Recent Editorial

"Disrupt and Upset"

As yet another reminder of David Cameron’s Cruel Britannia, and in particular, of the vicious culture of sticks with no carrots for the nation’s most vulnerable sick and disabled citizens under the unfettered despotism of his delusional Secretary for War on the Poor, Iain Duncan Schmidt, Polly Toynbee provided a very illuminating Comment is Free in The Guardian on Tuesday 8 July, titled ‘Mentally ill people need to be helped, not hounded’. We excerpt the most informative and shocking parts of the piece, at which point Toynbee is conveying insider information from jobcentre workers on the disgusting targets-regime which is becoming almost as much of as chagrin for them as for the incapacitated claimant-victims:

She told me how the sick are treated and what harsh targets she is under to push them off benefits. A high proportion on employment and support allowance have mental illnesses or learning difficulties. The department denies there are targets, but she showed me a printed sheet of what are called "spinning plates", red for missed, green for hit. They just missed their 50.5% target for "off flows", getting people off ESA. They have been told to "disrupt and upset" them – in other words, bullying. That's officially described, in Orwellian fashion, as "offering further support". As all ESA claimants approach the target deadline of 65 weeks on benefits – advisers are told to report them all to the fraud department for maximum pressure. In this manager's area 16% are "sanctioned" or cut off benefits.

Of course it's not written down anywhere, but it's in the development plans of individual advisers or "work coaches". Managers repeatedly question them on why more people haven't been sanctioned. Letters are sent to the vulnerable who don't legally have to come in, but in such ambiguous wording that they look like an order to attend. Tricks are played: those ending their contributory entitlement to a year on ESA need to fill in a form for income-based ESA. But jobcentres are forbidden to stock those forms. These ill people's benefits are suddenly stopped without explanation: if they call, they're told to collect a form from the jobcentre, which doesn't stock them either. If someone calls to query an appointment they are told they will be sanctioned if they don't turn up, whatever. She said: "The DWP's hope is they won't pursue the claim."

Good advisers genuinely try to help the mentally ill left marooned on sickness benefit for years. The manager spoke of a woman with acute agoraphobia who hadn't left home for 20 years: "With tiny steps, we were getting her out, helping her see how her life could be better – a long process." But here's another perversity: if someone passes the 65-week deadline, they are abandoned. All further help is a dead loss to "spinning plates" success rates. That woman was sent back to her life of isolation: she certainly wasn't referred for CBT. For all this bullying, the work programme finds few jobs for those on ESA.

Failing to treat the mentally ill is bad enough, but this is maltreatment. There has been much outrage about lack of kindness and care in hospitals. Neglect of mental patients is every bit as bad, but deliberate cruelty by the DWP defies any concern for the wellbeing for the most vulnerable, let alone "parity of esteem".

The Recusant has argued continuously for the past four years or more that the treatment of the sick, disabled and mentally ill in British society today is unacceptably punitive and commensurate to protracted psychological torture. Now even Guardian columnists are waking up to this fact, and exposing the full shocking facts about just how callous and inhumane this Tory-led Government truly is towards those very citizens it should be their priority to protect and support.

Society Guardian and, of course, the Morning Star, have both been on the front foot on such toxic issues for some time, but for such a topic to reach the front page of Guardian Online –which apparently this story initially did, albeit demoted to a smaller side-link fairly swiftly, according to some understandably disgruntled commentators in the Comment thread– just goes to show how increasingly the mainstream liberal media is finding it almost impossible to ignore any longer what is arguably the greatest moral scandal in modern British political history: the government and tabloid-goaded mass stigmatisation and fiscal besieging of the frailest in the land –an administrative war of attrition against those least equipped to withstand it.

Just one of the legion issues to bear in mind in relation to the National Strike today, Thursday 10 July, the biggest in three years, not simply in protest at the unacceptably unfair and unjust freezing of public sector wages and pensions, but also a general protest against the continuing fiscal atrocity of “austerity”, which is so strangely selective of its targets, putting as it does, unapologetically, even gleefully, the biggest burdens on the narrowest shoulders –until those shoulders snap!

The Recusant of course fully supports today’s Strike and sincerely hopes it will prove yet another significant blow to the moral credibility of this, the most heinous of governments, whose callousness and arrogance is matched only by its inversely proportional claim to a mandate. That factor alone makes a complete mockery of Cameron’s posturing in response to the Strike by yet again threatening that a majority Tory Government in 2015 would introduce a new law raising the threshold of unions’ strike ballots; the fact that his gutter-scraping of a government was thrown together on the basis of arithmetic rather than electoral legitimacy, while most MPs are also elected frequently with almost exactly the same kind of percentage of the vote as the unions gain for strike action, shows us once more the rank hypocrisy of this illegitimate gangster-government. It's one rule for them, another for everyone else, and for the unions, even more rules than for others -all, of course, proscriptive.

That thoroughly discredited and electorally doomed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has spoken out in solidarity with his coalition overlords in denouncing the National Strike, and practically all others, simply serves to remind us what a political turncoat he truly is, a Tory in Lib Dem clothing.

Here are the details of today’s National Strike (courtesy of an email sent out by Left Unity) –and one can see it truly is National:

London, 11.30am, outside BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place W1A 1AA
Birmingham, 11.30am, Council House, Victoria Square B1 1BD
Manchester, 12.30pm, Piccadilly Gardens M1 1AF
Leeds, 11.30am, Victoria Gardens LS2 8DY
Cardiff, 12.00pm, Temple of Peace, King Edward VII Avenue CF10 3AP

And you never know: maybe even the BBC (British Bread & Circuses) will make the effort on this occasion to actually cover the Strike, even if they apparently weren’t aware of the 50,000-strong Peoples’ Assembly Against Austerity march which also started outside their HQ. No doubt the Beeb will on this occasion suddenly find the ‘story’ of much significance since it will be significantly affecting services and routines throughout the country (ironically, legion of their own staff who will also be on strike! Cue a lot of right-wing tabloid commentators showing up in the studio to bang on about how “unfair” it is for so many teachers to be striking and thus denying school children a day’s education. Arguably the most significant sacrifice for the nation’s poorer school children today will be that of their school breakfast clubs and free school dinners, the former being, of course, a symptom of the very economic tyranny under which all of us are currently being pauperised amidst plenty.

We should all stand shoulder to shoulder with the teachers, nurses, public sector workers and their respective unions in solidarity for the fight against austerity. It is these people who do the most vital jobs in our society and the least the rest of us can do is support them in their sacrifice of a day’s pay for the sake of sending a very clear message to the Millionaire’s Row Cabinet: Enough is enough!

And the unemployed, sick and disabled, and the majority of put-upon jobcentre staff, have had more than enough of “disrupt and upset” –today is the time for the unions to rightly disrupt the smooth operation of another day in parasite-land of unaccountable and punishing corporate capitalism that enslaves the 99% for the profits of the 1%.

Even some high profile venture capitalists at this time are beginning to argue that it makes no sense to keep Western workforces on poverty wages since it inexorably leads to a down-spiral in demand which negatively affects both employees and capitalists alike; some are even starting to warn of “pitchforks at the gates” of the richest if social inequality continues to increase at the rapacious rate it is currently. These well-minted Jeremiahs might be more worried about their own skins by flagging this up, but at least they are beginning to counteract the increasingly untenable dogma of austerity capitalism from within its own ranks.

So today is a day of raising the red flag of human defiance against an inhuman and pernicious capitalist experiment gone deplorably wrong, and reminding our political class that if they don’t fix democracy, then the people (demos) will.

A.M. 10 July 2014