account of being disabled.

In some developing countries people who are fit to work but who can earn more from begging will mutilate themselves or their children, knowing that the more obvious their disability the more money they will receive from charitable strangers. Of course, the terribly ill are unable to beg and disappear which is why religious institutions and later the State decided that a more collective approach to care would be less grotesque. And still we expect the ill to perform to prove how ill they are, sometimes to us and more often to someone from ATOS Healthcare the company which interviews people who need disability benefit. They’re notorious for their abuse of power.

There’s a great deal of information in these few webpages and they give some indication of the complexity of the system that a person who is physically ill or disabled must contend with. The person with a mental illness, who can indeed take a pen from a pocket, turn on a tap and sit for 30 minutes but will be entirely unable to work within the employment culture we have now has particular problems with a system that doesn’t welcome people in wheelchairs, let alone a hidden illness.

MIND offers analysis.

along with the LSE

Friday, 8 October 2010

You Are A Bloody Moron

The media is entirely consumed with people who claim benefits, with people who make claiming benefits a lifestyle choice, with benefits scroungers and benefit thieves. The benefits bill is indeed enormous, and more money is lost through DWP incompetence than through fraudulent claims. Note that what little information is available comes under the banner ‘Fraud and error.’ They are two separate issues but linking them feeds a useful prejudice.

Ian Duncan Smith meanwhile, describes the issue succinctly:

"The present benefits system is so complex and unfair that no one understands it. It leads at the bottom end to one of the most regressive tax and benefit withdrawal rates that it is possible to imagine.

"We ask people to go to work for the first time and then tell them to pay back 70%, 80% and 90% back to the state. These are levels none of the wealthiest bankers are asked to pay – they are moaning at 50%.

"If you are unemployed, and you come from a family that is unemployed, all you can see when you think about work is risk. It is a real risk because for all the efforts you make the rewards are very minimal and in some cases none at all.

"Socially, everyone says: 'You are a bloody moron – why are you doing this? You don't have to do this.' So taking responsibility is a real risk for you."

That he misses the single most important aspect of this mindset is testament to how deep our Hard Working Families rhetoric goes. If you’re a poor person and unemployed you keep a roof over your own and your family’s head. If you’re a poor person and you swallow propaganda you are very likely to become homeless.

Which person is taking responsibility?

What can we say about the messages being sent to the very poor?

How might this affect an external locus of evaluation?
Of the person on benefits?
On the working person who earns less than a person on benefits?

On you?

Finnoula’s experience with the DWP

“I went to sign on like normal and the woman said ‘You’ve got an appointment at 10.30.’ No one had sent me a letter but when I went over to the other side of the office there was about 10 people all waiting to see the man for the appointment and none of us had been sent the letter.

If you’re late for an appointment you get the third degree but they can keep you waiting as long as they like and you have to keep your mouth shut. The man didn’t know what he was doing and after waiting an hour he was very nice but there was no apology and at the end he handed me a letter that said that because they were doing something with national insurance numbers my benefits would be delayed by at least a week. I didn’t know this so instead of making £60 last 7 days I should have made it last 14. Now I’ve got no money for at least a week.”

NB when people on benefits say they’ve got no money they mean they’ve got no money.