25/04/2017 by socialistfight
By Gerry Downing
Alice Kirby, 25, accused the Department for Work and Pensions of “institutional abuse” after she was asked by disability benefit assessors why she had not killed herself
The growth of inequality in all sphere of life begins in the workplace. Since the neo-liberal offensive of the mid 1970s the proportion of national income going on wages compared to profits has declined dramatically. This is part of a well-thought-out strategy by the ruling class which involves escalating rates of sanctioning of those seeking Job Seekers Allowance, which has considerably worsened since the 2013 introduction of the Universal Credit system. Benefit sanctions rose from 7.02% in 2001 to 16.68% in 2014.
The Independent reported on 13 April that Alice Kirby, a 25-year-old physically disabled person, was asked by disability benefit assessors why she had not killed herself. Alice said she was shocked to discover how many other people had been asked similar questions as part of assessments, adding: “Some people told me that when they answered saying they felt suicidal or had attempted suicide, assessors said things such as ‘that’s understandable’.
This really is a shocking story. Benefits assessors asking mentally disturbed claimants why they have not killed themselves, obviously to prove conclusively they really are mentally disturbed and not making it up to free load on the system. One outright fascist character asked for details of how the suicide was planned when a claimant said he or she was suicidal. Bloody Brigitte comes to mind as a product of this appalling benefit sanctioning game. Bloody Brigitte was Hildegard Lächert, an Austrian wardress at Majdanek KZ, one of those notorious death camps the German SS ran between 1941 and 1944.
Capita and Atos, the firms who carry out this privatised work, will get more than £700m for this appalling treatment of physically and mentally disabled claimants. There will always be firms to do the dirty work of the capitalist class. The list of those who worked slave labour and the death camps for the Nazis includes Kodak, Hugo Boss, IBM, Bayer, Siemens, BMW, Audi,. Daimler-Benz and Deutsche Bank.
At the same time as this was happening, and obviously as a direct consequence, the use of foodbanks escalated as those with no income at all and their families were faced with starvation. The Guardian reported on 25 April that “food banks handed out a record number of meals last year after the chaotic introduction of universal credit, the government’s flagship welfare overhaul, left claimants unable to afford meals when their benefits were delayed. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, announced that it provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis in 2016-17, up 6.4% on the previous year’s total of 1,109,000”. The Trussell Trust handled about 43% of the total foodbank handouts in 2015. Two years ago, The Guardian reported that:
“The trust’s 445 food banks distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.1 million people for three days in 2014-15 – up from 913,000 the previous year. Back in 2009-10, before the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition took power, 41,000 people were given three days’ food by the 56 food banks established at that time by the then little-known charity.”
And this is what the DWP’s fascistic-minded spokesperson said about this shocking news:
“The reasons for food bank use are complex, so it’s misleading to link them to any one issue. Employment is the best route out of poverty, and there are now record numbers of people in work. Under universal credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.”
But employment is no longer a route out of poverty. The latest UK’s jobless rate has dropped to just 4.7%, the lowest since 1975, but zero-hours contracts have increased by 101,000 in the last quarter of 2016 to 905,000 compared with the previous year. This super-exploited sector has seen a series of strikes and court action to challenge this and the agency system which enforces it.
Deliveroo takeaway couriers and cinema workers have conducted a series of strikes for a living wage and union recognition. Workers at Picturehouse cinemas have struck work many times since 2014 over union recognition and its refusal to pay the London Living Wage to its staff. The recent strikes in five Picturehouse cinemas in London in March were the biggest strike action ever by cinema workers in the UK.
In January past The Guardian reported;
“The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth. In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.”
The UK’s General Election is on 8 June and workers have no choice but to cast a class vote for the Labour party but be prepared to follow the example of the Picturehouse cinemas. Anyone considering casting a vote for Liberal Democrats as a ‘soft’ alternative to the Tories should bear these above statistics in mind.