Equal opportunity, the eradication of the poor and cold blooded vengeance

This is another important piece from @KeithCameron5 , if Equality, in an issue that interest you this is a must read; as Keith says

I am beyond caring that the system is rigged against us, that’s a given, it is time for doing something about the rage that accumulates and rips away at us and to remember that revenge is a dish best served cold, exacted with cold blooded intent.”

Equal opportunity (in a pigs ear), the eradication of the poor and cold blooded vengeance

Together We ‘Minorities’ CAN beat the Uphill Struggle for Equality

A new report from the uni of Sheffield has found Welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era –

” many people now attribute unemployment and poverty to the failings of individuals, rather than to structural weaknesses in the British economy and entrenched socio-economic inequalities. Worryingly, negative views around welfare were also extended to the physically disabled and mentally ill. The research therefore suggests that, in the aftermath of the recession, there has been a decline in empathy and understanding for some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups in our society

Today the Guardian have turned over comment is free to black contributors, this is fantastic and exactly what we need more of as according to FleetStreetFox  “it’s 2014 and we’re speaking about foreigners in much the same way we did 100 years ago, with just as much nastiness, stupidity and flawed logic“. Other reports have arrived at similar conclusions, both the British Social Attitude survey and the Archbishop of Canterbury have shared concerns about the rise in racism. As a white woman I can’t speak on what this means in everyday day, but I empathise from the perspective of being disabled; I also accept it is my responsibility to challenge any racist attitudes wherever I find them.

I can’t help thinking this decline in empathy and understanding has something to do with the lack of challenge from the Country’s’ leaders towards prejudice, instead the current Political discussion is full of ‘blame culture’. When comments such as “we’re like under siege’ from ‘huge numbers’ of migrants“,  “some” disabled people are “not worth the full wage”, “Women ‘to blame’ for being raped” or  ‘people getting really good benefits are going to charity food banks; not only go with out challenge but are also regularly justified by skewed statistics pulled from the ether, we as a nation, are  in trouble.

The ease with which we can find comments like the above, and blogs and posts from people experiencing not only an increase in prejudice, but also discrimination, is terrifying;  further it is hard evidence of the reality of life in Britain for many of us from the ‘minority’ sectors of society. Continuing to to accept our problems are the fault of other minority group members, and, or choosing to believe the bigoted hype of the elite ran main stream media, can only result in the continuing collapse of the society we’ve grown up with. Acknowledging our own prejudices and electing to view them from the other side  is the way we individually fight back.

The really crazy thing about this, is we the ‘minorities’ actually  form a ‘majority’, and the only thing holding us back, are our individual fears of difference and of change. As a long time community activist I believe in people, not in a notion that all people are good, but in the belief we are better when we come together. As a collective sharing our strengths, skills knowledge and experiences we individually grow more powerful; but together we become formidable and through utilising the diversity, we can create change.

It is only by using our collective strengths we can challenge the structural weaknesses and demand the changes to the existing socio-economic inequalities that encourages prejudice to grow, thus ensuring our children and grandchildren benefit from a fairer and more equal society.

Together We Are STARS shining in the  dark and fighting against the Capitalist Light Pollution

 

 

Lets Talk about #Inequality – The Core Tool of Oppression

As a tutor of Inequality issues, if there one thing I’ve learnt over the years (In)Equalities is one of the topics that impacts on every Policy, everyone, everyday. If this sounds improbable it’s possibly because Equality is generally only attached to Human Resources in employment, Finance in Politics and rarely in schools and at home; however I would argue Equalities should be at the core of everything we learn, say and do.

I write this from the presumption that everyone suffers from Inequality in some way, whether that be via the labelling resulting from the ‘isms’, from one of the countless strands of financial inequality, or even from the (lack of) capacity for empathy.  This supposition is one that often causes conflict, with many people unable to recognise how, those in the 1% group controlling the worlds wealth, can experience inequality. My counter is, without experiencing or recognising the lifestyle of others, we lose compassion, and without this we cannot adapt our opinions, nor access the tools we need to positively challenge inequalities.

I fully understand the difficulties in this, as a blogger I usually write about current issues experienced by disabled people as a result of Welfare Reform and I use the blogging experience as a way of sounding off; thus I rarely write from the position I’m advocating today. However there is a vast difference between passing on tales of discriminatory polices and making a constructive argument for change, hence my option to use today, as my professional contribution to discuss what I consider to be, the greatest challenge the majority of us face today.

In order for regular people to be in a position to make a real difference, we need to collectively influence current Politics; and we can only do this if the majority of us make the same argument to our Politicians. Imagine if you will, every candidate for MP next year meeting/receiving communications on a daily basis, from numerous constituents; all offering similar constructive reasons why the Austerity measures don’t work and comparable equitable cases for the way forward.  Would they then be so keen to ignore their voters, particularly as then they would be subject to Recall?

This is the process required to champion for Equalities across the board, people naturally fear what we don’t understand, and fear is the greatest reason for attitudes of inequality. It is this lack of understanding and knowledge that allows the likes of UKIP spread untrue statistics around immigration, it underpins the rhetoric for scrounger agenda driven by the Tories for Welfare Reform and it is fear of big business owners, the 1% that results in yesterdays announcements that the UK is the only  country in the G7 where inequality has grown!

Trends in inequality

The majority of us irrespective of personal differences are scraping by, whilst the 1% are accumulating more wealth than the can ever use; this if nothing else ought to be enough for us for us to recognise where the real Inequality lies?

History has taught us that knowledge and learning is the key to challenging Inequality, and when we do we are in a position of power;  I consider  it is a fear of this power of majority, that drives the 1% to insist upon the continuation of Unequal Policies and Laws, Inequality is the core tool of oppression. Perhaps when we agree precisely who, benefits from Inequality, we will be ready to demonstrate our desire for Equity in all areas? And remember what the people demand is often what the people get

 

For Blog Action Day 

 

Blog action day 2014

 

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

Government Policies are Bad for our Health – Time for Challenge #NowPetition

The latest group to be hard hit by Government Policies are women employees, Female workers hit hardest by Austerity Agenda & associated Cuts, this won’t be a surprise to anyone not fortunate to earn enough; but for most of us, this is another example of how Government Policies are penalising the majority of people – simply because they are not rich.

The past four years are strewn with evidence demonstrating precisely how, outcomes of Government Reforms have been detrimental to the general public; Welfare Reform has brought about WorkfareBenefit CapBedroom TaxPIP, and  changes to ESA, JSA sanctions  & Tax Credits, to cite a few of the programmes. All of the above, have been criticised by numerous independent groups, charities, think tanks and across social media, as not only being prejudicial but as being incongruous. Similar criticism applies to Policies in Justice Reform, the Home Office, the Health ServiceTax & Revenue etc. Further we’ve been subjected to a series of inconsistencies from various Minsters & MPs across Parliament, from expense claims to downright untruths; and this behaviour in the main goes unchallenged, or worse is defended.

These Policies and Programmes have had a negative effect on  disabled people, older people, black & minority ethnic people, low paid people, jobless people, children and women, and  the articles used in the above links, are merely examples of the plethora of  evidence available. This leads me to one conclusion; current Government Policies, particularly when based upon such questionable, data are damaging the health and well-being of the majority of people in the UK.

It is for this reason we are challenging Parliament to STOP the SPIN, we want Government to ensure  their Laws and Policies, are fair and based upon Fact; further we are  dissatisfied with Political attempts at psychological coercion, with MPs persistently misusing statistics to justify prejudicial Polices.

For these reasons we believe the TRUTH Campaign will positively challenge Government; and as people afflicted by the current raft of unjust Policies, we demand change.

If you, your family, friends, colleagues etc are negatively affected by any Government Policies – Join the TRUTH Campaign – sign our petition, join our Time For Truth Thunderclap, tweet #NOWPetition #ImpeachDWP, share on Social Media; and Spread the word Government Policies are Bad for our Health

 

Lets Talk – Challenging Oppression through Inclusion

Following the last post this is a short blog to clarify one thing, women2gether is a project started and lead by women but, it is NOT exclusive to women.

We welcome the input and support of any men who share our goals and, perhaps more importantly, understand and respect why women are leading this campaign; I’m not going to explain the history of reasons for why this is the case, as if you support us you’re already aware.

What is important is the need and desire for women2gether to be inclusive,  we define inclusivity as:

  • Viewing every life and every death as of equal worth.
  • Supporting everyone to feel that they belong.
  • Increasing participation
  • Reducing exclusion, discrimination, barriers to learning and participation.
  • Restructuring cultures, policies and practices to respond to diversity in ways that value everyone equally.
  • Linking learning, planning and action to local and global realities.
  • Learning from the reduction of barriers for women to benefit people  more widely.
  • Viewing differences between women and between men as resources for development.
  • Putting inclusive values into action

These values are based upon the  lifelong learning agenda and the ethos of Equality.

So, to ALL men reading these posts and sharing our ideals –  you are not isolated by gender only by ignorance

 

 

Let’s Talk – Challenging Oppression through Honesty

When was the last time you actually engaged in dialogue – I don’t mean chatting I’m referring to a real debate, a discussion that involved sharing opinions without fear of offending?

It’s very difficult to challenge oppression when you don’t have the words to say what you mean, or are concerned with upsetting the very person(s) you’re talking with, and about. Recently I found myself  (as a disabled white woman) having a discussion about prejudice with what I would usually refer to as a Black man and a mixed-race woman;  I became very aware that whilst I was comfortable using derogatory words to describe disabled people, I was struggling to find the correct language to articulate my thoughts on race/racism, my fear of offending was a barrier to the conversation.

Another reason for my concern was I had met these people for the first time only that morning meaning I could not judge a likely reaction, I decided the only way to overcome my problem was to own it and so I admitted my fear; both the others immediately shared similar views, and we quickly agreed, unless we open topics around the ‘isms’ and begin to talk about things in regular words these barriers grow. We continued, with each of us talking openly about how we dealt with these problems and discussing what do you do when someone else decides what you can say?  We each had experienced discriminatory behaviour but generally it was implicit, rarely did people use language we could openly challenge; instead prejudicial attitudes were now subtle and insidious, making it difficult, it not impossible to challenge.

The three of us all voiced how we had found it easier to address issues of race, gender, disability etc when someone had used language that was openly prejudicial, how although it was deeply unpleasant to be called ‘Spag’ or ‘Nigger’ those and similar words allowed us to respond immediately, calling for the rationale behind the abuse and opening up a dialogue; whereas we all found it far more difficult to do this when the prejudice was clandestine.

Prejudice being a natural fear of the unknown exists in all of us, and unfortunately during times of  recession it re-emerges and grows, maybe as a default position to make ourselves feel better?This statement I’m sure will cause most people to shudder and perhaps deny it but the associated rise in discrimination through hate crime makes it impossible it ignore.

Owen Jones entered this debate yesterday in The Observer discussing how the overt racism of UKIP is met with outrage on Twitter claiming ” it is relatively easy to take a stand against overt racism; only outright bigots will quibble with you” and this is true;  the real problem comes when the more adept bigots ‘hide’  behind pernicious announcements, that disguise very real prejudice.

Even a cursory examination of language used by the Government to justify Austerity is full of such pernicious testimony, the focus on ‘scrounging’  ‘lazy’  ‘cheating’  promoted through much of the mainstream media, has engendered a distrust against the most vulnerable groups in society.

This distrust has in my opinion, supported the recorded increase in prejudice against most minority groups, and aside from such aforementioned ‘outrage on Twitter’ it is difficult to find any real dialogue around growth in prejudice and discrimination. For many years I’ve witnessed national and local organisations refusing to debate this issue, using claims of diversity and cohesion, to purport a lack of prejudice on any count; usually without any recognition of the paradoxic in this statement, the simple denial of  racism, sexism, ableism or any other form of prejudice, actually perpetuates it.

I’m not suggesting that engaging in conversation will prevent anyone determined to cause harm to desist but…unless we’re prepared to participate  in an honest exchange  of views, with regard for feelings, but also willing for our own opinions to be challenged; this situation will continue to grow. Jones in the article above recognises,  failure to do anything more than Tweet our indignation is dangerous “if we are just patting ourselves on our backs as a means of self-congratulation, flaunting our credentials as decent human beings and failing to tackle the more subtle, pernicious forms of racism that scar our society.”

Jones ends the article stating ” when minority voices speak out and demand change, all of us – whatever our backgrounds – should listen, and act“; I agree and on order to listen we need to one thing thing – Let’s Talk.

 

The Conspicuous Absence of IDS

In the words of Debbie Sayers, my Hold Ids to Account campaign buddie –

Back in June we had reason to feel positive our petition asking the work and pensions select committee to hold IDS to account for his use of statistics had reached 100,000 and we had been told that the committee wanted to tie it in to the end of year review of the DWP so they had all the facts at their disposal. A date would be forthcoming…

Time dragged on  and in June we were told MR Smith had cancelled because the end of year review was still not ready…

Time dragged on…

and once in July again the appointment was cancelled with the promise of something in the autumn…

Time dragged on…

and in September we were told November but…

Time is still dragging on and now on the 31st of October 2013, and we’re told it will be December…

That means the end of 2013, the 2011/12 Annual Report from the DWP will be eight months late… Yes that’s right EIGHT MONTHS late why is nobody shouting about this… well I guess we are…

I’M wondering why the press AREN’T wondering what’s going on, why MP’s AREN’T asking questions…

So I’m calling on everyone for help can we start making a noise about this can we tweet #whereisIDS #DWPLateReview

 I would also ENCOURAGE  everyone to start writing to their MP, asking why the DWP’s end of annual report is nearly eight months late… and asking when he will be seeing the Work and Pensions Select Committee in person. We don’t want his juniors to be answering questions we want him to explain what is going on Ultimately Mr Smith is responsible for his DEPARTMENT not Mr Penning or Ms Mcvey…

When a whole department can’t be held responsible and circumvents the balance and checks process we should all sit up and pay attention

Perhaps MR Smith thinks he is above answering questions… Perhaps he’s busy… either way time should be made to get the review in and discuss its good points and short comings… that’s the process that’s the job if he doesn’t like it perhaps he should resign…

Thank you all for your continued support of Debbie and myself, I assure you we are doing all we can to push for this and any help you can give us, and MPs like Sheila Gilmore who is also fighting to get IDS to committee is very much appreciated… I’d just like to take this opportunity to once again thank all those that have helped with the campaign fund… We  plan to be using it soon 🙂

McVey ‘answers’ Politicians, even if she ignores us!

As many of you know I, along with Debbie Sayers have been engaged in a battle to try & get Esther McVey to answer an open letter signed by 866 others, that we sent in April. The letter challenged Ms McVey’s misuse of statistics regarding the introduction of PIP on 4 key areas   This letter was supported by several Labour MPs and Michael Meacher MP, was one who also asked Ms McVey for an answer; well he DID get a reply on August 5!

Unfortunately it is a wordy 3 1/2 pages but in order for you to decide if Esther McVey answered our letter, below is the body of her response: (Missing from the below are 3 tables, figures relate to the relevant docs linked)

DWP statistical release procedures

Throughout the development of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) we have published a wide range of information to keep claimants,disability organisations, and the media informed about exactly what is happening. This includes answers to frequently asked questions, a range of statistical and ad-hoc reports, impact assessments, and a suite of information products to provide support to organisations of and for disabled people.

We aim to provide figures and statistics that are accurate and appropriate. Many of our statistics are produced from high quality sources that allow detailed analysis to be conducted. The majority of our statistics are also formally assessed by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) and designated as meeting the standards for National Statistics, meaning they are fully compliant with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, and we invite UKSA to assess new statistics each year.

Reform of Disability Benefits
I turn to some of the specific points that have been raised. The 2004/05 DLA National Benefit Review estimated that levels of fraud in DLA were around 0.5 per cent. However, that review also found high levels of incorrectness in awards with an estimated £630 million (11.2 per cent of the case load) being overpaid and £190 million (6.3 per cent) being underpaid.

I can confirm that over half of claims are made without additional medical evidence. The report cited was our own ad hoc statistical report”DLA Award Values and Evidence Use for New Claims in 2010, in Great Britain”. This report clearly demonstrates that over half of all decisions are made without additional medical evidence; 16 per cent on the claim form only and 36 per cent using other additional evidence other than an independent medical. factual report or examination. (Table used page 8)

The following table from our ad hoc report “Analysis of DLA: DLA Awards” provides clear evidence that over 70 per cent of the current caseload continues to have an indefinite award while the remaining 29 per cent has a fixed term award. Although we are able to reassess the level of award, there is no systematic way of ensuring that awards remain correct unless claimants report a change of circumstances which leaves disabled people more vulnerable to incorrect claims. (Table 2 )

In relation to award lengths, additional guidance introduced around three years ago provides greater clarity for decision makers. The new guidance made it clear that indefinite awards can continue to be made where appropriate, including following an original fixed term award. Whilst this has driven down, for the time being, the numbers of indefinite awards, such awards continue to be made.

 Although we are implementing changes for the working age caseload first, we have always been clear that reform of OLA is reform of the benefit as a whole. For example, in our first consultation document, “OLA reform”, we said we would consider to what extent the new assessment could apply to children, recognising that their needs may have to be assessed by age. We have further clarified that, before we consider broader reform, we want to see how the assessment works for working age adults and that we would consult on any changes. Similar considerations will need to be taken for’ pensioners although reform for people of working” age “will clearly begin to impact pensioner benefit numbers as PIP recipients age. Our use of overall caseload increases is, therefore, entirely valid in the context of DLA reform. The analysis report, “OLA: Growth  in the Number of Claimants 200/2103 to 2010/11 “, provides evidence that around a third of the growth in the caseload can be attributed to demographic factors, with the remainder due to an increase in receipt per head. The report showed that between 2002/3 and 2010/11, growth in the whole caseload was 29 per cent. Of this, 21 per cent can be attributed to an increase in receipt per head, which is partly due to the maturing of DLA. The remaining 8 per cent is due to a growth in the population and a change in its age and gender structure. Specifically for those aged under 65, demographics account for about a third of the growth, which includes growth due to increases in the population and changes in its age structure due to the ageing of particular cohorts. The remaining two thirds of the growth is due to increases in the percentage of the population claiming DLA. We are absolutely committed to reform of DLA and getting the introduction of

PIP right. That is why we have decided to extend the reassessment timetable and take more time and learn from the initial stages of delivery. This will allow us allow us to consider findings’ from the first independent review of the assessment, which will report by the end of 2014, and “ensure the assessment is working correctly before we embark on higher volumes.  In the longer term, it will also help us evaluate how, and to what extent, reform of DLA can be extended to all claimants.

The Department has a strong record of producing and publishing a wide range of data and information. I am committed to this and we will continue to put all the facts into the public domain so that the public can make their own judgements. As a rule, all correspondence to Ministers from MPs is usually signed off at an appropriate Ministerial level. However, given the large volume of correspondence that is sent direct to Ministers by members of the public, it has long been the practice for officials to respond to these enquiries on the relevant Minister’s behalf.

I hope this reply is helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

Clearly this is a much more detailed response than the one we received from the ‘Head of the Correspondence Team’ on June 28 2013; however despite its wordiness, I don’t feel it answers the points raised in our original letter? Neither does it address the issue of the persistent manipulation and misuse of statistics

What has become even more revealing though is the content of this letter was not only sent to Michael Meacher; the body of the reply reproduced above, was also sent to Tim Loughton. MP after a signatory asked him if he could obtain a response from Ms McVey!

To me this clearly indicates two things; the contempt with which Esther McVey treats the people, who obviously aren’t worthy of a considered response and the lack of regard she has for her Honourable friends, who also don’t merit an individual and honest reply.

Intriguingly Ms McVey is not the only DWP Minister that believes it is acceptable to behave in this way; only 2 days ago Mark Hoban Minster for Employment, fellow blogger Skwawkbox demonstrated Mr Hoban acting in this exact manner!

This behaviour increasingly appears to be the regular modus operandi for the Tory Party, as they blatantly rampage across the Policies and Laws of our land, pillaging & cutting our Rights to Freedom, Equity, Justice, Protest & Welfare, justifying their actions with manipulated statistics and blatant Lies.

If this wan’t awful enough, to me what’s even more disconcerting is, the majority of people losing the way of life their parents/grandparents fought for, appear to be indifferent to exploits of this Government?

I know as we grow older and look back, it can often be with ‘rose coloured glasses‘, where life appears to have been happier, fairer and friendlier but, in the case of life in Britain 2013, this is not so. Life WAS better pre the Coalition Government, not perfect but certainly better; disabled and other vulnerable people weren’t hounded by the media as scroungers and fakers on a daily basis; most workers were employed on contracts that meant they know what they would be paid each week/month for X hours; Food Banks were not growing expediently to try and ensure people don’t starve. These are only a minute number of examples of how life WAS better 4+ year ago, to find more try browsing any social media site for a few minutes.

This is the life we get when we allow Politicians to treat us & their contemporaries with the scorn outlined above, I believe they need to be reminded that it is us, the People they answer to; We elect them & We can get rid of them. For the sake of our children & grandchildren We have a duty to not ignore this behaviour any longer.

If you’re angry about what you’ve read say so, but, more importantly tell Ms McVey & Co