Posts Tagged ‘UK Uncut’

‘This brutal new system': a GP’s take on Atos and work capability assessments

January 4, 2013

One GP’s perspective on what the ConDem government and Atos are doing to vulnerable people

I had not seen Eileen for some time, until a few months ago when I was asked to phone her. She sounded distressed, confused and frightened and did not understand what was happening to her. She has been a patient of mine for 10 years and over time, I’ve tried to help her cope with her mental illness. A few years ago her mental health had deteriorated so much that she needed to be in hospital.

All her benefits had been stopped, Eileen explained, and she was in arrears with her rent. She was assessed by Atos, a private company employed by the government to carry out what it calls the “work capability assessment” to decide whether people receiving incapacity benefits should be sent back to work. Eileen found the form she was asked to fill extremely long and bewildering. The assessment is a tick-box exercise, with points scored depending on the patient’s replies. The assessors do not ask GPs like me to provide any medical information about patients to help them make their decisions, even though someone may have received incapacity benefits for many years.

Later, Eileen was sent a letter. She was fit for work, she was told, and so she would no longer be receiving benefits. Instead, she would need to go out seeking work. She had no money and soon fell behind with her rent and bills. She told me she didn’t understand why all this was happening to her, but having no money, she decided to leave London to look for work elsewhere. But she had nowhere to stay, and ended up sleeping on the streets. Nor could she find work, despite the government’s mandate that she do so. She eventually returned to London to seek help. She has no insight into her mental illness and doesn’t believe she is unwell.

I have watched with mounting horror as my patient, an extremely vulnerable woman, has been put at risk of homelessness and deteriorating illness as a result of government policy. I am very aware of the importance of work, and as a GP will always encourage people to look for a suitable job if I think they can. But I also know my patients, and I am outraged that some are being put through the punishing stress this assessment causes. Many of my patients have gone through the Atos assessment to be told that they are fit for work with all their benefits stopped without notice. The financial impact is extreme. Several of my patients have shown worsening symptoms of depression, and some have become suicidal. Because we were so concerned about a patient’s mental health – which worsened as a result of the stress caused by these assessments – we have had to involve a psychiatric crisis team.

The government will say that there is an appeal process built into the system for those who have been passed capable of work and disagree with the outcome. True, but it is very expensive. In my experience, patients whom I consider unable to work or even look for work usually win their appeal. In a recent appeal hearing, the tribunal judge read my medical report and concluded on the back of it that, contrary to the Atos assessment, my patient was indeed incapable of working.

I have witnessed a woman in her 20s who has a condition that means she is slowly dementing, and will eventually die at a young age. She is unable to walk, and now even unable to talk. She is looked after round the clock by her family. Her family has been forced to endure great stress from the work capability assessment. I believe that this could have been avoided had I been asked to provide a medical report explaining her disability, prior to the assessment process.

In another case, a man in his 40s had been homeless for many years. He has learning difficulties, alcohol problems and also has insulin-dependent diabetes. He is unable to read and write. A charity worked closely with him and managed to find accommodation and medical care for him, and they encouraged him to engage with the local drug services. In our GP clinic, we were working closely with him to help him to manage his diabetes better, in the hope of avoiding acute emergency admissions had his diabetes remained uncontrolled. Despite all this intensive help, Atos bulldozed their way in and found him capable of work. All his benefits were stopped immediately, and he is now in arrears. He has appealed and is waiting a tribunal hearing – a process that can take up to six months. Meanwhile, all that precious rehabilitation work we were offering him has also stopped as he has become so stressed, depressed and at times suicidal.

I am fearful that more of my patients will be put at risk of homelessness and suicide by this brutal new system. From my perspective, the most disadvantaged in our society are being punished. Work is good for all of us, if we are lucky enough to be in employment. But not all of us have the skills to work and some of us are so unwell or damaged by past experiences that they cannot do a job. We should accept that some people, for many different reasons, need supporting.

Instead of forcing vulnerable people onto the streets, why not concentrate on helping young people find worthwhile, fulfilling jobs? Leave patients like Eileen alone. She does not deserve the punishment that is currently being wrought upon her. For her safety and well-being, and for the sake of a humane society, I hope she wins her appeal.

• The name of the patient, and details of her case, have been changed to ensure confidentiality

Originally published in The Guardian.

A man awaiting a heart transplant was found fit to work.

This brutal treatment of the sick and disabled is what David Cameron means when he talks about helping people back into work.

Tuesday of next week, Parliament are to vote on reducing benefits to the poorest in society. They are the ones being forced to pay for tax cuts for the rich, for the failure to deal with tax dodgers.

If the LibDems had any integrity left, they would vote no, but they have no integrity left, they will say the benefits cuts are to benefit the poor.

ConDem government has said there is £10 billion tax fraud on tax credits. If true, then deal with the fraud. If workers were paid a living wage, there would be no need for their wages to be subsidised by the tax payer. The amount claimed (and it is probably a figure plucked out of the air) is dwarfed by the massive tax dodging by Starbucks, Google, Amazon et al.

ConDem government is now wishing to target the elderly, cut free bus passes, cut winter fuel allowance.

Labour are no better. The latest garbage from Ed Balls is to suggest unemployed are forced to work on minimum pay for six months, refuse and you lose your benefits.

38 Degrees seeks your help in tackling tax dodgers

November 23, 2012
£4.1bn: the true cost of tax avoidance

£4.1bn: the true cost of corporate tax avoidance

Starbucks, Google and Amazon: they’re all at it. These super rich big businesses were recently dragged up in front of MPs and exposed for using tax havens and other scams to pay little or no corporation tax.

There’s big talk from our politicians but not much action. Google even recently admitted “We could pay more tax but we would have to do so voluntarily”.

But together we have the numbers, track record and imagination to tackle tax dodging and win. And it’s the perfect time to work together to take it on. It’s all over the news and lots of people seem to want real change. These are the best ingredients for a great 38 Degrees campaign.

We’ve got the right moment – but we need the right next move to force a change. 38 Degrees members have voted time and time again to prioritise tackling tax-dodging. Can you fill out a few questions to decide together what we do next to tackle tax dodging?

Businesses based in the UK aren’t playing on a level playing field. From our local bookshops, right up to big names like John Lewis they’re being undercut and put out of business by tax dodgers. Something needs to change.

Alongside this, scores of high profile business people and celebrities have been dodging tax on their incomes. Our public services are being cut and we’re being asked to tighten our belts whilst others are being let off scot free.

We’ve shown before that when we act together we can push corporations and politicians to do the right thing. We’ve taken on companies like McDonalds and embarrassed them into not dodging tax around the Olympics.

If we focus our people powered movement on the right next move – we could force the change we need to see. It takes a couple of minutes to fill out the survey.

And please do not forget to join the occupation of Starbucks on 8 December 2012. If there is no action organised near you then organise one.

Starbucks stands accused not only of serving rubbish coffee but dodging tax

October 16, 2012
Yuk!

Starbucks sucks!

Starbucks is not a place to go for decent coffee, nor is it a good place to work. Starbucks now stand accused of dodging tax, yet another reason not to patronise Starbucks.

Starbucks has paid just £8.6 million in taxes on a reported £3 billion in UK sales since 1998, when it launched its first UK coffee shop, despite having opened 735 outlets, according to a four-month investigation by Reuters.

In the past three years, Starbucks has paid no tax on its UK earnings after recording annual losses in company accounts, despite US executives of the Seattle company claiming in telephone calls with investors, transcripts of which have been seen by Reuters, that the UK business was profitable.

If nothing else, this is unfair competition to indie coffee shops who do pay their taxes.

Tax consultant Richard Murphy:

When we have a tax system that lets very large companies like Starbucks be on our High Street and pay no tax and are competing with small locally owned businesses who are paying tax on all their profits, then there’s something very clearly wrong with our tax system.

In 2007, the chief operating officer, Martin Coles, told analysts in a fourth quarter results presentation that the UK unit’s profits were funding Starbucks’ expansion in overseas markets. The chief finance officer at the time, Peter Bocian, added that the UK division enjoyed operating profit margins of almost 15% that year, equivalent to nearly £50m in profit.

Accounts filed with Companies House, which must be a truthful reflection of the business, according to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), showed a 10th consecutive annual loss.

A year later, after filing a £26m loss in the UK, Starbucks’ chief executive, Howard Schultz, told investors the business here was so successful he planned to apply the lessons to the company’s biggest market, the US.

Starbucks generated £398m in UK sales last year but paid no corporation tax.

UK Uncut now has Starbucks in their sights.

Starbucks would appear to be exploiting all ends of the coffee businesses: failure to pay farmers a fair price, charge extortionate price for rubbish coffee, poor working conditions for low pay, failure to pay fair share of tax

I would boycott Starbucks, except like Costa, it is not somewhere I would be seen dead. On the other hand I would be more than happy to join UK Uncut in occupying their coffee shops to highlight their tax dodging activities.

I would suggest all indie coffee shops, as well as participating in the Costa (dis)Loyalty Card scheme, stick up a poster along the lines: Unlike Starbucks we pay our fair share of tax!

Top Story in The wk4coffee Daily (Wednesday 17 October 2012).

Top Story in The wk4coffee Daily (Thursday 18 October 2012).

Top Story in Mo’s Coffee News (Thursday 18 October 2012).

The missing billions | UK Uncut

June 15, 2012
UK Uncut legal action in court

UK Uncut legal action in court

Only philistines would close libraries. Only the meanest would cut benefits to the most vulnerable in society.

The ConDem government is doing both.

On idealogical grounds the ConDem government is engaging in slash and burn of public services in the name of austerity.

What sort of sick bastard works in a Job Centre and takes a sick pleasure in cutting benefits to the most vulnerable in society, forcing people to work as unpaid slave labour?

The cuts are not even necessary were HMRC to do their job properly and collect unpaid tax from tax avoiders.

UK Uncut Legal Action have been given leave to challenge HMRC letting off Goldman Sachs a £20 million tax bill.

We only know the details of this case due to a brave whistle-blower. A whistle-blower HMRC victimised.

If a small business does not pay their tax, they are chased by HMRC, if necessary made bankrupt to recover the tax.

Why is Dave Hartnett, the most wined and dined public servant, not under criminal investigation for Misconduct in Public Office and money laundering?

You can follow this case on twitter by following @ukuncut and @ukuncutlegal.

Please donate to UK Uncut Legal Action.

Dysfunctional NHS

January 15, 2012

Sometime last summer, my dentist smashed up a tooth. You will have to go to hospital she said. What now, I asked? No, they will contact you. What, they will call me? No, they will write to you.

Months later, having spoken to my dentist several times about the long delay, I get a letter from the hospital. Great, I think, I will be going in next week. No, an appointment for some weeks hence.

On the appointed day, I turn up at my local hospital. I check the paperwork to double check where I have to be, and shock horror, wrong hospital, I have not been referred to my local hospital but one some distance away, with no easy way of getting there by public transport.

I check with my dental practice, to learn that they, not just they but all GP and dental practices, have received instruction that patients are to be referred to hospitals in Hampshire, anywhere but the local hospital, which happens to be just across the county border in Surrey.

- Frimley Park no longer local hospital for Farnborough and Aldershot
Farnborough patients denied patient choice

But we have patient choice, it is we the patient who decide where we are going. In theory yes, in practice no, budget considerations decide.

I broke a tooth, another trip to my dentist.

It will have to be taken out, and no, in light of what happened before, I will be referred to hospital. No way, I say, am I going miles away, I am to go to my local hospital. My dentist agrees, and says she will see what she can do. She then explains what is going wrong.

Up until April 2011, she would refer me to a consultant to do the necessary work. Now she has to refer me to a committee, it is the committee who decide where I will go, a committee that is not made up of dentists.

Many things wrong with this:

  • It breaks the working arrangement between local practitioner and specialist consultant.
  • It introduces a layer of useless bureaucracy that is simply wasting money and adding additional costs.
  • The decisions of the committee are being made on budgets not on medical grounds.
  • For the patient the inconvenience and cost of not being referred to their local hospital.

Early December I receive a letter inviting me to call the Royal County Hospital in Guildford. Not my local hospital, but better than Basingstoke.

I call, make an appointment. I ask why Guildford? They do not know. I could be referred to my local hospital, but then I would be at the end of the queue. I decide to try Guildford, be seen, then maybe get referred to my local Hospital Frimley Park.

Friday 13, I turn up at the Royal County. Bad design, obliged to walk the length of the hospital to find the entrance. Why is it not at the front of the building? I walk in and I am nearly knocked out by the oppressive heat. I find the relevant department. Instructions on reception tell me to sign in on a touch screen, instructions on touch screen tell me to to report to reception! Someone is making money out of a contract for unnecessary equipment. I report to reception and hand in registration form. Receptionist ask me have I used the touch screen to register. I say yes. She takes my registration form, crumples it up, and throws in the bin.

Consultant is pleasant and helpful. She looks at my recently broken tooth. I ask about the tooth the dentist smashed last summer. She says she knows nothing about it, asks me which tooth. Looks in the file and tells me there is no paperwork. I explain that I have been waiting since the summer and passed around the houses. She asks is it painful? I say no, but occasionally a dull ache. I say I am not waiting any longer, can she not deal with that one too? She agrees and sends me off for an x-ray.

My head is clamped in a machine, an x-ray machine rotates around my head. I am called back in to see the consultant. An impressive x-ray picture, a couple of inches high and several inches long. Four teeth to be extracted. I turn white. I only know of two. She then shows me a back tooth, wobbles it to make the point it is loose, and tells me it has infection all around. It does not have to come out, but will eventually have to come out. If nothing else, explanation for occasional dull pain. Surprisingly, the one the dentist has smashed up could be rebuilt. Another could be rebuilt, lot of work, a post and a crown. I say I do not mind, better than losing a tooth. The one the dentist said had to come out, yes, will have to come out.

Will it be done now? No, the hospital will contact me to make an appointment. Will she do it? Maybe, but will see on the day. Why not my local hospital? They only do under general anaesthetic and this can be done using local. She will write to my dentist and explain the teeth that can be rebuilt.

It can only get worse.

With the massive privatisation of the NHS the ConDem government is trying to force through against the strong opposition of the public and those who work in the NHS, it can only get worse.

Cant and hypocrisy of Bristol and Sheffield Cathedrals

January 6, 2012
Bristol Cathedral - Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Bristol Cathedral - Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

The key issue is a theological one … what do we stand for as a Cathedral. Economic justice is the Number One issue in the Bible. — Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor St Paul’s Cathedral

One reason many do not like the church in particular and Christianity in general is the appalling cant and hypocrisy. Do as we preach, not as we do.

A religion of the poor and oppressed hijacked by Emperor Constantine to become the official state religion of a military empire. Overnight the oppressed became the oppressors. Religion turned into what it had always been, a tool to control the masses, not a means of liberation and salvation for the masses.

St Paul’s learned the hard way when Occupy London Stock Exchange turned up on their doorstep and St Paul’s decided to close for a week on bogus health and safety grounds. Having learnt the lesson the hard way, the clergy of St Paul’s are now working closely with the camp, having been forced to re-examine the core values of Christianity.

Lessons that have yet to be learnt by the administration at either Bristol Cathedral or Sheffield Cathedral. Both located amidst pockets of acute deprivation.

The Deans of both Cathedrals say they want their grounds back, that it is public space, are threatening eviction.

Are those in occupation not the public? Are they not engaging in wide discourse with the wider public? Have they not shown willingness to engage with the clergy of both cathedrals?

If there is a problem, then why are the clergy not talking to resolve it?

Why is Bristol Cathedral working in lockstep with the local council to mount an eviction? Since when has a local council represented local people, let alone acted for local people?

Sheffield Cathedral, a place for all people, unless you happen to be living in a tent as a protester, then pick up your tent and depart.

It is even claimed the camps are not making a difference. Jeremy Paxman made a similar crass comment on Newsnight two nights ago in his dumb preamble prior to an excellent interview with Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s, when he said nothing has been achieved as it has not changed capitalism.

Nothing has changed?

Would Giles Fraser have been on Newsnight two nights ago? Would David Cameron yesterday have been saying action has to be taken against corporate tax dodgers? Would the issues raised by UK Uncut have been on Newsnight last night?

The entire political landscape has changed. The only reasons these issues of social justice and tax avoidance are being raised at all is thanks to St Paul’s in-the-Camp and the numerous camps across the country including Occupy Bristol and Occupy Sheffield and UK Uncut targeting tax dodgers like Sir Philip Green and Vodafone.

As Giles Fraser said two nights ago on Newsnight, minor issues of inconvenience in the greater realm of things are far less important than the issues being raised, issues which go to the core of Christianity and why churches like St Paul’s and our great cathedrals were built.

Giles Fraser was preceded by an odious woman from the Church of England General Synod, lacking in grace and lacking any understanding of the message of Jesus. People like her give all Christians a bad name.

- College Green update
Sheffield Cathedral Media Release: Occupy Sheffield 5 January 2012
Occupy the New year!
The Occupation Continues

Freedom to protest

December 19, 2011
Egyptian army army beats woman

Egyptian army army beats woman

police outside topshop

police outside topshop

Father Nathan Monk removed from Council Chamber for raising free speech

Father Nathan Monk removed from Council Chamber for raising free speech

We have the freedom to protest.

Not it seems if you live in Syria or Egypt.

Not in Syria where thousands have been killed for daring to challenge the corrupt President Assad.

Not in Egypt where a US-backed military junta rules. For three days military and security thugs have been attacking peaceful protesters who are calling for the military junta to be overthrown, rocks have been dropped from buildings, people beaten, live rounds fired.

- Egypt: Army thugs attack protesters
A third day of violence in Tahrir Square

Not in England.

People gave their lives in WWII to fight for freedom. That included freedom to protest.

At the weekend UK Uncut targeted tax dodgers Vodafone and Sir Philip Green (owner of Arcadia group which includes Top Shop). At least six people were arrested.

- Press release: UK Uncut to shut down high street tax dodgers this Saturday 17th December

One guy who had only just arrived and had managed two minutes of chanting before being bundled away by two Top Shop Security thugs who pinned his arms behind his back, handed him to the police who promptly arrested him and threw him in the cells where he languished for several hours.

- Guest post: Why are the police protecting Philip Green? Thoughts from a police cell

If nothing else he has grounds for assault by the two Top Shop security thugs. He can also file a complaint to have their licence to operate in security withdrawn.

People did not lay down their lives so scum bag filthy rich scroungers could rip off the public.

If a single Mum struggling to make ends meet does a few hours in the local pub she is pilloried and called a scrounger.

The camp outside St Paul’s is facing eviction.

Not it seems in the US.

We have seen across the US peaceful demonstrators savagely beaten by the police.

- Paramilitary policing and police brutality from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street

Father Nathan Monk tells the Pensacola City Council, “We have the right to redress our government without fear of being arrested,” and gets nearly arrested! He was objecting to the fact people speaking on behalf of the homeless were ejected from the council chamber because it was not liked what they said. He finds he is treated the same way.

- Council urges civility, threatens priest with police removal

Free speech!

Top Story OccupyWallStreet (Tuesday 20 December 2011)!

Royal Wedding 2011

May 2, 2011

In the days leading up to the Royal Wedding, dissidents were arrested, this was done in the best Orwellian tradition of protecting democracy!

Just in case the message had not got through that dissent would not be tolerated, facebook political groups opposing cuts were deleted!

- Preemptive arrests
Political policing of dissent

US Uncut flash mob targets Bank of America

April 18, 2011

I am very very pleased that US Uncut have got off with a bang and are following the example set by UK Uncut.

US Uncut, in collaboration with The Ruckus Society and Brass Liberation Orchestra (BLO), kicked off Tax Day weekend (Friday afternoon 15 April 2011) in San Francisco with a flashmob at Bank of America and told them to “PAY UP!”

Bank of America is the #1 largest bank and the 5th largest corporation in the US, but it pays less in tax than the average American household! If they and their corporate tax dodger friends paid their fair share of taxes (like the rest of us), we wouldn’t ‘need’ to slash community services in the budget.

It’s time Bank of America pays their taxes! So we took action to tell them just that.

Dozens of activists took Bank of America employees by surprise downtown San Francisco Friday, by breaking out in a song and dance in the middle of the bank, to the tune of Salt-n-Pepa’s classic hit, “Push It”, re-mixed as “Pay Up!”

A cut back

April 9, 2011

It’s no go the LitFest, it’s no go up in Lancaster,
though they’ve built an auditorium (still quite wet, the plaster)
a bar, a bookshop, office space … well, they won’t need wheelchair access.
All we want is a million quid and here’s to the Olympics.

London’s Enitharmon Press was founded in 1967,
but David Gascoyne and Kathleen Raine are writing now in heaven,
with UA Fanthorpe, John Heath-Stubbs; dead good dead poets all.
The only bloody writing now’s the writing on the wall.

It’s no go the national art, it’s no go cake with icing.
All we want are strategic cuts, it’s no go salami slicing.

It’s no go the Poetry Trust, it’s no go in East Suffolk;
Aldeburgh’s east of Stratford East. As Rooney says, oh f-fuck it –
because it’s no go First Collection Prize, it’s no go local writers.
We’ve been asked to pull the plug, the rug, by coalition shysters.

National Association of Writers in Education?
No way, NAWE, children and books, the train’s leaving the station.
It’s no go your poets in schools, it’s no go your cultures.
All we want is squeezed middles and stringent diets for vultures.

It’s no go the pamphlet, the gig in Newcastle no go.
All we want is a context for the National Portfolio.

Three little presses went to market, Flambard, Arc and Salt;
had their throats cut ear to ear and now it’s hard to talk.
They remember Thatcher’s Britain. Clegg-Cameron’s is worse.
Deathbyathousandcuts.co.uk, the least of which is verse.

It’s no go the avant-garde, it’s no go the mainstream.
All we want is a Review Group, chaired, including recommendations.

Stephen Spender thought continually of those who were truly great;
set up the Poetry Book Society with TS Eliot, genius mate.
But it’s no go two thousand strong in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Phone a cab for the Nobel laureates as they take their curtain call.

It’s no go, dear PBS. It’s no go, sweet poets.
Sat on your arses for fifty years and never turned a profit.
All we want are bureaucrats, the nods as good as winkers.
And if you’re strapped for cash, go fish, then try the pigging bankers.

– Carol Ann Duffy

Last week, or maybe the week before, the Arts Council announced swinging cuts to the arts budgets. Projects across the country will be forced to close, including some regional theatres.

One such casualty is The Poetry Book Society, which will lose all its Arts Council funding from April next year.

The Poetry Book Society is a widely respected and internationally unique organisation that selects outstanding poetry collections for readers and libraries, and which also – through its own bookshop sales – is an immensely significant source of revenue for poetry publishers, and so also for poets.

Some months back the ConDem government announced that funding of Bookstart would cease.

Libraries? Libraries are being closed too!

Cuts to the arts is part of the slash and burn of public services by the ConDem government. Shock Doctrine with an exaggerated Budget Deficit being uses as the excuse.

- Sir Patrick Stewart leads actor protest over arts cut
The Poetry Book Society needs your help!
Bookstart
A government that promised a Big Society is taking steps that will destroy a small one
Bread and Roses


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