Tag Archives: benefit cuts

Duncan Smith Wants To Change The Legal Definition Of Child Poverty So He Can Eradicate It In Time For The Election.

Steve Bell cartoon 16.07.2013  poverty_2061048a

Thanks to the Child Poverty Act 2010 – legislation brought in by the last Labour government – the Coalition is legally committed to working towards meeting targets for eradicating child poverty in Britain by 2020. Given their current performance this has now become a tragic joke. Nonetheless, it is a statutory duty and we should do all we can to hold them accountable for it.

The Act sets the ‘poverty line’ at an income that is 60% or less than the average net household income, adjusted for inflation. The Act also defines persistent poverty to be having an income that is 60% or less than the average for three consecutive years after 5th April 2010. The target is for there to be 5% or less of children living in families with such an income by 2020.

According to the latest available figures for 2010/11, when housing costs are included there were 13 million families in Britain living beneath the poverty line. This was before the full impact of welfare reform began to bite. That figure is now likely to have shot up sharply as an inevitable result of benefit cuts , rising rents and food prices.

 images      However, the Child Poverty Act contains clauses that allow the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions the freedom to alter the targets for poverty reduction by redefining the legal meaning of persistent poverty. He can do this provided he does so before 2015 and, more importantly, provided he has the consent of the Children’s Commissioner.

In effect, before the next election, Iain Duncan Smith has the power to redefine the ‘poverty line’ in Britain so long as he can persuade or browbeat the Children’s Commissioner into agreeing with him.

Back in June of last year Mr Duncan Smith provoked a row by suggesting he was going to do just that although he was vague about the detail and made no mention of his statutory duty to secure the consent of the Children’s Commissioner. The Independent reported that:-

“Mr Duncan Smith announced plans to scrap the way poverty has been defined since the 1970s – below 60 per cent of the median income. He argued that it would be better to tackle poverty “at source” and to take account of other factors such as drug addiction, worklessness, welfare dependency, debt and family breakdown.”

ids     Then in November 2012 IDS announced he was launching a consultation exercise to look into how poverty could better be defined other than just by income. This consultation closed on 15th February this year. Based on the Tory’s ideological view of poverty as mainly the result of ‘chaotic’ lifestyle the government proposed that there should be eight dimensions of poverty measurement but it seems the academics and organisations taking part in the consultation almost without exception disagreed with their proposals, saying it would be conceptually impossible to devise a credible measurement tool to accurately measure child poverty based on the categories suggested by IDS .

More significantly for the Secretary of State though is the response of the Children’s Commissioner whose report was based on a consultation with children themselves and stated in no uncertain terms that for them poverty meant having little money and living in bad housing. It would seem that the consent he needs to proceed with his plans is unlikely to be forthcoming.

poverty2804_468x431      So far as I can discover, six months on the government have not yet published the outcome of this consultation. But as the election creeps closer and as the devastating impact of their welfare reforms bites deeper and deeper, its not hard to imagine that the government will be desperate to do all they can to portray their performance in the best possible light. Given how central to their deficit reduction platform welfare cuts have been its vitally important to them to be able to claim that child poverty has reduced and that if any still exists its not their fault.

IDS needs another cunning plan.

_62813107_maggie     The current Children’s Commissioner. who stands in his way,  is Dr Maggie Atkinson who was appointed in 2009 by Ed Balls from her position as director of children’s services at Gateshead council  which she’d held since 2005.

Last November Dr Atkinson came in for some highly unusual criticism regarding another  report she produced about the sexual exploitation of children by predatory gangs of men. According to one news report:-

“An unnamed government source is widely reported to have questioned the report’s methodology and calls some of the language used in it “hysterical”. That highly unusual intervention prompted an exchange today in the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s question time.”

In response to that question David Cameron said a strange thing, considering that the contentious report had already been published in full:-

“We need to give every encouragement to the Children’s  Commissioner to make sure that the final version of the report is produced.”

cam   Is Cameron implying that the government would be putting pressure on Dr Atkinson to alter her report?  Is this why a link to the ‘FULL REPORT’ published online here in November doesn’t work? Is that why the report published on the Commission website is now entitled ‘INTERIM REPORT’ ?

And doesn’t it seem strange that there is also a version of the report published on the same Commission website in JULY 2012 with the odd title of ‘ACCELERATED REPORT FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION’?

What could the difference be between an ‘accelerated report’ and an ‘interim’ one? Its not possible to examine the version posted as ‘FINAL’ because the link doesn’t work but the version now calling itself ‘INTERIM’ looks awfully like a complete, fully referenced report to me whereas the so-called ‘ACCELERATED’ version has the look of an interim report produced for briefing purposes.

My instincts tell me there’s something fishy about all these versions and I’m inclined to think that Dr Atkinson and her team have been told in no uncertain terms to doctor their research to suit the government’s agenda. In other words pressure has been applied and it looks like she has given in to it.

I’m not concerned here with delving into the details of this particular report and the possible objections that might have been made which led to the apparent correction of the ‘hysterical’ content. That will only be possible when the final (doctored?) version appears and comparisons can be made.

images (4)   My immediate concern is with the implications this odd situation raises in terms of the statutory redefining of child poverty by Iain Duncan Smith.

What was the nature of the pressure put on Dr Atkinson to alter a research report to suit the government’s sensibilities? And if she can be made to bend to such pressure once, will she be equally obedient if put under similar pressure from our Fuhrer-like Secretary of State for Work and Pensions should he decide to persist with his plan to change the legal definition of poverty in order to be able to deny the misery he’s brought to millions of children and possibly even claim it no longer exists?

Or will the Children’s Commission suffer the same fate as the CQC where reputations were very publicly destroyed forcing resignations followed by the politically convenient appointment of Tory-friendly Board members and a Chief Executive who was once a Tory MP?

 

 

 

 

 

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What Jeremy Hunt isn’t telling us:ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND good news NHS stories!

STG-65-Birthday-A3-Poster1                          images (8)

An outside observer of some of the right wing media coverage of the NHS over recent months could be forgiven for thinking that our 65 year old system of publicly funded healthcare was failing badly. The hyped up propaganda has painted a hysterical universal picture of NHS hospitals as places where painful death creeps through wards and corridors grimly reaping as it goes; places where nurses and doctors are slipshod, uncaring or downright callous and cruel and patients are constructed as their helpless victims. You can almost hear the melodramatic silent movie music and mad cackling laughter.

NHS1   Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was born in 1950 the NHS and the welfare state were barely two years old and because it existed my mother was attended by trained midwives and as I grew she could take me to a weekly clinic where my weight was monitored and she had access to free baby milk, orange juice and vitamins to help me thrive. Prior to the NHS most working class folk like us couldn’t afford what we now think of as basic healthcare. Our babies were delivered at home by untrained women often in unhygienic conditions. Maternal deaths were high. If a mother was unable to breastfeed, cow’s milk had to suffice. There was little knowledge of the need to sterilise bottles etc and little money for, or knowledge of a healthy diet. I had an aunt whose legs were bent out of shape by rickets and an uncle who died aged 50 from a treatable heart condition because he couldn’t afford to pay for either the doctor or the medicine that would have saved him.

There is no doubt that the NHS has transformed the health of the working class and saved many, many lives.

images   In three short years the Coalition government, with its crazed programme of benefit cuts and its unbelievably savage attack on people with disabilities, has catapulted the working class back to those pre NHS days of my infancy. And it seems determined to finish the job by destroying a system that ensured everyone had access to a level of healthcare previously only available to the well off.

And they’re doing this by trying to turn us against it with the sly tactic of the self fulling prophesy . Because by starving hospitals of cash and staff they aim to create the chaos that they hope will justify privatisation.

images (1)     So now its high time for the GOOD NEWS stories to be told about the NHS to put things back into proportion. Like every organisation under the sun, the NHS doesn’t get it right all the time. But it does get it right an awful lot more times than the government would have us believe and it does it every hour of every day of every year all over the UK.  A simple Google search for the term “the NHS saved my life” yielded ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND hits and I’ve listed some of the links below so people can read something positive about our health service for a change. I’m not claiming that every single one of those hits was a good news story but the vast majority of them certainly were – and they were all stories of how NHS staff from ambulance crews to doctors and nurses and even a dietician had helped to save a life. There’s even one from a Tory MP!

opperman    MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman invited the neurosurgeon who saved his life to Westminster to present him with a cheque from the proceeds of a book he’d written, as a thank  you for the great care he received from the NHS. He seems unusual for a Tory since he’s also campaigned against low wages and first got interested in national politics after giving up his time as a barrister for free to lead a campaign to fight the closure of Savernake NHS Hospital, which he credited with saving his mother’s life from cancer.

   So here are the good news stories that I hope will help heal the NHS reputation (not ‘cure’ it like a side of bacon!).

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http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/giving-book-proceeds-to-nhs-as-thank-you.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/06/nhs-just-saved-my-life

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1361044/Andrew-Lansleys-NHS-reform-It-saved-life-wasnt-liberated-then.html

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/examiner-plus/2012/05/09/the-nhs-saved-my-life-now-we-need-to-save-the-nhs-huddersfield-author-gives-his-verdict-after-six-months-in-hospital-86081-30926518/

http://dave-howells.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-nhs-saved-my-life-in-aid-of.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/120874/Obama-s-stepmother-The-NHS-saved-my-life

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/yoursay/letterstotheeditor/9181453.To_NHS_knockers__it_saved_my_life/

http://www.cumbriapartnership.nhs.uk/news/royal-recognition-for-simple-act-of-kindness.htm

http://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/yoursay/opinion/yourletters/8090504.NHS_saved_my_life/

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http://www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk/Default.aspx?pageId=153&lan=en&sid=151

http://www.scoop.it/t/brighton-and-sussex-university-hospitals-nhs-trust/p/4000847988/hurstwood-park-saved-my-life-says-jess-county-news-west-sussex-gazette

http://www.justgiving.com/Kevin-Rutherford1

http://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/ourorganisation/newsandpublications/pressreleases/Pages/RoutineNHSscanwasalife-saver,saysgrandfatherAnthony.aspx

http://www.nhsforthvalley.com/news/2013/bowel-screening-saves-lives

download                                                   http://www.midstaffs.nhs.uk/Our-Services/Have-Your-Say.aspx

http://www.wmsc.nhs.uk/news/grace-says-thank-you-for-saving-my-life-as-west-midlands-trauma-care-system-goes-live

http://www.derbyhospitals.nhs.uk/patients/inpatients/inpatient-experiences/sharon-norton/

http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/opinion/comment/scottish-independence-fears-over-cross-border-nhs-1-2818976

https://www.nhslocal.nhs.uk/story/features/how-air-ambulance-saved-my-life

http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/default.asp?page=s1192_3&newsid=8839&back=home

http://www.sthk.nhs.uk/pages/News.aspx?iNewsItemId=571

http://www.southcentralambulance.nhs.uk/foundation-trust/membersstories/apatientsstory.ashx

http://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/blog/1985/press-releases/%E2%80%98new-heart-attack-treatment-saved-my-life%E2%80%99/

http://www.channel5.com/shows/brain-hospital-saving-lives/articles/about-the-show

http://www.buckinghamshire.nhs.uk/legacy/2010/04/bowel-cancer-screening-saved-my-life-says-local-woman/

http://www.rbht.nhs.uk/patients/why-us/patients-stories/cancer-testimony/

http://www.bradfordhospitals.nhs.uk/about-us/patient-testimonials

http://www.cht.nhs.uk/news/news-item/browse/20/article/early-diagnosis-saved-my-life/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=14&cHash=6c9cb0f5e6daaa997fc680fef258ea80

http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/save-our-nhs.html

NHS-thank-you3