Monday, 30 June 2014

30,000 Views In One Month

WoW! For the first time ever, my blog has reached (and since breached) 30,000 views in one month. Just WoW! And, thank you to all my readers, wherever in the world you are. %D

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Christian Hierarchy Forgets to be… well, Christian!

By now many will have heard or read about yesterday's demonstration on Westminster Abbey land in Parliament Square (London) by inter alia DPAC protestors. Disabled People Against Cuts can be followed on facebook or via their website. Bernadette Meaden has written the following succinct piece which unwraps the issues. Her brief biography appears below the article. She has very kindly given me permission to re-blog here. Bernadette writes for Ekklesia, a sort of think-tank looking at issues from a Christian & social justice perspective. There are many interesting, well-argued and thought-provoking articles on their site. Please take a look at one or two.

[Image description: Ekklesia's gif logo]


This summer almost a thousand people will be ordained as deacons or priests in the Church of England. It is a season of celebration, but for many who look to the Church to be a beacon of justice and compassion, events at Westminster Abbey yesterday left them feeling extremely disappointed.
As priests and deacons are ordained the Bishop will say,
"They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God's purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible."
On Saturday 28th June, people who are sick, and weak, and powerless, arrived at Westminster Abbey hoping to get the support of the Church in their struggle to save services on which they completely depend.
Disabled people are afraid that the government’s closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will mean many of them are forced into institutions because it is easier or cheaper than providing care in their own homes. To understand what this means, please watch this video. And this applies to all age groups: severely disabled people in their twenties or thirties fear spending the rest of their lives in an institution, or trapped in their own homes without adequate care.
Journalist Kate Belgrave was at the protest and reported, ‘Disabled people continue to fight for the ILF through the courts. Today, they attempted to take things to another level and set up a camp in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. The hope was that the church of England would see the point of this extremely serious and important protest, and help facilitate a protest camp and discussion. The lives of these disabled people will be threatened without that ILF money. It’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, the church seemed to miss that point – perhaps in its rush to get the Met on the line. Christianity was in very short supply at the Abbey today. Police poured through the gates to stop the protest and to stamp on tents, to make sure they couldn’t be pitched. They were very heavy-handed all round and must easily have outnumbered protestors ten to one.’
The reaction on social media was extremely critical of the Church. What was very interesting was that many who commented had a very clear and positive idea of what the Church’s position should be. Many may not have been church goers, or counted themselves Christians, but they had a clear view that Jesus was on the side of the poor, the weak, the sick and the powerless, and they were crying out for the Church to be so too.
John McDonnell MP, who was at the Abbey to support the protest, tweeted ‘Looks like Church of England has turned it's back on the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount as police surround disabled people at Abbey’ and ‘No contact from Dean of Westminster so it looks like at the most iconic site of Christian worship in Britain the Church is evicting disabled’. Financial broadcaster Paul Lewis tweeted, ‘Wonga shareholder calls police to clear disabled protesters off its lawn’
As it transpired, as evening fell arrests were threatened and police refused to allow food or medication to be taken to the protesters, so they were not evicted, they left of their own accord: to applause. The Church came out of the whole situation very badly. Al Barrett, a vicar in Hodge Hill Birmingham tweeted ‘Yet again CofE’s public face is that of the oppressive, defensive neoliberal state and not the vulnerable’
Disabled People Against Cuts who organised the protest, commented: ‘The protesters had no option but to leave the site……….many thanks to the church for chosing to protect their interests and their income from tourists over arguing in solidarity for justice for disabled people. #saveilf’
It was a great shame that the Church did not extend the hand of friendship and hospitality when it was so clearly needed.
For more information on the Save ILF campaign visit the campaign website
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

Saturday, 28 June 2014

120 Reasons for the #NoMoreAusterity March

On Saturday 21st June the No More Austerity demonstration marched and rallied through London. It was organised by the People's Assembly. The links are to, click on 'source' for more information.

Here is a glossary of abbreviations in case the reader is unfamiliar with any of them.

ConDems is an ironic abbreviation (punning on 'condemn') for the Conservative (senior partner) and Liberal Democrat (junior partner) UK co-alition government.

Daily Heil refers to the UK newspaper Daily Mail, which in the 1930's supported fascism.

DLA stands for Disability Living Allowance, a social security payment made to seriously disabled &/or chronically sick folk. It is paid whether or not one is in employment. It is supposed to recompense for the extra costs disabled/sick people incur in daily living.

DWP is the standard abbreviation for Department of Work & Pensions, the agency charged with administering social security (welfare) payments.

ESA stands for Employment & Support Allowance, the replacement for Incapacity Benefit.

HMRC is the UK's tax authority, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs.

IB = Incapacity Benefit

IDS = Ian Duncan Smith, widely reported as a serial teller of untruths/misstatements.

JRF is the acronym for the respected think-tank Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

JSA is Jobseekers Allowance, the name for the UK's unemployment benefit.

PIP, Personal Independence Payment, is the new benefit meant to replace DLA; but it has encountered numerous problems and is seriously behind schedule.

VAT is a European-wide sales tax, Value Added Tax.

WCA stands for the Work Capability Assessment, a notorious check developed by DWP in conjunction with the US insurance company UNUM. It has an exceptionally high failure rate.

W Mids = West Midlands

claims re benefits “cross line between legitimate ‘spin’ & outright inaccuracy”

Daily Heil claims 75% people "faking". says fraud 0.3%, 0.5%

Press claim widespread benefit fraud. : 0.7%. : tax avoidance 33Xs more

Govt "intergenerational workless culture". "no 3-gen family that has never worked"

Of the 2.5 million workless adults, 1 million do not receive benefits

60% believe benefits so generous they discourage job-seeking, yet JSA equals 1997 rates

Daily Heil use of "cheats" connected to benefits up 5-fold in 5 years

"benefits spending caused recession"; yet benefits spend stable for 20 years

cutting 30% benefits budget; yet 30% not cured/discrimination-free

doubled since 2008 financial crisis. Linked to media distortion.

"disability benefit costs out of control" DLA&ESA only 15.5% of benefits spend

Current system for assessing welfare benefit claimants is killing people

assmnt: ignores discrimination, support, job availability, impact on employability

ESA assmnt fails to detect complex/hidden/fluctuating impairment. Claimants unsupported

84% public say assmnt should be tougher; 87% welfare advisors say damages health.

90% of welfare advisors say too many left with too little welfare support.

Public say is major benefits cost, yet under 4% of claimants suffer same.

Medically ass'd, tough eligibility DLA helps with costs of impairment/long-term malady.

unrelated to being in/out of work. Often vital for extra access costs of working.

don’t give cars. Disabled pay with hard-to-claim / .

> : to cut 20% claimants. 500K folk’s independence on line.

Public believes 41% of benefits spend goes on unemployment; but says only 3%.

Relative to average consumption, worth only 50% what it was 30 years ago.

: unemployed "languishing" yet 4 in 5 people on come off within 6 months.

Only 1 in 8 claimants is unemployed. Most work but are poorly paid.

lies - fewer than 5 claimants in whole UK receive of £100K/year

creates financial need to move, but no properties available: !

72% of households include someone with impairment or major health concern.

20% of welfare goes to low-paid workers. Employers paying staff too little to live on!

64% of families & half country receive some state benefits. Claimants are not "other".

' benefit changes pushing 200,000 MORE children into .

Public think benefits increasing yet inflation means 1% "uprating" cap equals real cut.

Almost 25% of the nation's benefits budget goes unclaimed.

We ALL pay tax. “Poorest often pay most. As incomes change, so do kinds of taxes paid”

Immigrants to EU less likely to live on benefits than native population.

says UK Tax Avoidance £30bn+/year. Equates to a third of spend.

IMF: "Britain is 6th wealthiest nation" yet homelessness & foodbanks doubled in 12mths

£350m cut causing 'advice deserts', ending representation for poorest.

Cuts cumulative: benefits, , , , libraries, council budgets...

Nordic countries prove economic dynamism & substantial can coexist well.

Folk don't "languish" on but move on & off, most claiming only for short periods.

Public believe 27% of benefits fraudulently claimed. says 0.7%.

29% think more spent on than pensions, yet pensions spend is 15 times that of JSA.

Wales GPs told stop writing ATOS appeal letters for patients as an "Abuse of resources"

Over 10K suicides & million extra cases of worldwide since austerity began.

Investing in back-to-work schemes & welfare best manages recession & protects wellbeing

UK falling before recession; now rising with unemployment & austerity

"Languishing?" figures show more people flowed off / than on over 2008-13.

Cumulative cost of benefit appeals reached £500,000,000 in May 2013!

EU immigrants less likely to claim benefits and pay more taxes than services received.

IDS: 2.6m claimants “parked on sick” for decade. Not static: DWP shows 6.5m flowed off.

: essential goods & services often cost more for people with low incomes

do not supply all-comers; recognised agency must refer for just 3 days' food

500,000 in Britain resorted to in 2013 3X more than previous 12 months!

Benefit levels halved since 1980 compared with incomes; now 1/10th average earnings.

Greater risk of for women minority ethnic groups specific UK regions & nations

2012: average earnings shrank 4.4%; incomes of FTSE100 directors rose 49%.

Food prices up by 30.5% in 5yrs; National Minimum Wage up just 12.1% in same period.

hit strongly by cuts: service-users, public employees, plugging care gaps, …

Benefits fall far short of public-defined Minimum Income Standard Lone parents just 57%

6,100,000 in poverty in working households. In-work poverty outstrips workless poverty.

50%+ poor children & work-age adults in working households. Steady rise for decade.

78% rise in enquiries to Citizens Advice in first half 2013 142% rise W Mids

Low incomes cut thro income & housing benefit changes, with disabled people hit hardest

6,400,000 UNDERemployed, highest in 20 years 1,400,000 part-timers want full-time work

Cuts to UK public services estimated to hit poorest tenth 13X harder than richest tenth

Regressive taxation means poorest 10% spend twice the income in VAT as richest 10%.

40% of appeals confirm claimant too ill to work. Rises to 70% with expert help.

1000s face up to 6 different benefit cuts, losing up to £23K each over 5 yrs.

: needing room for equipment/unable to share room not exempt.

Landlords reject claimants so move not an option: !

45% of folk using due to: benefit delays/reduction/withdrawal - 's fault

In half of 's areas, more chance of employment if not taking part

Of claimants on ' for 12+ months 90% yet to find work. fail

Female healthy-life expectancy: 20.1-year disparity according to advantage/deprivation.

staff pressured to falsely classify claimants fit for work: abuse!

Incapacity benefit to ESA switch doesn't boost employment prospects but causes distress

cut / claimants by 20%. 90K accessible vehicles may be repossessed.

Life expectancy of males in most deprived areas 9.2 years less than least deprived.

& did £2bn UK public sector work in 2012 but paid ZERO UK corporation tax

Royal Courts Justice: assmt discriminates against those with issues.

Over half UK’s 13m in poverty live in working family, most of rest are pensioners.

Under govts. average incomes have fallen by 8% since 2008 peak.

Number in low-paid jobs has risen; around 5,000,000 paid below .

among working-age adults with children is 23%.

54% of all benefits spend is pensions. UK's ageing population leads to rising spend.

26% care cut for old/ folk “without precedent in history of adult "

Immigrants "least deserving" of welfare? They pay more tax than benefits received.

299 claimants reassessed for every fraud case. So: severe distress & wasted taxes.

32 people die each week, despite via having declared them fit to work.

Statutory risen substantially; 22% thro' loss of private tenancies.

Financial industry represents just 3.6% of all jobs, yet 36% of UK bonuses

Some resorting to suicide due to punishing assmnts & constant reassmnts.

Youth unemployment rose continuously from 2004 to 2013: up 21%.

Cuts greater in more deprived local authorities, by about £100/head

Local gov spending (excl police, schools, housing benefit) to fall nearly 30% 2008-2015

15% of people’s health affected “a lot” or “quite a lot” by lack of money.

Overcrowding due to back to 1983 levels. Rising more with .

By end of 2014, 60% of ' planned spending cuts still to come.

National debt won’t return to pre-crisis levels until mid-2030s.

Low-income households hit harder by food and energy price inflation (as % of income).

Public concern about and in Britain rising steadily.

abolished, yet 650,000 people a year relied on legal aid advice.

abolished, removing benefit, debt, tax, employment & much housing advice.

17% of Brits - about 11,000,000 - live in damp housing & can’t afford adequate heating.

Estimated people with zero-hour contracts increased 75% since 2008 - 250,000 by 2012.

Around 5,000,000 working people, over 21% of all employees, are paid below

Two thirds of children in live in working households.

Record low of children in jobless homes, 14%, yet child poverty up thro in-work poverty