Tory Housing Transformation Nothing more than another attack on the poorest

Sadiq Khan was in yesterday’s Mirror offering his opinion on the Tories “plan to transform sink estates“;  he speaks of how “having a secure and affordable home meant my parents could build a better life for me…”; this was also my experience.

My mum when widowed January 21 1965, was in the process of moving home, with my dad they’d bought a new bungalow  and sold the terraced house they’d lived in for a decade, completing on Saturday 16/01/65. Due to the insurance documents not being signed at the same time, when my dad died of an unknown chronic heart disease on the Thursday, she and I were made homeless.

After two years of ‘making do’ at my grandparents we moved into a maisonette, on a new and at the time, state of the art council estate. Over the past 49 years the same estate has gone from being the flagship for Leicester City Council to so-called sink estate, now surrounded by  iron bars. Yet it was that estate where I grew up, went to grammar school and ultimately university and on to post-grad education.

In 2012 “St Matthews Estate in Leicester is classed as the second most social deprived estate in the country” and yet despite this, my now 85 year old mum, still lives there out of choice. She has friends who have also lived there for decades and she receives support and help from the now majority Somali community; when she had a fall five month ago it was a young Somali man, who she didn’t know, that helped her home.

Given mums home is on ‘the second most deprived estate” it is likely that St Matthews will be one of those estates Cameron will want to transform. Some people will hearing/reading about this will think it a good idea, but my experience and that of  Sadiq Khan, and perhaps more surprisingly The Economist, this transformation will destroy far more than it builds.

Not only will the residents be moved away from where they are comfortable and have the support networks vital for safety; as the Economist points out “Unnervingly, poor children seem to fare better in poor neighbourhoods.” The article ‘paradox of the ghetto‘ shows that “poor boys living in largely well-to-do neighbourhoods were the most likely to engage in anti-social behaviour, from lying and swearing to such petty misdemeanours as fighting, shoplifting and vandalism”. As a long term youth worker I suggest this has to do with the need to be accepted, rather than these boys being inherently ‘bad’. The need to fit-in is well documented and experience has shown me that where acceptance is not an option, being feared is the next best thing, and thus young people from these so called ‘sink’ neighbourhoods become the self-fulling prophecy.  This theory is also supported by Professor Tim Newburn who says ” Living alongside the rich may also make the poor more keenly aware of their own deprivation”; therefore in order not to become the victim of the bullying being the outsider often results in, the poor child acts out. Further living in a community where families know each other and communicate, results in young people knowing any unsocial behaviour will be reported back; in my experience this makes you police yourself for fear of the wrath of mum.

Given the above I would suggest the Governments plan has far more to do with their aspiration to abolish social housing, rather any real  “ambition” to enable the families living there. Reading the ‘Notes to Editor’ on the official press release, it claims ‘successful regeneration’ has already occurred at Woodberry Down in Hackney and Packington Estate in Islington However it does not address why both estates have been rebuilt with only 50% social housing, nor what happened to the other half of tenants?   I can only imagine what will happen if Leicester City Council allows St Matthews to be ‘transformed’ (and the legacy of previous decisions made by our City Mayor strongly suggests it will); will my mum be forced into an unsuitable poky flat away from her network of friends and the close proximity of family, and it so how will she cope? This terrifies me as I’m only too aware of her attachment to her home.

The plan will also destroy the real community that exists on the estate, a community of former refugees who have already been forced from their homeland and yet have come together to create a neighbourhood of safety and opportunity. This is what precisely what the designers of St Matthews Estate desired 50 year ago and demonstrates exactly what Cameron’s Transformation plan ignores.

 

 

 

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Tories Only tell you what to Spend if you’re Poor

Mark Harper the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions was on Radio4 Today this morning, talking about Cameron’s promise to protect pensions; in his discussion he stated “we can’t tell people how to spend their money“!

Where then does this leave the vow from IDS that he is “testing prepaid cards, onto which we will make benefit payments, so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family”? ‘Given the total contrast between Ministers statements, who can we believe, Harper’s – we trust the public or Ids – the poorest must be told where to shop and what to buy’?

Maybe the Tories believe that only people who have retired can manage a budget? Or is it, much more likely in my opinion, the pensioner promise is more about the Conservatives feeling worried they might lose their traditional voting base, by means testing the additional support such as the winter fuel allowance?

Either way this is yet another example of how the Tories are actually expanding the gap between the bottom and the the middle of the financial pyramid, with One rule for those with the least need and completely the Opposite for those the most vulnerable’ regardless it is Real Tory Hypocrisy in Action .

Here We Go Again – DWP to Repeat the ATOS Disaster ?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being totally unsurprised, albeit sick to my stomach at the latest revelation to be leaked from Tory proposals for Benefits, the drastic cutting of  ESA; it appears that new claimants placed in  WRAG will only receive 50 pence a week more than JSA. This has led me to wonder if this extreme reduction has anything to do with the increase in the number of people claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits?

The fact the cut was ‘leaked’ on the same day, and to the same source as the claim, Maximus will be the company taking over the contract from ATOS, also leaves me unsurprised. I can imagine the key players from DWP and Maximus sitting around the table and plotting this decimation of ESA as a part of the contract. The key aim of Welfare Reform has always been to slash Benefits, irrespective of need, and now seemingly wants to privatise all out of work benefits; therefore given Maximus’ existing  involvement in running the Work Programme, and the new Health and Work programme  this pairing seems a perfect match.

However when John Pring initially suggested, Maximus was the preferred bidder to replace ATOS, he also revealed the company’s “chilling” record of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud“. Thinking back to when ATOS was initially awarded the contract for WCAs, there were similar concerns around the unsuitability of ATOS, and we all know the outcome of that appointment.

It appears the DWP have completely failed to learn from the ATOS debacle and is planning to enter into another disastrous contract with a seemingly corrupt company, all for Corporate Greed.  Further the DWP seems to be continuing the rhetoric of  blaming us being ill; refusing to acknowledge their attacks on poorest and most vulnerable people through both the continuing  scapegoating and their discriminatory Policies, are in any way responsible.

The ‘leaking’ of these two announcements today suggest the DWP are maintaining their insidious behaviour, softly ensuring their plans emerge into the public psyche in an attempt to build public support:

‘the poorest people are choosing the higher paying benefit to avoid looking for work, because  they are lazy, the DWP are doing the majority a favour by stopping these idlers take the easy option, and are bringing in a company who will stamp this out’

What can we can fight back against this? Johnny Void suggests we gather the information necessary to take Maximus out of the picture and I agree; but I also believe we need to demonstrate WHY sick and disable people need the extra money to survive, lets collect your stories that demonstrates precisely what we do with the difference between JSA and ESA, because if we don’t – We Will Lose it!

 

More Tory Lies – or Disability Discrimination in Action?

Cameron today announced “All government policies will have to pass a “family test“”; this apparently means that from October, Impact Assessments must be undertaken on ALL Government Policies with regard to families, these will include cost effectiveness .

These Impact Assessments are what Lord Freud insists are “not possible” to be carried out for disabled people!

How can the Government manage to conduct numerous assessments against the impact on  18.2 million families in the UK, when it is allegedly ‘not possible’ to do the same for approximately 1,760000 disabled working age adults??

Is this Disability Discrimination in Action, or merely more Tory Spiel ???

‘Stop the Spin’ TODAY

Join the TRUTH Campaign

#NOWPetition #ImpeachDWP

 

 

In Memory of My Pop a WWI Soldier, who Fought for Honesty and Freedom

As a child of the Sixties I absorbed the new ‘freedoms’  of that era like a sponge; I watched the development of  the sexual revolution which, to me was everyday women finding a voice, previously before only accessible to the middle class and above.  I read about the Civil Rights movement, and became sickened by the Racial prejudice and discrimination; particularly as I was friends with many children whose families had come to the UK as refugees from Uganda. These struggles instilled me with a personal power, no longer did I have to defer to my ‘betters’, I could and should, question and challenge my elders.

Having said this, my strongest influence at home at this time was my granddad (Pop), he was born in 1899 and lied about his age to serve his country in WW,  only for him to be the victim of a rogue grenade. This resulted in him spending his life in and out of hospital undergoing surgery after surgery, as the countless pieces of shrapnel he carried in him moved towards his vital organs. I adored him, but he was a man of his time born when Victoria was still Queen, and we had endless discussions about right and wrong. I like to think he really heard me when I argued for Equality, but maybe he indulged me as his only grandchild, either way he listened, and even when we disagreed he never shot me down, he taught me to debate and for this, and everything else he was to me, I adored him .

With today being the Centenary of  WWI, these memories of my pop are more emotive than ever, his desire for honesty was I believe, born from his experience of soldiering, he was sold a story of  ‘Britain needing him’  how he was fighting for freedom and this would be “The War to end All wars”; in return he was damaged, physically and emotionally. He never spoke to me (or any other family members) about his experience, but we lived with its effects.  Today I’m convinced he would have been diagnosed with PTSD, he certainly suffered from brain damage, being blown up does that, and this revealed itself in his occasional outbursts of rage. However, despite the pain he lived with for the next 70 years, he always demanded Truth; whether this be because he lived with the fact he suffered as a result of the Lies sold by the ruling classes I can’t say, but knowing him I can’t help but think this is so.

These experiences laid the blueprint for who I am today, I remain committed to Equality, I fail to understand how prejudice and discrimination are anything but destructive, and I believe wholeheartedly in Truth. In this week as I especially remember Pop, I read that  Lord Freud  has been proven to have Lied AGAIN,  joining Mark Hoban, Esther McVey and Mike Penning  to become the Fourth DWP Minster to have Made the SAME LIE – Impact Assessment are Impossible.

This default position of Lying when proven incorrect is unacceptable, the reality is the Lies Politicians spew out today, are resulting in pain as those told 100 years did; and albeit in much lesser numbers, people are still Dying  as a result of the Policies they Lie about.

I can’t help but think it must be common knowledge that Politicians Lie, they’ve been doing it for at least a Century now, and maybe this is the reason people don’t feel the need to demand it should End and End Now?

I can’t and won’t accept this, to do so would not only dishonour my Pop, but I would feel  in collusion with these Lying Ministers, and this I will not do. For these reasons and because I feel if We don’t scrutinise this unelected Government No one will; I continue to urge you all to please share our petition demanding TRUTH from Parliament; the House of Commons has responded to the Recommendations of the Select by basically informing us the DWP is doing a great job!

If you share my belief , this response is yet another example of Government Spin – please Sign, Share and talk to everyone about the NEED for The TRUTH Campaign.

 

#NOWPetition #ImpeachDWP

Another Government ‘Fag packet’ proposal for Benefit Sanctions & Cuts ?

Rarely do I come across a Tory Policy proposal that makes me both Smile (albeit at the irony) and Shudder (with fear); but today’s report in the Telegraph does exactly this; “Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression“, this worries me on several levels.

The article quotes their source as saying “We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment“; I totally agree with the closing proviso but the apparent claim CBT works for depression and anxiety is False.

Firstly Depression is not a ‘one size fits all’ disorder, there are different types of this debilitating illness, and a notion it can be conveniently summed up to enforce potentially damaging treatment is downright dangerous as well as being futile.  This position applies equally to Anxiety, again there are different types of Anxiety disorders which require different specialist treatments; therefore this all embracing decision, being discussed by Politicians based upon saving money is, to me, terrifying.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works to enable people understand the relationships between their feelings, thinking, behaviours and environment, and to identify ways in which these can become problems; ergo CBT only works when depression and, or anxiety arises from internal conflict. Personally I have found CBT to be of little or no use when clinical issues, i.e. schizophrenia, is  the primary causes of the disorder; further where external factors are reinforcing the disorders, I personally have found CBT only has limited benefits.  I am not purporting CBT has no use in supporting depressive or anxiety sufferers, but it is not the only form of treatment necessary for enabling improved mental health. Given the mandate for this scheme is the ” loads of people who claim ESA (for Depression and Anxiety) who undergo no treatment whatsoever“, it is difficult to understand how the Government is to utilise fully trained CBT workers anyway?

Minsters are already piloting different ways of implementing this scheme, four JobCentres are currently “combining “talking therapies” with employment support“; soon we will witness  “group work” to help build the “resilience” of individuals who are out of work and suffering with poor mental health” the “hiring specialist private organisations outside the NHS and welfare system to take control of providing a combination of psychological and employment support to claimants” and finally “online tests and therapies at improving individuals’ health and job prospects“. These four trials will then be assessed, presumably with cost effectiveness, being the primary focus’ so no prizes for guessing which ‘approach’ the Government will adopt – more work for the nudge unit coming up?

These trials are a joint effort between the DWP & Dept of Health, and emerge from the report Talking Therapies: a four year plan of action  and initially was targeted at people 18-65  as an “economic case on which it was based showed that providing therapy could benefit not only the individual but also the nation, by helping people come off sick pay and benefits and stay in or return to work“. There we have it another quick fix based on Finance First and presumably will form the basis of yet another area of Cuts in Welfare; but once again aimed at sick and disabled people

As I acknowledge at the beginning of this post, the Government Ministers making these decisions about how mental health sufferers should be treated, deny participation in these trials will be mandatory, seeming to recognise willingness to participate is central any talking treatment working. However the Telegraph states “Conservatives could include the proposal for mandatory treatments in the party manifesto next year as part of the next phase of reforms to the welfare state” and I can’t help but think they are probably accurate in this.

Will this turn out to be yet another example of how the Government says one thing and then does another? If you agree with me in this Join the TRUTH campaign

#NOWPetition #ImpeachDWP