Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Loan sharks, the DWP and others who prey on vulnerable people.

Job Centre staff are being trained, at a cost of £8+m, to spot people who may be being targeted by loan sharks.

Jobcentre staff have five minutes to process each ‘customer’ and are rarely positively interested in the lives of the people they manage.
“There’s a fat pig of a man works in the Jobcentre, he comes in the pub and he only has to get slightly pissed to start in on his favorite topic, how much he hates people on benefits. ‘I took her money off her,’ he said and the landlady said, ‘What, you took her money off her and her kids just before Christmas?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. You can't say anything to him, he's a shit of a bully and if you need to go to the Jobcentre he'll make your life hell."
“This nasty tiny little woman who’s been working at the Jobcentre for fucking ever. She owns the place. Some woman kicked off because the computers had broken down and she’d been waiting for half an hour and then she walked out. This woman yelled across the office, ‘See when she came in, let’s see if she was late so we can get her.’ Bitch. You don’t want to catch her eye.”

Any intrusion by the DWP into a claimants life is perceived as a threat, because that is almost uniquely what it is. Have you done any work in the last two weeks? Do you have a boyfriend? Where does he live? Does your elderly mother who’s just moved into your already overcrowded home have savings over £2,000? These and other questions are about finding ways to reduce the amount of benefits paid to you not making sure that you’re receiving the correct ones.

Scambusters and Illegal Money Lending (IML) under the aegis of Trading Standards are already doing this important work pretty effectively resulting in loans being wiped out and imprisonment of the worst sharks (that they’ve caught.) The scheme sounds excellent and I hope it works to bring support and liberation to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. But with the culture of contempt and abuse of power within the DWP I fear yet more money will be poured into another benefits project for no return and a quiet phasing out of the scheme, as happened with lie detectors being used when speaking with ‘customers’ on the phone.

 Nothing would please me better than to be wrong.

In the meantime, here’s some information about Elizabeth Finn Care a charity that offers money to poor people, no strings attached.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

We Live In Interesting Times

Tomorrows protest march is against cuts in disability benefits. Just as the protest against the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (a payment to the children of very poor households) was attended by thousands fewer demonstrators than protests against increases in costs to university students so there are likely to be very few people attending tomorrow. People in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and other benefits aimed at people who are too ill to work have been subjected to dreadful propaganda.

Godwin’s Law normally holds good but in this case I think there’s something to be learned from comparing the rhetoric about the cost of caring for disabled people today and how it echoes that of Nazi Germany.

Helpfully, this article also references the lies of omission around ‘Fraud and Error.’

These are turbulent times, all of us are caught up in it one way or another, it’s impossible to ignore. I wonder if psychotherapy has anything to offer to the understanding of this cycle of radicalism?

Post script Indeed, 20 people turned up in Trafalgar Square. Read a disabled activists perception of the issues.

Monday, 13 December 2010

British Social Attitudes Survey

Interesting news today from the British Social Attitudes survey

Just 27 per cent of the population feels the government should spend more on benefits, even at the cost of higher taxes, compared with 58 per cent when Margaret Thatcher left power 20 years ago

The report is particularly interesting where is suggests that 80% of us are concerned about the gap between rich and poor and about 50% of us want a rise in the minimum wage, a reduction of which is now under review by the Coalition. The propaganda around people on benefits has succeeded in keeping people in work who would be better off on benefits.

It also means that people on benefits will be under greater stress simply by virtue of being on benefits in a way that they weren’t 30 years ago. How might they cope with that? With feelings of shame and humiliation? Overcompensation in order to maintain some sense of self-worth? Lying, keeping secrets?

It’s also worth noting that we’ve taken on board the language around ‘Equality of opportunity,’ but don’t care so much about ‘Equality of outcome.’ Interviewers, please take note: we all know there’s a standardised spiel around Equal Ops, here’s a fresh to approach that moves from what has become a rather mindless exercise to having to think and respond to reality.

Much of this information has been available for some time from research organisations such as Oxfam
Joseph Rowntree,  National Council for Voluntary Organisation.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Government cannot sue for benefit overpayments

"I got a letter from the benefits saying I owed them thousands of pounds. How the hell am I going to pay that back? I'm on £90 a week!"  Darren

A coalition of anti-poverty campaigners had said many claimants were worried and frightened by the threat of legal action. Social security payments are extremely complicated and claimants often do not realise that they are being overpaid.
Campaigners argued that many had spent the money received and had no means to repay. Claimants in receipt of these benefits were likely to be on extremely low incomes, and could be vulnerable, elderly or in poor health, they said.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Campaign Against Living Miserably

Young men are killing themselves at an alarming rate.
Male suicide rates are consistently higher than female. A man takes his own life every three hours in England and Wales.
Being a young man can be a lonely, miserable experience particularly if you don't have the means to distract yourself. Women of all ages are generally more used to discussing their feelings and problems and have networks of other women who can help them through difficult times. Having children helps women grow up, take responsibility for themselves and engage with life, even if that means just getting up in the morning, feeding their child and themselves, getting them to and from school. By comparison, many men don't take responsibility for themselves.
The majority of men drink alcohol at a level that could be harmful to their health. In 2005, 35% of men exceeded the recommended daily limit (four units ) at least one day during the previous week. A further 19% drank more than eight units, double the recommended daily limit.

This isn't a value statement but one of truth for a great many men, which is one reason why they still die before women particularly if they are poor.

Men who are defined as partly skilled or unskilled have a far lower life expectancy. In 2005, the last year for which such comparative data is available, life expectancy at birth for men in social class 1 was already 77.7 years (higher than the average for all men today). For those in Social Class V, it was just 68.2 years.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably is a charity set up by men for men. This is important. It recognises that men are not women and that there are important cultural differences.

Many mothers and female partners manage the health and wellbeing of men, a paradoxical situation which recognises that many men will not take responsibility for themselves and denies them the opportunity to do so. Men are further distanced from their own cultures and from themselves. Most counsellors, nurses, social workers, teachers, most of the professionals that boys and men in Britain come into contact with are women, and whilst there's no doubt that a masculine agenda still dominates every sphere of public life and most areas of private life it's an old truth that patriarchy hurts everyone, women and men.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

"Am I Worth Your While? Am I Worth Your While?"

If you can, track down Simon Israel's film on the Diamond Project

Here's the written report 

James Jarvis is one of the men that's being helped by the Diamond Project.
One of the Diamond team, probation officer Colin Budd swings by his one bedroom flat by at least once a week to help him through a minefield of bureaucracy, housing, job seeking, appointments, and a mountain of  paperwork.

For me, the most poignant part of the film was when Colin Budd was explaining to Simon Israel that if a person on the project reoffends the team assess the situation to decide if it's worthwhile for that person to continue with the project. As he's explaining, James Jarvis is looking at him and finally interrupts the interview to ask, "Am I worth your while? Am I worth your while?" It sounded like something he'd been asking for many years.