PM refuses to apologise over universal credit misery

Theresa May confronted by SNP MP on plight of sanctioned Glasgow woman pushed to the brink of homelessness.


SNP MP David Linden has said that the prime minister’s refusal to apologies for the impact her government’s welfare policies are having on a local constituent “exposes a complete lack of compassion.”

David Linden’s question to Theresa May on the roll-out of Universal Credit centred on the case of a Glasgow woman facing homelessness after being wrongly sanctioned for over 9 months in total for failing to attend Jobcentre meetings, despite being found too ill by her doctor.

Margo Laird, from Tollcross in Glasgow, won her sanctions appeal case against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when it was brought to tribunal last week. The judge hearing the case found that the evidence supplied by the DWP to justify the sanction was “inadequate” and that the Government’s 7-month delay in coming to a decision was “wholly unsatisfactory”.

Theresa May refuses to apologise to Glasgow woman wrongly sanctioned for almost 300 days

Glasgow East MP David Linden demanded a personal apology from Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions over Miss Laird’s ordeal. Responding, Ms May declined to apologise, instead undertaking to further look into the case. Glasgow East MP David Linden commented: “The Prime Minister’s refusal to apologise for a cruel and wrongly-applied series of sanctions exposes the complete lack of compassion in Downing Street.

“The details of this case are truly shocking – yet another brutal example of this Conservative Government’s deeply damaging welfare policies. “Here we have a woman pushed below the poverty line, reliant on food banks for survival, into rental arrears and to the brink of homelessness – all because of a litany of fundamental errors made by the DWP. “Shocking as it is, this is sadly not an isolated case. The Tory sanctions agenda represents a failed ideology – one that is devastating lives up and down the UK.

“With cases such as this highlighting the abject failings of a broken welfare system, it is hardly surprising that food bank usage was recently found to have soared by 30% in Universal Credit pilot areas. “There’s no place to run for the Prime Minister. She must accept responsibility for these failings, put an end to these shambolic systematic sanctions, and halt the flawed roll-out of Universal Credit.”



Jeremy Corbyn tells Theresa May private firms running public services must be ‘shown the door’

‘This isn’t one isolated case of government negligence and corporate failure – it’s broken system’ Private firms running public services must be “shown the door” to prevent a repeat of the Carillion debacle, Jeremy Corbyn has told Theresa May.

The Labour leader seized on the collapse of the construction giant – putting services and tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy – as the symbol of a “broken system” that must change. In rowdy scenes in the Commons, Mr Corbyn set out a clear ideological dividing line with the Government, telling the Prime Minister to end this “costly racket” of privatisation.

Ministers told to stop ‘scandal’ of Carillion staff losing jobs today

“This isn’t one isolated case of government negligence and corporate failure – it’s a broken system,” he said. Virgin and Stagecoach had been allowed to “spectacularly mismanage” running the East Coast main line, yet had been handed a £2bn bailout which could see the line remain in their hands, Mr Corbyn claimed.

Meanwhile, Capita and Atos had been handed further contracts, even though their much-criticised tests had “continued to wreck the lives” of disabled people. G4S had bungled security at the 2012 Olympics, forcing the Army to “step in and save the day”.

Capita and Atos have damaged many lives

Mr Corbyn added: “These corporations need to be shown the door. We need our public services provided by public employees with a public service ethos and a strong public oversight. “As the ruins of Carillion lie around her, will the Prime Minister act to end this costly racket of the relationship between government and some of these companies?”

Ministers ‘very worried’ about public sector contractor Interserve in wake of Carillion collapse

But Mrs May insisted “public services continue to be provided and the taxpayer protected” in her Government’s handling of the Carillion liquidation. And she argued Mr Corbyn’s stance showed Labour, under his leadership, viewed the private sector as “the enemy”.

“What Labour oppose isn’t just a role for private companies in public services, but the private sector as a whole,” Mrs May said, at Prime Minister’s Questions. “The vast majority of people in this country, in employment, are employed by the private sector – but the Shadow Cabinet calls businesses the real enemy. “It’s the Labour party that has turned its back on investment. The Labour party that will always put politics before people.”


Tory MP tears into Boris Johnson over deliberate deception’ about £350m NHS claim

Tory MP tears into Boris Johnson over ‘disgraceful, entirely deliberate deception’ on £350m NHS claim

Image result for memes about nhs bus

A senior Conservative MP has hit out at Boris Johnson over his continued insistence that an extra £350m could be invested in the NHS after BrexitSarah Wollaston, the chair of the House of Commons Health Committee, said the Foreign Secretary’s use of the false statistic was “a disgrace” and “a deliberate deception”.

An additional £350m of investment in health care once Britain leaves the EU was a key pledge of the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum and was famously plastered on the side of a bus, which Mr Johnson posed in front of. However, the figure has been consistently and comprehensively debunked.

Johnson claims Brexit can deliver even more than £350m a week to NHS

Despite this, Mr Johnson has continued to use the statistic and claimed earlier this week that it was actually an underestimate. He told The Guardian: “There was an error on the side of the bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.” Dr Wollaston, a former GP, said Mr Johnson “should stop using that figure”.

She told BBC Five Live: “I feel it was entirely a deliberate deception [during the referendum campaign]. They knew that figure was incorrect but I had people repeatedly saying to me, ‘Well all that matters it that people remember a big number’.”  “I found that shocking and I think it’s absolutely shocking that there are people continuing to use it. She added: “[Mr Johnson] should stop using it. It’s a disgrace, and I feel very strongly about that. “We need to be very careful about the way we use data and that goes for all of us in public life.”

Last September, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, wrote to Mr Johnson accusing him of a “clear misuse of statistics” for repeating the claim. He said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Foreign Secretary had continued to use the figure, which he said conflated the UK’s gross and net contributions to the EU.

While the UK currently pays around £350m per week to the EU, the figure does not take into account the money Britain receives from Europe in return. It also assumes that all payments currently made by the UK to the EU will cease once it leaves the union.

Mr Johnson’s latest use of the statistic prompted Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, to write to Sir David saying: “The £350m a week claim made by the Vote Leave campaign has been widely condemned as inaccurate and misleading.

Image result for Sarah Wollaston mp
Sarah Wollaston MP

“And yet, Mr Johnson has chosen to repeat this statement and expand on the claim even further. I do not believe this to be acceptable. I would therefore be grateful if you could make a statement on the accuracy of the Foreign Secretary’s most recent comments.”

Ms Wollaston said she supported Sir Keir’s letter and had herself written to the UK Statistics Authority over the figure. She said: “We need to be clear that this figure, and the way it’s being used, is misleading and it was used deliberately in that way during the referendum campaign.” Asked why her Conservative colleague was continuing to use the statistic, she said: “I have no idea. He should stop doing so.”


Tory MP promoted last week tried to claim a £50 charity donation on expenses

As I said yesterday, if this is the “master race” then I’m glad to be a pleb! They are beyond despicable!

She tried to get the money back for an event whose profits went to a local hospice

A Tory MP who was promoted to minister for Africa last week attempted to claim a £50 donation to charity on her parliamentary expenses. Harriett Baldwin, whose new role includes organising humanitarian responses, charity and the use of UK aid in Africa, tried to claim back the money for a ticket for the Worcestershire Women of the Year 2013 Awards Ceremony.

But the proceeds from the ticket went to the St Richard’s Hospice who organised the event. According to the Telegraph, the claim, which was rejected by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), includes a copy of a thank-you note from a fundraiser at the hospice thanking the MP for her “generosity”.


The £50 claim emerged after a freedom of information request was made by the paper. Ms Baldwin submitted the claim to Ipsa as “hospitality,” but it was rejected as it was not an “unavoidable cost” – as stipulated by the rules at the time. Hospitality was permitted under the scheme when the claim was made.

Ms Baldwin, 57, has successfully claimed £1.1million from 3,075 claims since she became an MP in 2010, including 60 payments of £2 or less, one of which was a 45p reimbursement for a one-mile car journey. It includes about £130,000 a year on staffing.

She told the Telegraph: “I attended an event as the local MP for which there was a ticket charge. The claim was rejected by the independent body responsible for verifying expense claims. I have every confidence in Ipsa and the job it does delivering transparency to the way MPs carry out their duties.

“I make many donations to local charities but of course they are made from my own resources.” She has previously held the posts of economic secretary to the Treasury, and parliamentary under secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence.


Daughter fears disabled mother will lose her lifeline carers

Bedbound Helen Smith has the muscle-wasting illness Huntingdon’s Disease – and so do her children

Lizzie Smith with Mum Helen Smith from Paisley 

A mother with Huntington’s Disease could be forced into a care home if council chiefs cut her 24-hour care to save cash. Bedbound Helen Smith, 61, relies on constant support after the muscle-wasting illness robbed her of her ability to walk, talk and feed herself.

Daughter Lizzie, 29, has also been diagnosed with the brain disorder and would have to quit her job to look after her mum if the vital lifeline is scaled back. Lizzie was also diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, just months after it robbed her mum of her ability to walk and talk.

The devoted daughter, 29, knew it would happen – she had watched as the illness slowly ground her mother down. Lizzie had been forced to pick up the slack at home when she was just seven. She would start the day tidying and helping Helen, 61, get dressed, before heading off to primary school. Lizzie said: “My mum was a proud woman, with a good job, bringing up her family.

“She started showing symptoms not long after I was born: “She was uneasy on her feet and would stagger a little. “Then her eating habits started to deteriorate. “The muscles in her throat went and she found it really hard to swallow. “She eventually lost the power of speech and ended up in a wheelchair and then a bed.” Helen, 61, was diagnosed with the brain disorder in 1995. She had been struggling to move and would trip and sway from side-to-side.

Lizzie says, even before doctors discovered the awful truth, it was obvious something was very wrong. She added: “My memories are always of her being unwell. “A neighbour thought she was drunk and had even tried to get her moved. “Mum was a really strong and independent lady. “She was the manageress of a cash and carry and did well at school. She raised me and my brother on her own. “Having to give up her work must have been so frustrating for her. “Mum tried to do her very best by us. But the disease just took over.”

Huntington’s Disease is a progressive illness caused by a faulty gene and it kills off brain function. It can affect movement, thinking, judgement and behaviour – causing personality changes and mobility problems. Doctors say 12 people per 100,000 are diagnosed with the condition in the UK each year. It is hereditary and passed on through the generations – including from Helen to her daughter and son Richard, 33.

Lizzie grew up too young and found herself scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen when her pals were playing with dolls. “My day started early,” Lizzie revealed. “I was only a girl when I started helping out around the house. I’d start with the cleaning, a bit of shopping, but as mum got worse, I started taking on more. “I would do what I could before school, then come back in the afternoon. “When I was with my friends, I’d never go very far, not even to their houses. “I’d try and get them to come around to mine. I didn’t like to go too far, I couldn’t leave mum.

“It was really difficult watching somebody you love lose the things we all take for granted. It just became normal eventually.” Lizzie remembers trips to Canada to see relatives with her mum and grandparents when she as little. But her responsibilities to Helen have kept her from straying too far. The restaurant worker has never been on holiday and rarely ventures more than a few miles from the family home in Paisley’s Knowe Road.

Lizzie was diagnosed herself at just 21 and the pair rely on care visits funded through the council and disability benefits. “Mum has a doctor that comes out to make sure she is doing okay,” Lizzie continued. “Now, I see the same one. “I chose to have the test for Huntington’s Disease because I wanted to know if I would be passing it on to a child. “I’ve decided I won’t have a baby until they find a cure. “I try not to get my hopes up too much. “It scares me because I think I will end up going the same way as mum.”

Carers started visiting the family home twice a day to help with cooking, cleaning and dressing. Experts insisted this should be increased to 24-hour care in 2000. Helen’s condition kept getting worse and she lost the power of speech and the ability to walk in 2008. Lizzie had to learn how to hook up a feeding tube for her mum and how to handle the huge mechanical bed she has been trapped in. But the vital support put in place meant she could finally start a life of her own.

She explained: “I started to relax a little. “I was able to get a job and know that I could go out and mum would be safe. I worked at St Mirren selling pies on match days, then got a job at a restaurant. “I met a guy and we were able to spend weekends together because I knew there was somebody there for mum.” The carers have transformed Lizzie’s life – and even saved it.

She was rushed to the hospital after one of the visitors spotted life-threatening symptoms when she was 18. Lizzie added: “It was meningitis. I didn’t have a clue, but they spotted it and got me an ambulance. “I was put into an induced coma for three weeks. Doctors told me I would have been dead within a couple of hours.” The carers offer constant care to Helen.

But social workers have now revealed their hours could be cut in half – leaving the women with no help after 8pm. Lizzie fears a change could leave her trapped at home with her sick mum. She explained: “The carers offer a real lifeline to us – they become like family. “Mum loves them and spends more time with them than almost anybody else. “Cutting them would have such a huge impact on all of us.

“I’m 30. I have a life of my own too. I would need to be here all night to make sure mum is okay. I wouldn’t be able to make work, I wouldn’t be able to leave, I couldn’t go anywhere. “Social work says I should put her in a home, but that would devastate her. “Mum’s comfortable here, she likes her carers and watching her soaps at night. “They say it’s all about money. They’re making these big decisions for all the wrong reasons.”

A Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership spokesman said: “We are working closely with Miss Smith to identify the most appropriate care, treatment and support package for her mother. “We undertake an assessment of each person’s requirements following which we offer a personal budget sufficient to meet their assessed needs.

“We work with the person and their family to use this budget to secure the most suitable method of care provision and continually review this to ensure the decision remains appropriate. “We must ensure that all care packages are financially viable to ensure we can provide the appropriate level of support to all service users who require care, which may result in alternative methods of care being explored, particularly for people with the most complex needs.

“We are continuing to support Miss Smith in ensuring the appropriate care is provided for her mother while we work towards a positive resolution.”


Government accused of ‘witch-hunt’ after almost 90% of benefit fraud tip-offs are closed due to lack of evidence

 A neighbour of mine had her benefits removed because someone [nastily] reported her to the DWP for cohabiting with her brother-in-law! Her sister was in hospital ill and her husband and kids stayed with my neighbour because they lived 50 miles from the hospital and she only lived 5 miles from it. My neighbour told the DWP and her landlord about the situation BEFORE they moved in, but it still caused her a nightmare of problems.

A previous poster urging people to report fraudsters

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) admitted 287,950 of the 332,850 cases it completed in two years from 2015-17 were closed for lack of evidence

The government has been accused of a “witch hunt” after it emerged almost 90% of benefit fraud tip-offs go no further due to having little or no evidence.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) admitted 287,950 of the 332,850 cases it completed in two years from 2015-17 were closed for lack of evidence.

That amounts to 87% of all the cases the DWP closed in that period.

SNP MP Neil Gray accused the department of a “witch hunt” after the figures were obtained under freedom of information laws by The Independent.

He added: “It’s another example of the Tories dividing communities as neighbours become suspicious of each other.”

Fraud overpayments accounted for more than £2billion or 1.2% of all benefit spending last year, the DWP said.

Errors by the department itself accounted for another 0.4% and claimant error accounted for 0.5%.

But the figure is a tiny fraction of the estimated £16billion a year lost to tax fraud – plus billions more in legal tax avoidance.

Meanwhile the DWP did not pay £1.7billion of benefits to people who deserved them in 2016/17, with errors by the department often to blame.

The DWP has previously encouraged people to report their neighbours for suspected benefit fraud.

Adverts in 2014 said: “If you know someone claiming benefits who shouldn’t be, call us”.

The reporting service, launched originally under Labour, keeps accusers anonymous and asks for suspects’ race, hair colour, build and even scars or tattoos.

A DWP spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants commit fraud, but those who do are diverting support from people who need it the most. FINALLY!!! THE DWP ADMIT THEIR FRAUD RATE IS TINY!!!!

“Calls to the fraud hotline are vital in tackling this crime – and information from the public helped us detect more than £45m in benefit fraud in 2016 alone.”


The new DWP secretary is an insult to disabled people [YOU THINK!]

Despairing disabled man planned to take his own life because Esther McVey’s appointment left him with no hope

As backlashes go, the days following Esther McVey’s appointment as the new work and pensions secretary have seen intense criticism. Between 2012 and 2013, as minister for disabled people and later employment minister, McVey was famed for defending the indefensible, saying it was “right” that people were having to use food banks and claiming that benefit sanctions “teach” jobseekers to take looking for work seriously – going as far as comparing unemployed people to naughty schoolchildren being punished by a teacher – despite the destitution and death that sanctions have since caused.

Calls for Theresa May to reconsider Esther McVey’s move to DWP

Yet this is about more than soundbites. From giving misleading information about the bedroom tax’s impact on disabled people to her decision to close the Independent Living Fund, McVey appeared to relish removing disability support, with campaigners accusing her of distorting the facts to help make that a reality. Worse, she was central in helping the rightwing press stoke up suspicion towards disabled people on benefits – most blatantly as David Cameron’s government began to abolish disability living allowance (DLA) and replace it with personal independence payments (PIP). As the Daily Mail put it at the time, McVey was on a mission to “pursue vast numbers of bogus disabled who carry on claiming the DLA long after they have ‘healed’.” That PIP is now wrongly withdrawing benefits from severely ill and disabled people – with 65% of decisions overturned on appeal – makes this all the more sickening.


Calls for Theresa May to reconsider Esther McVey’s move to DWP

The Department for Work and Pensions’ problems do not begin or end with McVey – she is the fifth person to hold the title since 2016 – but for Theresa May to (even reluctantly) promote someone with her track record is emblematic of the Conservatives’ disregard for disabled people.

I’ve spoken to many disabled people who are frightened by McVey’s appointment. That might be hard to understand if you are healthy or on a comfortable wage, but when you rely on social security to eat and pay rent, the DWP minister has power over you. For the families at the sharp end of austerity, McVey represents skipping dinner to pay the bedroom tax or becoming suicidal after losing benefits.

Jeremy Corbyn describes appointment of Esther McVey as work and pensions secretary as ‘alarming’

This year, the DWP will continue to oversee major social security changes, including more traumatic transfers from DLA to PIP and the ongoing rollout of the flawed universal credit, which is causing misery and hardship to thousands of families. In her previous ministerial roles, McVey showed herself to be a politician who never cared about the impact of such policies. But DWP decisions affect millions of people’s lives. Largely, for those who are already struggling with poverty and illness. That McVey is now in charge is an insult to them all.