Monday, 12 December 2011

Benefits' cheating scum versus tax dodging chaps

Britain has always harboured particularly vindictive attitudes and meted out, often disproportionately long sentences,  for those who commit crimes against property. Sure, we lock away people who perpetrate crimes of violence. But, woe to he who would rob, for instance, the Royal Mail.

The Great Train Robbers were handed down sentences of thirty-years+ for having the temerity to rob the state. Yes I know that an innocent person, the driver of the train, was brutally beaten by one of the robbers; however, the sentencing wasn't a reflection of this deed, no it reflected their crime against property.

This propensity to give greater importance to property over the person obviously stems from the capitalist theology that permeates through all layers of society including the judiciary and penal system.

Thus, those that seek to cheat on benefits are bound to fall foul of a capitalist system that views their crimes as most pernicious. Forget that the perpetrator stooped to committing these heinous crimes in order to make ends meet. After all, what is the greater crime, allowing yourself or your dependants to starve, or making a few pounds extra from claiming benefits falsely - under our system the false claim is a far greater evil.

Even if we accept the twisted logic to which we're bound by capitalism; there is then the question of the greatest property crimes ever envisaged by man, tax cheating.

While benefits' cheats escape with less than £1bn annually (the DLA element of which is 0.5% [less than the 0.8% the DWP admits to making in error]), tax cheats are ripping us off for sums ranging from £70bn - £120bn annually.

Yet, if you look on sites such as and 'search' 'tax cheats', lo and behold in search results up pops issues around benefits fraud, The natural default for the word 'cheat' on search engines throws up benefits' fraudsters.

One can only come to the conclusion that cheating on taxes is not a crime against capital, thus doesn't excite the wrath of Middle England which is far too preoccupied seeking out the feckless unemployed; hounding single mothers into dead-end jobs that force them to abandon their kids; or, hunting down disabled people who, on a good day, raised a smile and managed to potter around the garden, when they should have been lying prostrate practicing for the grave.

Tax cheats should be rounded up and pilloried for their crimes against society. By cheating HMRC out of scores upon scores of billions of pounds annually it is they who have driven this country into deficit. It is the actions of these greedy parasites who deny our children a decent education; it is their selfishness on an industrial scale that forces our elderly and disabled people to make life-threatening choices between eating or heating at this time of year; it is the rich City neo-lib tax cheat who has hoovered-up the resources from around the globe, for whom the world is not enough.

A Rolling Festive Phone-in to Atos 'Healthcare'

"As part of the National Month of Festive Action Against Atos we are calling for a rolling mass telephone complaint to poverty pimps Atos in the run up to Christmas.

Beginning on Monday 12th December and running up until Christmas benefit claimants, disabled people and supporters will be ringing both local and national Atos Offices to complain about their obscene treatment of sick and disabled people.

How To Get Involved

We urgently need towns, cities, groups and individuals to commit to a morning or afternoon shift in the upcoming days and get as many people as possible to ring Atos and complain about their involvement in the Work Capability Assessment.

To maximise the protest we will aim to have as many groups as possible calling Atos at different times in the run up to Christmas. We'll maintain a list here and on facebook to try and help co-ordinate times/dates and see if we can keep the phonelines buzzing daily in the run up to Christmas. Please contact us by leaving details on the wall below or emailing us at:

Either ring your local Atos Offices, or their corporate headquarters, or why not both! Atos's main numbers (including a handy freephone number) are:

+44 (0)20 7830 4444 (Tel)
+44 (o)20 7830 4233 (Tel)
+44 (0)800 783 3040 (Freephone)
+44 (0)20 7830 4445 (Fax)

Atos 'Healthcare' who run the Work Capability Assessment have a main number at: +44 (0) 113 230 9175

If you aren't part of a local group, or even if you are, support the other protests by calling Atos along with them.

Whilst it's well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls will be low paid receptionist/admin staff so we call on people to be be business-like and non-confrontational. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls which are threatening, indecent or offensive. Keep it fluffy. Why not sing them a carol?

Anyone who manages to get through to Atos CEO Keith Wilman will win the customary prize of a free Crisis Loan*

Some calls may be recorded for the purposes of taking the piss.

Brighton DPAC who will be phoning Atos on the mornings of Monday 12th and Monday 19th of December have produced a script/template which can be read out, or emailed/faxed to Atos. Visit their fb event page (below) for details.

Join in online!

You can also contact Atos via email. Their Head of PR can be reached at: and general enquiries can be sent to: Atos 'Healthcare' can be reached at: or to ask for a job go to:

Atos have new facebook groups and pages springing up all the time. Search for Atos on facebook to find them. You can also tweet using the hashtags #atos, we'll be monitoring twitter for any other hashtags Atos use.

Action planned so far

Monday 12th and Monday 19th December from 9am

Brighton DPAC: For details visit:

Please organise and contact us to be added to the list!

If you are planning on braving the cold and holding a protest as part of the month of action please send details asap to: or leave details in the comments.

The main facebook page for the Month of Action can be found at:

Come to the Triton Square Christmas Party and Picnic outside Atos' Headquarters on December 16th from 2pm:

*actually we still can't give out Crisis Loans as prizes. The DWP are bastards like that.

Atos are the French IT firm responsible for carrying out the government’s Work Capability Assessment which has led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits. Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit."

And, remember!

Disabled people to directly inform new strategy

Back on December 1st, this government set into train a consultation with disabled people, the aim of which is to gather ideas for a new cross-government disability strategy.

Sniggering, guffawing, chuckling, chortling and roaring with laughter aside; are they serious?  The idea of this government seeking our ideas and suggestions is, in light of their treatment of us thus far, both risible and insulting.

According to reports the government's objective is make possible for disabled people reach their potential and open opportunities for them to more easily access and involve themselves in society.

In order to achieve this government wants tackle barriers to the aspirations of disabled people, grant them individual control and to change attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people.

They intend building upon previous consultations with disabled people, including:

·       Roadmap 2025

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has, in conjunction with disability organisations, created a discussion document (see link below). They are hoping to hear from disabled people and their organisations by the closing date of 9th March 2012.

You've got to be in it to win it, innit? As the old saw goes. Yet, somehow I get a nasty taste in my mouth and the strong feeling that I'm being taken for a mug, yet again.

This government is under the impression that putting proposed policy out to consultation is a one-way exercise. They give the punter some proposals and three months in which to respond; then they totally ignore our views and press ahead with their, usually, draconian policies.

This particular consultation venture is a corker. Let's look at the areas the government is seeking to improve the lot of disabled people.

First, they wish to tackle barriers to the aspirations of disabled people. Would those be the barriers they've helped to construct? Such as not reinforcing legislation that debars disabled people from employment. Taking money out of education that would allow disabled children to participate in mainstream schooling. Impoverishing people by stripping them of benefits.

Next, they talk of granting us individual control. Individual control of what, exactly? Incapacity Benefit (IB), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), decent sized care packages, self-directed care and Direct Payments (DP) as well as the Independent Living Fund (ILF), all these gave us a great degree of individual control.

Migrating severely disabled people from IB to JobSeekers Allowance; making it more difficult to claim DLA and the introduction of PIP in the near future, and introducing annual reviews; scrapping ILF. All these measures militate against individual control.

Finally, they wish to change attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people. On this point I would say to them, 'Well done' you've succeeded in this particular area.

Yes, attitudes and behaviour towards us, disabled people, has certainly changed. We're widely demonised and vilified by both the paper and visual media. We're blamed for the deficit by Iain Duncan-Smith. We're all cheating the benefits' system, despite the fact that the government can only account for less than 0.5% of disability benefits being fraudulently claimed. We all drive around in expensive cars provided free by the state.

The print press anti-disability propaganda has hardened attitudes, and as a direct result negative behaviour towards disabled people. Disgracefully, the DWP has been compliant in this propaganda war by supplying rags such as the Daily Hate, Sun and Express with lies with which to fill their pages.

So, when this Tory regime talks of changing the public's attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people, forgive the cynics in our ranks for not taking this consultation too seriously. All we're getting here is, yet another, PR exercise by a government hell-bent on dragging us back to a pre-Welfare State Britain where fear ruled and everybody knew their place in the scheme of things.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Judging the conditions and disabilities of others

The problem with using 'real' people as examples when discussing the inequalities inherent in our benefits' system is the danger of making assumptions about conditions and disabilities. The threads of this site and the other manifestations of Ouch are littered with stories about people being reported to the authorities, sometimes maliciously, but also by people who, though not qualified, would make 'qualified' allegations of strangers' medical and disability conditions.

Someone, with a fluctuating condition, caught doing a bit of gardening; a wheelchair user seen walking around; someone not working but claiming IB using equipment in a gym.

Then there's the appalling way we are treated by ATOS healthcare practitioners who make their own assumptions about our conditions; and they're armed with the facts of our conditions and disabilities.

The point I'm trying to make is that we know how hard life is out there for disabled people. We know that there are detractors aplenty who would do us down because it suits their agenda. Therefore, when we post to Ouch can't we steer clear of 'diagnosing' or judging others, especially when we're discussing issues where, most of us, are not medically qualified.

The Daily Fail and others use the worthy disabled against the undeserving in a divisive fashion. They make totally unqualified judgements on us, which in turn misinform their readership to the point of frenzy at times, going by their comments section.

How can we make the claims system fairer, more equitable? Well, we can signpost. Benefits and Work is a good example. Pointing people to CABs or disability advice groups is another. Sharing, from our veritable treasure trove of experience is a definite. When I was applying for A2W another Ouch user put me in contact with an invaluable resource.

Sadly our society is riddled with inequity driven, in my view, by a class system encouraged by the current government. Only last week the British Social Attitudes Report indicated that the majority of those questioned felt that unemployment benefits were too generous; only 31% thought it right for tax rises to pay for the NHS; and, a whopping 63% of the darlings blame parents for child poverty.

With such prevailing attitudes it is hardly surprising that we continue to meet with an iniquitous benefits' system.     

Monday, 5 December 2011

On a site that I contribute to someone's OP had "Nazi flags flying over the Palace of Westminster". The story was in relation to BBC Crimestoppers becoming involved with benefits' 'grass' lines.  

Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies) predicts that at some point during an online discussion the subject will be inexorably drawn to the beliefs of Hitler and the Nazis. Looking at Ouch in all its manifestations I'd say Godwin had a point.

The Picture Speaks for Itself
But, what was Godwin's point? It wasn't merely to point out this Internet phenomenon of the dead-end argument; that reductio ad Hitlerum, and argumentum ad Hitlerum are too often used as ad hominem or ad misericordiam to advance a weak thesis. No, it had a more important message. Godwin is pointing out that we should use caution when invoking such powerful points as part of our argument. He is saying that by casually introducing the Hitler and Nazi comparison into debates there is a great fear of actually diminishing your case.

Not only can it weaken your line of argument, it may also serve to lessen the important messages that the Holocaust sends us. Once something becomes hackneyed and everyday it loses some of its impact. When all around us we hear people being called Nazi or Fascist these become tired and clichéd. The danger then arises that we won't know the real enemy when it moves in our ranks. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Strike Day, 30 November 2011

Seán McGovern speaking at the rally in 
Windrush Square on 30 November 2011 
Brixton's Windrush Square is always an interesting space; but on Wednesday it was more electric than its famous neighbour a few score meters away. Lambeth people are not by nature the shy and retiring types, as was evident on Strike Day.

About three- to three-hundred and fifty of us basked under a blue sky on an unusually mild late November morning opposite the seat of power in Lambeth, but we were in undisputed 'FREE LAMBETH' territory. This space and this day was ours!

Whistles and vuvuzela's blew while a constant reggae beat thrummed the air. Chants and signing competed with the reggae and whistles giving the whole thing a carnival feel.

Bang in the middle of the square sat the 'battle car'. This vehicle driven around the borough earlier in the morning taking in some of the picket lines.

At around 11 am people began making speeches. Though the variety of speakers was wide and their words very different; the message was the same. We're not going to allow this government, or any other, to smash our welfare state or sell off our NHS. Nor are we going to stand by and let this bunch of privileged millionaire and billionaire government steal our pensions from us.

Just after midday the speeches ended and some of the people left to join the bigger demonstrations in Central London.

This government is trying to play down the affect of our strike; Maude has even lied about the numbers taking part in the actions on live television. Yet, this government knows it has a problem; and, that the unions are enjoying quite a lot of public support. We must now drive home the point with more concerted actions.   


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Brown envelopes, government lies, sour tastes in mouths, new jobs and DLA

A few weeks ago I started work and as so had to inform the DLA of a 'change in circumstances'. Within a few weeks the dreaded brown envelope met me as I crossed the threshold into my flat. Timidly opening this document of doom I read the words and knew they wanted to review my DLA claim.

On informing Blackpool, I had made it clear that the job was only three-days per week; I told them I wasn't even sure I'd manage this over a longer term, and was testing the water week by week. It was also explained that my conditions hadn't changed since the last review some six-years ago; indeed, some of my conditions had worsened with age; and my care needs would be greater as a result of my working.

So much for the government's insistence that they want to get disabled people into work and will give them all the support they need.

Anyway, after receiving the review the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. It even took the sparkle off the new job I was really enjoying (and at heart still am).

So, I did what you do in these situations; I sat down, read the form, over and over; and, began to answer each question ensuring the smallest detail was covered.

Proof-reading the finished article I realised how much of my personal life was poured into those pages; just how much of my soul was bared in order to keep hold of a benefit. I wasn't trying to win a competition for a trip on a luxury cruiser; nor was I expecting to succeed in the lottery. No, I was putting my dignity and pride on hold in order that I could retain a benefit that doesn't even pull me up to the level of most non-disabled people in being able to live a 'normal' life.

What do I get out of DLA? The Mobility Component is swallowed up by a Motability car (plus a hefty downpayment); the Care Component used to be wholly subsumed into my care package (plus an extra £18 per week), now props up my laundry and heating bills, as well as those highly-priced disability extras, the ones that don't attract 20% VAT but seem to cost four or five times their non-disability equivalent.

The Daily Hate's Propaganda
Fuels Misinformation on DLA
Does anyone really materially gain from DLA? Most people I know either get by on this benefit or it goes some way to helping them get by. The idea that people on DLA are pulling a fast one; that they're somehow gaining an advantage over the rest of society is both risible and insulting.

As for the outcome, I pleased to say that my entitlement remains unchanged - well, until they tear me apart body and soul when I apply for PIP!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Strike! Don't bitch and bellyache...

Listening to the reactions of various people affected by yesterday's strike was quite telling. A guy in N Ireland in a reasonably paid job, by his own admission, wouldn't go out on the grounds of he couldn't afford to lose a day's money.

He then went on to bemoan the fact that his pension contributions were set to go up while his final pension would have a shortfall of a few thousand pounds a year.

The next was hilarious, in my view. A uni student who on going to uni found it closed. His tutors and other college staff were on strike. Instead of taking the hint, matey decides to go to the local library, no doubt for a prolonged study period.

Guess what! He arrived at the library...yes, you're ahead of me - of course, it was closed due to industrial action!  

What a turd! What is wrong with kids at uni today? He should be out and about; or, out of his head; or, something. He looked the kind of knob that will remember his uni days with fondness; instead of, like the rest of us barely remembering what we studied, let alone knowing where the fucking library was!