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Maybe I was wrong yesterday?

Following a number of readers’ comments yesterday, I felt I should reproduce what one reader wrote as it gives a different side to the ‘poverty in Britain’ story. The poverty charities always hugely exaggerate the numbers of people in poverty and over the years have been forced to retract their figures several times. So, probably the truth is somewhere between what I wrote and what this reader writes?

Shock figures show 11 million British including 2.6 million children are living in poverty
Child poverty is rising under David Cameron’s government as a total of 10.6 million were in absolute poverty

Almost 11 million British citizens are still living in poverty. Shocking official figure includes 2.6 million children growing up below the breadline. Despite a Government pledge to end the scandal, the number of children in absolute poverty has shot up by 200,000 once housing costs are taken into account.

Charities and campaigners said the aim to end child poverty by 2020 is in tatters. Alison Garnham, of the Child Poverty Action Group, warned the situation now is even worse because the figures are from 2012, the last year benefits increased in line with inflation.

The Department for Work and Pensions statistics revealed 23% of British are struggling on low incomes, the highest number since 2002. The number of people in relative poverty, 60% of average income or less, did drop by 100,000 to 9.7 million in 2012. Children in relative poverty remained stuck at 2.3 million. A total of 10.6million were in absolute poverty with housing costs factored in. But Complacent Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith claimed the figures were a triumph, boasting: “We have protected the most vulnerable families from falling behind with 300,000 fewer children in poverty since 2010.”

Ms Garnham pointed out: “There are half a million more in absolute poverty in households where someone has a disability than last year.” And she warned low wages meant having a job was often not enough to ward off hardship.

Charity Gingerbread said the number of working, single parent families in poverty has soared from 17% to 22%. Chief executive Fiona Weir said: “It is deeply concerning that while the economy is on the up, hundreds of thousands remain trapped into poverty. For far too many single parent families, work offers no real promise of escape from hardship, as today’s figures show a rise in working poverty where a single mum or dad is working full-time.”

The shocking figures exposed the truth about the Tory-led coalition’s brutal policies, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Without a major affordable home building programme and action to secure fair wages, this type of poverty will continue to grow.”

Shadow Work Secretary Rachel Reeves added: “The last Labour Government lifted over one million children out of poverty, helped thousands of families into work, built children’s centres and introduced child and working tax credit to make work pay. But under David Cameron child poverty is forecast to rise, not fall.”

November 03, 2014
90,000 children in Britain to face Christmas homeless

90,000 children in Britain – the equivalent of three in every school – will spend this Christmas homeless, government figures show. With their helpline already stretched to breaking point, Shelter are launching an emergency appeal in response.

The figures also show that the number of homeless families living in B&Bs has almost doubled in three years. This is particularly alarming following the shocking results of a Shelter investigation into living conditions in B&Bs. The in-depth investigation into 20 families found that well over half felt unsafe in their temporary accommodation, with parents reporting exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing and racist language. The investigation also showed the emotional impact on the children living this way. Over half of the families said their children’s mental or emotional health had been affected, including reports of depression and panic attacks. With the number of homeless families on the rise, Shelter is bracing itself for a surge in calls to its helpline, and has launched an emergency appeal to help its services cope with the strain this Christmas.

Felicia, a mother of two, was evicted along with her children after her marriage broke down. With nowhere to go, they became homeless and had to live in a B&B for two months: ‘My children had already been through hell before we got to the B&B, but once we moved in their mental health declined with every passing day. My son became depressed for the first time in his life and wouldn’t get out of bed, and my daughter even started self-harming. As a mother it was heart-breaking to see, but I felt so helpless because living in the B&B was our only option. If I hadn’t found Shelter I don’t know what we would have done, but thankfully they were able to help find us a more stable place to live.’

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, called on the public to donate what they can to the emergency appeal:
‘In the 21st century it cannot be right that homeless children are experiencing severe emotional distress, facing three hour round trips to school and having to eat their dinner on the floor. Our advisers will be working tirelessly to support people who find themselves homeless this Christmas, but it’s getting harder and harder for us to be there for every family that needs us. We urgently need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one has to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.’

November 22, 2014

300,000+ workers paid less than minimum wage. Yet in the past year, no companies were prosecuted

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for the Office for National Statistics recently found that about 287,000 workers were paid at less than the minimum wage in 2012, although the TUC puts the figure closer to 350,000. This, despite ministers’ claims that the government is “getting tough” on under-payers, the last successful criminal prosecution was in February 2013. That was one of only two prosecutions during the government’s entire term of office to date, according to figures given to parliament. The cases involved the imposition of fines to the value of £3,696 on an opticians in Manchester and £1,000 on a security company in London.

Failing to pay the minimum wage was made a criminal offence in 2007. Under Labour, seven organizations were prosecuted, including Torbay council.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that only the most serious breaches of the national minimum wage are prosecuted. But because the average cost of a successful prosecution was around £50,000 HMRC believed it was preferable to focus on recouping wages for workers through civil penalty powers.

November 29, 2014

13,000 slaves in UK

Government’s strategy to end slavery as number of victims found to be up to four times higher than thought

Britain has a system to subsidise a series of sectors of its economy by people who have no power and can be exploited at will. This was the slavery system in the old days.

The figure for 2013 marks the first time the government has made an official estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK, and includes women forced into prostitution, domestic staff, and workers in fields, factories and fishing. The National Crime Agency (NCA)’s human trafficking centre had previously put the number at 2,744.

The data was collated from sources including the police, the UK Border Force, charities and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. The Home Office described the estimate as a figure that may not have come to the NCA’s attention. Professor Bernard Silverman, the chief scientific adviser to the Home Office, said the new statistical analysis aimed to calculate the number of hidden victims who are not reported to the authorities.

Aidan McQuade, the director of the Anti-Slavery International charity, questioned whether the government’s strategy went far enough. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you leave an employment relationship, even if you’re suffering from any sort of exploitation up to and including forced labour, even if you’re suffering from all sorts of physical and sexual violence, you’ll be deported. So that puts enormous power in the hands of unscrupulous employers. And frankly, the protections which the government has put in place are not worth the paper they’re written on in order to prevent this sort of exploitation once they’ve given employers that sort of power.”

Many victims are foreign nationals from countries such as Romania, Poland, Albania and Nigeria, but vulnerable British adults and children are also systematically preyed upon by traffickers and slave drivers. The NCA estimates that the UK was the third most common country of origin for slavery victims.

In November 2013 three highly traumatised women were rescued from a house in south London where they appear to have been held captive for 30 years, Scotland Yard said. One of the women contacted Aneeta Prem, the founder of the Freedom Charity, after seeing her on TV.

November 12, 2014

Soaring fuel bills will kill a pensioner every 7 minutes this winter

A pensioner will die from cold every seven minutes in Britain this winter, a damning report from Age UK warns. Soaring fuel bills and poorly insulated homes are blamed by Age UK for the thousands of older people who die due to cold weather each winter. A new survey for the charity reveals one in three pensioners now fear they cannot afford to heat their homes. More than five million people aged over 65 say the soaring cost of fuel is one of their biggest worries over the winter months.

Fuel poverty is a national scandal which has claimed the lives of too many people – both old and young – for far too long and left many more suffering from preventable illness.


Benefit Sanctions That Killed An Ex-Soldier

David Clapson, died in July, aged 59.

Clapson’s £71.70 weekly allowance (now a magnificent £72.40pw) was stopped for a month in July because he missed an appointment for the government’s Work Programme in May. He was found dead in his flat on 20 July. He’d died from from diabetic ketoacidosis (caused by an acute lack of insulin). [The Work Programme having an amazing 4.6% success rate.]

The Guardian reported: “When Gill Thompson, his younger sister, discovered his body, she found his electricity had been cut off (meaning that the fridge where he kept his insulin was no longer working). There was very little left to eat in the flat – six teabags, an out-of-date tin of sardines and a can of tomato soup. His pay-as-you-go mobile phone had just 5p credit left on it and he had only £3.44 in his bank account. The autopsy notes reveal that his stomach was empty.”

The BBC reported: “She added his electricity card had no credit, meaning the fridge where his insulin was kept chilled, was not working.” His sister writes: ‘David wasn’t a “scrounger.” He had worked for 29 years; 5 years in the Army – including two years in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, during the height of the troubles – 16 years with British Telecom, eight years with various other companies, and in recent years was a carer for our sick mother. When mum went into a home, David turned to the state for help, receiving benefits while he looked for work and taking unpaid work placements.’

Clapson had been searching for work, and a pile of CVs were found by his body. The last time he spoke to his sister, a few days before he died, he told her he was waiting to hear back about an application he had made to the supermarket chain Lidl. On the petition, she writes: “He had been on work placements, passed his fork lift truck certificate and had been on a computer training course. Questions need to be asked of how Iain Duncan Smith is justifying benefit sanctions. What is the full impact of these sanctions? Are they working or simply putting the vulnerable further at risk? I don’t want anybody else to die like this.”

Clapson was sent a letter explaining how to request hardship funds but his sister found it unopened in his flat. “He was very bad at opening letters,” she told the Guardian. “People in his situation are frightened of these letters. They are never good news.”

The DWP (the stinking hypocrites) has sent BuzzFeed a statement: “Our sympathies are with the family of Mr Clapson. Decisions on sanctions aren’t taken lightly – there is a chain of processes we follow before a sanction comes into effect, including taking every opportunity to contact the claimant several times. People can also appeal if they disagree. Even when someone is sanctioned they can still get financial support through the hardship fund and we continue to spend around £94bn a year on working age benefits to ensure a safety net is in place. Mr Clapson did not appeal or ask for a reconsideration of the sanction or apply for a hardship payment. We were aware of Mr Clapson’s diabetes but at no time did he tell us he was having problems with his condition or medication.” (So it was really all his own fault and he really (sort-of) committed suicide).


Note: A hardship payment is only paid for a limited number of days. If the claimant needs another hardship payment after this, they’ll have to reapply. The conditions imposed for a hardship claim are so onerous most are refused. Should a claimant be “lucky” enough to be granted a hardship payment it will amount to 60% of JSA, about £38pw. Hardship payments are treated as a loan/debt to be recovered through any other benefits paid, assuming the claimant actually manages to get any payments at some future date. For example, a single person aged 25 or over receiving £311.55 a month will have £124.62 deducted as repayment of the hardship loan.


August 22, 2014

Food poverty: Experts issue malnutrition health warning

By Michael Buchanan Social Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

More people are suffering from malnutrition as a result of worsening food poverty, experts have warned. The Faculty of Public Health said conditions like rickets were becoming more apparent because people could not afford quality food in their diet. It comes after health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year.

The UK has 3.8 million children in extreme poverty. Charities such as the Trussell Trust report growing need for food banks but say that some of the items donated can be of poor quality. Dr. Middleton said: “If the nutritional diseases are markers of a poor diet, the food banks are markers of extreme poverty – the evidence from Trussell Trust suggests the biggest group of users are hard working poor families who have lost benefits, live on low and declining wages and or they have fallen foul of draconian benefits sanctions which propel them into acute poverty and hunger. This is a disastrous and damning indictment on current welfare policy and a shame on the nation. The food banks are providing a real and valued service staving off actual hunger – they are actually keeping people alive.”

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the number of those admitted to hospital in England and Wales had risen from 5,469 to 6,520 over the past year. Vice president of the Faculty of Public Health, John Middleton, said food-related ill health was getting worse through extreme poverty and the use of food banks. “It’s getting worse because people can’t afford good quality food. It’s getting worse where malnutrition, rickets and other manifestations of extreme poor diet are becoming apparent,” he said. The faculty recently claimed that UK food prices had risen by 12% since 2007. It also noted that in the same period, UK workers had suffered a 7.6% fall in wages.

Summer food schemes

Separately, numerous schemes have been running throughout the summer holidays to help families feed their children. The Kellogg’s Holiday Breakfast Club, the Fun and Food In School Holidays initiative and the Ashram Housing Association’s Holiday Kitchen are among the schemes running across the UK.

Muna Choudhury from Ashram said: “We heard from the families we work with the summer holidays can prove to be a struggle. Families were finding it difficult to find affordable activities and to provide extra meals.”

Manchester GP Aisha Awan said healthy food did not have to be expensive, suggesting tinned food – as long as it was not high in sugar or salt. She added: “If you buy them [tins] they keep for longer – they’re often a cheaper option for people who might be on a budget.”

The signs of being malnourished
The main symptom of malnutrition is rapid weight loss – usually 5-10% within a few months. Other signs include: weak muscles, constantly feeling tired, an increase in illnesses or infections, stunted growth in children, changes in behaviour becoming irritable, sluggish and anxious.

Source: NHS Choices


Yes, the good old Nasty Party must be so proud of itself. After all, when Labour were kicked out in 2010 there were only 800,000 children in poverty. Now the number is increasing by about 800 a day, and the total is heading for 4 million! To add to the Nasty Party’s sense of achievement, those children are in “extreme poverty” which must be much more of an achievement than just plain old “poverty” which was all the last lot could manage. Yippee! And another crate of bubbly all round!

What’s more, a lot of children have now got rickets, thanks to the noble efforts of George Smith who has ensured that claiming benefits is now such a bureaucratic minefield that hundreds of thousands of claimants have managed to get their only source of money cut off. (Notice that Smith himself has never had to starve.)

Yes! Here we are in 2014 with rickets, starvation, poverty and homelessness all on the rise!

Must make all those Tory millionaires sitting round the Cabinet table (who have never missed a meal in their lives) really happy.

6 comments to Maybe I was wrong yesterday?

  • brian ferrier


    That was some article !

    Quite a contrast from your article from the day before.

    The problem is that it is difficult not to have sympathy and empathise with both articles.

    I care for a relative who has a variety of well documented medical problems which go back to her early teens when she was the victim of a hit and run incident. One leg is now 3.5 inches longer than the other, she has severe hip and knee joint problems and as a result of the accident was hospitalized for nearly four years, missing much schooling as a result.

    Despite this, she worked as a waitress full time for nearly13 years until her condition worsened and she could not do this work any more because of constant chronic pain.
    Since then,the authorities have treated her as if she is the laziest benefit scrounger that ever walked this earth.

    She has been medically assessed as fit for work by a panel who refused to even consider reading her medical notes, her housing benefit is constantly stopped without notice causing her to be evicted, she is cainstigated for not applying for jobs she knows she can not do, and when she has taken temporary work, her benefits have stopped t100% and taken up to ten weeks to be reinstated, often not back dated to when he temporary work stopped.

    When she is in work she is taxed at the emergency rate and the gov will not give the excess back.
    The system is a joke and the more honest and deserving you are, the worse you are treated. The more Feckless and undeserving you are, the better you are looked after.

    The system needs changed and a French company beeping paid to bully he vulnerable and IDS who has never worked in his life are not the way forward.

  • Brian re the panel who assess her are they legally able to refuse to read medical notes and ignore evidence.
    Is there not a case for an appeal or legal challange to their decision or even competance. Have the local press been informed of this.
    Always counter attack if they are caused problems over this they may back down. Remember they have been given targets of people to reject.

  • Peter

    ‘People Would Have Died’ in Britain Without Food Banks, Says Charity Head

  • Keen Reader

    The assessment process for disabled benefits claimants is appalling. As someone with extensive medical knowledge, I am appalled at the absence of appropriate physical examination and assessment of those claimants who state they suffer from specific musculoskeletal problems which render them incapable of undertaking certain types of employment. The case quoted by one respondent is typical. (I have no in depth understanding of mental illness or handicap so am not qualified to comment thereon, but I assume similar absence of empathy is applied to claimants.)
    The entire benefits system is a deplorable mess. It is outrageous that legitimate claimants who, with the best of intentions have found work for a limited period, work which is subsequently terminated, should find themselves without any financial support for weeks thereafter because the benefits system cannot get its act into gear. Doubtless there are thousands of well-intentioned civil servants working in this sector, who do their best to deal sympathetically with those whose claims they handle, but I am sure that equally there are thousands who, secure in the knowledge that their own salaries will be paid on schedule every month, are quite unable to comprehend how it must be to be, literally, down to your final few pence. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow leads on this petty pace….” The case you quote of the diabetic man whose electricity had run out and who had no cash left to put in the meter, and whose pay-as-you-go phone was down to just a few pence, meaning he was unable to summon help, is a case in point.
    It is, in my view, deplorable that power companies continue, with full government complicity, to penalise with their billing tariffs the poorest and most insecure in society. I am a pensioner on a limited income, and although by no means poverty stricken, I nevertheless need to watch carefully what I spend. It enrages me that, living alone in a small bungalow, heating most of the time just the living room and bathroom, I pay as much for the “services” – the supply lines to my property – as do the wealthiest in the largest properties, who because of the quantity of power they consume, pay pro-rata far less than do I. It is true that many of today’s younger generation are not as versatile in the cooking stakes as are my generation, some of whom were raised, as was I, in the post-war years, when producing tasty meals from very little was a universally practised art. However, the fact is that cooking from cheaper raw materials not only takes longer – and all mothers of children are now told they must go out to work – but it also costs more. Cooking a nourishing meal from cheap cuts of meat and raw vegetables consumes a lot more power than shoving a rubbish ready-made meal in the micro-wave for a few minutes – something the baroness, MP, whoever she was who told people to cook porridge for breakfast should bear in mind!
    In my nearest town this morning, I observed amongst the vacated and boarded-up high street properties that the only types of retailers appearing to do well were the charity shops – crammed with people rifling the rails of second hand clothes – and, surprisingly, the ever increasing number of coffee shops doing a nice trade with swell-healed elderly ladies meeting for mid-morning coffee, and fast food outlets serving take-away snacks as mid-day approached. What, I wonder, does this say about the state of UK society? The division between the haves and the have-nots becomes ever wider.

  • NoMore

    While there are no doubt some sad individual cases, to say large numbers of people in the UK are living in extreme poverty is a nonsense. It is an insult to those who are truly destitute in places like India and Africa where there is no safety net at all.

    Labour had 13 years to end “poverty” and fix everything they thought was broken and here we are with massive debt, massive deficit, millions more unskilled immigrants all competing with the indigent for jobs/housing/health care/benefits/charity, tax credits subsidising employers, no 10% tax band, taxes up across the board, green levies on heating etc. Epic fail.

    The coalition have been largely hopeless and ineffectual of course too. I don’t think benefit sanctions are the way to address the issue of excessive welfare bills – first stop importing so many claimants! There is no need for lots of unskilled workers – those kind of jobs are just not there anymore in the numbers they were before heavy industry moved East.

    Everything possible should be done to rewind the State back to 1997 except in the case of front-line workers such as police, nurses, teachers. Difficult with 10m more people to deal with and plenty more on the way.

  • Mark O'Donoughue

    Wonder where all these poor people came from? Do you think may be the good old labour sell out of joining the European federation and experimenting with uncontrolled mass immigration? The reason we have no cheap housing left is because of the amount of poor people that would need them came here. Don’t be blaming tories FUCKING LABOUR GOT US IN THIS SHIT.

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